I have spent the last 18 years of my life working for social change, from community organizing and working with the homeless in Chicago to eventually heading organizations in Maine and now Boston. The work isn’t glamorous, the pay is a joke but knowing that I was doing something to help make this broken world a slightly better place has always driven me. Yet this week, I felt the depth of my own brokenness as a mouse in my wall brought me to my knees.
When you live in a 130 year old
Victorian style house money pit surrounded by trees with a barn attached to the main house, you learn that autumn means the return of the critters. When the temperature drops, critters, in this case field mice, look for a warm cozy place to snuggle. I know this and generally I plan in advance by making sure the pest control guy comes out and preemptively handles the situation. But with life throwing me curveballs and a hellacious commute, pest control wasn’t on my to do list. Instead strange sounds in the ceiling above my head and the wall behind my bed alerted me to the fact that the house maintenance ball had been dropped. Of course these uncomfortable sounds struck over the long Columbus Day weekend when getting a pest control guy out on short notice without paying a premium wasn’t happening. 4 days is a very long time to be home when you aren’t sleeping because the soft sounds of home invaders lurking behind your walls have your imagination at work. Did I tell you that I hate critters? Hell, I am not even terribly fond of household pets.
It was during the great mouse adventure of 2014, when up late at night, I found myself sucked into Facebook and realizing that for the first time ever, social media was actually making me feel worse about my life. I have read about this phenomena but until the last few days, I had never experienced it. That feeling of inadequacy and of not measuring up as I studied the happy and smiling photos of “friends” while reading about their adventures and travels that sounded far more exciting than my battle of the invaders.
The green eyed monster of envy snuck into my heart as I found myself coveting a lifestyle where life is enjoyed and lived without thoughts of cost. A life where it doesn’t feel like survival is a struggle and nothing comes easy. Like many people online, I strive to be mindful of what I present but there comes a time when I can’t live with dishonesty within myself. The job that in January looked like a new chapter in my life has tested me and my board far more than any of us anticipated and not even a year into the position, I am engulfed in fiscal concerns which as the big Kahuna means many sleepless nights. Of course, my personal fate in the short run is tied to the fate of the organization and after becoming so outspoken about racism, even if I decided to cut my losses and bail and come back to work in Maine, that most likely won’t happen. I didn’t burn any bridges but no one wants the outspoken Black woman at their organization. So I plod away trying to keep all the balls in the air and not let a 46 year old organization die on my watch. It’s a lonely place.
I spend a lot of time alone and at times , I feel the loneliness gnawing away at my very being. Today I was talking with another Black woman here in Maine and she spoke of the loneliness and how it was eating her up…sista, I am with you! I am lonely, trapped in a state I fear that I won’t ever get to leave because moving takes cash that I don’t know if I will ever have because it seems like no sooner than I get my financial house in order with a plan, life happens. I have a partnership that is complex and complicated with us clinging to each other in ways that aren’t healthy at times because neither one of us has a support system outside of each other and sometimes you truly can be too close for comfort. I have work that is meaningful and creates change but the older I get, I realize that I am no longer sure that I want to be that aging, greying social justice warrior who lives with fiscal scarcity for the cause. I also spend a lot of time putting on a happy face and maintaining a stiff upper lip and I just can’t do it anymore. I am tired, I am broken and I am raggedy. I suspect that I am not the only one but in a world where likes are garnered based off how unreal we keep it, showing our brokenness feels risky. Just typing this and knowing that I may post this feels risky since there are people from both my personal and professional lives who occasionally drop into this space.
One of my favorite books in the bible, is the book of Ecclesiastes 3, I am reminded that there is a season for everything under the sun. In striving to live authentically and with intention, I surrender myself to the knowledge that this season is a rough one and it’s rocky but I stay grounded in faith that the tide will shift…now let that shift come soon because being broken hurts like hell!!
5 thoughts on “I am a raggedy and broken person in a raggedy and broken world”
Take this advice from someone OLD enough to be your mom….
You are suffering the vicissitudes of mid-life. Hang on and hang in there, my friend. You are loved….you are learning and you are GROWING! And your sharing will help others in their struggle…. 🙂
Right there with you on the mice in old houses. My husband likes to pretend that the last one we caught is the only one as I set more traps in the attic and basement this week. He claims he doesn’t hear them.
Your frustration resonates though. I want to remind you that you are not remotely old, though, just bogged down with the EVERTHING that is screaming for attention. Kids, work. news. Life. Maybe you need to rethink your routines, get some sanity filters into place–because you need to block out some of the stuff that drives you nuts. That stuff is going to keep on coming but you can take a break now and then from it.
I’m hoping you get out and do some things just for you. Find some joy again in what you have near you and forgotten about. Walking the beach at Popham or Reid on the off season. Cider, pie, fruits of fall. Maybe you can’t get to Europe this year, but you can take a drive over to Hallowell and have low key Sunday brunch at Slates and check out the art scene there. I’m sure there’s more, but those things helped me when I was broke and lonely in Maine.
Thank you for sharing honestly. I find your “raggedy” posts more real and relatable than any smiling, surfacey FB post. Sending so many good thoughts and prayers your way. May things turn around for you soon!
I really appreciate the bravery in this post! You are very right when you point out how everyone projects a superficial facade of happiness and contentment. It can be exhausting for everyone involved and does not make for a great environment in which to deal with the tougher things in life. So I really applaud you for putting all this out there. Both in honoring your own feelings and also indirectly letting others know that it’s ok to be real about these things. Sending you good vibes. I hope the tides become more favorable soon!
Wonderful and real post, Shay. Wonderful and terrible are often synonyms, as joy and sorrow can be. I wish you peace.
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