hell is living with other people

four male roommates SOM

I’ve been burning a candle all day.

I had a crazy incident that happened on Friday here at home that made me think about all the awful roommates I’ve had and how I hope this is the last awful roommate I have.

So let’s take a trip back to the last century to start our journey through bad roommates and living situations.

Get cozy and buckle up–this will be a long trip.

Edited to add (6/17/18): I actually had forgotten an incident that happen before this first incident, “Condom in the Bowl”–it was during the summer between my second and third years.

The Nightmare Subletting Roommate

I sublet a room from an acquaintance, an apartment close to the University of Chicago Hospitals. I’m sure that building is gone since the hospital has expanded.

The other roommate was a Ghanaian grad student. I don’t remember his name. I just remember that he had a 10-speed with these bright colored handles.

I’m going to keep this short because this is far in the recesses of my mind, and this was a really traumatizing experience, living with a psychopath.

Besides not having any a/c in my room, this guy was a nightmare. He wrote a letter to the Dean of Students about me, and she wrote me back chiding me. I wasn’t on university property at the time and she didn’t even ask for my side of the story.

He also extorted money from me, claiming that I didn’t clean up enough. So I remember walking to the gym on campus with a male friend to make sure I wasn’t hurt or shaken down for more money.

Condom in the Bowl

This was back in college in Chicago, my third year, 1999-2000, I believe. It’s a little hazy because I was under major financial stress and suffering from clinical depression–and yes, the two were related.

In my apartment/dorm, that year we got stuck with this random redhead girl who had her boyfriend, Orion, over a lot. She didn’t live in my bedroom.

(Funny how I remember the boyfriend’s name (it’s my favorite constellation) and not this girl’s name.)

Anyway, I vaguely remember most of this time for a few reasons. 1)  I’ve probably blocked all this out. 2) Clinical depression can erase a lot of your long-term memory. 3) This was almost 20 years ago.

So yeah, she was just inconsiderate and we couldn’t take it. I don’t even know if someone was living in my room that year. Probably not.

Anyway, her roommate came into my room one day, and I played the music up real loud so we could talk about how awful she was. The redhead girl said something to us about it later, but the behavior didn’t really end.

Near the end of the school year, I remember there was a large mattress in our living room, and it was the redhead girl’s. Granted, I and the other suitemate were so busy, I rarely hung out in the living room, but it was, at least, a full-sized mattress, if not a queen-sized one.

The redhead girl didn’t ask if it was OK for her to have that there. The mattress just appeared one day.

What is probably the grossest thing that’s ever happened to me was when I was looking for a cereal bowl that I used (and owned).

I found it in her room, with a used condom in it.

I am pretty sure I tore her a new one. She fumbled with her apologies, but at the same time, she seemed to not fully understand how gross it was to have something that was on her boyfriend’s dick, and inside of her, in something that we ate from.

I didn’t throw the bowl out, though. I scrubbed it hard with hot water and maniacally washed it multiple times. Oddly, I was somehow still attached to the bowl–it was one I brought from home.

So yeah, I still have the bowl in storage, which I guess makes me gross. I think I wanted to keep the bowl because I didn’t want to let this person’s inconsideration win.

But now that I’ve told you this story, I will throw it out the next time I can get a hold of it (if I even still have it…).

Three Capricorns

I had to move out of the dorms and got kicked out of college because of family upheaval (my dad’s bipolar disorder was strangling my family) which left me with a $5000 unpaid tuition bill.

I moved from Hyde Park up north to Logan Square and lived with two older people who were in their early 30s, a man and a woman, both with early January birthdays. It was a nice, spacious apartment, on a tree-lined boulevard, with the landlord living upstairs.

The woman was a spoiled brat, a bully, and had a bit of a coke habit. I don’t think she had a job. She just went to this bar in Bucktown a lot. I almost thought she worked there. For income, I think she just lived off of a settlement of when she got doored while riding her bike.

Anyway, I learned of her coke habit the first time when we had our first joint Capricorn birthday party.

In my mind’s eye, she was dancing in the dining room, or was near the turntable, and she had such glassy eyes. She was really loud–a little too loud even for a party. Either she or the male roommate told me that she had done an 8-ball. It’s probably the first time I had seen someone high on cocaine.

I should mention that we all paid the same rent for rooms of differing sizes. The cokehead had the master bedroom which included its own bathroom. It was massive. It could have been its own little studio apartment.

The male roommate, an IT guy, and I were pretty decent friends. I can’t remember how we got fed up with the cokehead, but we decided to stage a coup when our lease was up for renewal.

We talked to our landlord and made sure that she was going to pay a larger amount of the rent. I think we made it go up 50 percent or something like that, but it was fair because her room was at least 50 percent larger than ours.

So we came back down with our new lease which stated the new terms. Right before we confronted the other roommate, the male roommate told me how, one time when I wasn’t home, she had been in the living room with her coke dealer, with coke all over the glass coffee table. It was right before his parents were coming over.

That sealed my fate in my absolute disgust of this person. I was still a Christian and although I knew she also smoked pot, which I was still a little wary of at the time, having hard drugs in my house was a no-no.

Soon after that revelation, we told her about it in the living room. She fucking lost her shit.

“Oh, look at you getting all emotional, huh? You’re so emotional!” she said, eyes wide with anger, standing over me. It’s the kind of things that bullies say to make you feel small, to rile you up.

And, although I was seething on the inside, I didn’t let it show that much. She was the only one getting emotional. We just stared back and said that she had to pay her share or she needed to move out.

So she did.

Then I moved into the master bedroom and the other roommate used my old bedroom as an office. It was just the two of us until I moved back down to Hyde Park to finish my BA. I would have actually kept commuting the hour it took but the male roommate started to get a little creepy when he was drunk.

Honorable mention: the female roommate had a cat which I called P. Kitty because she pissed, pooped, and puked everywhere. She was also blind and kept banging into walls and poles and things.

Pathetic kitty.

The Perfect Roommate Vanishes

When I returned back to college, I made friends with this woman in my acting class. She was a fun, preppy girl who probably liked cursing a lot like I did. I don’t really remember much about her.

We decided to room together in an apartment Hyde Park and we got to the point that we were going to sign the lease, and she just ghosted

I called and emailed, multiple times. I never heard from or saw her again. It left me in the lurch because I was definitely moving out and could not move back to Logan Square–I even asked. My room was gone.

I wonder now, just having thought about it, if her parents didn’t want her living with a black woman. I believe she also was from a very wealthy, famous Chicago family. Who knows?

A Child and an Adult

So, I was sent scrambling to find a new roommate. I found this 20-year-old woman in what I called–and I’m not proud of calling it this–the Ghetto Twin Towers. It was an old towering apartment complex on the northern side of Hyde Park, right next to an overpriced luxury apartment complex.

She was OK except when I was working the door at the school’s pub. She wanted me to let her in just because we were roommates. We were not friends. I refused. I was not going to get in trouble for some somewhat spoiled girl. And that she didn’t ask me at home made me livid that I, a 26-year-old woman, would risk her job and whatever else so she could go get drunk.

Unsurprisingly, she was upset although she understood. I was glad to move from there after I had graduated college in August 2004.

Tossed My Cookies

Fast forward three years to 2007. I had had a few good roommate years and then a chunk of time where I lived by myself in a 3-bedroom apartment before the new owner decided to tear down the 2-flat in order to build a McMansion in Lakeview.

After that, I had to move out and I went from zero roommates to three roommates in a four-bedroom apartment in Wicker Park. I lived with women from church, all women of color. Astrologically, we had two Capricorns, a Cancer, and an Aquarius. Pretty good for a while.

The Cancer is who I called Huggy Monster. Very loving and caring. The Capricorn was also a good friend. We had our battles over my dried-out oatmeal bowls and over her being a little too whiny and needy–but that was it.

For the most part, it was all pretty chill.

That summer, I had to get knee surgery to repair my torn meniscus and they were all very helpful. The Cancer took me to PT and my doctor’s appointments (she was the only one with a car).

