I’ve left my main character, my only character right now, stranded outside a Denny’s somewhere in middle Ohio. He’s been dropped off by a kind hearted lady and now he’s on the road with his thumb out. It’s been about a month.
I’ve not lifted a finger to help and he’s shouting at me in the back of my head demanding I pull him forward. But he is one of many examples of my thinking being off, of despair thick and hard like a pan of burned brownies. It seemed tasty and now it’s just another mess to sort out.
Waiting for some outside signal or force to pull me from my latest down cycle is like my character with his thumb out acting as if help will arrive, somehow from somewhere. He could have walked to the next state if he just started. (of course since he’s in my head the poor guy is actually stuck but you get my meaning, right?)
My dad told me often that no one is coming to save me, “There is no free lunch and no guy on horseback. Life is about endurance and your ability to survive on your own. If you get help, examine it closely before taking it. Everyone wants something.”
I thought he was too guarded and probably wrong. But he’s not wrong. Not completely. Yes, there are nice people who help others with nothing in mind. I do it even. But self interest creeps in there even in the best of hearts and minds sometimes. And for those who have not refined their hearts and checked their assumptions, who have not sat down with their egos and had a long, stern talk–self interest is the guiding force.
Self interested folks will ask you for the same favor 100 times in a row. They will say or do whatever it takes for the intended goal of getting where they want to go and shortcuts are best.
Self interested folks will not want to pay property taxes to fix the other guys street or pay for the education of the neighbors child. Self interest is why this administration is dropping bombs.
It’s ugly. Period. Always. Full stop.
I see this in the homeless community and often over look it feeling as if actual survival gives some excuse. When you’re hungry, tired and desperate no one is at their best. But in the back of my mind standing on the foot of my character is this thought, what if waiting for the cavalry contributed to the problem in the beginning? If you know, as many of us raised by depression era parents knew, that no one is coming to save you–would you act differently?
Now I’m not reversing course here–I believe we should come to save each other. I believe in safety nets. I believe in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and housing the houseless. I believe in doing it over and over until they get the hang of doing it themselves.
But how do we get the hang of it and if we do..can it even be done in our rigged economy where no one is really getting ahead but the people in the front of the line?
I have more questions than answers but I believe in stopping the bleeding first. If you’re outside in the cold you need a place to go. That’s first.
Yet, there is this nagging sensation of self reliance which keeps coming to mind. When this down cycle comes to me and I am hiding under its blackness there is only one way out and it’s through. I must embrace it, sit with it, dive deeper into the darkness until it passes. There is no one coming to pull me out. There is no amount of talking, hoping, wine nor weed to solve the issue.
It is me asking for my attention until my heart opens its cage and the bird flies out singing its spring song. Until then, I will be here, in this well looking up for a speck of light.
Fighting for daily survival and cycling through depression are different yet similar. They both require a hard minded resolve that you will make it. A decision is made not to take an easy way out. You know you can do it, you know you can make a better day for yourself.
In a culture where a pill is called upon to save us, where fast food and fast facts are the order of the day and where important global issues are spoken about in 140 characters it’s hard to see where the values of perseverance and self reliance will get us. But they will get us out of this flimsy culture. They actually will.
So in my state of sadness which goes beyond watching a romantic comedy and eating ice cream, I’ve come to the same conclusion generations have come to before me–we must help each other and we must teach while we’re doing it.
I learned how to meditate my way through depression and know with a certainty that all things change over time. The shear toughness of Zen practice which is akin to military boot camp tells us it’s all just you and me. There is no great helper in the sky or anywhere else. That’s what it took for me. It’s not easy or pretty or fun but it works. There is no exception.
We have to stop waiting for the cavalry. They aren’t coming because they are us. If we are going to get out of this jam of poverty growing daily we must fix our economy by demanding living wage jobs, affordable housing and our money being spent on education as a first priority.
My dad sent his tribe of children to private school on a blue collar income and we grew our own food to make it work. He believed being educated was an intrinsic value that would keep us safe when he couldn’t any longer.
He understood teaching is the true value of a person. He understood one cannot teach unless one has learned.
So be a teacher. I will do it too. I will do it with, dare I say, some self interest. Helping out with no end in sight depresses me. I don’t like being this bummed out.
Before I invite anyone to stay with me again I will be asking what that person is doing to get on their feet. I will ask about their plans and hopes and encourage both. I will be the mother they may not have had.
There’s no shame in any of it. Zen picked up where my parents left off. Learning and self reliance are lifelong realities.
I know there’s nothing new here. Forgive me. But writing is another way out of my funky blue burned brownie hard pan depression of doom.
Self reliance demands I do it.
I’d like to know what you do when you’re bottoming out to get back standing. Please share so we can create community and solutions together for all of us.