Life Circumstance Doesn’t Make You Poor

Huffington Post Article: This Is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Sense

I just read this article about a girl who discusses why poor people make poor choices. Though I very much admire her courage for sharing her most intimate thoughts, I could say that I was poor once too and I never felt in any way the same. Not that I want to negate her feelings or tell her that she is wrong, but I do want to show people another way to look at circumstance. I am not usually one to talk much about the past, but I think that I’m feeling very compelled to share my story only so others can see that poor circumstance does not mean you must live a poor life.

I’m going to begin ten years ago when I was twenty years old with some brief background history. I was not poor growing up. I had many “things” and strangely enough, all I ever longed for was to be recognized. At the time, I never knew what that meant, but my family, though not poor at the time, was very much addicted to alcohol, drugs, media, television, video games, cigarettes, sex… I’m sure you get the picture. Life wasn’t hard when it came to money, but my heart was broken and I was always trying to find a way to put it back together.

The day finally came when I began to put it back together, but not before a long journey full of struggle and disappointment. I was twenty years old when my father died. I came back home from living with and helping my brother and his wife run a day home while she was on bed rest with her second child. My parents had just purchased a convenience store in our local community. My father was setting up the point of sale and bookkeeping systems, while my mother dealt with the daily operation of things. Things were normal for us… The usual party. Two weeks after I came home, I went camping with my boyfriend, brothers and friends and the day we returned home, my mother found my father dead. In their bed. In our home. I’ll never forget the look on her face that night when she came out from going to bed. My father was the only person in our home that wasn’t an alcoholic or a drug addict and he held our family together. He had a heart attack that afternoon while having a nap.

I am the youngest sibling, a sister to three older brothers. I had taken care of my family in any way that I could growing up. I was an enabler. When my father died, I took over the store. I set up the point of sale system. I did the books. I worked 15 hour days and I came home to take care of my brother’s girlfriend’s son of two years that I practically raised. She was an ex-prostitute that I helped get off the streets. She lived with us and I helped her with her son. I watched over him and I loved him because he needed that, while they were fighting and drinking and doing crack and cocaine. My mother was an alcoholic that had been married to my father since she was sixteen. She had no idea how to live her life independently. She would get angry with me because I wasn’t there to console her after my father died because I was too busy trying to keep my life from falling apart. Too busy trying to run a store and love my family. Take care of a little boy. Have a relationship with my own boyfriend, who was also very much addicted to drinking and drugs and too busy being angry and disappointed with his own life to notice that I was losing mine.

I could give you all kinds of details to this story that would probably make you wonder how I’m still alive, but I can tell you that I’m happily thriving. The beginning of the end was when I convinced my boyfriend to move with me to Calgary where his father was living at the time. I was terrified. I had never been without my family, but they were falling apart. My brothers were both heavily addicted to crack and my mother was beginning to date another man addicted to crack who was abusive. I couldn’t live with her any more. Not if I wanted to feel safe. I got the books at the store sorted out and I left. I, a small town girl who had never been away from home, took a greyhound bus to a big city and started my life almost independently. I had my boyfriend and we stayed with his father for a short time.

Life in Calgary was pretty okay after that. My boyfriend was still drinking and doing drugs, but I had a job working in a photo lab, I was doing pretty good. I was still trying to make sense of my life from afar. SO angry with my mother for not being a mother and angry with my brothers for not caring about me. Missing my dad who was my best friend and spending that time just trying to process what had happened the previous year or so. The one thing I remember most dramatically is that when I lived with my family, I was the hero. I was put on a pedestal as the “smart one” and the one of us who “had her stuff together.” It made me feel like I was super human. They made me feel like I was the most amazing person in the world and when I moved away I began to recognize that I was VERY ordinary. If anything, I was probably less capable of many things than most of my peers because I was so dependent on my life being in shambles to feel good about myself. If everyone around me was lost and a mess and I wasn’t, then I was doing something right. Right? Well it turned out that I had a lot to learn about myself. This first lesson was a taste of humility.