My mom, with whom I have a touch-and-go relationship with, sent me two gallon-sized ziplock bags of cookies she had made me–ginger crinkles (think: ginger snaps but a little sweet and chewier).

I left them out for me and my roommates to share, because there were just so many. I was happy to share with people who had helped me recover from surgery and with people I cared about.

My Capricorn friend is a bit of an epicurean. She had a ritual of eating the cookies with her tea. She loved how flavorful they were. The Cancer friend didn’t eat that many. Out many, I don’t know, 50 cookies, I had maybe a few. My Capricorn friend had a few.

The Aquarian fitness freak had eaten the rest.

If you looked at her, you’d think, she wouldn’t even be interested in having cookies. She was probably the skinniest out of all of us. Fitness obsessed (she still is).

But she had bulimia.

I was crushed because my mom and I really weren’t on speaking terms, but I knew that this meant something–for her to take the time to make cookies for me and my friends. Even though I’m still sure she’s a narcissist, I felt at the time this was a good faith attempt to show love and care.

The Aquarius and Capricorn lived downstairs and shared a bathroom. The Capricorn was very particular of how clean she wanted her room and her bathroom. She complained to me and the Cancer about how the bathroom was not being kept well, for…reasons.

Later that year, I decided to have an intervention with the other roommates about her behavior, not only because she wasted my mom’s cookies on her illness and didn’t really apologize, but because it was infuriating the Capricorn.

And, truly–we were worried about her health.

Nothing changed.

So we lived together for only a year. And, for the most part, it was great, except for the tossed cookies.

The Nomadic Years

After the four of us parted ways–and I can’t even remember why, but I’m sure the constant vomiting didn’t help–I was lucky to find a one-bedroom apartment through my ex who had to leave for Italy to start his professorship after having graduated grad school. So for the next four years, I lived, for the most part blissfully, by myself in Rogers Park.

I moved to Florida for grad school and lived alone in a two-bedroom apartment for about 16 months until the unpaid summer months caught up with me, and I had to downsize and move in with a classmate, her friend, her friend’s daughter, their unemployed friend, and their unruly dog.

I ended up paying her part of the unemployed friend’s rent, which I tried to speak up about, but it was either this or homelessness. The classmate was cool, but the house was a mess. The house was pretty messy for having someone around who wasn’t working (and smoking pot, and yes I’m judgy af about this).

The HBIC (head bitch in charge), I’ll call her, with the daughter, was also in grad school. I’m pretty sure the HBIC’s daughter was gifted, but on the very forgetful/absent-minded side.

Even as I write this, I remember joking that I would write about this living experience with my classmate, which she said, “Oh, no no no! Don’t do that!”

Sorry, not sorry.

As I was leaving the house to get to my airport shuttle van, the unruly puppy who had no training ran out of the house and was almost hit by a car. The neighbor who almost hit him was frightened. I was frightened. It took a few minutes to get him back inside.

I was livid.

So besides paying for someone who was unemployed and then underemployed and not really contributing to the house, and the unruly dog–my classmate, who was mostly cool, was a bit of a bitch and I called her out on it during a trip to a writer’s conference (which is why I was getting an airport shuttle).

I don’t think she liked that I did it in front of her friend, but she was making fun of me taking apart my burger and comparing me to her friend’s daughter.

We were not close like that. To mock me a privilege, not a right.

I was not happy and I retorted back something, can’t remember.

Besides her being a little sullen at dinner, I remember her yelling at me later in the hotel room. I don’t remember what I said back.

I hate being yelled at, especially by bullies. I just inwardly shut down. So, I was pretty much done with her after that. I may not have shown it–she and another friend were the only two who came to my thesis defense–but she was dead to me, as was the rest of the household.

Meanwhile, HBIC was delusional about the state of our relationship. She thought taking me in and letting me in on some of kinda not well-cooked meals she made was enough to make up for me paying for her friend. I’m sure she saw me as a charity case instead of saving that whole household from getting kicked out because they couldn’t pay rent.

Near the end of my time in that house, she said that if I was ever in Chicago, that I should call her so she could ride up from wherever the bumblefuck she was going to be teaching in Illinois.

Smile and nod, smile and nod.

I deleted her phone number instead.

We parted ways sometime in the summer, and I had found a full-time job as a grant writer, but the pay was abysmal. The expectations for productivity were ridiculous and would have involved taking my work home without pay.

Unsurprisingly, I got fired a little after I had defended my thesis and moved into this room with a crazy Pisces lady and her itinerant bratty Capricorn daughter–an aspiring sort of, kind of actress who split her time in LA and here.

It was a nice home, I guess, like in an outdated, overly cushy, bland and beige way. But I never go to even go in the pool because this was going to be a very short stay at this place.

Along with living with an emotionally unstable woman who was still grieving her divorce from a narcissist, and her incessant need for emotional reassurance and comfort, there were two things that stuck out from that three-month experience.

1) A guy who used to live in one of the rooms left literal shit on the bathmat. So, I take that back–this may have been the most disgusting thing that I’ve experienced living with other people. I had to toss it in the toilet and wash the bathmat. The landlady was horrified.

2) Having to leave because I was unemployed and broke was terrible. I couldn’t find work quickly enough. So we came up with some notarized agreement at a bank, along with her now somehow-on-her-mom’s side daughter, for me to leave at a certain time. Before that, her ex-husband that she hates came by to talk to us–ironically, he seemed to be the rational one between them. It was pretty humiliating.

This started a couple of months of homelessness via crashing at a friend’s place whose cousin who didn’t want me sticking around too long (I’m going to assume racism again, because there was no reason otherwise. She said she didn’t feel safe.), and then driving around the metro area via Airbnb, getting money from my mom at Walmart.

Thankfully, I had picked up some work right before I left the Pisces hellscape, but it was part-time and not enough. I spent my days in coffee shops, working and looking for work and the next place to live.

The scariest time I had on the Airbnb circuit was living a few days in this place that was not too far from the place that had fired me a few months prior. It was a dump of a house, but it was a place to lay my head–hopefully safely.

I had decided to burn some sage for protection one evening. Little did I know that this would be a prescient move.

The next morning, around 7am or so, I wake up to yelling downstairs, a combination of Spanish and English.

It was the cops.

There was a guy who was staying in the room next to me–I don’t think I ever saw him, only heard him come in and out. The officer was banging on his door loudly, yelling for him to come out. The weekend before, cops had shot up a nightclub downtown, killing someone, so I was under the covers, shaking in terror as I hear the blood thumping in my ears.

Apparently, the guy owed back child support and his ex found out where he was living.  So he went with the officer without any fuss. The owner/Airbnb host, some Eastern European guy, was completely and repeatedly apologetic, but I just decided to not re-up my stay and try to find another place to stay.

At the time, I had been going to church and was involved in a book club of sorts. The two women who lead the group at their home took pity on me while I was trying to find the next place I was going to stay for the next few days, and let me stay for a month.

But between one of the women, who I think just wanted her house back, and the associate pastor with whom I was seeking counsel, they basically pushed me in the home of an abusive Capricorn woman.

So in November 2014, I moved to the west side of town and lived with an attorney that I met at church. We had a lot in common, since I had a background in child welfare and she was involved with helping kids (she may be a guardian ad litem?)

I lived upstairs and had two rooms and a bathroom to myself. She seemed nice, but within a week, she decided to raise the rent–I don’t think it was that much, but it was still an insane, unprovoked move. I can’t even remember the reason anymore. I think she just felt disrespected or something. It’s hard to keep track of people’s irrationalities.

I had decided to seek legal counsel to see if that was legal. It definitely wasn’t, but then it wasn’t worth the legal costs to try to take this up in court. She took offense to that, that I had decided to stick up for myself, and felt threatened.

I don’t think I was grateful enough to her or something, because paying rent wasn’t enough. But even at the time, I could see how she was a fearful woman and was easily threatened over nothing at all.

The associate pastor was the one who hooked us up and she never apologized for putting me in harm’s way. After I had to give up my car that February, I stopped going to church. I didn’t want to go to a church with someone who made my home life chaotic and didn’t care about my wellbeing.

