Friday, September 24, 2010

Free Rent

(Please Note: Google Blogger changed its format yesterday and I've yet to locate spellcheck. Sorry!)

I woke up at six-forty-five thinking about numbers -- dollars and priorities. There's something about the experience of calling out to Jesus from the driver's seat while the car is bouncing around the Interstate like an amusement-park ride, calling, "I guess I'm ready, Sweet Jesus; no kidding; I'm sorry for everything I've done wrong." It changes a person's perspective on numbers.

The near-death experience of yesterday afternoon has made me braver. I'm considering seriously going where I've never gone before even though it will alarm some people and I know people will try to talk me out of it. No kidding, I'm thinking about preparing to move into the Homeless Shelter in downtown Ann Arbor for three months starting in October. I thought of this once before during my post paper-newspaper missadventures and people came to my rescue. But I don't like being rescued. There are always strings attached. I'm a very stubborn person. And it's actually my crowning feature as a human. No kidding, I like this about me. I'll get back to the strings that are attached to a rescue in a minute.

The thing is, I'm just a storyteller. It's the only thing I'm any good at. And even when I'm not that good at it, it is what it is. It's who I am. It's what I do -- tell stories. And at the moment I am a storyteller who is writing about her career transition from paper newspapers. So when these events happen in my life -- when a job doesn't quite work out; when I gain fifty pounds; when (like a moron) I get in a nearly fatal car wreck with no car insurance and four more years of payments -- when these events happen, since I am truly the center of my story (and I have fans!), I don't see myself as a victim. It's hard to be a victim when your the protagonist in your own story. It's especially hard to be a victim when you're a storyteller who has a near-death experience.

Almost dying (or is it dieing... there are a few occasions each day when I miss editors) has this way of alligning the priorities of the heart. Here's what I'm feeling:

1. Be my healthiest self physically -- go ahead with that new food plan I had intended to start today even though that means putting nearly half of my paycheck for the next two week toward groceries and nutrition.

2. Continue my committment to this humble and important canvassing work and to writing about my career transition for my "Poor Journalist Gets To Business" series.

3. Keep hoping to fall madly in love with this wonderful man who worked as the Dalai Lama's security guard for thee weeks, served in the U.S. Navy and ran with the bulls in Spain as a young man. He's a keeper. But if he isn't the one for me, plan to fall in love with someone equally wonderful within the next year because it's no good to go to bed alone every night year after year after year. That just isn't living life right -- not for me anyway.

That's it. Those are my priorities: Health, work I can feel good about, belief in the availability of true love to me.

So you see, vehicles and wardrobes and houses do not have a place on the list of most important priorities. They're good things for certain. I like it when I have a reliable car. I loved it when I had a little home with a kitchen and dining room flooded with natural light. I loved it when I had my own queen-sized bed and wonderful bedding (for the past two years I've slept in this unattractive little twin bed that belonged to my roommate's sister before she joined a convent).

I like things but I am not dependent upon them for my happiness. And as the protagonist of my own story, I have to follow the story. I know how to do that. It's what I do best. So no kidding, I'm thinking about moving into the homeless shelter downtown for three months so I can get back on my feet financially.

I thought about moving up to Saginaw to live with my dad. He is 80 and can use the company. I love my father very much but I cannot live with him for three months and keep my sanity. I tried it just before I filed for bankruptcy in 2006. My father loves me and he will always give me money when I ask for it. I wouldn't starve to death, either. But that's part of the problem. My father's entire kitchen is loaded with junk food and desserts. He loves to eat that junk. And since I find it quite stressful to live with him, it's just a recipe for disaster at a time when I am trying to get back on my feet. In addition, my father does not think of me as an adult. I am the baby of seven. In his mind, I haven't yet entered high school. I am still his little girl. This is a problem. It is not the sort of situation that promotes self esteem when a person is trying to overcome a recession and make a career transition. For instance, my father does not allow me to drive his vehicles. He is certain I will wreck them. I have had a few car accidents but never received a ticket in any of them. And other people in my family have been in accidents, too, but they are welcome to drive my father's minivan. This is a baby-of-the family thing. Seriously, he really does relate to me as if I were an elementary school child. He's eighty years old and this aspect of our relationship isn't changing. He gives me instructions each time I refill the ice trays. And when I go out to the store for anything he draws me a map with colored highlighters. The purpose of these maps is to enable me to negotiate my way through Saginaw (where he lives now but not where I was raised) without having to make any left-hand turns. Hey, I'm his baby. Left-hand turns are dangerous. I kid you not. Can't go live with dad. It'll mess me up. Love him, but no.

Friends are going to jump in and offer to let me stay at their homes for a few weeks here or there, I bet. But here's the thing, I don't think the whole Washtenaw County couch-hopping gig would work all that well for me. Maybe I am being stubborn but I tried it before and I still can't stand to talk to one of the people who tried to rescue me. She just about drove me CRAZY! I have a few good friends who I know I could live with seamlessly for a few months and it wouldn't feel like a burden on them or to me. But none of those friends live anywhere near where I live and work today. I have great friends in Washtenaw County, don't get me wrong. I love these people. But there are very few people in the world who anybody could live with for free and not have it feel like a big burden. The few friends who I have who fit in that catagory live in remote places where I would not find a job or public transportation.

So th homeless shelter for three months is a pretty good idea -- very epossibly the best idea. First of all, we must remember that I am a journalist. It's bound to be a journalistic adventure. Second of all, I am a person who firmly believes that anybody can do anything for three months if she accepts that the situation is simply a means to a better future. In the third place, the homeless shelter is really close to where I work. I wouldn't have to worry about the bus and the fact that the last bus from downtown to where I live leaves shortly after 10 p.m. and I work until 10:30 or 11 p.m. most nights.

So seriously, I'm really thinking about it. It might be perfect(Well, in an imperfect sort of way. I've no illusion that it will be easy.).

Please don't gasp. PLEASE, just don't.


  1. I hope they feed you good food and help you have useful experiences.

  2. Do you have Microsoft Word? If so, you could type there, get everything spell-checked, and copy/paste.