Yesterday, I Cried

Yesterday I cried twice AND I was dead sober.  Why is that important?  Well, something happened between 2010-11, several somethings, and I simply stopped being able to cry.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it.  Growing up I cried at the drop of a hat.  I cried so often through my 20’s that I never wore mascara.  I could cry over a commercial, something I read, a random panic attack, anything.  Then it all stopped.  After my eyes simply stopped making tears, I had to, from there on out, get super drunk to be able to cry.  It was like the answer to my prayers, no more crying at work, no more crying in front of anyone that shouldn’t have that privilege- I was now normal, like everyone else!  Now I can count the times that I have cried (while sober) on my fingers.  As I’ve learned, this is the way most people are, and I’m happy to have joined the ranks of the emotionally controlled.

Except that yesterday I cried, twice.  Why?  Well, I was having a tough day all day.  I’ve been coming to the realization that there will be no movies, date night dinners, hanging out with humans, vacations, plane rides, etc for the next 2 years – to – indefinitely.  Infinite time with nothing in the way of fun or rewards of any kind.  Even if we did travel somewhere, all we did when we went other places was go to museums, gatherings, see friends, go to restaurants, and go to bars, all of which no longer exist to us.  A friend of mine said today, trying to be helpful, “Well, can’t you just order in some food and make it a home date?”  Ummmmmmm, do you not think that has happened?  What the fuck difference does that make, except that I don’t have dishes to clean up?  It’s the same fucking thing we did yesterday, except I have EVEN LESS to occupy myself with.  I’m sure that will be oh, so entertaining over and over and over again for the next 2 years in my fucking living room.

Which leads me to my next reason for crying, I cannot even scrape up enough things to do to occupy my hands and time.  I know, I know, you have like 4 kids and a full time job.  Guess what? I don’t have any kids, and there is no job that I’ve ever done that would be happening right now.  None.  Zilch.  Nada.  I know you say “well, enjoy it!”  Enjoy what, exactly? Cooking, cleaning, and yard work?  All that “cool stuff” that “stay at home wives” get to do includes lunch with friends, coffee with friends, shopping, yoga classes, the gym, maybe some kind of club or committee thing.  We get none of that.  That is all gone. I get to enjoy cooking, cleaning, and yard work.  I’ve become almost obsessive about running because I feel so trapped.

Oh, and then there’s “fashion”.  There are no reasons at all to even half-way dress up.  Like there is literally no reason to wear anything that isn’t pajama pants or stretch pants.  There’s no reason to wear a stitch of make-up.  Don’t even tell me to start making jewelry again, I’ve got the stuff out, but who the fuck is even WEARING jewelry?  Where is there to wear it?  I don’t want to make more jewelry to just gum up the containers of already existing jewelry that I own and haven’t gotten rid of, shit, I can’t imagine you could even give the stuff away right now.  We used to occasionally gussy ourselves up to go somewhere, just to remind ourselves that we can look descent.  I can’t think of 1 reason to even open my closet.  I have an entire closet, full of beautiful summer dresses, that I may as well throw in the garbage.  I can’t even sell them right now, who would buy them?  No one needs stuff like that.

All of these things, these little things, just came to a head yesterday.  For the next two years, I will be a frumpy, work-out clothes only wearing, early-forties hermit, and 2 years is my most optimistic guess.  I could literally be in my late 40’s before we can safely navigate society again, and maybe we will never be able to navigate society again, and I may spend the rest of my life isolated in this fucking house.  When will I ever see a swimming pool again?  When will I ever see the ocean?  When will I ever see any state (or even city for that matter), that isn’t my own.  There’s no reason to do any of that.  You can’t “get a taste for the food or culture”, unless you want to order take out and eat it in your hotel room.  Yeah, that’s worth traveling for.

