Ha! Hello, Mommy Dearest!

Hey mom,

Guess you discovered tGGtH yesterday…  You spent all of an hour on my site, right after someone from Flagstaff (yes, Britt, I’m looking at you) spent a nice chunk of time here too.  Welcome to the madhouse.  Does this mean you’re going to be a regular reader?  Not that I mind, every visit from you just drives up my traffic and reduces my bounce rate.  I’m just saying, the boys in charge might take issue with you “misusing” the internet to read *gasp* opinions outside of the WTBTS and all.

…What, no congratulations on my impending nuptials to a nice slice of smexy English hotness?  ;)

Bittersweet

Matt is on a plane to Scotland as I type.  He needed to return home for about two weeks to sort some things out, and will be returning after that for a three-month visit (90 days is the longest he is allowed to stay in the U.S. at a stretch, per the visa waiver program currently in place between our respective countries).

I had a nice little breakdown at the airport.  Tried very hard not to cry, and failed miserably – burst out into huge, jagged, red-faced sobs (and Matt was quite a bit moist as well, which I found oddly reassuring).  I think we may have annoyed some innocent bystanders.  Our goodbyes were quite prolonged and punctuated by lots of kisses, hugs, sniffles, caresses, longing gazes, and other similar things that make strangers barf and wish that you would move the hell out of their way so they can get through the security checkpoint to the metal detectors, already.  I finally watched him head up the escalator towards the boarding area, until I lost sight of him.  He turned around many times to catch my eye and wave.  I know he misses and loves me just as much as I do him.  That is something completely new.  I am grateful for it.

Now I’m back at the motel where I will be spending the next few nights (I check out Friday morning and need to return to the trailer at Wal-Mart), and I’m trying to keep myself occupied with random things like surfing the Internet, catching up on “So You Think You Can Dance”, making dinner (ramen noodles), reading books – anything to keep my mind off the gaping hole in my life.  But nothing is working.  You see, it was hard enough being without Matt before he ever actually came out here.  I wanted to be around him in the worst way.  But now that he has been here, it’s about a million times worse.  I’m not only longing for something I’ve never had, I’m now missing something that has been here, filled my life, and is now absent.  It’s a very slight, intangible difference, but it’s there.

The passenger seat of my car feels empty.  My hand feels empty without his to hold.  The bed in the motel feels empty without him to cuddle with.  Everything feels kind of sepia-coloured and there’s a weight on my chest.  Occasionally I think I’m all cried out, but something like a half-finished carton of grape juice or a bag of Doritos he left behind will start me off again.  My pillow smells like him.  There’s still sand on the floor that we tracked in from our day at Newport Beach this weekend (he wanted to see the Pacific Ocean).  Perhaps I’ll feel a little better once I know his flight has landed and he’s arrived safely.  But even then, I know I can’t be completely top-notch again until he’s here with me, and we’re wrapping up all the loose ends to ensure that we won’t have to be parted again.

* * * * *

The “sweet” part of my bittersweet day came after leaving the airport.  I stopped by the post office to check my P.O. box.  Inside – oh, happy day! – sat 6 EDD claim forms.  That’s right, after months of waiting, phone calls, e-mails, and stressing…  I have received the paperwork to file for 12 weeks’ worth of retroactive UI benefits.  I mail them out tomorrow; the resulting checks are *supposed* to be returned to me within 10 business days, which means that soon I could be brandishing $5,700 (normally would be $5,400 but a stimulus program in place provides me an extra $25 per week, which sounds small, but obviously adds up over time).

