Saturday, May 30, 2009

Little Fish in a Big Sea...

I was asked recently if I would participate in a study on "Homelessness in America" by giving my perspective on becoming a "homeless person" and what emotional and psychological changes I have experienced. I was asked a series of questions that I was to apply to myself and then a series of questions I was to answer on behalf of my children. I was then offered a session with a psychologist and heard their interpretation of what they think I may have suffered, learned, and what I can take away from this life experience.

The old adage - "Home is where the heart is..." is something we have all grown up hearing. As a mother - you desire to make the best possible home for your children. When we were put out of our home, the only home that my 2 youngest boys had ever known, I was fearful for them. I had a complex set of emotions that I found hard to express to people. I felt a deep sense of emotional loss and failure. Although I knew that the situation that led to us being evicted was beyond my control and that I did not cause the situation - I mourned for the loss of my physical shelter, my belongings and my ability to provide a "stable home" for those I love.

I experienced a heightened sense of fear, anxiety, insecurity, loss of control and fatigue. I knew I had to hold it all together for the sake of the majority in our household. If I fell apart - it would have done no one any good. I leaned on my faith and my upbringing that the Lord would not give me more that I could handle. I had many times where I was pushed to my breaking point, stretched, and then stretched again. I kept my HOPE and my FAITH that the Lord had a plan and that it was to prosper me, not harm me. I had memorized the verse from
29:11 - "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
I kept it as a mantra - I coached myself along repeating this verse when I felt I could not longer go on.

I have been told that in the first phase of becoming homeless the feelings of loss were very intense and diverse for all of us. Each person in our family of six experienced anger, fear, insecurity and panic. We were all feeling these emotions - some of us anger while others fear. It was very hard for me to balance my emotions as well as comfort my 4 kids and husband.

In addition to having to virtually "get rid of" most of our worldly possessions, I had to set an example for my kids and reassure them that these were just "things". I tried to explain that the THINGS that we were selling and or donating were all on "loan from God" in the first place. I told them that if He meant for us to have them again, that he would see to it that we had them. I believed this in my heart.

Was it still hard to part with "things"? You better believe it!
Seriously, think about how you would feel if you had to, right now ... today dispose of 90% of your belongings. Having a small space to store our things, half of my parents garage; we needed to keep things in order of priority. As we drew nearer and nearer to our impending deadline of having to be out I had run out of energy and rationale.

I, pretty much in a state of emotional and physical exhaustion, just started giving it all away, setting it on the curb. Posting a "FREE STUFF AT CURB" ad on Craigs List we had our cars loaded and we watched as we drove away from what we once knew as "Our Home".

Looking in the rear view mirror and seeing things that I very much wanted to keep growing further and further from my view made my heart sink.  The large 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom home with nice front and back yards that I loved to do gardening in, was now an empty dwelling.  "WE HAVE NO HOME.  WE HAVE NO WHERE TO LIVE." These thoughts pounded in my head like a loud drum.  "WHAT WILL WE DO?"  I can't tell you the emptiness and utter sense of abandonment I was feeling as I drove away.

I took on the pain and heartache of my kids. I took on the guilt that my husband felt as the provider or lack there of for our family. He had a accident. AN ACCIDENT. He could not have help this any more than I. We had and still have a brain injured son, a son with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and 2 other boys who rely on us to help them pave a path in this journey we call life.  We had no savings, no resources to fall back on when he was unemployed.  "If only"... this and "If only"...that played again and again.  But we all know that the "what ifs" don't count.  When you are in the can't look back.  The past is gone, the future has not happened yet - so you need to live in your NOW.

I could not quit. I could not give up. I could not stop. I could not rest. I could not cry. I could not shout. THEY were all watching ME. So were many others. Waiting on me to determine our next steps. Kissing me goodbye when I was able to go to work albeit only 3 days a week making $10 an hour. Some days I worked 1 hour, some I worked 6. Barely enough to put gas in the car - but I was trying. I was attempting to make a contribution, a positive one. We had many people stepping up, out of nowhere.

A prayer. A Card. A Phone Call. An Email. A Donation. A Gift. Food.  A Meal.  A Gift Card.

Each thing that we were blessed with was like a stepping stone. One stone after the other allowing us to walk ahead. Walking day by day - one stone to the next.

I can not tell you how many people have helped us. I do not even know many of their faces. I do not know their names or addresses to properly THANK them. They were stepping out in faith. Many Hearing God's voice. I too, have heard that voice. I too have taken those steps. I never thought to speak of it, as I was taught that you do the work, the giving and never expect anything in return. I was taught that GOD sees and knows your heart and your rewards are stored up in Heaven. I have loved knowing this and living it. I know that we are all blessed to be a blessing to others. I knew that by accepting help, humbling myself before God that I was allowing others to do the Lords work through me.