What I’m essentially saying is that the fun, all of the fun, has been sucked out of my life.  There is no “fun” left.  No reward at the end of the tunnel.  None of the little things that might brighten your day.  “Yeah, work was tough, but we’re meeting so-n-so for dinner tonight, and that will be cool.”  “Wow, I can’t wait until our trip next month.”  “This new dress is so cool, I can’t wait to wear it to the wedding next week.”  All gone.  All of it, gone.  It was just the little things, seeing someone you didn’t expect to see at the coffee shop, and having a chat.  New eyeliner to wear.  Fun sunglasses.  Dinosaur print bathing suit.  The possibility of water aerobics.  The new art museum exhibit.  A show that you really wanted to see.  The idea that if you made jewelry, you might sell a few pieces at First Friday.  Ordering a bottle of wine with my husband; “We’ll have the terrine, then I’ll have the duck breast, medium-rare.”  Creme Brûlée.

Please don’t get in the comments and tell me how: 1.)I should learn to make creme brûlée and duck breast- I might, but it’s not the same.  2.) How we should have at home date night, that is literally every fucking night.  Every night is dinner and a movie, I make dinner, and then Netflix makes the movie. 3.) That I should dress up just for me- that’s impractical.  Dress up and do what?  Cook? Clean? Go jogging? Muck out the chicken coop?  Exactly what do I do after I get gussied up “for me”, you and I both know, that shit is not for me.  You and I both know that ALL WOMEN dress for OTHER PEOPLE.  If we’re dressing “for us”, we’re wearing grey sweatpants and a shirt with a hole in it.  4.) To just enjoy what I have.  Yes, thank you for the fact that we live indoors.  I actually say thanks for that every single night.  It doesn’t help me with the fact that I want to stand in the street and scream at the top of my lungs over and over again because I’m fucking TRAPPED here in this fucking GROUNDHOG DAY for GOD KNOWS HOW LONG!!!

It just all got to me.  I get tired of pretending to be an optimist, because I am not one.  I pretend to be one, because that is what people like, and that is what you all want to hear.  I’m not one, and I’ve never been one- that’s a performance piece that I put on for you all.  At best, I’m a realist.  At worst, I was born a pessimist.  I don’t feel particularly hopeful right now, nor have I in the past 4 years.  I think that what is left of our democracy is about to be destroyed.  I think our government has no plan and no real intention of making a vaccine, much less making it affordable for people.  I don’t actually have any hope that we’re not getting 4 more years of Trump.  I just don’t see anything good, and I could have really used those “little things”, but instead, what we get is a life that is even harder and more fucking tedious than it already was, AND our country crumbling at the seams to watch while we’re a captive audience.  It’s the fucking Twilight Zone.  We’re in the Twilight Zone.

Running Feels Like Adopting Your First Dog

When we reach Saturday, if I can keep it up, I will have done my version of running (the closest I’ve ever gotten to it), for a full week. I will always have to wear a knee brace, that is unavoidable, and I may never run like those running groups you used to see all over town who ran from bar to bar, but I’m plugging away at it.  Today I traveled some of that beautiful greenway space, specifically the Little Rock Trail, and the Walnut Creek Wetlands.  It is easy to forget how beautiful open, wooded space can be when you live in the city.  We are so lucky to have the greenway.

If you haven’t been to the Wetland part yet, I encourage you to.  It is so full of life.  Below is a mother duck and her little babies that I watched for a while.  When I first saw them, they were right under the bridge I was running across, and swam away as I came closer. It was magical.  Bring the kids, you might see something cool.

I have noticed something, and I don’t know if this happens to any of y’all, but do you find yourself starving after a run?  I ate a little something before I left, but I was out for a solid 2 1/2 hours, and when I got home, I was ravenous.  It was like that the day before, and the day before that.  Actually, truth be told, I’ve been that way every time I finish a run.  I peel off clothes, hop in the shower, drink water, and my stomach is grumbling.  I start making dinner, and for the past few days, it’s been “the quickest thing I can make”.  Where I was taking all manner of hours to create masterpiece dinners, now I’m like “pasta sounds great”.  I think that if I continue to do this in the evenings, I’m going to have to prep anything that needs a lot of prep before I leave the house, and have it all ready for cooking when I return, because I return like a starving animal.

