Monday, September 9, 2013

Verbal Judo, no a-worky for-a me...

I visited Workforce Services today--to BEG them to help me pay for childcare costs.  It's ridiculous, I know, but it almost killed me.  I wore my best outfit, something my mom bought for me to wear at my first big book signing, the one at Barnes & Noble.
In fact, if you google "ec stilson barnes and noble" these three pictures will come up. 
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Thank you, Fran. *giggling* (This is her husband--and I'm not sure why he comes up when searching for my signing on Google Images--but it's EPIC!) 
Check out her blog HERE
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Anyway, as I walked into Workforce Services, I held my five and three-year-old's hands.  I bit my lip, to keep from crying, and trudged to the line near the counter.  A woman standing just in front of me, studied everything about my appearance, grimaced, and scooted ever-so-slightly away.
    Did she know how far my life has fallen?  Is it that obvious?  
    After all, my full-time job makes just as much as it costs to pay a childcare provider for my four kids each month! Did she know how horrific the last month has been, with some family members and friends--and neighbors who I don't even know--judging me because of rumors that have spread.  From the nights I spent with my kids in a women's shelter?  From how desperate, scared and alone, this makes me feel?  

    As I stood waiting, I started to think about last night again . . . . 

    I had a dream that Cade held me like he used to.  I kept telling him, "Forget about all the bad things both of us did. Forget them.  I can't pretend in real life, but I can right here. Right now."  Then as if I knew I'd wake up, I said to him, "Meet you tomorrow night in my dreams again, okay?"  But when I woke up, I didn't want a tomorrow night or an ever.  And I stayed so angry, wondering why I dream about him even though it NEEDED to be over for so long--for BOTH of us.
Somehow I made it to the counter, trying to appear strong and independent, and for the first time in forever I swallowed my pride.
    It wasn't until I backed out of my parking spot that things unraveled.  My kids whined as the woman who'd stood in front of me in line earlier had backed out of her spot--directly behind mine--at the same time I went into reverse.  And by some crazy luck we didn't hit each other.  We stopped, parallel to one another.  
    I opened my driver's door, since my window doesn't work, and tried using the "verbal judo" I just learned about in security guard training.  But she didn't even let me say a word.  She just started screaming about how people like me shouldn't be allowed to apply for government support.  "YOU look rich!  What could you have possibly gone through?  And now you almost hit me!  I wish you would have, you F'n B****.  Then I'd get the insurance money and you'd have to pay more each month!"  She drove off, squealing, and my kids paled, having heard every word.
    Instead of driving off too, I pulled back into my spot, hugged the steering wheel as if it were life support, and started crying.  I tried looking nice because on the inside--right now--I feel completely worthless.  The outfit gave me strength, reminding me of my big signing, when I felt like I MIGHT be worth something, finally.  The cold air conditioning blew across my face and smeared my tears.
    "Are you okay, Mama?" my five-year-old boy asked from the backseat.  "What's a B****?"  
    I almost choked on my own tears.  
    "You K, Mama?" my three-year-old piped in.
    "I'm . . . fine, guys."  I wiped my eyes, but refused to turn around.  "This is tough, but we're gonna make it through all this crap!  And I swear to God, I'm gonna remember that woman--and that you never know what someone else is going through."
    I'd finally calmed down enough, I felt like I could look at my kids without crying.  "Always be nice to people, kids.  When they're mean, it hurts.  When we're mean to others, it hurts."
    So we drove away.  And I hope God will bless the woman who likes calling strangers the F'n "B-word," even though she has no empathy for people like me . . . people who are trying as hard as they can to be a good mother and just make it through each day--whether we look rich or not!