Friday, December 21, 2012

When Does It Stop?

I have always hated being poor.  Growing up in the housing projects, going shopping at Salvation Army, waiting in the welfare line, using food stamps, depending on child support from my semi deadbeat dad - all of these scenarios were things that I couldn't wait to distance myself from when I became a grown up.  When I went to college, I had to work part-time in order to pay for everything that wasn't covered by scholarship or loans.  I'm not saying I had a bad childhood or anything, I'm just saying that sh** wasn't always easy - hell, nothing was easy.

So yeah, we've established that I hate/hated being poor.  With that said, sometimes I wonder if I am the only one in my family that feels this way.  I find that I am always lending money to my family.  Every other week, I am receiving a text from my mom asking for money.  It started years and years ago when I got my first job out of college.  I would chip in and pay for rent.  It was my first job making real money and I was happy to help because as long as I could remember, my family was struggling.  Unfortunately, around that time, my sister had just had her first baby.  After that, I lent my mother/sis who were living together a large sum of money.  Since then it's been a few hundred here and there every couple months.  Between this time I have been working different jobs and sometimes not working at all and now I'm working again.  But the only thing that never seems to change is the "crisis" that my family is constantly in.

As I type this, I feel guilty because how do you say to the person that raised you, "Why can't you get it together?"  She raised me to be the goal oriented, strong-minded person that I am.  I owe my work ethic and sense of morality to my mother.  It is because of her that I am NOT a hooker/drug addict walking the streets because I had no one that loved me at home.  I was shown a huge amount of love and support from my mother and I know for a fact that she would not and did not hesitate to provide for my sisters and I.  But after years of lending money here and there and listening to my mother's struggles as well as my sisters, I can't help but to wonder why everybody else is in such a jacked up situation.

Well, actually I lied.  I have an idea as to why.  My sisters have made a lot of really bad decisions leading them to situations in life that are hard to escape without some kind of tragedy.  So they are stuck.  And if they wanted to "get out" of the hole they've dug themselves into, they're going to have to make sacrifices that they aren't willing to make.  My mother, on the other hand had a really messed up childhood that caused her to make a lot of bad decisions that continue to affect her life and health to this day.  So I guess that's it.  I have a dysfunctional family.  I'm sure that this doesn't make me different from a good 99% of folks in the world because every family has its problems but there just doesn't seem to be an easy way out.

I've explored the options in my mind.  I was telling my one sister that we need to have an airing of grievances one day.  Just gather the whole family and have a conversation about what's really going on with everyone.  I plan to tell them about my goals and ask them what their goals are.  I want to know that there is a light at the end of this tunnel of despair.  But sometimes I think they don't realize that it's despair.  I called my mom up yesterday and asked her what's going on?  She said, "Nothing.  Why?" as nonchalant as could be.  I told her that she'd asked for money again and I'm wondering if everything is okay.  She told me that of course everything is okay and she just wanted some spending money to get her through the weeks until she got paid again because she doesn't have anything in the bank right now.  What kind of pissed me off about that is the fact that she didn't even understand that this was a problem.  It seemed like she didn't understand that this wasn't normal.  It's as if all of the years of living hand to mouth has left her feeling like having absolutely nothing is just a minor inconvenience that everyone faces.  I told her that I want everyone to be okay and if she's asking for money, that means that she's not okay and that things are not okay.  She said that I was over thinking it.  I know that my mother feels guilty about always having to ask me for money.  She said that she plans on paying me and my fiancee back one day.  I told her don't bother, just get herself together so she doesn't have to ask in the future.  She says, she'd rather just pay us back.  I didn't get it (and I still don't) but if that's what makes her feel better, then fine.

It's just that at that moment, I wanted her to think about the constant asking.  I wanted her to know that I am a person, not a bank.  I have things I have to pay for and save up for.  I have goals and plans that I am continuing to make sacrifices to achieve. I understand that things are hard but she has to show me that she is at least trying.  She has to come up with a plan and actually stick to it long enough to see it through.  My man-friend knows my mother's checking account number - that's how much money we put into her account on a regular basis.  There is nothing nonchalant or normal about that.  At some point, there's got to be some progress.

One thing that my man-friend says is, "You're always going to have problems.  There's no escaping that.  The objective is to improve the quality of your problems."  And I agree with him.  I would like to see an improvement in the quality of my family's problems.  My sister doesn't make enough money to pay for child care yet she works a job that is an hour away from her home (and that's not accounting for traffic) while driving a gas guzzling car.  There are a ton of sacrifices that she can make, but she is choosing not to make them and putting my mom in a situation that leaves her without a lot of freedom because she has to take care of my niece.  All of these things are things that need to be addressed.  I just have no idea how to address them without causing anger/hostility/tension in my family.

I guess that's a sacrifice that I'm not willing to make.

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