I also didn’t want to go to a church where a pastor couldn’t show any empathy over the situation she had helped cause. I don’t think I’m that bitter about it now–it’s been almost three years. But it made church seem like a joke to go to–just a lot of lip service.

Sidenote: this has nothing to do with roommates, but being homeless. I had been going to a weekly prayer session at church, because I needed it. One of the church leaders and I were walking to our respective cars, and I had plastic bins of my clothes in the backseat.

“Oh my gosh, what do you have there? So many clothes! It’s like your homeless or something.”

“Well, I am,” I said.

“Oh god, I’m so sorry,” she said. “I was just joking around. I had no idea.”

But again–lip service. Besides shoving me into an abusive situation, people could only offer places for me to live by myself, not necessarily to live with them. And not that’s something I’m entitled to, but I do think white American empathy has its limits, especially when it comes to black people. It’s one of the hard lessons I learned while I was bopping around the city, trying to find some stability.

OG Landlady, Sir Coughs-a-Lot, and that person

Because the girlfriend of the attorney was moving in, she decided it was time to kick me out. So I left in April 2015 and moved to the east side of town. My stuff is still in storage on the other side of town.

This home is near where I had started to work part-time as a technical writer while teaching at a community college. I had to go on food stamps at this time, too. I don’t even think I could call this scraping by.

The original owner of this house was seemingly nice, has my mother’s name, which I saw as a sign. I should have seen it as a sign to look elsewhere.

Still, it was a good fit–at the time. It’s a cheery yellow home, surrounded with flowering trees and bushes. Right now, it’s kind of sad how ugly it is around here, but I’m getting ahead of myself. This is about roommates!

The roommates I had were an old man who was the father of the man who lives in the mother-in-law suite, who also was like the property manager of sorts.

The other roommate was a woman from Chicago. We had the same phone number except for the last four digits. Another sign. But she moved out soon afterward to live with relatives to save money.

The roommate who moved into her room and is still there is who I call the shut-in, a divorced retiree who drives for ride-sharing companies. I rarely see him. He doesn’t do anything around the house in terms of cleaning, so that’s my only complaint about him. I think it’s because he really hasn’t known life on his own. But hey, he’s taken me to and from the airport a few times. So that’s something.

The old man, with whom I got along well (I even helped him with his algebra homework once), moved into a retirement community a few months later and a young pothead dude with a hearing impairment moved in briefly. I almost forgot about him.

He actually moved into the office area before he moved into the old man’s room. He was fine besides the pot. And then he just disappeared. Left stuff and never came back. I know the man in the MIL suite had said something about contacting his employer, who was hoping this would be a stable place for him.

He threw out his stuff and soon, another old man, probably closer to middle aged, moved in. He was a car salesman, quite genial, shaped like Santa Claus. But he was one of those guys you can tell has a slight chip on his shoulder.

As if life should have been better than moving into some random house with some random black woman and another guy he never sees. As if life should have better than working at a job he hates, and when he leaves his job, he has to come back to no one. One of those guys who would vote for the current president out of desperation and spite.

(Someone must have because we used to get mail from the Tainted Tangelo during the 2016 election period.)

We used to chit-chat every once in a while, but nothing in-depth. One of the things that happens as a writer, though, is how people will tell you their aspirations about their own writing. And that happened with him–he wanted to write a screenplay with some sort of post-apocalyptic Christian rapture claptrap plot.

I just smiled and nodded as I thought, no one needs another Tim LaHaye. Left Behind was bad enough.

One time, he told me of this story of how he got catfished by some woman, complaining how she was basically old and fat, which is exactly what he was. I just stood at his door, bewildered and a little amused.

Soon, the landlady, whom I call OG Landlady (OG is for Ole Grandma), wanted to sell the home. I was relieved because she was a busybody. I found out later from our neighbors that no one really liked her. The family to our right said she’d get mad at them for having music playing in their yard. I’ve never heard music in the time I’ve lived here. The neighbor to the left said she was “nasty” and mean.

She had the house spruced up for sale and found buyers, the current owners. This young couple with two young kids embody all the things I hate about millennials, mainly needing to do everything via text and being altogether flaky and unreliable.

One of the stipulations for the sale of the house was that there needed to be a new roof. OG Landlady got some cheap roofing company. One of the workers stapled through the a/c cooling line, which plunged us into heat and humidity for over a day in the summer, while she was staying with us. She was cheap again and waited for some low-cost repair person.

She had been staying with us more and more as the house was being ready for sale, and she was using my things without permission. The man living in the MIL suite stuck up for me and told her that she was driving everyone crazy. She had some terribly poor boundaries.

So then after three tries, the house gets sold, and I discover we’re in the middle of an unspeakable pestilence that would take months to be rid of. And surprise, the owners were not on top of that at all. Took a lot of pestering to get them to move and call exterminators.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, the newest roommate had turned sullen and withdrawn. He stopped talking to us. Great, one less person to fake pleasantries with.

He had also developed a chronic cough that sounded like congestive heart failure or emphysema. The cough was so loud, I could feel the vibrations in my bed. So that’s when I called him Sir Coughs-A-Lot, because the coughing fits would last for minutes on end. At the very least, we got relief when he went to work.

His coughing got so bad, over Christmas 2016, he admitted himself in the hospital. He had started to wheeze where it sounded like the cough was collapsing in on itself. I saw the hospital bracelet on his arm after Christmas, but I didn’t say anything.

A couple of months after that, in the middle of the night, he moved out. He had already started packing, but I didn’t really put two and two together until I heard him leave. He didn’t say a word to either of us.

The millennial owners had been caught off guard. They got a phone call or text a couple of days later, saying he had moved out. They assured us they would bring someone nicer.

But they didn’t.

That brings me up to this past Friday.

I had to get a new phone when my phone crapped out on me while I was having my first call with my client. I was so mortified, even though I knew he was a good sport.

So no big deal, I have to get a new phone, a new case, a new screen protector. I’ve been through this before 4 times because of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 inferno. But unfortunately, I bought the wrong case. It was for the Samsung Galaxy S8+, not the Note 8.

So I repackage it and put it outside for UPS to pick up, taking off most of the label. They’d slap on a new one, but I didn’t want the driver to be confused.

I had a feeling that this was going to be a bad idea because that person would probably think it was a package and bring it back in. That was the worst of my worries.

That had happened, but it was worse.

I was in my room working and the shut-in knocks on my door, with his blindingly pale and hairy shirtless self.

“UPS is at the door for ya,” he said with his Bostonian accent, his wide blue eyes darting around.

“Oh, well I just left the package outside, that’s weird,” I said as I walked to the door with the shut-in. The UPS dude is standing there and is probably thinking I’m in some weird kinky set-up as a black woman living with two old white men.

I never think this when it’s a white guy. The UPS man was black.

The package was not on the marble plant holder by the door, where I had left it. It was on the dining room table, partially taped up with Scotch tape and some Sharpie scrawled message which I could only make out as sorry.

That person. The boarder that had been replaced by Sir Coughs-A-Lot, which neither I nor the shut-in was able to meet because he was picking me up from the airport after having helped a friend move from Miami to D.C.

I walked to the door again and apologized that I needed to retape this package because it had been torn up. I see that person in the driveway on his bike, looking at the scene that he had caused.

I open the padded mailer which had the phone case also taped up because the person tried to shove it back in.

There’s a slight chance that the grandmother who now lives in the mother-in-law suite did this, but she has a separate door and doesn’t speak English well.

So while I felt a little shaky with rage, I repackaged the damaged phone case package in an empty box I had laying around, taped it up, walked back to the UPS dude and apologized, saying this was out of my control.

I don’t think he gave a fuck either way. He gave me my tracking number and walked to his truck.

I closed the door and walked back to my room as that person said nothing while making coffee in the kitchen.

Later that day, I had the right case and other things delivered and he brought them to my door.

A pitiful penance.

Now What? (ramblings of the present and future)

Well, clearly, the Universe is trying to push me out the door. This incident happened when I requested some spiritual help about him last week. The service had ended the same day this had happened. So I’ve enlisted more of this help so I can keep him from me and leave.

So. Where to?

