Anyone who knows me – hell, probably anyone who’s met me – knows I am bad at asking for help. Not just bad at it, really… like, allergic to it. I’m the person who juggles 50 pounds of groceries and the house keys rather than asking someone to carry a bag or two. I’m the girl who drives herself home with a broken ankle rather than call a friend to come pick her up. (Yeah, that happened.)
I’ve just got this weird sort of stubbornly self-destructive independent streak. In a dude they might call it cowboy pride or something. And it’s super bad when it comes to money.
Just the thought of asking someone in my life for money is enough to put me on high-anxiety mode. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a lower-middle-class family. While my parents never really taught me how to budget or plan finances, they were good at telling me what we could or could not afford. I started to feel ashamed to ask for anything non-essential, and pretty soon I just stopped asking for anything. I started working at 15 so I could pay my own way. If I was going to waste money, at least it would be my own.
It got harder as I went through college. My dad got laid off from the company where he’d been a top performer since before I was born. My parents couldn’t send me to a university like they’d planned. The company stocks they were going to use all plummeted in value just before the layoff – that nest egg was essentially gone overnight. I worked to pay my way through community college, and they struggled to help me pay my tuition.
They also took over running a local business -one that was well liked and pretty popular. It seemed like a safe bet. The previous owners, though, had no idea what they were doing. They falsified the financial statements they showed to my parents. The stores were circling the drain when my parents bought them. My family worked their asses off for years just trying to get them to turn a profit. Of course, being the oldest and out of the house, that meant I was on my own financially.
Fast forward to today. I haven’t asked my family for money probably in the better part of a decade. I can’t even imagine starting that conversation. But the truth of the matter is, I’ve been struggling. Between the hassle it took to get into my new place after leaving my husband (the week I’d planned to stay at a friends house turned into a month) and a change in pay schedule at work, I have been emotionally and financially exhausted.
I mentioned to my husband that I may have to quit therapy for a while. It was down to either that or not eating for a couple weeks, since rent and deposit on the new place cleaned me out. My therapist is an incredibly kind woman who takes barter as well as cash – I’ve paid for therapy in pickles and hand-knit scarves before – but I have enough of a struggle just dealing with that bit of generosity. I’d honestly rather just pay the lady. Plus, I can’t pay my student loan or rent in pickles, so there’s only so far that can carry me anyway.
Well. I found out earlier this week that my husband went and did something amazing. He sent a quiet message to as many of my friends as he could reach, explaining my situation, and asking for donations. He told them not to say anything to me, that this was without my knowledge and that I would probably kill him if I found out.
I won’t put any numbers down here, but I now have enough to pay for a month of therapy in advance and still buy bus fare this week. I’ll be able to make it to next payday without overdrawing my account or maxing out the meager bit of credit I have left on my credit card. And I can eat.
This is what true love looks like. It’s not necessarily romance. It’s not flowers and chocolates and wine.
My husband – the husband I left, the husband whose heart I broke – was willing to find me the help I couldn’t bring myself to ask for. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to thank him enough. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to thank my friends enough. I don’t even know who pitched in, or how much – and honestly, I don’t want to. It’s all I can do to just accept this gift gracefully and humbly say thanks.
This one is for the lovers.
This is for chocolates on the pillow
and roses on the sheets.
This is for lovers of my lovers
and the lovers of me.
This one is for the forests.
This is for mist in the branches
and rain on the leaves.
This is for sunshine on my lovers
and the sunshine on me.
This one is for the streets.
This is for avenues where we arrive,
and roads where we leave.
This is a city for my lovers
and a city for me.
My heart sings for my lovers.
It sings moss on cobbled sidewalks
and the rainclouds match the beat.
This is a song for my lovers’ hearts
who sing back to me.
I plant gardens for my lovers.
I grow romance in the springtime
and in autumn, gather seeds.
This is a place for my lovers’ hearts
to grow wild and free.
I’ll make beds for my lovers.
We’ll burrow under afghans
and kiss under sheets.
I am dreaming with my lovers
and they’re dreaming with me.
So here’s an awesome thing.
I’ve been reading feminist blogs for like a month straight – I seriously can’t tear myself away. And while there’s some really horrible, sad, make-me-want-to-cry stories of things women have experienced (not to mention several that come uncomfortably close to my personal history)… there are also some really happy, lovely, empowering messages out there.
So here I am, enjoying all these happy lovely empowered feelings, and kind of simultaneously surfing Facebook… and I’m like “Wow, that picture of the gal from that burlesque troupe I was in for a while is really gorgeous. And she was like super good at it, and kind of an inspiration. I’m gonna tell her that.”
And then I was like “Wow, look at all my friends from different periods of my life that are meeting senators and doing awesome science things and having babies and starting their own businesses and going to Japan and making hilarious video-game-based Christmas decorations and getting rad tattoos… I know a lot of really awesome people and it feels cool to be in touch with them. I think I’m going to announce that to the world.”
And within literally moments of those two things, I got messages back from some of those friends, saying how much those comments meant to them and how happy it made them to hear it. And that made me really happy – and it was this neat little Happiness Feedback Loop (thanks, Pervocracy, for the term).
And I’ve just realized, just now for the first time in my life, that this is what friendship is like. I mean, real friendship. It’s not spending every moment together, or loving every little thing about each other, or even knowing every little thing about each other… it’s just, being happy that the people you’ve met and cared/still care about are happy. I used to think that I was a bad friend, or at least bad at keeping friends, because I was terrible at keeping touch and way too good at letting people drift away. Now I realize that drifting is okay, it happens, and that’s not a bad thing. As old friends drift out, new ones drift in, life goes on. You don’t have to frantically allocate all your time to maintaining friendships as if they were porcelain bowling pins you had to eternally juggle, lest one drop and shatter to pieces because you were so damn negligent and now that person probably hates you. Friendship just… is. It exists, comfortably, a background hum through the din of everyday life. Friendships aren’t rare, delicate orchids that wilt and die the second you forget to pay attention to them; they’re tattoos. Tattoos you can choose to remove if you want to, but that don’t fade away just cause you haven’t looked at them in a while.
And every once in a while, you do look at them, and just go “Goddamn that’s beautiful.”