I have come to a decision. I am in for this experiment. But I think that I can't just take it and feel right with myself. That might be fair, it might be rational, it might be right... or it might not. It might be my internalization of the idea that I am undeserving because I am literally not worth much, as though my bank account or lack thereof were a statement of my value. It might be the work ethic that I was raised to. It might be good old-fashioned fear of what karma will do to me. I don't know. I just know that I can't take something of such magnitude without replacing it somehow, or I will not be able to square it.
If I am trying to speak honestly, to defy stereotyping, to make some small difference, to retain some sense of dignity, don't I sell that out if I am not an active participant in my life? If the very worst of poverty is the awareness that you do not control your own life, then the only way to defy poverty is to demand that control with a full voice. This is why I have these rules and these ideas that do not make logical sense. Because in practice, they allow me to live with myself. The thing that I think a lot of people miss is that these internal rules, these third rails, these are the things that let us feel what pride we have left. I may have traded my health for money. I may have traded my youth for money. I may have traded my whole adult life for money, but the thing that is left to me is that I have earned every red cent. Nothing, absolutely nothing that people have to throw at me sticks, because I have earned my way. Were the world different, I would be able to graciously accept help as needed without worrying that I am undermining what little I have to offer. But it isn't, and if I take something that I have not earned, then I have lost my integrity and with it the moral high ground that allows me to rage rather than collapse.
In my initial post, I mentioned that I do not like being an object of pity, and that I do not like admitting that I am in fact pitiful. But I think that a lot of people read a different version of the word than I meant, because what I meant to say is worthy of pity. If I heard my own story, I would probably feel for me. That, to me - the empathy and guilty thankfulness that your own burdens are at least not these ones you are seeing, that is pity. It is not a bad thing, I think. But it is an uncomfortable one, from either side. It is disempowering to have to admit to yourself that you are in fact not as capable as you'd planned to be. Particularly, I think, when you are the person that everyone in your life comes to for solutions. That is my role, my self-image: the competent one. It is flawed as I am not particularly competent, but as I am comparing myself with people who have been institutionalized, a combat vet, and a toddler, I tend to come out the other end of that equation on top of the who-will-remember-to-pay-the-bills game. It isn't hard to be the most competent person in the room when you are the only one with the stamina to hold more than one job. To be on the receiving end of empathy when you are just living your life on an average day is discomfiting. And while I can appreciate that not being able to eat real food seems like a huge thing to a lot of people, it's just life for me and thousands of people like me. I think it is difficult to be on the giving end of pity as well. There is guilt there. There is an awkwardness, because you do not want to make a person feel as though you are being judgmental. There is always a power dynamic at play. There is an awareness that should you choose, you could give up everything that you had and probably help thousands of people in Africa. That is a hard thing to know and to live with. I try not to think about it, because I am not that selfless. I think most people do that.
So I have come to a decision: I will do this. But I will do it on my terms. I will use it to be helpful. I do not mind paying it back in kind rather than in cash; the point for me is that I cannot allow myself to be indebted. And many people have told me that my words have power and value. So I am paying it back with them. I will write about this, about the things it does for and to me, about the journey that it is. I was nineteen when I got in the car accident. I do not know what it is to effortlessly smile as an adult. I think it will be something to feel.
I will simply write it down. I will publish it. And I will attach my name and face to it. I will ask your help in this, because if I am going to go through all this fucking navel-gazing and emotional upheaval and embarrassment, I will damn well be the poster child at every opportunity. So I would like for you guys to pimp the hell out of this project when you remember to. And as I know next to nothing about the Internet, I could maybe use some advice on hosting and such. I would like to not wind up on GeoCities, please, and I do not know what things are GeoCities these days.
I am always surprised at the amount of people who are surprised by my reality. I would like to explain it to more people who maybe are never exposed to lives like mine. I would like it if voters went to the polls knowing what the policies meant. I would like to stop being an abstraction. And as I am me, I will simply scream into the universe. Some people will notice. That is how I will make the balance work. Thank you all for your help, and the support, and the needed clarity. I think that this will either happen or not; there is not cash in my benefactor's hand yet. But I can at least say that I am on board should the magic happen, and know that I am not going to lose myself in the process.