For now, I envision two moves–a local one and then a cross-country one. I’m trying not to stress out, but astrologically, the planet Uranus (a disruptive jack-in-the-box full of surprises), is still in my 4th house (which is about home and family).

Uranus has been in my 4th house since March 2011, so the whole time I’ve been in Florida has been one of housing upheaval and instability–including my bedroom flooding around this time one year ago.

Uranus will go into my 5th house (creativity, fun, romance, and children) in May of this year. It’ll dip back into my 4th house for a little while, in retrograde motion, and then stay in the 5th house for another seven years.

The cross-country move is one I don’t want to do, and having a moon and Jupiter in Cancer, I really like staying at home, being grounded.

This Uranian transit has been godawful. It definitely pushed me to find new spiritual depths. I wouldn’t be here even talking about astrology if I hadn’t gone through all the hell I’ve gone through. I learned about crystals, saging, and a whole lot more because I had to protect myself in my home.

I’ll uh…be grateful for this season sometime?…one day?

But the new and maybe (hopefully) final place–I wish I could talk about it. It’s been madness seeing all these signs pointing to one place since at least November, if not earlier.

These are daily signs–and most of the time, multiple times a day.

The Universe has never been this persistent with me about one place or one thing in my life.

The struggle is that since I hate moving, I don’t want to move twice. My practicality is crying out for some relief.

Yet I don’t know where the Universe is calling me next.

And besides leaving this hellhole, I don’t have any compulsion to leave this town, this state–even if other people see that happening for me.

Seeing signs isn’t enough for me. I’m not created to just take leaps of faith or to just go on a hunch.

And the Universe knows this. My only prayer is that where I am right now, with where my level of faith currently is, that it’s enough.

Lurking in the back of my mind, the only thing I’m scared of now is the thing I’m usually scared of, anyway: I’m not doing the right things, I’m not seeking the right answers, I’m doing anything at all.

But I have someone helping to be safe spiritually and to get an extra financial boost to leave.

So, that’s something.

The housing market here is terrible, which is why I am where I am now. I still have this Capricorn fear/burden that I have to figure this out on my own. Sifting through craigslist like I did last time seems like looking for a needle in the haystack.

Besides this home being another spiritual bootcamp for me, the only good thing that living here has helped me do is establish a stable rental history. In April 2018, it will have been 3 years, and I think that’s good enough.

What I really want is that this last story, of the freak opening of a package by a freak, is that I have told you the last story of bad roommates. Even writing this all out is a bit of a Hail Mary prayer of desperation for the insanity to end and for real healing and peace to begin.

The moon right now is currently in Cancer, which is where my moon is. It’s the sign where the moon is home in. If you know any Cancers, they are homebodies. They are nurturing (sometimes smothering!), emotional, intuitive, great cooks, rulers of their roosts. So it’s probably no coincidence that I wanted to write about home with this going on.

And, as I was talking to a Cancer friend, it takes a lot for Cancers and Taurus folks to leave home. I really would rather stay here until I am ready.

But the circumstances are showing that I am ready–or need to get ready, at the very least. I have more financial stability now–and I’m so grateful.

Moving is really going to be less about the hassle and more finding the right place for me at the right time.

And frankly, like all the other times I’ve been tossed and turned around this town, it will take some Divine intervention. I feel a little helpless, not that hopeless, but a lot more motivated to close this long, awful chapter of my life.

And maybe I won’t have to move twice. But what’s looming larger is that just as the Uranus transit is coming to a close this spring, my time in Florida is also coming to an end.

I don’t know how to get from here to there. And I don’t want to repeat being unsupported and alone in another town and state, to repeat having to endure things because I didn’t have enough money to be in a saner, safer place.

I’m a double Capricorn. I need reassurances. I need proof. I need a plan. I need something more than multiple coincidences.

I need an invitation. I need safe passage.

I told these stories somewhat as a way to heal (through laughter, I hope you laughed a little bit), too.

My life is absurd.

And yes, there’s an astrological transit that coincides with this hope for healing–Mercury, the planet of communication is in a somewhat harmonious aspect the asteroid Chiron, the wounded healer.

Healing words. Writing as a way of healing.

So through writing this really long essay, I hope it does a few things–brings some lightness, heals some old hurts, and lays it out to the Universe a very simple demand:

I do not want to live in a chaotic home ever again.

I grew up in a home of chaos, with a father slowly slipping into mental illness. So, unless I was living by myself, for the most part, it’s been a life of instability.

I’ve had enough, and I want to go home.

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. 

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal.

Thanks for your support! 💘

 

Advertisements

08.12.12

some mysterious fractal

August 12, 2012 is when I finally made it to Florida to start grad school. It was on a Sunday. I was supposed to leave the day before, but the movers I hired were terrible and took too long. I guess I missed my flight? I couldn’t get a hold of any friends to crash with so I had to stay at this noisy airport hotel.

I had to stay with my cousin here for a couple of weeks because my stuff was being bounced around all over the east coast. Such a disreputable moving company.

I don’t even want to rehash all of that because it was horrible and I am tired of complaining about how horrible life has been down here. I think the horror magnifies with how hopeful I was to finally find my tribe, to make a real connection with a blood family member, to escape the cold and growing disappointments of Chicago.

Well, life had other plans for me.

It’s been very transformative spiritually. Going into year six of my life down here, I feel like I’ve unloaded a lot of emotional and spiritual baggage. I feel cleansed and unencumbered. But the journey to get to this very precious place has been very expensive: on my bank account, on my credit, on my body, on whatever I would call my social life.

Has it been worth it? I’m not entirely sure yet. This is a rather 7 of Pentacles moment right now. I’m looking at what I’ve grown so far and knowing there is more work to do.

Instead of regaling you with how shitty and disappointing and heartbreaking and humiliating and scary (and I’m pretty sure this blog has detailed a lot of that, so just peruse the archives for a good gasp, cry, or sigh), I’d rather just pivot from here and say that I’m done with this period of my life–or maybe my (very warranted) emotional response to it.

I’m not like Katrina and the Waves walking on sunshine yet, but I am tired of feeling like my life is one long, painful climb, even if that is the Capricorn way. Eventually, I want to be able to rest and enjoy the views up here…

 

The prolonged money and housing instability has been interesting to navigate as someone who is a Capricorn sun and rising with a Cancer moon. My sojourn in Florida has hit me where it hurts, over and over. That’s probably due to Pluto and his heavy demolition crew obliterating my 1st house of self, where my Capricorn sun and rising reside.

Who am I without a stellar reputation? Without stable housing? Without friends to lean on? Without a reliable stream of money?

What is my home? Who is my family?

I don’t really know what the answers to those rhetorical questions are. I believe I’m making it up as I go along–as we all do. I thought I knew those answers.

I didn’t realize how much I had relied on my plucky nature to get me out of jams, and how I have always had a strong community there for me to lift me up. Even with social media, I had both strong online and offline communities, where even both worlds would begin to meld. I met my last boyfriend in an MSN chat room and then we met in IRL–he lived in the same city and went to college with people I knew from my church.

It’s hard to have these stalwarts stripped away–sometimes very violently, and sometimes very slowly. But all the same, it’s left me very vulnerable and open–well, it’s easier to hear from Spirit in this way.

Looking back over these five years, I don’t have much gratitude for this stripping process yet. Still, because I want to change my attitude towards whatever has been unfolding in my life, I took myself out to dinner downtown.

As a sidenote, I do think it’s funny how some Americans will roll up into a nice restaurant and wear soccer jerseys or whatever else seems like casual attire.

My Cancer moon needed to be fed and nurtured. It felt so good to eat the (sometimes literal) fruits of my labor (I had a peach salad and a peach cobbler). As my current housing situation is driving me a lot batty,  it was also nice to not physically be here for three hours, to breathe healthier air in a different space, to not have the draining energy of this newest, inconsiderate boarder. I could at least afford to do this for myself, to celebrate my survival in a tough, unsympathetic state. That’s an accomplishment in it of itself.

