4: Number of months since I lost my job, my primary source of income, and my insurance.
337: Dollars left in my checking account.
3: Nights I spent in the hospital with a severe asthma incident right before losing my job.
12: Unpaid medical bills sitting on my counter.
93: Puffs left on my inhaler. (I’m rationing them until I’m insured again.)
2: Times I have looked over my ninth floor balcony and considered a jump.
4: Reasons I would never actually do it (all of whom share my last name).
1,000: A wild guess at the number of tears cried every day. But it has to be close.
3: Angels who sent unsolicited funds to help keep me afloat.
73: Number of personalized resumes and cover letters I’ve written since mid-September.
12: Days until Christmas.
0: Presents purchased.
6: Inches I cut off my hair.
1: Amount that has grown back since realizing I still don’t look good with short hair.
2: Rescue pups who love me no matter what my bank account says.
222: Pages in my finished memoir. The upside to not having a job is having time instead.
You might wonder why I’m sharing such private information. It’s this: I’ve seen the underbelly of despair over the past four months. I’ve cried myself to sleep more nights than I’d like to remember. I’ve felt the sting of rejection over and over and over again. I’ve questioned my worth, my talent, and my ability to make a difference in this world.
There are days I put Sissy in the car with me so I know I won’t be tempted to drive my pretty Subaru — the one I bought when things looked so much better — into a tree. On those days, I value my sweet pup’s life far more than mine. On other days, too. There is a sense of loneliness and despair in being unemployed, uninsured, and unable to find your place.
Day after day, I struggle to keep my head above water — emotionally and financially. In the mornings, I begin with new hope. By the day’s end, I am flattened again. It is a vicious, unending cycle.
And here’s what I’ve learned…
I am so lucky.
When I take my dogs across the street to where my homeless neighbors huddle together for warmth and companionship, I know I will never have to walk in their shoes. I have friends and family who will catch me before I fall that far.
But my homeless neighbors don’t. They didn’t. And I understand very intimately now how close to homelessness I could be if I didn’t have those who love me in my life.
How far away are we all from ruin? One paycheck? Ten? Twenty?
How far away are we all from despair? One lost relationship? Ten friendships ended?
I read recently of a once-successful business man who took his own life after becoming homeless. I get it. I do. When you are struggling to stay alive — every day of your life — you wonder if it’s worth it. If you’re worth it. And it’s easy to believe in the lie of “no.”
I will get to the other side of this. It may not be pretty, and I may lose everything in the process, but I will persevere. That stubborn little redhead who used to hold her breath until she passed out is still inside of me.
I’m not afraid of starting from scratch. And I’m not afraid of doing whatever I need to do to survive. I watched my single mother work three jobs to keep food on our table. I know what survival looks like.
But there are others who don’t.
So, in this season of giving, please remember them. When your office asks for donations of clothes and gifts and food, please contribute. When a homeless neighbor asks for help, please reach out. And if you can’t give money, please give your time. Or at least give a smile.
It’s easy to feel invisible when you’ve lost everything.
Love them in any way you can.
After all, as Ram Dass so beautifully says, we’re all just walking each other home.