Below is what my phone has been charting each day.  One of the disadvantages of the “Health” app in iPhones is that it only works when the phone is in your pocket or hand.  It doesn’t track any steps you take without the phone (unlike a fitbit), but I don’t really have to know about how many steps I trudge through the yard or the house, I’m tracking the running.  Below is a screenshot of the amount of miles I’ve gone per day.

I’m so pleased!  I have always admired all of those running and walking people who I’ve seen my whole life while driving.  I have always thought “Now there’s a person who has their shit together”.  I’ve typically seen it as some sort of mark of adult success.  Anyone who does that shit at 5-7 am is seen in my book as “The Ultimate Adult”.  I still don’t see myself being that person any time soon, because I only see 5 am because I’m still awake at 5 am, however, there are PLENTY of evening runners, and I feel proud to be among them.

It’s funny, the things we perceive as “successful” when we’re young.  There are a lot of things I am today that would have blown 20 year old me’s MIND. Mid-twenties me could have never conceived of owning a house, much less two houses; it was almost too much to hope for, and yet, that shit has happened.  Early 20’s me thought that being the bartender was an ultimate goal, and being the manager of a restaurant was more than I could have ever hoped for, and those things have happened; come and gone in an adult lifetime.  There are tons of things that I’ve done that High School me would have not even believed, but funny story, as a middle aged woman, I still measured “success” by “Do you ever think I could be one of those running people?” It feels all responsible, like talking about “mortgages”, “salaries”, and “the stock market”- shit that you overhear when you’re 10, don’t know what it is, are bored, but somehow you know, those are grown up adult things.

In a sentence, running kind of feels like adopting your first dog.  Now you have something in common with “the normals”, something that shows responsibility and adulthood.  I guess tomorrow I should take the dog running.

 

Everyone is Freaking Out but Remember… Community.

Today was BUSY at the center.  People were bringing us their things and we were trying to keep up with the latest news.  We had to convince some folks that even though the shelters won’t take couples, they absolutely cannot stay in a tent in the woods during this time.  I got cussed out over the phone for not being able to provide hotel rooms for folks- it was a lot.

We gave a way SO MANY SOCKS today.  Last night was sort of a taste of what is to come.  Blu’s phone was ringing off the hook because people thought that the hurricane had already started, but it was just a typical thunderstorm.  It may have worked to our advantage, because it definitely lit a fire under some butts.  Folks got their meds refilled, just in case.  People gave us important papers to keep.  We have bags of belongings, labeled and placed on top of tables to keep them dry.  We’re definitely doing the best we can here to provide support for everyone.

I had a couple of texts today asking if people could sleep overnight at the center.  We’re pretty sure that it is going to flood because it’s a basement, so I think that’s a bad idea right now.  It floods in parts when it simply rains, much less during a hurricane.  We’re taking precautions by making sure nothing is on the floor and all of the electrical equipment (computers, modems, appliances), are up on a surface and nowhere that they can get wet.

We bought a ticket today for someone who has a friend in Gastonia who is willing to not only let her stay there, but give her a place to stay for an extended period of time.  I feel really good about that because not only will she not be sleeping outside, but she will be with friends who care that she was sleeping outside- I can’t say that about all of our folks for sure.  They grew up in the same group home together, and have been looking for one another.  She got a phone and they found each other this week- this is why Facebook is an amazing tool.  He had no idea that she was living outside, and she had no idea that he was searching for his foster sister.  He just bought a house, and has extended an invitation to her to join his family.  I hope that it works out, for both of them.

Not everyone is so lucky, however, I found out today that a lot of people saw the video that I made yesterday, so that gives me hope that we can keep everyone alive.  We had a lot of new faces today, and I got to speak to a LOT of new folks about what their plans were for the next few days.  It was HECTIC, and we’re going to need some help in the near future, but it’s worth it.  It really is.  If you spend one day with us, you’ll see it too, the joy of a clean pair of socks, a new tent, a hot meal, a clean t-shirt, a bar of soap, connecting with an old friend, all of it.

