Drowning in Reality
So, we were robbed again.
Almost one year to the day our car was broken into and all of our luggage and bags were stolen, it happened again and it hit me really hard. We took a family bike ride. One of the first opportunities I’ve had to really participate in something physical in a while and it was wonderful. A full two hours of talking and riding together. My boys off roading while granny here tooted along with her oxygen watching their adventures to the rhythmic puff of my O2. When we finally arrived back at the car it was to the talk of ice cream and watching the second Harry Potter since we’d finished reading the book the night before.
As we came up on the car, getting off our bikes in the open dirt parking lot, I was struck with the fact that it appeared to be unlocked. Our car locks itself using an outside keypad but, since it has a history of acting up, I’d insisted Sean bring his set of keys lest we get locked out after our ride. The car being unlocked made no sense. We’d definitely locked it. We’d done a whole song and dance around locking it. Sean told me it was probably because he’d been close to the car when I’d tried to open it but it seemed weird to me.
After Sean put the bikes on the rack – Loch and I passing the time racing each other (something I can’t do more than twice without gasping for breath but attempted anyway because I hate feeling like the “lazy” parent who doesn’t do anything fun) – we piled into the car to continue our lovely day. It was at that point I reached for my purse, the one I’d hidden in the back under the passenger seat like I always do. Out of site, out of mind and all that. When I couldn’t reach it I told Sean to stop the car and I hopped out to open the back door and grab it. When it wasn’t there I looked across under the driver’s seat thinking I must have just put it there by mistake and that’s when the panic set in. The next few moments consisted of the three of us tearing the car apart, hoping against hope I’d randomly put it somewhere different but really knowing, all along, it was gone.
The five minutes following were a Master Class in futility. We may as well have laid on the ground and had a tantrum. We ran around looking in random cars as if our stolen items would just be sitting on someone else’s seat. We frantically asked strangers if they’d seen anything. Sean even asked a guy to open his trunk. We called the restaurant we’d been to earlier in hopes I’d just lost my mind and left it there and, I made the incredibly classy move of screaming at a mostly empty parking lot, that “whoever took my purse is a TOTAL A*^H#@)!”
After the breakdown we got down to it and started making calls. The first officer I spoke to couldn’t have been less interested and decided our conversation was an appropriate time to correct my semantics. “If you weren’t there Ma’am it wasn’t a robbery, it was a theft.” Here’s the thing. I actually know that. I know that from the LAST TIME our things were stolen! I understand I wasn’t held up by gunpoint but, come on, you can’t used the word “theft” as a verb and, quite frankly, after you’ve had your ID, credit cards, bank cards, smart phone, car keys, house keys, alarm fob, sunglasses, makeup, and medicine (among many other things – the purse itself for instance) taken, correcting my choice of verbiage was not particularly helpful. What he did recommend was that the police report could be filled out in a “timely manner” but that calling the banks and credit card companies should be done right away.
The first card I called to cancel already had a charge on it. 4 minutes prior someone had purchased $43.88 of gas at a station not 5 minutes away. Hearing this Sean turned into Liam Neison in Taken 7. He tore over to the station (promising not to get us in an accident) while I stayed on the phone with the bank reversing the purchase and canceling my other 3 cards. We pulled into the Chevron Dukes of Hazard style and Sean jumped out and started looking into all the cars. He then went inside to discover the thieves had just left. Turns out they were able to use our card (without the pin) because they had our zip code (from my ID) and that’s all gas stations require to confirm who you are. The most we got out of it was the pump number and based on the time and amount spent we can have the manager check the surveillance (when she’s working) to see if the cameras recorded a license plate or perpetrators on video.
As we drove from the service station to the police station it dawned on us that, not only did the thieves have my purse and wallet, they also had our home address with our house and car keys. Holy *&^%! They could be there right now cleaning it out! They could be driving away in Sean’s car! We couldn’t fill out a police report!! We had to get home!!! We peeled away from the police station the backup camera screaming. We couldn’t even be sure the ‘secure alarm’ report on Sean’s phone was accurate because my keys also included the alarm fob so all our potential house gutters had to do was press the button and safely turn it off. Bah!!!!!!
Over the next 4 hours we had every lock in our house changed ($250), set up an appointment with the alarm company to reset our codes for the missing fob ($277.70). Drove to the Ford dealership to reprogram Sean’s key and have my key replaced ($350), made an appointment to have Sean’s car keys reprogrammed and all the locks changed ($1600), talked to AT&T about what do do about the phone I’d had for less than 2 weeks but now needed to be completely replaced ($899) along with apple care ($100), attempted to navigate the DMV website for a replacement license (first available appointment: 3 months) and talked on the phone to our insurance company who were less than pleased that we were making yet another claim so soon after our last one. Oh, and Sean went back and filed the police report.
Having things stolen from you is a violation you’re never quite prepared for. If you’re someone who would never do such a thing, it hits you like a ton of bricks. You can’t wrap your head around it. How does someone just take something that isn’t theirs? How can you screw someone over like that? How do you carry that purse or wallet or wear those sunglasses? What goes through your mind when you find all those medications or a blood oximeter? Do you feel bad or do you just not care? This isn’t a Robin Hood situation. We weren’t ^%#@*s to someone and got what we deserved. There’s nothing noble or understandable about this. It’s just awful and, according to the police officer we did file the report with (a very nice man eating his sad squished PB&J out of the lunchbox he, obviously, brought from home to save money himself) this is something that happens ALL THE TIME.