So… woohoooooooooo!!!!!!  I have to be very careful with the money – hoard it up and get a mortgage all straightened out.  This is a huge step towards Matt and I buying our own home (which is good, since a place I was in love with was just sold to another interested party… I’m awfully torn up about it; I hope I don’t have to experience that kind of disappointment again).  I just have to scrimp and save and not blow it.  I am staying in the trailer for the weeks that Matt is in Scotland; once he returns, we are probably going to stay in a rented motorhome for $450/month.  It will be on the same property Fezzik is being boarded at, so we will be able to be with him full-time, and Matt can take him out for long walks every day and bond with his new dog.  The motorhome will also be hooked up with electricity and water, and we may even have cable TV and internet access included, which is obviously a vast improvement over Wal-Mart, and no facilities/utilities.  The downside is that the ranch is in Norco/Riverside area, so it will be a long drive to work and back for me.  With gas prices on the rise, that obviously isn’t super great.  Still, $450 is so little per month, we should save enough to more than make up for the fuel costs.

Once we are esconced on the ranch, I would like to look into selling the trailer, and into settling with Wachovia and selling my car as well.  That way, I can use the truck that I inherited from Bill, which is currently towing the trailer (and which is completely paid off).  Gas mileage is worse on the truck than on my car, but again, there’s the issue of not having to make any more car payments to Wachovia the crooks.

I think things are finally looking up for us.  I was a bit down this weekend because one of the tires on my car had a blowout, and I had to invest a lot of money in a new one that I hadn’t planned on spending – goodbye, paycheck!  But then my claim forms finally arrived, and it’s a huge weight off my mind.  Now, as long as my baby makes it home in one piece (and also returns to me safely in two weeks) I think things will be well on their way to perfect, or as perfect as imperfect, unpredictable life could ever possibly be for two crazy kids madly in love with one another.

EDD Hatred Level Escalates; Awesome Book; Religious Past

Today was a day that was mainly frustrating and exhausting, for personal reasons.

In addition, yesterday I gasped with joy as I opened my P.O. box.  A beaming, glowing ray of light fell upon the envelope from California EDD.  The angelic chorus sounded.  For a brief moment, the world was so very lovely.  Finally, finally after hours of fruitless phone calls trying to get through, several e-mails begging for a response, with only maddeningly robotic (and clearly deceptive) “we will get back to you within 48 hours” automatons to appease me…  FINALLY!!!!!!!  My claim forms for my extended benefits had arrived (in case you haven’t yet read my previous post on this subject, I am now owed several months’ worth of retroactive extended unemployment benefits, prior to my getting a job.  Sat down recently and tallied up the amount owed from the day that I filed.  Turns out I’m owed in the vicinity of a little over $5K at this point, which would take me 1/4 of the way towards accummulating the $20K I recently found out I need to pull out of my bum to get this house so that I can then start the whole fun part of seeing what’s involved to use it for transitional housing purposes to take in other homeless women/children (that’s a story for another post, but soon, I promise).

Ripped open the envelope to find… a (second) “approval” notice letting me know that yes, I am eligible for extended unemployment benefits (well, duh, same exact notice I already received waaaaaaaay back when this crap saga started)…

There were no claims forms included.

None.

Zilch.

Aaaaaaaaaand………… yeah.

Seriously.  I know they’re backed up because CA is now like the poster child mascot of insanely skyrocketing unemployment rate states (OK, besides Michigan), but what the eff?!?!?!?!?!

WHERE are my UI benefits?  With those I could at least start the process, combine those with the money I have on me now and I’d be $6K down, only $14K to go.

* * * * *

In other news, stumbled upon this book called I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed, by Kyria Abrahams.  She was raised in the same religion/cult/whateveryouwannacallit as I was (won’t reference it here, you’re welcome to look it up if you like, but if you’re a reader and a devoted member of this religion, I’d really appreciate you skipping the part where you leave me comments telling me how wrong I am about the organization, wrong for leaving, assuming you know everything about me, assuming you know everything about your own religion/cult/whatever, assuming you know everything period, etc.)

I read the first couple of pages and identified so strongly with it (plus it’s hysterically funny – the chick has mad sarcasm skills, which is kind of my M.O. too, so I liked her right off the bat) that I had to stay up all night reading it.

It really brought back waves of memories for me – I left the organization at 18 when I moved out of my parents’ house, although while staying with them they insisted on dragging me back, which I put up with to the best of my ability… zoning out, which I’ve perfected the art of.