Forgiveness is Huge

This morning, our friend who sees Demon Fairies, came up to me immediately and said “I’m sorry, I’m an asshole.  I had a total nervous breakdown yesterday.  Sometimes we hurt the people who help us the most, and I’m sorry.”

I asked him if his medications had been in the bag that got stolen, and he said they were, and that he had an appointment on the 3rd to have his scripts refilled.  I told him that if there was anything we could do to keep him calm and out of trouble until his appointment to let us know, and not to let it build up to yesterday again.  We’ll help you out however we can, but we have to keep the place safe for everyone.  He agreed to that, and I gave him a hug.  He said “I haven’t had a hug from anyone in a long time.”

He was quiet and went about his business for the rest of the day.  He ate at lunch (a good thing), and I got him a bag to replace the old, black trash bag that he had been hauling his worldly possessions around in.  It wasn’t much, just a Marshall’s reusable shopping bag, but he looked really happy and said “That’s a great bag, thank you.”

Grace is hard, and forgiveness is huge.

The rest of our day was busy, 62 people for lunch!  Billy and I reorganized the meat cooler and were in awe of how much pork we had in comparison to everything else.  One thing that we have learned very quickly is that a LOT of people don’t eat pork.  When we make pork (and we pretty much have to every lunch because it is the most donated meat in our area), we always have to make something to go with it.  We have St. John’s Methodist church doing our lunch tomorrow, so we’re planning Thursday’s meal.  So far it’s pork shoulder, and turkey neck gravy for the non-pork folks over rice.

Our hall was swamped with clothing and bedding donations, so I and our friend, Dave, took a stab at clearing it all out.  We have a lot of women’s clothing, a lot of men’s dress pants, and a lot of assorted bedding.  More bedding than we can use right now, so if you’re looking for sheet sets, pillow cases or a quilt, stop by and help yourself, we have plenty!

I’m trying to write something every day, so some days there will be more than others, however, I definitely thought that this deserved an update.  Tomorrow we’ll be starting the day with sausage, eggs and grits, so if you’re up and about at 9:30, join us for breakfast!

 

 

 

 

You’re Welcome to What’s in the Fridge

Today I was messaging back and forth with some of our unhoused community members, trying to put together a list of who lost tents, how many, and where the the most damage happened.  During one of my conversations, I learned that 4 of our folks who lost everything had no way to get to dinner and were hungry.

Dinner is served in 2 locations that I know of; the Salvation Army Center for Hope on Capital Blvd, and a church off of New Bern Ave.  I realized in this moment that the best way to get them fed without them being stuck anywhere, especially now that they have no home base, was for me to just make and bring something.  I didn’t have much in the fridge.  I had just eaten a ham sandwich, so I asked “mayo or mustard”, and made up 4 ham sandwiches, and 4 bowls of ramen noodles, putting the hot noodles in take out containers that I had saved, and headed to meet them on Fayetteville St.

Our folks don’t like to beg.  I don’t either.  I don’t enjoy begging the Universe for what the center doesn’t have, but I know that I have to use my amplified voice to advocate for people who can’t.  This very simple meal was well received, and everyone was definitely very hungry.  It wasn’t fancy, but making that simple meal gave me joy.  Why?  Because it was made here, in my home, out of my fridge and cabinets with my hands, and I had it to give freely.  I didn’t have to beg anyone for the makings, and they didn’t have to beg anyone for dinner.  Today no one had to expend that extra energy to ask the Universe, and instead we could simply enjoy our friendship, our sandwiches, and our noodles.

You might be thinking, “But you do that every day, why did this feel different?”  It feels different because it is intimate.  It’s not cooking for 50, there is no serving line, and it was just a small enough meal to be quick and manageable to pack up for 4 people.  I don’t bring people meals in the evening that often, and maybe one day Love Wins will be able to be the type of organization that serves a meal again in the park, but it won’t be like this.