We eventually moved out of my boyfriend’s dad’s and got an apartment close by. My boyfriend had a really good job and was working a lot so we decided to send me to school so I could get a better job too. I went to school and through my growing independence, I began to realize that my boyfriend, who had now become my fiance for the past two years, wasn’t making me happy any more. Not because he wasn’t my best friend. He was a great person and I was terrified to go it on my own. I had never been TRULY independent before. I had been dating him since I was seventeen. We were supposed to get married, but he didn’t seem like he wanted to. He seemed pretty content smoking pot and drinking beer and playing video games. I wasn’t that person. I didn’t drink or do drugs really at all any more. I wanted to be with some one who made me feel like they wanted to be with me.

Suffice it to say. I shit the bed on that one. On the rebound, I got together with a man that had moved in with my now ex-boyfriend and I as a room mate. I was terrified to take care of myself and so I swapped bedrooms instead. Eventually we moved out together and I got pregnant. This man was much older than me and he seemed as if he wanted what I wanted. I was comfortable. We had lots of money. I was working for a print company. He was in trades, working in the oil industry. It should have been awesome right? Well he was pretty controlling and angry. I was probably more scared and unhappy than I had ever been. On maternity with a newborn baby. No friends. No family. He would come home from working out of town only to find some reason to get angry and just disappear to hang out with is buddies. Drink beer and do drugs. I stayed with my little boy and I loved him. I thought an alcoholic mother and crack addicted brothers were needy, but I was wrong. This newborn baby was more than tough on me.

I left him, but I didn’t really have anywhere to go. I went back to BC where I grew up, but my mother was still a total mess. My brothers weren’t much help. I stayed with my oldest brother for a while but his wife wasn’t too fond of me. I’m still not sure why to this day. I had a couple of really good friends that helped me leave and they wanted me to stay with them, but I was too proud to rely on them for help. A single mom and a six month old baby are a big burden. At least that’s what I thought at the time. So I took a page out of my old book and found myself a man! LOL! A guy I knew from high school, an old school friend of my ex-fiance, a friend. He took a liking to me and we got together. I moved in with him and started to try to put my life back together. Look for a job and such. Turns out, no one had the heart to tell me that he was a cocaine addict. Not his family that I knew well, not my friends from school, no one. I didn’t know until he had basically stolen every penny I had. He was pawning my stuff and left me with no choice but to go on welfare. I didn’t hate him. I wasn’t even angry really. I had been here before. I still loved my family even though they made me angry. I think I understood addiction at this point and I was just happy that I wasn’t an addict. I knew I’d figure things out for myself.

I went on welfare, worked some stuff out with my mom and I was moving into her trailer. (Where she was not living because she was off chasing her boyfriend in Calgary. He was there to avoid a warrant for his arrest in BC for choking out my mom.) It was a temporary plan until I could find a job and a place of my own and get myself sorted out. It was going to work… But then my son’s dad said he wanted to visit his son for his birthday. I was trying with him to get him to visit and see his son and have a relationship, but he would just fight with me. So I was happy that he wanted to see his son. I happily agreed to meet him at a restaurant so we could celebrate the birthday together. I took my son there. He hadn’t seen his dad in four months. When I got there, he put a court order on the table and left with him. My son didn’t know his father and I had no choice. I had to let my ex take him.

This was the day that I had nothing. No money. No child, No real place to live. No family to help me. I was nothing to nobody.

I picked myself up and went back to Calgary for trial. I lost custody of my boy to my ex and his parents. I had supervised visits with him. Just until trial. My legal aid lawyer didn’t want to help me because he thought I was what my ex said I was; a bad person. A person who couldn’t amount to much or keep my son safe because my mother was an alcoholic. A person who kidnapped my son. I had it documented. My ex knew for six weeks before I left that I was leaving. I had even offered to go back to Calgary at one point to try to work out custody. My lawyer wouldn’t look at my emails. My ex? He just fought with me. He likes to fight. And I lost because I just wanted to get along. Because I had no money to fight with. Because I had no family to back me. Because I was, I guess you could call it, poor.

I was poor, but not in spirit. I didn’t have anything, but I picked myself up and found a way.

I didn’t fight with my ex. I didn’t argue or even talk to my lawyer. I had three months until trial. I, by grace, had a cousin from my dad’s side of the family living in Calgary. I stayed with her. I got a job one week later and in three months I found a place to live in the neighbourhood next to my ex and I took what no judge would ever take away from a mother. Joint custody of my son. I was still poor. I was still angry with my mother, but every day since then I have worked exceptionally hard to be rich in spirit.