But that’s the reframe right there: survival of losses, not just the losses. It’s what I’m good at. I do like to to triumph over circumstances. It may not be that I got to keep my car or my housing or my bank account at a consistent level. I have survived those losses. It seems right now the triumph is over death, over giving up, over having my spirit decimated.

I’m in a real spiritually desperate place right now. I am desperate for real, meaningful change; desperate to have Spirit move me–both literally and figuratively–to a place where I am nurtured and can be nurtured; to a place of deep fulfillment and appreciation; to a place where I can be fully myself again.

I am desperate enough to not solely look to other people to help me. I am desperate enough to shut out the world and to look within for all the treasures that were hidden underneath all of the things I’ve lost. I am desperate enough to not look to myself first and then come to the end of myself–I want to look to Spirit first where there is no beginning and no end.

I’ll be going on a retreat this weekend and I hope that my desperation will be met with opportunities and answers and practical solutions, and maybe a little more patience and strength as I keep journeying from the “here” of discontent to the “there” of “finally!”

By the way, that’s a perpetual round trip we all make, from discontent to contentment.

As the solar eclipse comes closer, I know there’s more coming my way—actually good things, things I’ve been wanting for so long, like stability, like expansion, like love in all forms. Lately, it’s been wonderful to have things to look forward to, not just things to dread.

As I grow older and closer to the midpoint of my life, I feel the pressure of limited time and there’s so much I want to do with my life than just survive. I have to trust that all that I’ve gone through here was not in vain–that there’s a purpose that’s greater than my own soul growth and spiritual development, that the ripple effect will be wider than I will ever know.

It’s really easy to forget, that even within the chaos, there’s some order—even if we don’t understand it yet, like some mysterious fractal that begins to unfold.

I have to trust that this unfolding, albeit painful, is truly both beautiful and beneficial. Otherwise, my life has been utter madness without any method or reason. I’m not talented enough to invent reasons or methodology on my own.

So here I go, with another long trust fall with the Universe. Even as I squirm and question and fret, there’s still a knowing that I am following, that nothing is ever wasted, that at least some of this wild and wacky ride will make sense, soon.

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. 

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal.

Thanks for your support! 💘

woo (hoo) woo

Christianity SOM

This draft is from two years ago, an earlier version of my first post here, Woo fucking woo. I really like it. My writing was better back when I was closer to grad school. I didn’t edit it that much. This is really an introduction to my spiritual journey. At the time I wrote this, I wanted to talk about being in church again, but ironically, I left after joining it, just a few months later, so all my elation as well as the novelty, has worn off.

Please, blog gods and goddesses, forgive me. It’s been 18 months since my last blog post. The drama that I most feared found me. But at the very least, I learned that I was a writer, which was the point of the last blog.

So now, I’m back, to talk about spiritual stuff. Spiritual stuff is probably what I am made of most, and the last blog was veering into almost mysticism anyway. So I might as well pick up where I left off.

But first, a primer.

Before I decided that I wanted to get an MFA in Creative Writing, I was torn about going to seminary. I read a book by theologian Marcus Borg, called Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. I believe I was 30 and it just threw me for a loop. What seminarians learned in seminary and what I heard every Sunday seemed like they were located on different continents and hemispheres. So when I thought about going to seminary, I wanted to go to get that truth that had been hidden from me. I felt like I had been lied to my whole life. One thing that I learned from that book that still bothers me–maybe Jesus didn’t know he was the Son of God while he was on earth? What kind of faith did I have? What was it based on?

I read another book, Divided by Faith, written by two sociologists who surveyed many people regarding white evangelical Christianity. Those responses and their analysis of them reminded me that I was a black woman in a very white, white, white middle-class world. I had been trying to fit in my whole life and I was never met to. What kind of faith community did I have? Who was it comprised of?

Those two books, along with convos I had with a friend who studied theology, were my benediction out of the evangelical jungle and into the deserts of agnosticism. It was lonely out there without a church community, a community of any sort. I had grown up in Presbyterian churches, and then non-denominational/charismatic/evangelical churches. My closest friends were always friends from church, and because of the churches I attended, almost always white.

And I was burned out from church anyway. I served on the worship team. I sang and hit the tambourine on the 2 and 4. I was in a small group/home group/cell group. I went to church whenever it was open. When I was a teenager, my youth group was a sanctuary from the dysfunction brewed by my father’s growing mental health issues. But 12 years later, it had become a chore. Being with people who didn’t really see me, or who chose to see me with their colorblind eyes…trying to “do” community seemed to be my burden alone. And that sounds whiny, which was another reason to leave. Who wants to be a martyr? But truly, race kept creeping up in my relationships–e.g. got kicked out of a wedding party because I didn’t want to chemically alter my hair. And this white woman was marrying a black man. She now has a daughter and I wonder about the hair politics there…

But that’s evangelical Christianity. Very narrow, and not in the “narrow is the way to the Kingdom of Heaven” way. Narrow in its expression of humanity, of God Him/Herself. It’s what my parents found in Ghana while their country was hemorrhaging from coup and coup. And it’s what they taught me. It’s what we all knew and relied on.

I never thought that I would leave church and be dabbling into the things I’m into now. Astrology. Tarot. Crystals. Angels. Woo woo stuff. Or what haters of Harry Potter would call witchcraft.

And yet, Spirit. The Universe. God. Speaks.

I moved down to Florida to get this Mother Fucking Asshole degree and a writer’s community. Well, the drama from my classmates and my blog made that permanently unavailable. So much for dreams and being painfully honest.

I’ve floundered here. Emotionally. Physically. Financially. Never felt like I had a solid foundation here. Geographically speaking, it’s swampland that Mickey Mouse built. It’s meant for transience.

My mom, who believes the church solves all problems, insisted that I found a church community here. And the churches here, in the South–well, I’m from the South. This ain’t Chicago. I didn’t want to live Divided by Faith. I would rather be alone.

Through my floundering, spirituality washed ashore. I got into personal growth stuff pretty deeply in the summer and fall of 2013. And it just increased (I’m skimming over this because I hope to write about it in more detail later) as my problems (read: poverty and unpopularity) increased.

Renewed faith in a higher power is nothing new for me. I had to (had to?) rely on God when I unceremoniously took a year off between high school and college because of my father’s paranoia. Lots of prayer, books, TBN (yes, that’s Trinity Broadcasting Network), and well, eight years later, I graduated from college.

Wow, that was a long preamble to what happened today–

I went back to church, after years of now being there. And today made me tired. I want to talk about it in earnest, with a less foggy head.

This blog post is the first pancake and I’m sorry.

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. 

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal.

Thanks for your support! 💘

Taunted, teased, and titillated.

2016-05-02-17-20-34

It’s faint, but it’s there. The rainbow. The prismatic promise.

I took this while walking home from the job I had two jobs ago.

And now, I’m not working, listening to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill Acoustic. And really, that’s all I know.

Oh. There’s laundry that is on the left corner of my bed that is ready to be hung and folded. It’s been ready for two days. I may be ready tomorrow.

I haven’t had any real downtime since I moved down here to the swamps in August 2012. I have a little bit of time, like the rest of the week, to rest before I got back into the onslaught of a true job search.

So. When I say, “that’s all I know,” it’s about the future. As a double Capricorn (sun and rising), I usually try to know, or make it known. So this not knowing, and mostly being OK with it, is new to me. I’m just feeling it all out–intuitively, emotionally, spiritually. My brain is on break.

After grad school ended in August 2014, I felt like I was done, with everything, like I could die now because I had done my life’s work. Maybe that’s what writing your memoir will do. It was a good but scary (and thankfully temporary) feeling. Maybe the last two years have felt like winging it compared to grad school, compared to my life in Chicago that was aimed towards med school, with the arrow landing miles and miles away from that.

Even now, the job I left was a perfect fit for me. But it’s over. I met a man there and I thought he was beyond perfect. And nothing’s begun there, and probably never will.

I’m halfway wrestling with all of that I left, to reaching a level of satisfaction that I’m satisfied with. The car maker Lexus used to have a tagline: “The relentless pursuit of perfection.” I really embraced that as my tagline, but as a recovering perfectionist, it’s rusted over with reality. Even still, my pursuit seemed to have ended in August. Or so I thought.