When people serve on a large scale, it’s back to asking for donations, planning the meal, dealing with criticism (there are plenty of people who will be quick to tell you that ramen noodles are unhealthy to serve to homeless people, even though that is what I had for supper).  This is a different experience, like folks dropping by unexpectedly and having whatever you scrounge up for dinner.  It’s like family, and in that moment, I’ve never been happier to make a ham sandwich for anyone.

 

Strumming the Non-profit Blues

I just said “Goodbye” to my mentor for the past year- I’ve been preparing for this for almost as long.  I don’t really cry like “normal people”.  I have a tough time with that.  I reassure myself that he’s only a text or a phone call away, and if we have issues at the center that I haven’t seen before, I can at least ask for advice.  Some days it feels like I’ve bitten off more than anyone can chew, others, it doesn’t.

We’re going to make it through the month.  After payroll tomorrow, both of my employees will be paid (I will not), and with a check I got today, we’ll make rent, so that’s good.  It’s survival mode.  It takes so little to run the center; $6,500 per month, but we’re not there yet, so everything is touch and go.  We have a Peer Support Program, but funny story, Blu IS THE PROGRAM, it’s peer support.  She is the peer.  She is literally the program.  We deal in the business of investing in humans, and people no longer seem to understand that as, well anything.

The other day, someone asked me if the opening of the new Oak City Outreach center would “impact our business”?  I laughed.  “You mean another place to help poor people?  No, build 2 more.”  He said “Aren’t you afraid that you’ll go out of business.”  I said “Sir, you’ve mistaken us with a store, that sells things, for a profit.  We give things away for free, for no profit.  If anything it means that in a year you’ll all be eating steak and getting name brand deodorant”.  He laughed, and maybe, I think he got it.

A non-profit is not “a business”.  It doesn’t run like a business.  It runs like a house.  You pay the bills.  That’s how that works.  You start a program and you fund it.  Our programs center around people.  We have a nutrition program that I can get food for, but there is an unhoused man who runs it that I can’t afford to pay, and that breaks my heart.  The difference between him being housed and not could be this part-time job- a job that he can do, that’s rewarding work, and that a person with disabilities can do and maintain dignity.  I wish that I could give him the title of “Kitchen Manager” and the little bit of money it would take every month to keep him housed.  It’s literally $800.  For $800 a month, I could give this man a job, and he could use it and his disability to move out of Pullen Park and into a rooming house.  This is the big picture.  This is what I want to do.

These are the hard choices.  Right now we can’t even afford a director (that’s me), but we have to have one, because I do our book keeping, social media, website, fundraising and daily operations.  I also work in the business, it’s a LOT like being a waitress in a very busy restaurant.  People need things, and then you try to help them find what they need.  It’s like being the personified version of Google for folks who need extra help to navigate it.  Luckily, I worked in a bar for a year while I was working at LW and saved every penny that I could because I knew the hard road was ahead.  It can be stressful, but I’m glad that I could save what I could to be able to go a month or two without a salary of any kind.  How I’ll ever get anyone in the future to take my job?  I’ll never know.  It’s a hard sell.

People who run organizations can typically get “better jobs elsewhere”, with large, funded organizations.  This is why a lot of these organizations are run by pastors and ministers, they have a job with the church, and then their mission work is the rest of it.  If you aren’t any of those things, you don’t have that title or income to survive, and while I’ll be fine, I’m unsure, down the road, how this could all work.  We have to build it up.  It’s working.  The place is AMAZING every day.  We do so much, but from a “business” standpoint, it’s tough.  No one wants the stress of the entire existence of a non-profit on their shoulders, and the worry of not being able to pay their own bills.  I’m okay for now, I’m a lucky one.  Not everyone is that lucky, and if I have to, I can always still bartend at night.  I’ll be a zombie at work, but I’ve done that before.

It’s a calling.  It’s definitely nothing else.