Many things have happened since then. I have less custody of my son. I only see him every second weekend. Not because I couldn’t have him more, but because I choose to not fight with his dad. I have a husband. He is the cousin of those really great friends that I wouldn’t live with, out of pride. Now they are my family and I have a beautiful little girl who is happy and FULL of life. I went from an illegal basement suite, to a lower suite in Calgary to a beautiful duplex in High River in three years. I went from single with no family to married with a whole world of people to love. My own family is still in the background and I love them from afar and I wish for their happiness every day.

The moral of this story is that circumstance does not determine your quality of life. You do. If you can be rich in spirit. Find the small graces in life and know that they are God’s gift to you. If you can smile and sing songs to your little boy while you’re taking him to daycare an hour and a half before you go to work on the bus because you don’t have a car, then you will never know poor.

I will forever love and be grateful for those times when life was hard because when life is easy, it is so incredibly easy to feel rich without a penny in my pocket.

May this post be a little piece of light in a place of darkness for others. Be open and love the world and eventually you will reap the rewards of your own spirit.

Namaste.

Wake me up! Sign Me Up!

NEWSNIGHT: Paxman vs Brand – Interview

Just recently, I came across this interview posted on Facebook and I have to say that I am now an even bigger fan of Russell Brand! I have never been into politics and this interview brings some serious light as to the reason why. I have never voted myself and very much have to agree that it is because I feel very much as if the political system is failing. I don’t think that any candidate out there is big enough all by themselves to change the system, so how does voting help? If I vote, then that is me just buying into something I don’t believe is working. It supports the system that is failing. Gives power to the political bureaucracy not the politician I’m voting for.

Okay… So now that I’ve very passionately had my mini political rant, I’m going to do my best to take a step back, breathe and attempt to tie this into my last post. Spirituality, it’s really about becoming conscious, about waking up. It’s not about believing in anything… It’s about opening our eyes and seeing the world for what it really is. It’s about recognizing all the ways in which we are conditioned to think. Conditioned to believe that the political systems, the economic systems, the law, the way we educate our children, every last way in which we think is the way the world really is. The way the world is supposed to be. But it isn’t. We are imprisoned in our own thought bubbles. Imprisoned in conditioning by our culture and our past. Right down to the way in which we interact with the people we know and love the most. We separate ourselves. We build walls. We lie to ourselves. We perpetuate systems that don’t work. Out of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of losing ourselves, dying, becoming unified with one another and the world. Fear of integration and not being who we think we are any more. Not being who we think we are? We don’t even know who we really are. We certainly aren’t who we vote for or what our beliefs are!

This event that Russell Brand is talking about, this revolution, isn’t an external one. It really isn’t even a revolution as much as an evolution. It’s not people looking outwards and saying that they know how the world should be rearranged to be better. There is no need to rearrange anything outside of ourselves. It’s about people looking inside of themselves and finally recognizing reality, that the world is much different than we think it is. It’s waking up. Eckhart Tolle says “As within, so without: If humans clear inner pollution, then they will also cease to create outer pollution.” We are beginning to recognize our own inner pollution. People are transforming themselves inside and that shift is revolutionizing the planet.

They are right, both Eckhart and Russell, when they say that there is a revolution happening. I know. I can feel it in the shift inside myself. This desire to recognize that I need to BE different. To love people instead of trying to be superior to them. To be connected instead of separate. To share and to give of myself instead of expecting the world to be as I expect it to be. To not have expectations of others to agree with me and be what I want them to be. To take care of the planet and humanity. To recognize when enough is enough. To be okay with not knowing. To bring about radical change in my own thinking. To break down walls. To shatter the illusion. To really love and to really live.

Revolution… Every day… I’m signing up.

Changing Myself

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
~Rumi

Recently, I have revisited this idea or concept in discussions with my husband and felt that this would be a great post. Last year around Christmas time I sent out a family newsletter to our friends and family. In this newsletter I touched on the topic of pointing the finger inward rather than outward. At that time I found it interesting that there are so many people on the internet sharing quotes and great ideas, but even with such wise words everywhere there is still little change in the world. Why is this? Because people want to change the world. They point outward and seem to have all of these great ideas about how they can rearrange the circumstances of life to make it better. Not that I think that isn’t a noble goal, but is it working? Have we examined ourselves enough to know what is best for the world?