Kyria really got the language and syntax and feel of what it’s like growing up as a member spot on.  Many of our experiences were alike – particularly the one where she swallowed a bottle full of pills in a failed suicide attempt and her parents ignored it, didn’t drive her to the hospital, nothing.  Left her to either get over it or else face the consequences of her actions and die.  That struck me so because I had such an eerily similar experience – at 14, in a fit of hopelessness, I impulsively swallowed a jumbo bottle of Tylenol (yeah, go ahead and laugh – but ODing on Tylenol causes liver failure, it turns out!)  My family’s tenant found me in the bathroom and called my mother, who blithely told him “have her stick her finger down her throat”, hung up and drove to Palm Springs with my sister for the week, leaving me to be sick and/or die while said tenant, also a member of this religion, shrugged his shoulders and went back to bed (turned out I was just in agony all night and the next morning.  Nothing major.  I was lucky.)

Now, clearly I got over the whole idea of death after that… agony like that made me decide it really wasn’t in the cards for me.  Nope, never trying that again *shudder*.  But still, it was scary.  And finding out that there was someone with a childhood so similar to mine – let alone her writing a book that is breaking into mainstream literature! – was kind of an eye-opener for me.

The last part of the book is the darkest.  This is where our life experiences varied more (and Kyria admits she has some medical/mental issues such as OCD, etc. that didn’t help with some of the more naive/destructive choices she made in her desperation).  She married super-young to someone she had nothing in common with, as children with our upbringing are wont to do (no premarital sex, and no secular “dating”.  “Dating” = “Marriage”).  She was, unsurprisingly, miserable, and started cutting, using drugs, and sleeping around to escape her marriage (adultery is the only valid and accepted reason to divorce, in this religion).

OK, slightly different from me – I never dated boys from my congregation.  I didn’t want to.  Was never interested.  There were, as she points out in the book, very few prospects, and I never felt like settling for a pale shadow of the real thing, just so that I could have sex or play house.  I knew even then that I wasn’t wholly and completely invested in my religion.  I think to some degree, I was always looking for the time when I could bolt.  I was attracted to men and dating and life outside of my super-narrow, controlled little world.  I saw hypocrisy and abuse everywhere I turned; not only in my own family, but in others in the congregation.  To have admitted so would certainly have meant trouble for me – even complete shunning from all I knew, including my own family.  So, when I turned 18, I simply disappeared.  I didn’t take any of the complicated channels that the heads of the congregation, or “elders” pretend are mandatory.  I refused to be labeled, refused to be shunned, I simply up and left and nobody ever questioned it.  Nobody ever really wondered where I’d gone or why, or what I was doing.  Nobody cared to investigate, they just made their assumptions and moved on with their lives, zealously preaching to anybody who would listen.  One more fallen angel.  Oh, well.

On the few occasions my family dragged me back this year, I was generally regarded with unease and suspicion, which amused me more than anything else.  You could tell it was in everybody’s mind that I must have turned into some little Satanic whore (paranoia and fear are big there).  Nobody knew anything for sure, and I didn’t volunteer any information on that score, neither confirmation nor denial, even when prodded, but some form of “sexual misconduct” was widely assumed, it was quite obvious.  After spending several years away, I had come more to grips with the knowledge that these people didn’t truly have any claim to me or sway over my life (in stark contrast to the certainty I had held in my childhood, that they could ruin me – or rather, that they could have God ruin me).  Now, to a degree, I enjoyed being the boogeyman, responding cheerfully yet bluntly when I spoke at all and seeing the awkward shifting and furtive glances at my outspokenness, my complete and utter lack of “spiritual” thoughts and goals, at least as far as they define such.  I had always been something of an oddball, even when a child.  I was disarmingly perceptive and never quite took things at face value as much as I “should” have.  I had opinions and ideas of my own, questions even about things in the Bible that made me uncomfortable or curious.  I was mildly bothered by the idea of “proving” a scripture by reading another scripture.  To some degree, I wanted to look at and hear all points of view before coming to my own conclusions.  This was highly frowned upon in the organization – looking at outside points of view was considered falling prey to Satan.  We were only to accept what we were told at face value by the heads of the organization, all mere men who were supposedly being “inspired” by God.  Chastised often for this moral failing, I did what I could to sublimate it, bury it, bend my will and conform.  It was embarrassing to be scrutinized and looked down upon.  It was embarrassing to be different within the organization, and also to be different outside of it – in school, and at work.  But, when it comes down to it, I was never the conforming type.  Now, I can find humor in my role as fallen, sinful, devious skank-ho; even relish it a little.

