Friday, July 1, 2011

Fates and Fortunes

I've been given cause of late to contemplate how the Fates have treated me, and the fortunes that have come my way. Or misfortunes, as it would appear. I've been handed plenty to gripe about, what with my foot attempting to become deformed, being relegated to a lower-than-poverty income, and seemingly dismissed to a life of nonproductive activities. Over the last few days, that bone that connects my foot to my leg, the talus, has been aching, sprinkling my thoughts with a fear that perhaps a bone infection remains possible.

This is all terribly frustrating, but then the willful enforcement of perspective turns woe to weal. Looking back, I can clearly see some of the miracles that have befallen me, even if they weren't the shining examples that the Bible hands us as "acts of G-d."

In early 2001, due to laziness on the part of hospital social workers, I was discharged from the psych ward into a state of homelessness. I'd been told that I'd spend a night in a homeless shelter while a room was prepared for me in a boarding house. But when the next day came along, it became apparent that there was no boarding house. And I had absolutely nothing but the few possessions in my bags. Nothing of value that I could pawn, and no money whatsoever - not even a penny.

It was then that Dad came through with emergency cash that he wired to me. When that money was gone, I was astonished by a social worker at the local welfare office. The only housing they had was vermin-infested hovels run by a slumlord who couldn't care any less about her tenants. Said tenants were usually drug addicts who'd sooner kill me for my insulin syringes than give me the time of day. As I tearfully explained my fears and the stress of once again having no money, the worker opened her purse and handed me $5, telling me to get something to eat...which I did.

Time passed, and I often found myself struggling to exist on $50 in food stamps and $45 in cash per month, as given to me by welfare. They were also kind enough to be paying my rent at the boarding house. Thankfully, I remained just healthy enough to engage in what street-folk called "land clamming." I would wander the streets, seeking out discarded cans and bottles, and returning each for their valuable nickel, often coming up with a few extra dollars each day I went out. (G-d bless those careless litter bugs!)

Time passed, with lots of little struggles in between. The biggest and scariest of these "little" woes was that case of osteomyelitis toward the end of my last stay in New York. While it was unfortunate that I'd run into an egotistical doctor in the emergency room that practically handed the infection to me, I was quite fortunate that the doctors in the "quick care" part of the emergency room were able to detect my most serious illness. If they hadn't, it could have meant the early loss of my foot.

Then came my grand move to Arizona, where I thought things would be much more affordable than the New York region. I didn't research my move; I mistakenly relied upon what memories I had of the city of Phoenix. Rent prices had climbed dramatically while I was away, and sales taxes were as bad at those of NY. I had enough back pay of my Social Security to afford rent for a year in advance, as well as furnish my apartment.

But after the first year of living in poverty's version of the lap of luxury, I found myself slowly entering into the greatest financial struggle of my life. By the time I started blogging, every month was a stressful nightmare, as I would discover my monthly funds almost completely gone come the second week of the month. I tried to get in touch with an old friend who'd become VERY successful in the music industry, and he ignored my calls completely.

My panicked messages online, however, did not fall on blind eyes. Several friends, all of whom had never met me face-to-face, leapt to my aid. Jessie, Igor, David, and Nicole, just to name a few, were in positions to send me actual money. I was always tempted to crack wise with these people, telling them that "Bob and Bob's Liquor Store thanked them, as did my drug dealer and the hookers I frequented," but always, ALWAYS felt such humor was in poor taste. Their money went to my needs, and not my wants. Food, rent, phone...I paid these things first. Igor was one of the best, as I'd inform him of the exact amount I needed to get through the month, and he'd send the maximum I could get out of PayPal with instructions to buy some DVDs or go to the movies. Although I struggled every month, I was blessed with a number of angels to watch over me.

Then, as I came to the end of my time in Phoenix, AZ, another angel popped out of the woodwork. I had very little money, and there was nowhere for me to go. Stu, who was supposed to take me in, revealed his true intentions of treating me as an ATM, and moving in with him was swept aside in a childish fit on his part. Siege sent me a message, suggesting that his idea was absurd, but that I could move in with him and his housemates. Then he made the absurd trip from KS to AZ, packed up the car almost entirely by himself, and then drove me all the way back...with only an hour's nap along the way...(and some vines dangling from an imaginary bridge).

The awesomeness didn't stop with Siege. Cody and Ray sat me down on arrival and explained to me that they were aware of my financial troubles, and that I would be charged absolutely nothing while I stayed there. I partial dismissed this idea, as I'd learned in life that "no one ride for free." I bought food, helped pay for household repairs, assisted in the purchase of some wants in the the house, tried to help Ray get his car running, and was almost constantly offering up gas money when I'd be ferried about.

Then came my greatest angel, Becky. I'd given up on the idea of finding love. I was planning on living a lonely life, and I was...okay with that. Life hadn't been fair to me when it came to romance, so rather than throw fits over the cards I'd been dealt, I surrendered to them. I wasn't looking for love, and Becky, having just gone through a rough breakup with an absolute jerk, wasn't looking either.

Accidents happen, even happy ones. We knew each other casually for a year. Then she was single and our humorous flirting took a serious turn. In a matter of months, we were in love, and she made an incredibly long trip from PA to KS to meet me. Things went so well that we not only started officially dating, but became "engaged to be engaged." Months later, we were engaged, with plans to keep that as our status for a number of years. We had room to grow in the relationship, and when I moved in, the growing began. Sometimes it's a bit bumpy, but she's been absolutely amazing, and I firmly believe I'm one of the luckiest men alive for having found her.

What's been affecting my thoughts about Fates and Fortunes, believe it or not, is the Apollo 13 mission. They were men with bright futures, with the rare opportunity to land on the moon. But things went awry - with a number of bad cards dealt to them - and while it appeared that they were doomed, they had their own angels back on Earth to watch over them. As disappointing as it was to miss their landing, it was most fortunate for them to have a large number of ingenious people to see them through every astronauts nightmare.

"Life is what happens while you're making other plans." Hanging on to perspective is sometimes all we have to hold us together. Things could be infinitely worse. I could be living alone, with the loss of my foot an assured event, and everything in my life an extreme struggle. Blessedly, things are otherwise.

And with that said...Be well, and DFTBA!

No comments: