I’m 32 and also living paycheque to paycheque

I read an article today on #HuffingtonPost titled I’m 37 and living paycheck to paycheck. As I read, I realized how familiar the author’s story was. You see the pressure to go to events to support friends and loved ones is real—even more so during the holiday season. Many of us are just one or two unexpected expenses away from not making it.

This year we had to replace a furnace to the tune of 6000.00. (We DID get a rebate and it decreases our heating costs…but that’s a huge chunk of money that was supposed to be spent over time on other house related things.) Then, we chose to keep the cat that came with our house. This meant that he needed to see a vet pronto and get all his shots, that was 300 bucks…shortly after that appointment he required an emergency visit for dental issues and some other stuff. We decided to try and save him (to the tune of 1200.00). This all happened during a period of time where Olivia was indefinitely laid off from her long-term job and I went back to school for my final year. Our budget was tight! Then, Olivia found some work, but now it’s winter and she’s facing another potential lay off.

Due to the lay off over the summer, my minimum wage job just covered expenses and we were not able to save anything. This is the reality for most folks. What’s more is most folks don’t have the ability to put unexpected expenses on credit. We thankfully did, but now we have balances to pay each month on our already taxed budget.

Please know I’m not sharing this to whine, but for the folks who find themselves in a similar situation. We see you. You are not alone. If all you can do this Christmas season is to tell people how much you love them, please don’t feel guilty. AND if you’re hard up for food, reach out—there are plenty of resources available in Nanaimo where we live (and other communities if you’re not from here), and you can always come to our house for a modest dinner if you live close by. The challenge is to escape the shame of poverty. If so many of us are (or have been) in a similar situation, why are we reluctant to be honest and to access resources available to us?

This year when people ask what we want for Christmas we have two answers. First, we cheekily reply home depot or PetSmart gift cards (because the cat and the house are eating all our money). Second, for those who are closest to us, the reality is we need time with the people we love that has no financial cost…this can even include gas costs. We’d love to come to see you, but we can’t afford the gas bill—we need it to get to work.

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To the Missing Island Youths

Where have you gone?

police tape, news cameras

thousands of Facebook posts

not a word, not a trace

five lives, teens, youth

are there more of you?

more—that vanished like morning fog

look, search, question, follow-up

find nothing

what does it take to erase a person—five people

surely more than a week, a month

Where have you gone?

pouring over each clue, seek similarities

island born, under twenty-five, slight build

odd ones out, queer, creative—different

too different to connect, to alike to ignore

are you together, wherever together is

lost, but not found

you leave a space greater than you occupied

hundreds search, thousands weep

Where have you gone?

taken, stolen

escaped, free

questions without end

will you be seen again

five people,

do you rest without

those who best love you

Where have you gone?

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When Thursday is a Monday

We’ve all been there before. Doing something that makes us sigh at our humanity. It keeps us humble and reminds us that sometimes we just don’t have it all together.

The holidays are a hard time for me. It’s dark out almost the whole say, thanks Canada. I am far away from my family that I haven’t seen in going on three years, even more than that for my brother–whom I’d like to say was my childhood best friend and I do not take that for granted. I don’t have the ability to be as generous as I would like to. My brain is exhausted from school and all the work I put in to be my best.

Needless to say when I pour the unground beans into the coffee filter making coffee this morning, I let out a sigh and almost cried. My exasperation was heard by my roommate on the other side of our modest apartment–and I poured the beans from the filter to the grinder and mumbled “I obviously need coffee more than I thought”.

I’ve lost the ambition to clean my house, because I don’t have the finances to host anyone. Showering and putting on pants today was my victory.

During this time of year, it’s easy to forget in all the fun and events those among us who have aching hearts. I miss my son whom was taken from me before his life got to start. I miss the mountains of my childhood, the children that call me auntie, and the familiarness of a place called home.

To cheer myself up, I started to think of all the things I am thankful for. I urge you to give it a try. Here’s my list:

  1. A Warm House– This might seem trivial. Lately, it’s been colder than normal on Canada’s West Coast. I have a warm house, with a warm bed, and a cupboard full of tea. There are many in Nanaimo who are trying to get by this winter on the street. They are literally freezing. I am thankful for enough support to remain housed and I’m thankful.
  2. My Roommate– Our friendship is deeper than that of most roommates. Part of it is that we are both followers of Jesus, but there’s more. We take care of one another. We allow space for brokenness as we both struggle through life with mental illness and trying to function in a world that isn’t kind to those who cannot work full-time and go to school. She blesses me more than anyone I’ve ever lived with, and in less than a year we’ve become family and I’m thankful.
  3. The LGBTQ+ Community– They accept my contradictory nature. I love Jesus; many of my rainbow friends have been deeply hurt in the name of Christ and I am no exception. Yet, they do not fault me for my faith. There is a deep respect in this family of misfits and I do not take it for granted. The group here in Nanaimo holds some of my greatest champions. They help me to get out of bed some days and give me an outlet for my creative side and I’m thankful.
  4. Young Adult’s Group– I attend a very open, accepting and loving Young Adult’s Group that is groundbreaking in their inclusion of myself as a LGBTQ+ person of faith. I’ve never been judged or limited in my ministry by them. The leaders of the group have endeavoured to create a safe place for me, including a no-tolerance of abuse mandate. I will never take for granted the bravery to stand with me when many church leaders do not and I’m thankful.
  5. Outreach– There are pastors and friends in the community whom build me up emotionally, spiritually and even financially. They’ve helped me through a very dark period of my faith journey. It would’ve been easy for me to give up on the church after some of the abusive actions toward me. These folks have reminded me that we are all human, we all fail at loving one another, but grace allows for a better way and I’m thankful.
  6. My Family– Though we are a total mess, though there are not many of us that are even speaking to one another, my mom and brother have helped me in this past year. It speaks to the healing that comes with maturing over time. We are there for one another as best as we can be and I’m thankful.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it sure takes the blow out of the silly humbling things I do each day. It reminds me to look forward and not dwell on the little tedious circumstances that threaten to steal my joy. What about you? What are you thankful for?