It wasn’t always like this.  It took a lot of struggling and therapy.  And reading Kyria’s book brought a lot of it back in a flood; despite the barbed humor which had me laughing my arse off, the feelings and pain beneath it were refreshed.  I don’t think anybody who breaks free from that kind of past ever fully gets over it.

Anyway, it was just kind of crazy and surreal seeing that there was someone else like me; someone who fought back (although sometimes in different ways) and got up the courage to leave.  We both had to learn to live in the real world – you’re not prepared for it at all when you come from that background.  You’re taught to fear the world, flee from it, dangers lurk everywhere ready to pounce on you.  In an interview, Kyria made a point that struck me as all too true – you are told by your family, your friends, your fellow congregation members that life isn’t worth living outside the organization.  That if you leave, everything will go horribly for you because you’re defying God, slapping him in the face, and being punished for it.  The irony, of course, is that initially that does often happen, your life does go sort of wonky – but not for those reasons.  It’s not difficult so much because the real world makes it difficult and you are being punished.  It is difficult because, never having lived in the real world, you have no idea to go about it, and have to start from scratch, teaching yourself and painstakingly learning through trial and error.

Six years later, and I’m still nowhere near done learning to adjust.  I don’t think I completely ever will be.  But… it’s a start.

The Bangs That Ate The World

Yesterday, I decided I should probably dye and trim my hair, since it was getting a bit out of control, and I want to continue looking presentable at my new job.

Luckily, my very first “official” job was at a beauty salon – I ran the front desk. I was twelve. I made friends with one of the hairdressers, L., and she has been cutting my hair on the cheap and/or free for the past 12 years. Touching up my roots presented more of a challenge… I thought it might be pushing it just a little too much to try coloring it in the bathroom of Planet Fitness, or the community college locker room. First of all, it’s about an hour-long process; second of all, it smells of unholy chemicals. At some point, someone would probably notice me, and I really don’t want random strangers to be aware of my existence or location at the moment.

So, I took the plunge, went into the salon early, gave a brief synopsis of the situation, and begged L. to let me put my color on there while she worked on her previous client. She lent me a cape and told me to have at it. Crisis averted.

The end result of my little beauty splurge yesterday is the monster ’60s bangs you see swallowing my face above. I love them. I’ve done it once before and it was fun, gave me a completely new look. Sometimes I need something to hide behind. Bangs are great for that.

My two youngest sisters are in Europe with their mom – currently, they’re spending time in Italy. There are no words for how much I envy them. The 17-year old has recently found herself a girlfriend, I’m so happy for her.

On a whim, Aishwarya and I drove out to Hollywood yesterday to see Sunshine Cleaners at the only California theatre in which it is currently playing (goes wide release on 3/20). We were early and it turned out, the theatre was right across the street from Amoeba music store, a place which holds decidedly complicated memories for me. Aishwarya had never been, so, underestimating the power of said memories, I dragged her in. Of course, it all hit in this massive tidal wave of emotion as I browsed through racks of thousands of used DVDs, and I was overwhelmed by incredible sadness and pain, so that sucked in general.

The movie was great, touching and funny. I knew going in that it was a dramedy about sisters who start a crime scene cleanup business, so I knew parts of it might remind me of recent events, but I wasn’t expecting the opening sequence, in which a man walks into a sporting goods store, asks to see a 20-gauge shotgun, and promptly sticks it under his chin and blows his brains out right there. I suppose it hit a little bit too close to home for me.