I do not know what we would have done without the outpouring of love and affection that the community has bestowed upon us. We have been very blessed and will be forever touched and will be more grateful than ever.

We were only homeless for a couple months. Many others are still homeless or become homeless each day. It is scary, traumatizing and your world is turned upside down. I pray for these people, the kids and their parents each night.

We have a tiny spot now on this earth. We occupy a two bedroom apartment in Irvine. We are a family of six, five of us here in this apartment. Three boys share a room with all 3 of the twin beds that we were able to keep situated one next to the other. We have borrowed furniture, donated items, thrift store finds and recycled items that we have used to create a home.
This is where our heart is.

No matter the size, no matter the decor or lack there of, no matter what - we appreciate our HOME. We are thankful each day when we wake to birds singing, sunshine pouring in and a crisp ocean breeze washing over us, that we have been abundantly blessed.

We have come out on the other side. A different side.

How have we changed? What do we want you to know? What have I learned?

1. We appreciate the SIMPLE things in life now like never before. You do not know what you truly have until it is taken from you.

2. We know what it is to live in fear. We have been forced to TRUST more, HOPE more and have a mountain of FAITH.

3. Life is not perfect - far from it. Do not have expectations, therefore you will not have disappointment.

4. THANK the Lord each day for every little blessing. Birds singing, the fact you are breathing, the spare change in your pocket. He needs your appreciation.

5. You do not know what you have to offer others in need. It may be as simple as a listening ear, a card or a shoulder to cry on. It may be that you sacrifice a luxury item and donate money. Whatever it is, the fact that you are doing it speaks volumes to those who receive it and who are watching you give. Especially the kids. Empowering our next generation - to freely give and love thy neighbor.

6. I treasure relationships and friendships now more than ever. I need and desire a connection, a stability. I need you. I need to count on you. I want to laugh with you. I want to share with you.

7. I am a work in progress. Each experience molds me and shapes me. Iron sharpens iron.

8. Time is all we have. Make the most of it.

9. I have learned to never to turn down an offer of help.

10. Pray everyday. Ask the Lord for His abundant blessings - he will reward you -

Here are some questions that I was asked to answer...

No. No. No. I feel that I am more compassionate, more appreciative, "see" God's hand more and "hear" God's voice like never before.

We are very overjoyed to have a "home". We feel blessed to be able to make this place ours. We will always live with a fear, an uncertainty, cautiously. We have been trough a very rough time and have learned to never take anything for granted. ANYONE can be like us - in a flash. Never underestimate the power of God!

Yes, we are happy but scared too. Stace has been without work for a couple weeks. He went 10 months without - and it is frightening not to have a paycheck. I am not working right now. We do not have childcare for the 3 boys who are home and school is almost out. Finding childcare for 3 so I can work is near impossible for us to afford.

We have learned to SIMPLIFY. Live simply - so we can simply live.

To have faith. To keep on keeping on. Appreciate each day as it comes no matter how dark the clouds may seem - there will be sun.

***Just a side note. ***

I am struggling now. I feel guilt for having moments of "melting down".

I am happy.

Yet I am scared too.

I have been assessed and have been told that I have been forced to be so strong for so long. I now have the "job" of setting up house. I have the "job" of keeping the kids safe, happy, fed, bathed, schooled, doctored and so on. I have the "job" of keeping a husband happy.

I am afraid to get too happy. Afraid to get too comfy. What if it all goes away again?
I am suffering stress. I am suffering anxiety.

I fear that this could happen again.

I do not know if I can go through this again. The stress of having Taylor's illness (mental and brain injured) and his addictions, combined with the demands of all else who rely on me - has made me start to buckle.

I feel like a child again. I feel like having a temper tantrum in the store crying because my mama won't give me candy.

I want to run away some days. I want to stay in. I want to lay in bed in my pajamas.

The doctors have told me this is "post traumatic stress".

WHAT?! Not me - I am the strong one.
I can't, I don't have time - for post traumatic stress! I have to keep going - If is to be - it has to be up to ME!

WRONG. I know that this is irrational. I need some "me" time. But HOW? How can I possibly concentrate on ME when there are so many that NEED me?

It is a vicious cycle...

I will continue to keep you updated. Promise.

Pray that I get a vacuum. I had 2.
Keeping my floors clean is kind of an obsession of mine. A Pet Peeve - I can't stand dirty carpets and floors! I know - weird.

We all have our moments.

Thanks for coming along with me - my journey is far from over...