It’s a little unsettling to, almost effortlessly, get breathtakingly close to the bullseye of your desires, and then have the Universe take the arrows out and say, “Oh girl, you can get a lot closer than that.”

The problem, I don’t have any imagination about what “closer” is. Blogging here is maybe a part of what getting closer is. I’m a writer, and writers write, and my favorite thing is to write about myself. I say that with no ego. Because of my hero’s journey in life, I have learned so much in such a short amount of time, and I’m endlessly prattling about it. So I might as well do that here, for now.

Still, I’m not sure if my lack of imagination is solely about exhaustion or…really, I don’t know. It is scary for me to not have any solid career aspirations. Who am I outside of the office? And who do I want to be when I grow up?

I have very Venusian concerns: love, money, and beauty. Beauty is never really any issue. Florida is a beautiful state and being in nature is easier to do as the temperatures start to drop into more humane ranges. Love and money, though? Those seem to be more elusive creatures.

In the land of divination,  it would seem my life is where I want it to be, or that I’m coming really close. But it’s gotten very uncomfortable for me, to keep seeing these messages about love.

New Love. Ace of Cups. Two of Cups. Three of Cups. Four of Wands. The Lovers. Honeymoon. New Partner. Soulmate. This Could Be The One. True Love.

I’m not out there in the world right now, so it makes me wonder about the things that the Universe has control over–aka things I shouldn’t be worrying about: so, Who? Have I met this person already? How? When? Really?

And it squicks me out to say, yes, that is what I want in my life, in the traditional trappings of marriage. And it’s time for that. It’s probably been time for that, screams my mouldering ovaries. And I guess it’s coming.

I’m not as concerned about the career stuff, because, again, it’s about those things that aren’t my concern–how? in what form? when? And, well, that realm is more under my control. And I’m not as broke as I used to be.

But love. It’s like that faint rainbow. I can see it’s there. I don’t have to even squint. It’s not as intense of rainbows as I’ve seen in Florida, in my life. But it’s there. And it’s real. And maybe who I met, maybe the Universe is saying–this rainbow can be more brilliant, more intense. Don’t settle for this. I don’t know. I do know what I felt, and that changed my life. And for now, in this breath, that’s enough.

An aside of sorts: Every time I see a rainbow, I’m in awe, like it’s the first time I’ve seen one. As someone who came to Earth as an old soul, it’s tough to get to a place of childlike wonder and delight. Rainbows have always transported me to that ageless space. And they always seem so rare. But during the rainy season in Florida, you can see them quite often. Maybe I wasn’t looking for them in years past, but they seem to be around a lot for me this year. They seem to be the sign from the Universe that the worries I have, especially about love, have been heard, understood, and transmuted.

But my impatience is pressing me, squishing me into the present, and into the unknown. It’s not polite anticipation. It’s foot-tapping, arm-crossed, watch-glaring impatience. It’s tres gauche, and I have to be OK with that, too.

The time I spend with Spirit, asking every day, across multiple decks, of what I should know–that’s how I feel I’ve been a bit teased, taunted, and yes, titillated, by my own desires. Sometimes I think that tarot and oracle card readings are just reflections of my subconscious self. And sometimes, it’s startling to see what is staring back in me in the cards.

After years of grinding and hustling, not only for a living, but for my own place, my own state of freedom and being, both internally and externally… it’s weird, and maybe a little wearying, for that activity to all come to a quiet halt. It’s eerie, to be alone, with those big, lifelong desires, the ones that are little higher up the hierarchy of needs pyramid. What are all the hustling for? It was to get up there. And I had forgotten.

And even still: when I’m used to hearing no over and over, what could be scarier than yes? Yes is unfathomable. It’s reaching the bottom of the ocean, a literal place that most of us have never even seen, with unknown creatures skittering about.

And what I mean is…hearing yes to things that your heart can’t even imagine happening.

What’s funny, and a bit sad, is what I want are things that a lot of people have, do, and will experience, and, frankly, take for granted. In the past four years, those two things would be any sense of stability and consistent human connection.

Maybe that’s why I feel like I have no dreams. Those don’t seem like conventional big dreams to me, or dreams at all. I dream of being normal, even though I know I’m never going to be truly normal. I dream of my normal. And, for this month, it’ll be to recognize and embrace my own desires, especially those of having my own family. And, you know, that’s it’s totally OK to want that.

Even though tarot and oracle card readings feel like big teases, they will probably stop talking about what concerns me when I really believe that it’s gonna happen. I think  it was Jesus who said that signs are for those who don’t believe. And I don’t yet fully believe. I still feel like it’s up to chance, that life is utterly, chaotically random, and I just got incredibly unlucky. But I don’t know that, either.

All I know is what I want right now, which seems infinitesimal and eensy-weensy to the things I’ve accomplished and endured. But that’s what it took to get here, to the really basic quotidian but beautiful shit of the human condition.

Just took the long way, the really long way.

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. 

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal.

Thanks for your support! 💘

 

 

 

If it’s a car you lack, I would buy you a Cadillac…

This is pretty stream-of-consciousness and loosely structured. All apologies.

2015-03-04 07.16.25

Sunrise and fog (which you can’t really see)

The title of this blog post is a lyric of one of the songs I was going to sing in a chorus I joined two months ago. It’s from “Thank You for Being a Friend.” Yes, that’s the Golden Girls theme, but it’s also a song from 1978 by Andrew Gold. When we sang this for the first time, the alto section leader laughed and nodded her head at me because I had recently asked for a ride to practice. Yes, that was embarrassing.

I was going to sing that, plus other songs for a show in June to celebrate the chorus’ 25th year of existence. Instead, one full moon ago, on February 3rd, I had to give up my car. My ride to the chorus decided to drop out yesterday. After that, I also decided that with this city’s abysmal public transportation, I couldn’t continue with the chorus.

In a long list of things I’ve had to give up to be here in Florida, for survival, the chorus doesn’t hurt as bad. I am disappointed, but I was only in it for two months. The car, though–it took a whole lunar cycle to talk about it publicly. That’s more to do with my growing reluctance to share my chronically crappy life on Twitter, and that’s a good thing.

I don’t necessarily regret what happened. If I have to be cliche, I’ll say that I learned so much from this ordeal. So let’s start from the beginning.

I bought Bluebelle with I know now as an underwater loan, but I didn’t really want her. I set out to buy the cheapest car on the lot, some white Paseo that cost like $6000. But my cousin was like, “No, no, no…” and lead me over to some more current Corollas. Of course, he’s not the one paying for the car. Buying a car can be a traumatizing, draining experience, and this was my first. It took a few hours and I felt like I was being bamboozled by everyone and my resolve crumbled. It was hard to be on own my side when I had to go to the first day of class the next day and my cousin worked–time pressure. I had been a proud pedestrian in Chicago. Down here, though–I am living in the sprawl. I had to have a car. If I ever had a regret, it would have been to push back. I’d’ve paid off my car by then.

Bluebelle, my car, got me around quite well, but it was a struggle to pay for it while being a grad student and a fellow who could not work more than 20 hours a week on a shitty stipend and not working until the beginning of my second year. I downsized my living situation (read: faced eviction) in December 2013. I felt like was a money pit, but really, I was just seriously poor.

Then the following September, almost two months after graduation, I had to leave a rather abusive, tough housing situation. I had lost my job in July and my part-time grant writing position had just started the week before. Rent for that month hadn’t been paid yet and I had been trying to hustle up something. That started my month-long journey in homelessness which I may write about one day. I still had my car, which held a lot of my stuff.

Around the same time, I started going to church–a more woo woo spiritually inclusive church (read: yoga and Reiki and past lives, oh my!) It was actually good timing since my life was imploding. One afternoon, after attending Tuesday noon prayer, I walked out to my car. I was parked by the music director. She had walked out with another church staff person. I forgot the conversation we were having, but the staff person offhandedly said with mouth agape and eyes widened, “Whoa, are you living in your car?”

“Sort of.” I explained how I was bumming around the city and drove off to a coffee shop to work. I don’t really remember too much embarrassment from her or the music director, but I could tell that she wasn’t expecting my answer. That conversation ran through over and over my head for weeks.