Also hitting close to home was Amy Adams in a role that just wrenched my gut. At one point, she says, “I’m good at getting men to want me… not date me or marry me… but want me”. I wanted to start bawling right there. I know the feeling. I suppose the initial shotgun incident started me off thinking about my biological father. I started thinking about how he didn’t love me and bailed out when I was 2, and how that kind of set the scene for my life and relationship history with men from there. Out of 7 relationships, not one has loved me. It’s difficult being with someone for months or even years, yet never once hearing “I love you”, from even a single man. Some men say it to women, even if it’s not true. I didn’t even get that. In my case, my men couldn’t say it because it wasn’t ever true. You start wondering, if someone can’t love you after six months, or a year, or two and half years – perhaps you really are unloveable. Or why a man who openly despises cheating and cheaters – an “uncheatable” man – somehow managed to cheat only on you. You think, if you’re the only one this uncheatable man could see himself cheating on, if you somehow drove the nicest man on the planet to cheat on you, there must be something really, really wrong with you. If you bared your soul and dared to become more intimate with each other than you ever thought possible, really exposed your guts and got up the courage to open up facets of yourself that no one had ever previously seen, and he still couldn’t love you, then no one could. Someone asked me for 3 wishes recently, and I gave them – one for myself, two for homeless people in general, and all the time my fourth, overwhelming wish was silently screaming, unbidden, pulsing like a siren, underscoring ever word that I actually spoke: “I want to be loved. I want to be loved back!!!!!”

So, of course, that sent me spiraling along a line of similar negative and sad thinking, which is on the whole, you know, kind of the opposite of what I’m going for. Sigh. What can I say. I’m human. It happens.

Anyway, the original point of my post is that I have awesome new bangs, The Bangs That Came From Outer Space And Devoured The World. Lovely, aren’t they?

Happy Birthday To Me.

Well, I’m 24 today. Just one more year until my quarter-century crisis. Eh, maybe I can have it a year early. I’m not one to stand on ceremony.

Heading to Disneyland this afternoon. They have this new policy where you get free admission on your birthday.

Later, I’d like to look into posting a blog about free/dirt-cheap entertainment options that are out there. Besides the daily worries, I occasionally have trouble with the mind-numbing boredom; although I am surrounded by a trailer full of books, sometimes you just need a change of scenery and pace. I think putting some fun into the experience is important, homeless individuals are just as deserving as anyone else to enjoy life a little.

My two best friends took me to the local college’s production of “Guys and Dolls” last night, so that was a bit of a distraction from life. Musical theatre. Escapism at its finest. Nothing like a mob of sexy, sweaty, singing men doing arabesques in zoot suits to take your mind off your troubles (yay!)

By the way, suddenly I seem to have all of these readers sending me encouraging comments on Twitter. Thanks so much to you guys for your support! If you write on similar topics (homelessness, unemployment, etc.), know that I am reading each and every one of your blogs, and linking to them under my “Related Content” section! It’s great to have people out there to reach out to.

Mental Health

It’s a heartache. Bonnie Tyler told me so.

* * * * *

So, I’ve had to scale back on a lot of expenses since this ordeal began, and I’m sure I’ll find a lot more that I have to cut back on. Yet, I’ve kept my therapist. Only in California, right?

Therapy always made me really nervous. I looked askance at the idea for many years, due to a bad childhood experience. My parents had dubbed me a “problem child” and dragged me to a shrink at the age of 9, when I suddenly dropped from an A+ GATE student to a D below-average. She seemed nice and asked me some questions. I wasn’t completely sure why I was there, but I answered them. She asked my parents some questions. I ate the cookies she gave me. To sum up her opinion rather succinctly, she thought my parents were a bit crazy, and had more of a hand in my decline than they were letting on. They dragged me out of there and that night I was screamed at and beaten for “answering the questions wrong”.

Since then, I was leery of this psychiatry thing. Certainly, if I ever went back, someone would blame me again for something.

