So one of my more ardent fans (I love saying that, even though it's a pretty big stretch of the imagination for me to consider a friend who reads my blog as a fan..humor me) read my last post. The one about waking up one day to find that every cent in my checking account, and then some, had been sucked out and put into a cold frozen limbo.
She read it and in her very special-to-her way decided to help me. She posted about it on my facebook wall and I'm pretty sure she spread the word in other ways.
At first I was horrified. Seriously horrified. Not at her, no way, I was touched so deeply by her simply wanting to help. It's just that when I logged on to fb and saw her rally cry to help, I felt so..so...
lame. I felt like the consummate loser, yet again. The plucky divorcee with the heart of gold who just can't catch a break. The squeaky wheel who never gets the grease...you know the type. The Erin Brockovich of our little suburbia (minus the big rack but you get the gist of it).
I felt shame, partly because what happened to my money was due to my stupidity. I should have filed for bankruptcy a long time ago. I kept putting it off in hopes that things would miraculously turn around. I kept thinking that maybe, just maybe, Big Daddy would pony up some of what he owes, and that I could get things in order the civilized way. The dignified way.
I have always been an optimist. And sometimes that isn't a good thing.
The past three days have been intense, to say the least. Wednesday was hard. Brutal, in fact. My darling ManChild missed his bus by mere seconds, and as we drove to the high school I was crying. Not due to the inconvenience, not because I was mad at him. Wednesday morning I was about 99% sure that my life was kaput. I thought, briefly, that my being on this planet wasn't helping anyone, that I was dragging my kids down the drain with me, that I have been nothing but a big, fat burden on all of my family and all of my friends.
I was crying as I thought about how it was going to feel to tell my landlord, the sweet and kind and trusting Dan, that I couldn't pay my rent. I pictured his face, remembering how he took a chance on me, and me promising him that I'm a good trustworthy person, and not to worry. I imagined trying to get all of our belongings packed up, again, and tried really hard to imagine where we'd end up this time.
I was overcome with a dark, oppressive sense of doom. Like this was the one, the kick in the pants that would finally cause my Jenga life to come toppling down. I told Charlie that I was sorry. Sorry that I can't be the kind of mom I had set out to be. I told him that I wished things had been different, I wished that he could have had a carefree, relaxed and happy mom and an easier life. I told him that I loved him. He looked at me kind of funny, kind of scared like. "Mom, are you going to be ok?" he asked. I couldn't even look at him, all I could do was stare straight ahead, looking at the tiny random snowflakes (!!!!!) that were flying onto the windshield, dissolving the second they landed. "Mom, seriously. Are you ok?" he asked again, this time the worry was audible. "I'm fine, I'm fine. Have a good day!". Looking back now, some 48-odd hours later, it was actually almost comical, me sitting there white-knuckling the steering wheel, sobbing, telling my high schooler to "get out there and have a great day, why dontcha!" (say that with a deep Minnesota accent and you'll see the funny). But Charlie didn't see the funny.
About an hour later, as I was getting ready for work and getting William ready for school, the doorbell rang. William ran to my side and whispered, "It's the cops!". In my head I thought, "Oh my sweet Rainman" but lo and behold...there were two young cops on my front steps. First thought? They're here to arrest me for being a load.
Cop #1 said, "Are you Jenny XXXX?". Me: "Yes, that's me." Cop #2: "We received a call from the High School, a guidance counselor has your son in his office. Your son said you weren't yourself this morning and he's worried about you." At this point I'm putting things together. Cop #1 says: "Are you ok?". I took a deep breath. And I said, "I'm fine. I'm just having a hard time of things." I told them a tiny bit of what had happened (basically the "I'm on my own with the kids and life is kicking my ass" version). I told them that yes, I had been crying and sad that morning, and that I had probably come across as despondent. I asked if Charlie was ok, and they assured me that he was fine.
"Ma'am, you aren't feeling like you want to hurt yourself, are you?" oh-so-young Cop #1 asked. I realized how I must have looked, as Cop #1 and Cop #2 stared at me through the screen of the front door. My crazy lady hair pulled up in a haphazard bun, my eyes puffy and red from almost 24 straight hours of crying, wearing big girl jeans and bright red Danskos and a pajama top (the ensemble I picked out in the dark before driving Charlie to school). I looked nuttier than a shit-house rat. I'm pretty sure that these smooth-faced baby boys in blue had looney-bin nets clutched behind their backs, now that I think about it. But I mustered up all the dignity I had left in my size 16 body and told them that "I'm ok. I have to work in Special Ed. today...those kids need me." The boys at my door smiled. Cop #2 said, "You're a saint."
Oh no, Cop #2. No, I'm not. I've somehow made my 16 year old son think that I'm going to do something awful to myself. That's not exactly Mother of the Year material, let's not even get into sainthood.
I'd been called to sub for the entire day, thank God, and so William and I went to school. I helped kids with their homework, took kids to the bathroom, high fived a hundred of them and got hugs from another hundred. I gabbed with my son's math teacher and we talked about the frustrations of having a kid who just doesn't quite "get it". I helped a very sweet and very special girl color a big picture of her bike. I pushed all of the worry and fear aside and did what I had to do.
I got on with my life, and helped a wonderful group of kids get on with theirs.
And when I got home, I found a gift bag waiting for me. "You are what you drink!" it said on the outside.
Inside was bottle of wine, with one word on the label: BITCH. My unsinkable friend, my biggest fan, had stopped by while I was at work. There was also a gift card to Davanni's (the pizza I had intended to treat my kids to the Day Before) and some $$$.
I laughed out loud when I put the message on the bag together with the name of the wine. I laughed really loud.
Over the next 24 hours, I found little envelopes here and there. I was halfway home from work yesterday when I realized that there was a pink envelope stuck underneath my windshield wiper. The secretary at our school handed me an envelope: "Someone left this for you, Jenny." It was a Costco card. We now have toilet paper, thanks to whichever one of my beautiful, anonymous friends did that. There was a $50 bill tucked into my front door. One of my eBay hens sent me some money she said she didn't need (four kids and a teacher husband..you know you need it too, my friend).
And last night, as I was walking around the grocery store, getting a few things for William's lunch (they're going on a field trip today and he said all he wants for the next "three months" is one of mom's brown bag lunches...weep!), I spoke on the phone to a friend I've never met. We have a mutual friend on facebook, and she reached out to me a long time ago. She is a fighter and a warrior, and has given me a lot of inspiration over the past year or two. I won't divulge too much, but she told me that I needed to accept help. I told her how guilty I feel, how stupid and embarrassed I am to be stuck in such muck at this point in my life. You know what she said?
"Get over it."
Last night I slept, finally, without waking up every hour or so with a tornado of anxiety whipping around inside my head. I've always known that I am loved by my friends, and that I'm incredibly lucky to have so many.
But over the past 3 days, I've felt it, almost like a warm blanket around my shoulders. It's hard for me to take charity, it's difficult for me to swallow my pride and just accept a helping hand when it's held out for me.
Difficult, yes. But I'm going to take my far-away friend's advice, and I'm going to get over it. And someday, hopefully (like crossing fingers and toes and everything else hopefully) soon, I'll be able to start paying it forward. Because I know how it feels to be on the receiving end. It's indescribable.