The Fine Art of Begging

Recently I racked up $9,000.00 in debt by moving 3100 miles across country to start my life over after a series of setbacks that, frankly, are becoming too boring to even discuss. Everybody has problems, right? But a friend suggested I do a crowdfunding campaign through the Indiegogo website to help me get my head above water. I set a goal of 5k for my two month campaign, never really expecting to get a response.

The campaign ended just the other day, and much to my shock and awe I did reach 50 percent of my goal. But even more valuable than the money was all that I learned from the experience, about myself and about others. I never realized what a ride it would be until I hopped on.

First of all, as one might expect, it’s kind of humiliating to have to beg for money. Essentially, you are telling the entire world, “I can’t do this on my own.” No one likes to admit that.

Second, you spend a great deal of time dealing with the complex issue that a certain percentage of people are bound to assume that you are asking for something that you don’t really deserve because you’re lazy or you’re a scammer. There’s really no simple way to protest your innocence. “I am not a crook” didn’t work for Nixon, and it wouldn’t have worked for me, either.

And then, at least for me, there was a nagging feeling that maybe it was true. Maybe I didn’t really deserve help. I can think of at least a billion people who are worse off than I will ever be. Who do I think I am? What makes me so special? Those are really uncomfortable questions to have to wrestle with.

The moment the campaign was launched, the vultures started circling. “For just $200.00, I can make your campaign go viral!” “Sign up for tips on how to increase your visibility.” These e-mails made me really uncomfortable. It was like my financial desperation had somehow become a business opportunity. For me, this wasn’t business. This was my life.

Also, I got some really weird reactions from distant family members. One even told me that what I was doing was inappropriate and an embarrassment to the family. Wow. Several of them still aren’t speaking to me, and the irony is, none of them helped out, even emotionally, and I never expected that they would. They had never stepped up before, so it would have surprised me if they did now.

But the amazing thing, the thing that still brings tears of gratitude to my eyes, are the people who did step up. Many of them, I know for a fact, are struggling themselves, and they were often the most generous. Then there were the people from my distant past, many of whom I hadn’t had contact with in decades, who supported me without hesitation. And total strangers who said, “I’ve been where you are. Here. Good luck.” Some people said, “I wish I could contribute, but I have no money to give. But I wanted you to know that I heard your story and I’m pulling for you.” Even those who just shared a link to my campaign on their Facebook pages hold a special place in my heart.

I am humbled by everyone who supported me emotionally as well as financially. The memories of that will be more precious than gold long after this debt is nothing but a bad memory. And some day when I’m able, I plan to pay this generosity forward. That’s a promise.

It is when you have to bare your soul and humble yourself way beyond your comfort zone that you truly discover who your friends are, and that the world is a generous place, indeed. What a gift.

gratitude-printable

 

An Absence of Wrong Things

I’ve discovered that it’s never a good idea to try to solve the world’s problems, or even my own, when I’m tired. Or hungry. Or lonely. Or angry. Or scared.

I was pretty much all of the above the other day, and I had a moment (a few hours, actually) of existential panic. I messaged a friend, “Am I doing the right thing?” He responded, “Do you see an absence of wrong things?”

What a wise and wonderful friend is he. Making this major change in location, job, and existence in general has deleted a lot of negative things from my life. Cockroaches. A job that did not pay me enough to survive. Brutal heat. A city that I’ve tried to get out of for thirty years. Lots and lots and lots of ghosts.

Change is scary as hell, and I now have a mountain of debt to climb and a ton of challenges, and I’m all alone, and that is bound to freak me out now and then. But maybe when I panic I just need to get a good night’s rest, and then wake up and look at all the detritus I’ve left behind, and appreciate the fact that my life has become all that much lighter for having done so.

Wishing you an absence of wrong things!

balloons

[Image credit: gettyimages.com]

Another Rant About Alcoholism

One of my most popular blog entries is Why I Hate Alcohol, and I genuinely thought I’d gotten all my anger about the subject off my chest when I wrote it. It turns out that that is not the case. Far from it.

The other day, someone who calls himself “Dad” commented on another one of my blog entries, Do You Know This Child? Help Solve a Mystery. In that one, I mentioned that my father told some outlandish stories about the war, and that because he was an alcoholic, I never knew him. “Dad”, without knowing me at all, implied in the comment section that my disbelief of my father’s stories is probably “what drove him over the edge.”

Okay. Hoooo. Wow. That still pisses me off to an unbelievable degree. And when I have such a strong reaction to something, my first instinct is to take a closer look and ask myself what about the situation is pushing my buttons.