I was a relatively good kid/teenager. I got excellent grades through high school, never even experimented with a single drug, didn’t drink until I turned 21 and then only socially, never been drunk, never snuck out or partied… you get the picture. But a few months ago, it became clear that several issues in my past were coming out of the woodwork and affecting my day-to-day life, and even my sleeping habits. The fact that I had just lost my job to layoffs didn’t help matters, and I started spiraling downwards into depression. A friend who recently got her human services degree referred me to a local mental health hotline (211 Orange County) that could set me up with a therapist on a sliding scale. I decided I’d go once, so I could prove to myself that therapy was as I remembered it.

I was set up with the most fantastic counselor. She is an incredibly wise woman, and I realized that there was someone out there who would listen to me unconditionally. I could pour out all of my “crazy” to this woman, and she didn’t find it crazy at all. The fact that my life sounded like a twisted soap opera didn’t seem to faze her. She believed me! Finally, after years of hearing that I was a deviant and a lost cause, that I was impossible to love, someone found me intelligent and capable; saw good qualities in me that even I didn’t know were there. I am not perfect, and I still have plenty of flaws, to be sure, but when we discuss them it is always calmly and rationally, and she gently guides me towards new ideas/perspectives/conclusions without blaming, or being harsh and judgmental.

Now, more than ever, I need this kind of support. It is so easy to fall into depression just in regular, everyday life, especially with the current state of the world. When you are homeless, it is about twelve jillion times worse. You can find yourself dwelling on how you got here, how it might have been different, will you ever get out of this… The hours seem long and you can lose all concept of time and days of the week, because there’s nothing to measure them by but this stretching, lonely ennui. I’ve been homeless for about a week, and I already know this. I can only imagine it gets worse the longer and more hopeless your situation seems. After therapy, I feel lighter, like I’ve just unloaded all the worry and fear that I was carrying around with me. Life always seems easier to face after I leave that office. No matter how tight for money I get, I will always set aside that small amount for my weekly therapist visit – I wish that I had caved and gone to therapy years ago. I wasted a lot of time that could have been put towards becoming a better version of myself.

If you’re homeless and feel the need for counseling, there are free/cheap programs and resources available to you. If you’re in the Orange County area, you can dial 2-1-1 and be connected to the hotline I mentioned above. A national directory of mental health resources and services can be found here and here. Need resources outside of the U.S.? Google “mental health” and the name of your country/province. If one particular therapist doesn’t work for you, you don’t like their approach, whatever, you can ask for another until you find someone you click with. Compatibility is key, just as it would be in any other relationship based on trust and confidentiality. I would recommend that everyone try it at least once anyway, but particularly if you are in this kind of life-changing circumstance. Your mental health is so important, and is just another resource that you should do everything possible to protect. It’s your mind that will go the furthest in transitioning you out of homelessness. Take care of it. You are not as alone as you think.

Reaching California EDD Massively Sucks

This is the exact problem that I have been having all morning trying to get through to the California Employment Development Department:

Californians Battle Swamped State Phone Lines to Get Jobless Benefits

Yes, all morning. We’re talking over five hours of back-to-back phone calls. The EDD doesn’t even put you in a “hold” queue until a representative is available, you just get a recorded message essentially saying “there’s a lot of calls, sucks to be you, try back later!” and then… disconnection.

Bastards.

I haven’t received my extended benefits forms yet. The EDD website says to call if you haven’t received them within 10 days. It’s been over 2 weeks and I could really use the funds. I have tried various number combos posted online to get through, none of them are working… On one forum, they suggested calling the foreign language line – I just may try it, because nothing else is getting me to a representative.

Anyway, if anyone else out there is feeling like bashing your head against a wall over this, you are not alone.

Short post, maybe I’ll update later tonight… my therapist just called to inform me that I forgot my session this morning, so I frantically rescheduled and now I’m running over there. Yes, I know. Homeless with a shrink. Only in California ;) Maybe this evening, when things settle down, I’ll go into why although I’ve pared down a lot of stuff in my life due to this circumstance, I feel good mental health is more important than ever, and is worth continuing to pay for.