I get it, people are struggling. The rich get richer and the rest of us are drowning. I understand it because I feel it. The cop eating his broken chips out of a Ziploc feels it. The manager of the service station who won’t be in for 2 days feels it. My family, with all our hours and hours of work and very little to show for it feels it. Something is wrong with our society and things are reaching a tipping point. I just read a great article in Elle about the hyper educated poor. About academics who are subsisting on food stamps despite the fact they have a PhD and jobs at universities. People are hurting and something has to give.
The thing is, our family’s has been running on fumes for long time and we’ve told ourselves time and again our hardships are almost over, that things are finally going to change. That we couldn’t work this hard for this long just to fail at the 10 yard line. As Linda Tirado, whose blog on her minimum-wage existence catapulted her into the national spotlight last year, wrote in her new book, Hand to Mouth: “Being poor while working hard is fucking crushing.”* Sean and I always figured you don’t swim 500 miles just to die a mile from shore. Yes, things were hard. Sure we’d been dealt some seriously tough cards but, it was all leading to something good right? The struggle, for all it’s pain, was there to make us stronger and better so when our ship finally did come in it would be that much more worth it… right? Darkest before the dawn? But yesterday, having those people just TAKE from us was too much for my little soul to handle.
When I’d finally dealt with all the logistics I could, I completely shut down. I internalized. I felt like someone flushed the toilet and my life was just going down the drain. What, really, was the point of fighting? We’d been doing it for so long. Maybe I was done. Look, we’re artists. We live an artist’s existence. That means 4 to 5 jobs between us, lean months that overshadow the fat, working till all hours of the night and waiting, waiting, waiting for our break to finally come. Compound that with the financial and emotional strain of being chronically and, technically, terminally ill while trying to raise our child in today’s “bigger is better” world and we’re at the end of our rope on a daily basis. Everything is strained. Our bank account, our marriage, our patience, our tolerance. I understand what drives people to steal. I just don’t understand how they do it.
After Loch had gone to bed I asked Sean if he thought we were cursed. He looked at me like I was crazy but I was really asking. Every day I get up and try and make it work. I push the fear and worry and realities aside and put on my positive face. I interact with the world. I try to help other people. I do my best to be a supportive wife and good mother. I wrote a book. I do this blog. I raise my child. I run the school’s fundraiser. I’m involved. I’m committed. I’m living every day the best I can but yesterday, yesterday, I just shut down. My fight left me. My positive mantras failed. I felt done and broken. I felt as if it was just one too many things. It felt like the straw.
I went to bed a zombie. Maybe the world had just become too shitty. Maybe we really were just going to drive our country to disaster or civil war or world annihilation. Maybe things wouldn’t work out. Maybe God really did hate me. How else do I explain all the bad luck? My conscious mind was aware of how many blessings I have. How many good things surround me but, it had been a heck of a week. A heck of a year. A heck of a decade and I was spent. I wondered aloud, to Sean’s horror I’m sure, if all the struggle and bad luck and pain and effort was all for nothing. Maybe it wasn’t going to work out. Maybe our lives were just f*^#ed and I should just accept it.
I woke up in the morning and lay there listening. Sean and Loch were getting ready for school (something I normally spearhead) and though I was grateful to Sean for being kind and letting me rest, it also made me feel numb, as if I had no purpose. I considered going back to sleep and pretending my life wasn’t happening but, despite the draw, the reality of checking out doesn’t really suit me. Real life, even with all it’s struggles, isn’t like that. It doesn’t matter how sh^%#y it gets, it goes on and it’s your choice to either deal or die. I didn’t fight my disease this hard just to roll because my purse was stolen. I considered the alternative. I just decided not to choose it.
I may be infuriated with the expectant, entitled behavior of people who have no real struggles yet continue to complain. I may be inspired to punch the newsstands at the “issues” of the rich and famous. I might scream at my computer bitterly when I read about corporations getting tax refunds while the rest of us drown in reality. I may be livid with the illegal behavior of someone who chooses to break into my car and steal my life but I can’t give up. What’s the point of that?
My Dad told me how proud he was of how I’d “handled” the situation and I burst into tears. I felt like an imposter just like I do when people tell me I’m “brave” to deal with my disease. I don’t deserve the praise. Half the time I feel like I’m barely holding it together. But, I also resent having to live up to that kind of compliment. I didn’t handle it well. I snapped at my child and yelled at my husband. I allowed myself to feel dead inside and I’d teetered on the verge of throwing in the towel. I may not have cried. Perhaps I didn’t wallow in a “this is so unfair, why me” blah blah, but I’d thought terrible things. I’d shut down. I’d considered giving up. Every day is a struggle for us and this particular situation combined with everything else that’s currently on our plates just pushed me over the edge. I needed to have those feelings in order to move past them and being complimented for not having them felt grossly unfair. Compliment me for not wallowing, for moving on the next day, for getting on with it but don’t praise me for breezing past them, because I didn’t nor, should I have been expected to.
Ultimately I’ll leave this post and move on. I’ll get new cards and new ID. I’ll replace my credit cards and change my online information. I’ll get a new bag, and new keys, and new codes. I’ll do all I need to in order to reset my life but, I felt the way I did yesterday for a reason. Having your purse stolen sucks but, it shouldn’t break you unless your life is already on the verge. I need to find a way to get my life to a place where terrible, frustrating, inconvenient things can happen and not be devastating.
Terrible, yes. Soul crushing, no.
The fight goes on. I’ll keep you posted.
* Elle magazine, December 2104 “School of Hard Knocks”.