Grown, Fat, Ugly, and Your Breath Stinks!
With a title like that, what is this discussion about? Well let me take you back twenty years ago to 1996. I was 19-20 years old, I had just buried my first daughter LaDaejha the year before in November 1995, right before Thanksgiving. I was living with a family member at the time, but there was insurmountable tension, and I had to leave. I got my very first apartment and I was working in the call center at an alarm company. At work I was miserable, I hated being there, on top of not making a livable wage. At home I was like a zombie, alive but not alive. I had my high school diploma, one year of college, a life time of emotional trauma from the situation with my mother, and a life altering tragedy under my belt.
I did something totally irresponsible, that I have never done since. I abruptly quit my job and never went back. I just couldn’t do it anymore. After I quit, I had no income coming in. I was already struggling, but now I was flat broke. My rent got behind and I knew eviction was coming so I just laid there depressed and waited for it. I didn’t have any food so I asked my dad to help me with food. He brought over some meat and canned goods from the house. The next day he called me with my mother yelling in the background, he told me that my mother said he could not take food from their house and give it to me and so he had to come and take it back. So, that you understand the context, my mother and father both were retired from two jobs that were considered “good jobs” in their day. They received two pensions, two social security checks, their house was paid off, and they had no money problems. I also know that my mother received a life insurance payment from the death of my daughter, which I had signed off on to be in her name when she purchased the policy. Now am I saying because they were financially comfortable that it was their responsibility to take care of their adult child? No. But I also want to be clear that they were not in dire straits and I was not taking food from their mouths. Their 19-year-old daughter who had just suffered the loss of her child, and had no income asked for some food. But because of the mental illness with my mother, I was not allowed to receive any kind of assistance from them. And that was that. I knew from that point on that I was definitely on my own.
So, by the next month I was evicted from my apartment, and rightfully so, I could not pay the rent. This was the start of my two years of homelessness. I stayed with my Godmother for some time, with friends, in hotels, with men I was seeing at the time, and wherever else I could figure out. After about a year and a half of this I stayed at a homeless shelter for one night. I do not remember the name of the shelter, but it was a domestic violence shelter. My friend and I who were both homeless stayed there together. We both went in and said we were leaving an abusive relationship so that we could be admitted. Neither one of us were actually in an abusive relationship, as a matter of fact, we weren’t in relationships at all. But this was the only place that we could find to stay because we didn’t qualify for any other shelters that we knew of.
So why did I only stay there for one night? The building was an old apartment building, and each apartment was now a room for 2 women and any children they had. There were no doors on any of the hinges. The place was old, musty, reeked of urine, and was just plain nasty. That night when it was “lights out” everyone had to go to their assigned rooms and, Lord was it packed! I swear every child was crying at once, every mother was yelling at once, and there was an air of despair that filled the building. Then…………the roaches came out! I sat in the middle of my bed crying with my hands covering my ears, rocking back and forth like I was in an insane asylum. And that is exactly what it felt like. My friend was holding me and crying too. She said “I grew up like this so I can take it but you can’t. Tomorrow you leave and just find a way to make it out here. When I get my place it will be our place, and you will come live with me.” I said okay, and that’s what we did. We would be together each day, and then at night I went from place to place and she went to the insane asylum! After her “ninety days” they paid the security deposit and first month’s rent for her place and “we” moved in. I stayed with her and I also lived with my Godmother. I was back and forth between the two, which was convenient because they were only one block apart. My Godmother opened her home to me even though I was in a very bad place mentally and I was not a pleasure to live with. She treated me with love, fed me, and tried to help me as much as she could and I will forever be grateful to her for that. Other than my friends who were my own age, my Godmother was the person who helped me the most during the first years after I lost my daughter. She was like her daughter too; she was my daughter’s Godmother before she became mine.
After living between the two of them, then enrolling in the army but leaving the hotel the night before boot camp…..twice…..lol, another story for another day, this was when I started stripping at the age of 21 and things got a lot better for me, but that is also another story for another day. What I want to focus on for this post is the two years between 19 and 21, which leads to…..why Grown, Fat, Ugly, and your Breath Stinks!
