Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What’s in a Number?

Have you ever had one of those days when you’re the happiest you can be and the most afraid you can be all at the same time? Today was one of those days for me.

It started out great. Kensie woke up happy; we had a great morning just hanging out; we went and met two of my best friends and their kids at the pool; we swam for hours; Kensie happily played with the other kids. I thought to myself, “This is the life! Maybe this unemployment thing won’t be so bad!” My two girlfriends are stay-at-home moms, and I’ve always thought how lucky they are to have that kind of stability in their lives. I still think that, especially after today. Unfortunately, the entire day, I was hyperaware of the fact that their lives were not in my future—not right now. Then I got home, and that reality really struck hard.

A letter came in the mail from the great state of Alabama. I knew it wouldn’t be good, but I didn’t realize how bad it could be. I mean, I’ve got a kid to support; I was sure they’d take that into consideration! I don’t get child support; surely that will make a difference! I have to pay for COBRA health insurance; they know how expensive that is! Diapers, wipes, baby clothes, organic food, car payment, health insurance, gas, daycare. Oh how na├»ve I can be.

After the initial shock of a number—$255 per week—I began to realize that I had so much for which to be grateful. I don’t have to worry about losing my home or not being able to feed and clothe my daughter or my car being repossessed or not being able to afford gas to get to job interviews. So I can’t buy myself or my daughter everything I’d like to whenever I’d like to. So I can’t go out and buy $12 glasses of wine with friends right now. So traveling might be out for awhile. What I quickly began to think about were all of the people out there who are not as privileged as me—the ones who live in their cars and in tent communities; the people who lived their lives straight and thought they were doing the very best for their families only to lose everything; the families who are split apart because they can’t afford to stay together. Those are the people who really need help.

Me, I’ll take my $255 and make the best of it because I am lucky enough to be able to do that. I’m sure I’ll be working soon (probably sooner than I’d like), and I know how precious this time with my daughter is. Whatever the future may hold, right now, you can find Kensie and me at the pool!