After I found where I live now (which started off nightmarishly, and again, maybe I will write about my housing woes one day), I felt like I was facing a dam with many leaks and I didn’t have enough fingers Car. Insurance. Gas. Rent. I always paid rent first, so all the car leaks–well, they kept leaking and leaking and leaking. After the part-time grant writing gig ended (most notably and possibly coincidentally) because I decided to give my client a contract to sign) I started teaching in January of this year and another part-time writing job at the end of January. Neither of these jobs pay well enough to keep the car. Like when I got my part-time grant writing job, it seemed too little too late for my finances.

My tags expired in December, so I was scared of being pulled over with a Pandora’s box of car and driving issues. So driving became an exercise in anxiety and evasion of the law. One January afternoon, while driving to a job interview, I was driving and a sheriff was behind me. I kept trying to drive away from him–I was only a few miles away from my destination. I’m surprised I didn’t break out into a sweat. I had already rehearsed what I would have said if I got pulled over. I was prepared to turn on the water works, which would have come pretty easily at that point.

I was desperate. In many ways, I still am.

After having the absolute worst experience on the phone with a hostile customer service rep (the only service she gave was to her multinational corporation who probably paid her shit), I arranged to drop off Bluebelle at a dealership. Actually the first one didn’t work out, so I had to drive to another one. I was trying to avoid the drama of the repo man to come to this house. That was a weird day, to drive one last time, from the west side to the north central side to the south side.

It was a beautiful day, though–sunny, blue skies, warm. I had the sunroof open. I had been dreading this for months and months. I had been so afraid of this day, of turning into a pedestrian again in a town that runs them over so easily and then provides them with horrible public transit. In terms of my spirituality being forged in these desolate financial times, I wasn’t really feeling God or the Universe. I was just feeling the drive to survive–no pun intended. I wasn’t teary. I was, and still am, tired. Empty. Defeated. Alone.

I took my first Uber ride from the dealership, with a chatty woman in one of those weird HHR cars. I actually had music practice for Sunday’s service and I had already arranged a ride home. Beforehand, there was some Native American ceremony going on. There’s one that happened tonight–full moon. After being dropped off, I was saged from head to toe. The timing of being saged after such a gut-wrenching experience of shame was for sure the Universe looking out for me. I’m still not even sure how I feel about these ceremonies, even though the pastor and her partner are partly Native American (not phenotypically, but genotypically), but I believe in the power of sage.

Then I sang and was taken home by a fellow singer. I briefly related my car woes as he told me of a similar situation. I had wanted to actually trade my car in, as he had, but that didn’t really occur to me until it was too late. I had beaten the specter of homelessness, but not of carlessness. That day, and night, I felt carried along by Something…

Between that full moon and this one, I’ve taken Uber and Lyft to work/school. I’ve also taken public transportation. I’ve walked to and from–more like urban hiked. I had to walk in the wind and rain to the Wal-Mart two miles away to get money from my mom–the primary lifeline I’ve had throughout grad school. I felt really beaten down, like I was walking in cement. My pants were soaked and one of the leg’s hem tore. I took an Uber to school that cost twice as much because I’m pretty sure my driver didn’t know how to get on the toll road when the main road near my house had a major accident that blocked both directions. All I could see was red flashing lights. I heard later a car had flipped on its back.

That night, I took my first public transit ride home. It’s two dollars to ride and you can get a transfer that lasts 90 minutes for another ride, which kinda sucks. Public transit is cheaper in Chicago. A transfer card gave you two rides and lasted for two hours. I had to wait about an hour after class for the next bus. This bus drove west to downtown and some chatty guy we picked up was talking about the rainstorm before and some random not-of-age teenage Brazilian tourists who were lost and taking public transit. He talked about how this particular bus route was bad and always stuck in traffic.

As a writer, I was really trying to absorb this jolly guy–middle-aged, with a jean jacket, with an easy smile. This was my first bus ride and it smelled like a Chicago bus when it’s snowed and the el platforms are covered in sand because of ice–like sweat and piss and a long day rolling around the city.

The terminal downtown is open air, and I found the bus that would get me within a 40 minute walk (two miles?) from my house. I checked my phone to see if I could Uber from there, but surge pricing at over three times the normal rate. Lyft, per usual, was busy. Like the suburbanite that I had become again, I nervously got on, bone tired from teaching English composition, hoping that my students hadn’t seen me at the previous bus stop and also hoping that no one would take to me on this ride. I just had to make sure that I got off before the bus turned around. It was after 11pm at this point.

It felt strange because I had taken public transit most of my adult life before this. I had taken buses and trains home late all the time. Somehow, this felt scarier. Taking public transit here didn’t make me feel like I was normal, like it did in Chicago. It didn’t matter too much what your income level was there. It was a true melting pot, even if you could tell what part of town you were on by who got on and got off. Having a car in Chicago seemed like a hassle–parking (permit parking), higher car insurance, “dibs” when you shoveled your spot out from the snow, the incessant traffic. Having a car here, next to the happiest place on earth, was a necessity. For example, the bus near my house only runs hourly, as if it was a commuter train line. And we have one of those, too–which runs along I-4 and does jack shit for me as a westsider.

Here, there’s no bus tracker app to see when the next bus is coming. You just have to know the schedule. It really felt like taking the bus here really meant you couldn’t afford a car and that’s it. It was a thick, bright line that I had been hurtling towards for the past couple of years and now finally had crossed.

This is a pretty bourgie lament, I know, evein if my tax returns show that I live way below the poverty line. After all the judging I did on people driving beater cars, after my car started to look like a beater because I didn’t have money to take care of a couple of fender benders, tree sap on the hood, and a lost right wheel hubcap…here I was, riding back to my still kinda new neighborhood and too proud to ask when that stop was so I could hop off and trudge home.

I had been tracking where we were going on Google Maps and when I finally had the courage to jump off the bus, I was now over an hour away from home and still hadn’t recovered from the two mile death march o Wal-Mart. I stood under a street lamp and got an Uber home, a $5 ride. Later, I decided I would never take a bus back from school at night. Not too far from where I was standing, a kid had been shot in his car–in the afternoon. There I stood after midnight, by myself, surrounded by trees–walking in a new part of town in the night seemed like something I shouldn’t risk again.

The grossest ride I’ve taken so far reminded me of New Year’s Eve in Chicago. It was on a Wednesday evening, rush hour. My ride to the chorus wasn’t going to go, and I had stayed at work all day and took the buses to chorus practice. The first bus I took was full of students, with one in particular who had his head bowed over his water bottle. He tried to be covert but he puked into said water bottle. It reminded me of when I saw a guy puke into his bookbag on the blue line when I was heading back home in Chicago. Puke, outside of drinking at a bar, or being in an elementary school, seemed out of place. I really tried not to take this as an omen for my public transit life. Nothing has been as filthy since, and I hope that was just some frat boy who decided to drink too much during the day.

Waiting for the second bus, I was dressed for being in a car, not for sunset outside. I had a velvet blazer, a scarf, and a merino sweater and jeans. The wind was blowing pretty stiffly, and it’s February. The sun goes down and takes all the warmth with it. My hands could not get warm. The cold was spreading up my arms. There was a bus shelter, but it seemed to funnel in the cold air, not shield us from it.  I’m from Chicago–how can Floridian humidity and the cold (it was only in the 60s) made me feel like such a weak ass punk? I made my way to chorus and never really got warm for the three hours I was there. I only felt warm when I got home. I was prepared to Uber, but a friend took me home. That was two weeks ago.

Yesterday, I took the bus to my part-time job’s once a week, one hour meeting. I was lucky at an almost three hour trip took two and a half hours instead. The scariest part of that was walking a mile to the bus stop. Well, it was scariest in my mind. Looking at the map, 1.1 miles wasn’t what I wanted to do at 7am in the morning. I live in the hills so it’s no easy feat to walk around here. But this was mainly all downhill, through another subdivision. I took a picture of the sun with the fog in the trees. About 100 feet away from the bus stop, I smelled something that smelled like death. And it was death: the mushy, off-white guts of an armadillo on the side of the road. This bus took me to a superstop (like a mini terminal) not far from my house–maybe a ten minute drive. The next bus–and I almost got on the wrong one–took me downtown to the main terminal. The last bus took me to work where I have to walk another fifteen minutes. It was another beautiful day, in the 80s by the afternoon, with cool sea breezes. No Floridian humidity yet.