So, first of all I was neither fat nor ugly! This is a saying that I came up with to describe what it is like to be an adult and to be in need. Everyone wants to help the cute kids. Individual people, non-profit organizations, foundations, mentoring groups, churches, the school system, and even the government. Children are innocent (although I don’t fully agree with that, but that is the general rule), children are our future, children are little, children are cute (I don’t fully agree with that one either!), and a baby’s breath smells like milk! But when I needed help, I wasn’t a child. I was an adult. A young adult, but still technically an adult by age. So, after I lost my apartment and I had no help from my parents, I started looking for help.
I was not raised in a household that utilized government services so I wasn’t familiar with community resources. The first place I tried was the Department of Human Services (DHS) [that is what it is currently called in the State of Michigan, I know it was called something different then but I don’t remember what]. I was familiar with them because I received benefits when my daughter was alive. So I tried to re-apply for benefits but I was denied. I was no longer a mother, I was a healthy adult, and so I didn’t qualify for anything. I may have been approved for food stamps, but no type of financial or housing assistance, so it didn’t help with my problem of being homeless.
I tried shelters and facilities, but they were all for special circumstances such as domestic violence, substance abuse, or mental illness. I wasn’t “bad off enough.” I tried employment assistance services and there I was “over qualified.” I had a high school diploma, a year of college, and I didn’t “look” like I was in need. I was receiving counseling sometimes from the Pastor of the church that I was attending back then, but financial or housing assistance from the church……………Ha! Forget about it! Where was my family? They were there, and I know they love me. But let’s face it, who has money to help other people when they are struggling to provide for their own family? In fairness I don’t want to make anyone in my life sound unsupportive, because that isn’t the case, they were supportive then and they are now. But none of them are in a position to take care of anyone else financially, and neither am I.
So, that was the state of my life, I was out here broke, lost, and in extreme emotional pain. And there was no help for me. Now, why is this important? Because there are people in the same position today. That may be you, or it may be someone you know. If it is you, you may feel like there is no help for you. People and organizations are judgmental, and it may feel like any help you do receive, you have to jump through hoops to get. And remember from my post “They don’t know they don’t know” you may not have the information and knowledge needed to become self-sufficient on your own. You aren’t little and cute anymore. So what should you do?
If this is you, then first of all I encourage you to stay strong. That may sound like a cliché but I really mean it. You have to hold on to your faith, and if you do not have any faith, you need to get some. You are going to need it. And the best way to get some faith is to read The Word of God. So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God – Romans 10:17. Second, you need to find yourself for yourself. With faith in God comes faith in yourself. Who are you? What do you want for your life? Having faith or belief and actively seeking the answers will cause the law of attraction to bring you the answers. But you have to be intentional about it, it doesn’t just happen. People, books, church, etc. can give you advice, knowledge, and wisdom but the specific answers for YOUR life are inside of YOU.
If this is someone you know, here are some tips for helping:
- Don’t be so quick to judge! You may know something about what the person is going through, but then you may not. Judgment is about more than just “words,” watch your body language and your “look” towards the person. Feeling judged and misunderstood only makes people rebel and withdraw. You could give them all the right advice, but if it is in the spirit of judgement, they will not receive anything that you say.
- Speak encouraging words. Tell them you believe in them. Tell them it is going to be okay. Tell them you love them. Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof – Proverbs 18:21. This power not only applies to our lives, but the lives of others as well.
- Research and educate them on resources. There may be housing resources, employment opportunities, counseling services, books, etc. that may be of use to them. You may have more resources and skills to identify opportunities then they have.
- Have patience. My last piece of advice to support your friends or family who are going through a challenging situation is to remember their life is not on your time table. They may need to go through what ever challenge they are facing to get to their purpose. I know I did. And how many people have you heard say they learned the most during difficult and trying times. This may be their season of growth. And they are not going to “get it” now just because you want them to. Have patience because God may not be through with them yet.
Remember everyone, cute little kids are not the only people who need help. Just because you are an adult does not mean that you have all of the answers, knowledge, and skills to be successful. And just because a person does not have an extreme or documented issue – mental illness, substance use, domestic violence, etc. – does not mean they do not need help too. That is why I chose the field of Social Work and that is why I chose to work with adults.
Just regular ole grown, fat, and ugly people who sometimes have a little stinky breath! Pee-yew, but I still love you!