~Cheryl

Why I Have Trust Issues

**Note, events in this post are as I remember them, through a child’s lens, and may not reflect actual events!**

 

In class, we had a writing exercise where we were to think of a memory. This memory was to occur before the age of twelve and have a great impact on us. Below is my free written (writing without stopping or editing) response to that prompt.

When I was eleven, I learned that I was on my own in life.

The wind was blowing; it was a normal summer day for Cultus Lake. Hot humid air on my skin that was still damp from the water. It was one of those days where you didn’t need to change out of your swimsuit to dry off. My family and I were at the water park for the day. We had stopped at a gas station/café for lunch and I had to pee. I went inside to use the restroom and when I came out, I could see the car driving away without me in it. I ran as fast as I could after that car. My running shoes hitting the gravel driveway and then the pavement. I ran faster that I had ever run before, yelling and screaming, arms waving over my head. The car slowed. I got in trying not to cry. My mom said to my older brother, without turning around, “Why didn’t you tell us she wasn’t in the car?” and we drove home. I stared out the window and spoke to no one for the rest of the trip.

IMG_5450.JPGNext we were asked to rewrite the experience looking back from our present self. It was through this second phase of the exercise I came face to face with the root of major misbeliefs in my life.

I remember feeling completely unloved and alone, and also in panic for my safety. I was far enough away from home that there was no way for me to get back. I was eleven. I had no money in my pockets and we were hours away from the city we lived in, never-mind local transit. I was so hurt. How could they forget me? Was it on purpose? Was I so insignificant that they didn’t want me or notice my absence? I think this is the turning point in my life where I decided to be noticed, to be obnoxious. Running after the car that day, after being left at a truck stop, I resolved in my heart to look out for me first. My older brother never once spoke up saying I wasn’t in the car. My mom had two kids, how did she not notice. All I can think now, is that the guy she was with didn’t want to wait for me, and they were too afraid to face him. It makes sense looking at other encounters with this man.

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This week, my trust was further triggered when private events were disclosed without my permission. Over the course of my life, I have learned to travel between the extremes of obnoxious attention seeking and hiding my true self. I want people to love me but I am afraid to show them my heart. I’m afraid to get close because experience is a cruel master. 

I go through most days feeling like that younger self. I feel alone, unloved and in a panic. Due to the shattered trust of my younger years, the considerable repeat stories, and the fresh traumas of my recent past–I am suspicious of everyone and trust no one. What’s more, I don’t trust myself.

I know that I blame my family for a lot of hurt I received as a child, and probably they blame theirs. The responsibility for a healthy life is on ME now. No amount of he said she said will erase the past. It’s up to me to correct the damage. People are broken. All of us. Learn to love and trust yourself, then you’ll be able to do the same with others

Things Not to Say

Conversations over topics where friends disagree can be very awkward at times. I’ve been having good chats with friends of varying emotional investments. We all have our core group of friends, the ones that are more family than our family. After that, there seems to be spheres of relational clout that blend out.

There’s no clear lines in these relationships. It’s difficult to say how to tell a casual friend apart from an acquaintance, but I would be remiss to say there isn’t a difference. My face lights up over some casual friendships (classmates, work friends, people I see regularly on the bus) and other relationships are grace growers in my life. These are people who are friends with people I care about, so I make an effort to get to know them. For a myriad of reasons, I don’t particularly get along well with these folks. Of course, I treat them with respect and dignity as I would anyone made in the image of God (note, this is every human on the planet ever.) However, being kind, interested and invested in these folks takes work because they seem to be the folks that say those things your mother taught you never to say.

I believe it’s a casualty of the #YOLO generation. The “I do what I want” philosophy and “Screw you if you’re offended” trend is creating huge walls and isolation in the young adult community. We say things that are hurtful,  bigoted, mean-spirited and down right cruel with one of two caveats. Either the offender was “only joking” and the onus is on the offended party to “lighten up” and “learn how to take a joke” or it was just their opinion. In this second option, the speaker usually tries to belittle other points of view. They point out how backward those who think that way are, how deceived the opposite side must be, all while stating “it’s my opinion”. This leaves the listener feeling insulted but also that it would be rude to call out said opinion as wrong…after all, people are entitled to their own opinions right?

Being entitled to our own opinions is different that giving air to them in a way that knowingly hurts the person listening. Live and let live is more about letting people live by their philosophies while you do the same–as long as no one is being damaged, than it is about sharing with anyone who has ears how absurd the things we don’t agree with are.

The most difficult thing about these conversations, is I am so busy being polite that I forget to call out the offence until well after it has taken place. It’s almost as though I am so concerned with what not to say that I end up saying nothing at all. It’s not okay to say nothing. It’s not okay to take abuse in the form of homophobic, racial or demeaning comments simply because someone says “I’m just kidding” or “it’s just my opinion”. Opinions can be wrong. Hate speech in Canada is illegal. If you are being hateful, even if it’s by accident, you are breaking a law that has some steep consequences–not only relational but potentially criminal.

I want to take a moment here to apologize to the people who I’ve offended by saying stupid shit. There’s no other words for it. I was behaving like an uncultured hateful bigot and I am deeply and profoundly sorry.

I resolve not to let others saying harmful things in my presence or sphere of influence whether in jest or otherwise. I would appreciate it if you held me to that same standard too. As a follower of Christ, love needs to rule my actions. I hope it will.