The day before, I tried to take the bus to work but it was so late that my connecting bus would have left already. I sat roasting in the sun for about 20 minutes. My t-shirt had two big sweat marks right under my bust that didn’t dry off until class time.

But yesterday, I took some pictures of spring springing forth: an azalea flower, a flowering tree, palm trees at the downtown bus terminal. I was trying to embrace the long ride back home as I froze on the bus. It was warm out, but I had to remind myself that Florida always has the a/c on, no matter what. I took the second bus to a town north of my home and then did what I was scared of always doing–I got on the wrong bus. This bus went north and west for an hour. I was already woozy from being up since 5am from nervousness and leaving the house at 7am for a 10am meeting. I had done this before, in Chicago. One night, on my way to a Bible study or some church group, I had ridden the purple line instead of the brown line, which meant I had to take the red line back to where I was and then take the brown line.

Anyway, it was still a lovely day, even though I was freezing on this bus, too. I lean against the large window and decided to look at the scenery. It looked less like The Truman Show and cookie cutter subdivisions, and more like Florida. I don’t even know what that means–I should have taken pictures like a tourist. Wild palm trees? Orange trees in yards? Houses with personality? The live oaks? The only house I remember was blue and white, Spanish inspired, and had tall cacti in the front.

It made me miss California and want to leave Florida, like I have been wanting to do since I moved down here almost three years ago.

I stayed on the bus, watching people get on and off, and I felt overdressed. I had dress pants, a t-shirt (Threadless), and a cardigan on. There were people who were leaving the first shift of jobs and heading to the second shift of other jobs. Because I had been on this loop, I saw one guy from Winn-Dixie get off and his girlfriend, who also worked at Winn-Dixie, that he pecked on the lips get on the bus. She had a lot of black hair clips holding down her hair. On the loop back to my neighborhood, we picked up a lot of kids from school. I had been listening to Kaskade the whole time, so I jammed my earbuds into my ears and turned up the volume since these boys didn’t know how to use their inside voices.

Finally, I got off the bus, wondering if the bus driver thought I was some weirdo who liked riding buses. I realized after he had jerked to a stop that I have started to get carsick while being on buses. I was used to controlling my own horizons, my own speed. Buses felt like rude awakenings with first-time drivers who weren’t used to the brakes yet.

This bus stop was on the other side of a very busy four lane road that I hated driving across because it has steep hills that cause blind spots. All over town, with white crosses and colorful silk flowers, there are so many memorials of pedestrians who have been killed here. I did not want to become a white cross. It took a couple of minutes as cars hurled themselves down the hill. The closest crosswalk was downhill and then I would have to go uphill, again, to my subdivision. And I wasn’t going to do that. I had left work at 11:15am and returned home at around 3:30pm.

***

It’s been about one month and counting without a car. When I first gave it up, it seemed like something I wouldn’t be able to live without. I’m surprised now at how quickly I’ve gotten used to not driving. This isn’t to say that I haven’t battled those inner demons of shame. It doesn’t mean that I like this at all. The 0.2. mile walk to the bus stop that comes every hour doesn’t feel great. I hate the walk to Winn-Dixie–especially the long climb back with food. Not having a car is more of a symptom of being poor, of not being as independent as I want. I’ve been trying to reframe this as a huge inconvenience, even though I haven’t spent nearly as much money as I would have with a car. But then again, I haven’t been going to church as much. School has been busy, but also, I don’t want to ask anyone for a ride.

I keep thinking of this Bible verse, which is really out of context, because this has nothing to do with age. The Gospel of John, chapter 21, verse 18, and Jesus says the following:

Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.

It’s the last part that gets to me: that I’m being taken where I do not wish to go. I do not wish to go on two to three hour bus trips when it used to only take me thirty minutes in a car. I do not wish to wait for an on-demand driver. I do not wish to have to move again next month to God knows where. I do not wish to try to figure out how to get the boxes that I moved with Bluebelle into storage and move them back here to pack up and move again.

Maybe, for me, that verse should read, and when you become poor, you will stretch out your hands, and someone will take your belt from around you, and you will go wherever you can find some place to lay your head.

I know that even in Chicago, people would take public transit all over the city, a much bigger city, with the same sorts of stories, two to three hour commutes because public transit was lacking in their neighborhoods. Looking back, I would balk at taking two trains and a bus from the northside to the southside and it took a whole hour. How luxurious that sounds now. Just an hour?

So. It’s not about the car, per se. It’s about knowing that my safety net still has gaping holes, that I’m not sure who I could sing the whole Golden Girls theme song to, or who would sing it to me (that’s the local loneliness); that I feel very vulnerable on the bus and walking down the street now; that I have an expensive large piece of paper and a thesis that needs to be revised and published so that I can prove to myself didn’t come down here just so I could lose my home and car and a lot of my dignity and a bit of my soul’s softness.

There’s something about having your hierarchy of needs fucked with on a daily basis. There’s a sort of despair that clings to your spirit like stale cigarette smoke, that you feel like only death can cure. Before I moved down here, I’ve had some lean months, but not lean years, and I never had lost my housing. But I had been through some pretty ridiculous, insane things, things I felt were worth writing about. So that’s why I came down here, in a town with one of the lowest per capitas, to tell that story to kids who didn’t care and didn’t get it.

I’m 99% sure my situation is temporary, even though it’s been a journey through the circles of hell for the past two years. That makes me feel like a weak ass punk even writing about this. There are people here who have hustled their whole lives. Maybe losing the car was a last straw for me. I had been too hopeful for my time here–tacitly hopeful about how the American Dream would be realized in my life. I was used to making goals and, well, eventually, things working out. I would have never made it through college if I didn’t hold onto hope. The utter almost-disaster that my life has become is unrecognizable to the woman who looked down from Chicago with unsullied hope in her heart. I’d find my people. I could take care of myself. Someone would be looking out for me.

Instead, I got sent on a magical mystery spiritual quest. The worse my circumstances are, the more spiritual I become. I would not be in a church community if I had found my writing community or the love of my life, if things had gone. There would be no reason to search for more. I can’t say that I’m very happy about this, though. Just trying to do that whole “silver lining” thing that people tell you to do when you’ve had bad things happened to you. I’m sure it’ll pay off some day.

Not to say that being poor is the way to spiritual salvation. I am no nun and I took no vow. Poverty fucks with your head and your soul in a way that no one should have to experience. I knew that as a social worker over a decade ago. I knew that even more when I had my own social worker at in grad school, right before I lost housing the first time. Just because I grew up middle class doesn’t make poverty any more poignant or compelling. It just makes it more commonplace.

***

Funny enough, when I first moved down here, I had wanted to take the buses here and write about my experiences, but I could never find the time to do it. Just looking at the bus routes on Google Maps freaked me out. Three hours to get to school from my house? It was an exercise in gratitude, that I only had to drive 30 minutes and try to find parking in time, but still be late for class. Well, I got my wish. Yay?

As I write this, I’m watching the fifth season of The Wonder Years and Kevin Arnold is talking about how having a car means freedom. Soon, as I should have done in the first place, but didn’t have the wherewithal or the courage to do so, I’ll get some beater car that can get me to St. Pete. I’ll check out the Dali museum and see another sun set over the Gulf. I’ll go to work and back in one piece. I’ll have a full-time job or some other part-time job. I’ll drive to visit my friends in Atlanta, or drive to Tampa to see the Bears beat the Bucs. I’ll just be so grateful to drive.

To go wherever I wish to go.

If you liked what you’ve read, I’d love your support as a patron on Patreon. Tiers starts at just $1/month. 

If you want to give a one-time gift or monthly gift, hit me up on Paypal.

Thanks for your support! 💘