First of all, I hate being misunderstood, but in this case that was probably my fault for not clarifying my relationship. When I said I did not know my father because of his alcoholism, I didn’t mean he was present in my life but always “in his cups.” I meant that because he was such a mean drunk and a worthless fraction of a man, he left my family when I was three months old. I never met him, never got child support from him, never received so much as a phone call or a Christmas card my entire life. So yeah, I suppose I didn’t make myself quite clear in that entry. I literally didn’t know my father.

But what really makes my head explode is the implication that, had I known him, I could have in some way “driven him over the edge.” The man came home a drunk from a war that had ended 20 years before I was born. I’m sure he had PTSD, and that was a contributing factor, and that’s tragic, but making the assumption that the blame for one’s alcohol abuse lies somewhere outside oneself is the worst of all alcoholic excuses.

No one forces someone to start drinking. Not once did anyone hold a gun to the man’s head and pour the gin down his throat. Millions of people have experienced horrors and not tried to pour alcohol over those memories.

I’m sorry. I know this probably won’t be a popular sentiment, but dammit, the bedrock of being an alcoholic is selfishness and irresponsibility. Without those two things, you don’t destroy your life and the lives of every person within your sphere of influence. Full stop.

Alcoholics are very adept at blaming the rest of the world for their problems. The whole “poor me” thing may as well be tattooed on their foreheads. But I refuse to feel sorry for an alcoholic. I don’t care how often people try to call it a disease. It’s an addiction, which is a mental health issue, and yes, more often than not one will need help to conquer it. But unless and until you admit to yourself that you have made the bed that you so frequently pass out in, no healing can take place for you or anyone who has the misfortune to love you. You can’t clean up your mess until you first take ownership of it. Grow up!

“Pushed him over the edge,” my ass. Sheesh.

Furious_Smiley_Macro_by_somadjinn

[Image by Somadjinn on deviantart.com]

One of a Kind

I intended to start this blog entry by writing about snowflakes, a subject near and dear to any fractal artist’s heart. I was going to say that we’ve always been told that no two of them are alike, but then I thought about the absurdity of that statement. How the heck can anyone really know if that’s true? You’d have to look at every single snowflake that has ever fallen, and you’d have to be superhuman to do that, because most of them would melt before you ever got to them and…I’m digressing again.

I do that a lot. That’s part of who I am. And that’s the whole point of this entry. I can say with 100 percent certainty that no two humans are alike. We are all a product of our life experiences and our choices, and it would be impossible to duplicate those experiences and choices. I am who I am because of the people I’ve loved and the people who have loved me. I am a product of the things I have learned and the places I’ve been and the mistakes I’ve made and the luck I’ve had, both good and bad. I have a different set of skills and neuroses and abilities and problems and talents and quirks than any other person on the planet, living, dead or yet to be born. No one could possibly duplicate every single one of my successes or failures.

The enormity of that realization struck me as I was driving to my very unique job on a very unique road at 11:00 pm last night. What an amazing gift my life has been. What a mind-blowing amount of abundant variety makes up the human race. Life is a lavish luxury indeed. We should all revel in its richness.

snowflake

(Image credit: Energy.gov)

Reality Based Children’s Books

The other day I watched a brief video of a Children’s book that was narrated by Samuel L Jackson. It’s called “Go the F**k to Sleep”. I don’t know what made me laugh harder: the actual book, which was surely written more for the entertainment of adults, or the fact that we have reached a point in history where we’re willing to laugh at ourselves enough to actually publish a book of this type.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=y-vDYOpkoWE

This got me thinking of other children’s books that are simply crying out to be written. Here’s a few that I’ve come up with, but feel free to suggest your own in the comments section below.

  • Things Often DON’T End Happily Ever After. Sorry.
  • Glass Slippers Would Cause Fungal Infections on Your Feet
  • There’s a Good Chance You Won’t Become Royalty
  • Not Everyone is Beautiful and That’s Okay.
  • If You See Things Turning into Pumpkins, You Might Need Help
  • If You Go Around Kissing Sleeping Women, You May Appear Desperate or Do Time
  • The Plural of Dwarf is Dwarves
  • It’s Usually Not a Good Idea to Hang Out with Undomesticated Animals
  • The Yellow Brick Road Has Pot Holes
  • If Someone Gives You Magic Beans, Make Sure They’re Not from Monsanto
  • Jackass: The Eighth Dwarf
  • The Big Bad Wolf was Just Misunderstood
  • Humpty Dumpty Died and it Wasn’t Pretty
  • Goldilocks was a Burglar
  • Never Throw Wild Parties with Creatures 10 Times Your Size
  • If Someone is Creepy, Don’t Get in his Boat, Even if he Owns a Chocolate Factory
  • Most Problems aren’t Solved in 25 Pages
  • Not all Evil People are Visibly Ugly