To know yourself is to align yourself with life. Or even deeper yet, to know yourself is to BE life. If you are life, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that you would be in reverence of ALL life? Even if it is seemingly bad or wrong, does it make sense to destroy it? Life is not destructive. It cannot be destructive. How can life be anti life? Why would life want to destroy itself? In this way, it makes sense to love or to see yourself in another.

If the majority of people are too busy rearranging the circumstances of the outer world, to find out the answers to these questions, then how can they think that they know what is best for the world? So it is in this that I would like to stop looking outward for answers and search within for the truest and most loving part of myself by stripping away all of the things that make me think that I have any answers that will ever truly change the world. I truly believe that when I find that place, I will not have to change the world, because it will be perfect, just as it is.

Namaste.

On Humanity

“We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies – it is the first law of nature.” ~Voltaire

In my last post, I used the word humanity and would like to elaborate on this topic. I at one point in time aspired to perfection as an ideal for myself and now I laugh hysterically at the thought. Through all my learning about the great mysteries of life, I have come to know that only the formless knows perfection. In form, we are human and we are a beautiful mess. Diverse, multicultural, varied and forever changing.

Now just for your information, I am a nobody. I’m just human like everyone else. I know that I’m not important and I am not in any way looking to sound like an expert on any of these matters.  I have done very little doing in my lifetime. I have no great career, I have dropped out of university, I have spent too many days of my life consuming alcohol, drugs, and any other number of things to fill the void. I could probably blame my life circumstance for that. It is a fact that I never had growing up easy, but it is also a fact that growing up hard has made my life worth living. Accepting that I’m a nobody gives me the pleasure of peace and joy in life. As well as the wisdom to know that life is forever changing and I can embrace it, rather than fight against it.

Throughout my growing up years, I had some seriously dark days and at one point, I would’ve told people that they couldn’t understand the things I’ve been through, that they would be unable to comprehend my suffering. Through those times I learned to allow myself to be weak, angry and sad. I also came to recognize that I was the only one responsible for my own inner state of being. Life has thrown it’s shit at me and I have smelled it, tasted it, felt it squish between my fingers and I have washed it off and moved forward. Sometimes it was as if I was just trying to keep my head above water, but I persevered and I kept looking for the answers that would bring me to peace.

I have since stopped being angry and sad for the most part, and as I begin to wake up and shed my own suffering, I have begun to recognize that many others are not unlike how I used to be. What I see now makes me weary… I am the incredibly lucky one. I have allowed my sadness and my anger and my weakness to bring me to peace. Others are still angry and sad and they do not recognize that it isn’t the countless others or the circumstance of their lives that drives them to this place. It is themselves, it is not taking personal responsibility for their own inner state. It’s not reaching out to the ones they love. It’s striving for perfection and not accepting their own humanity. It’s in an unwillingness to embrace change or let go.

Please, do not get me wrong, I do not blame them and I do not see anything in them that has not been in myself. I see humanity… I see suffering… I see the mess… I also see that there is another way. A way to embrace humanity, a way to embrace the circumstances of your life, a way to peace. It is the way into suffering. It is in vulnerability. It is in weakness. And most of all it is in love.

It is in my own humanity that I can look at others and know that they fear weakness and vulnerability. It is in my own humanity that I see people struggling for perfection rather than acceptance of what is. And it is in my own humanity that I have been able to recognize another in myself.

Let yourself be weak, and you will find a surprising source of strength within. Let yourself be alone and you will find yourself surrounded by people. Let yourself be human and you will find true love.

Namaste

A Single Step

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” ~Lao Tzu

I wanted to start a blog as a place where I could go and share my life journey with anyone who may feel so inclined to be interested. Funny, because I don’t necessarily feel as if I have anything important to say, like Lao Tzu or Eckhart Tolle, but life for me has been an incredible journey. I thought that maybe sharing my insights, hardships and realizations in a place where someone is bound to stumble upon them at some point, see the humanity in my words and maybe even have it resonate with their own humanity would be worth every single step. So here goes nothing…