I have a fear of being without resources; particularly without financial resources. No, it’s not just a fear. I think it actually falls more into the category of absolute abject terror.
I was a sensitive child. When I was growing up, we didn’t have much money. Until I was 9 years old, my family of 4 occupied an 8 ft. x 24 ft. prefab trailer that had a couple of small rooms added, built on by my father around the time I turned 6 or 7. Those rooms didn’t have finished windows (no sills or trim), nor were there any baseboards, pictures, or fancy decorations. And tar paper covered the outer walls to protect thin, bare wood walls from the weather. We had one couch to sit on and it was a little couch that was moved from the trailer into the new lean-to living area. There was one small table that held our old black and white TV. We made do with very little, my father supplementing our meager grocery budget with the dove, rabbits, quail, squirrels and bass or trout he shot or caught.
I’m not sure why we were so poor. My father was a teacher, and while teachers don’t make great amounts of money, I was always mystified at our continual lack, even back then. My mother also worked as a commercial artist until I was 15 years old. With both of them working, even though they weren’t working in high paying fields, I would have thought we would have had more to live on.
My clothes were homemade, if I was very fortunate. More often, they were hand-me-downs from my aunt (who was 20 years my senior) or purchased at the Goodwill store. And back then, Goodwill didn’t offer much. There were no music lessons or other activities that cost money. If we did it, it had to be free. My grandparents had a large garden and we ate lots of fruits and vegetables that they grew. Our trailer was on a concrete pad on the back part of their property, so one would think our modest living arrangement would have allowed us to make ends meet. Yet, I still remember the financial crisis we faced each month, without fail.
“We aren’t going to make it.”
This was my father’s standard frantic declaration at around the midpoint of the month. And it sent shards of ice and terror through my heart.
Honestly, I didn’t understand what “not making it” entailed. I was too young to grasp the full implications. I just knew it was something akin to the world ending in a massive catastrophe during which all of us would surely die a horrible death…or worse. It meant no food, no shelter, no warmth, the end of life as we know it, and having no way to survive.
Discussion would ensue. What could we do to stretch what remained in their bank account to get us through until the end of the month? Inevitably, my father would announce that he would sell his shotgun. The shotgun that he used to hunt. To provide food. A shotgun he had sacrificed to buy in the first place, for which he professed great love, but that he would forfeit…for us…because it was the only thing standing between us and horrific disaster.
I was only 4 or 5 when I first became aware of this monthly crisis. I would have nightmares night after night as a result of our frightening dilemma. I didn’t want my father to have to sell his gun, but neither did I want us to “not make it.” And since there was nothing I could do to contribute, other than to perhaps not eat, my fear would grow with each passing day as I dreaded reaching the end of all things as I had come to know them.
And then, suddenly, miraculously, we survived. We made it through another month.
Though we would somehow manage to make it, I never felt secure. And it was very confusing when my father would come home after some of these monthly calamities with a new, better, more expensive shotgun. A shiny and lovely gun that he had managed to buy after trading in the old model. The old model he never had to sell.
Is it any wonder I am terrified of financial lack? Or that I have an underlying sense that disaster is always waiting for me just around the corner?
If I don’t have a few thousand dollars in my bank account, I start feeling very uncomfortable. When I get below the thousand dollar mark, I begin to panic.
I haven’t been in the safe range for a very long time. Haven’t even been in the panic range. I’m so low on resources, terror is my constant companion. I live paycheck to paycheck and there are many times I don’t think I’m going to make it. For real.
I don’t have a shotgun to sell. Everything I can sell has been sold, other than the jewelry I made when trying to start a side business. Before my current crisis, I made occasional sales and those sales provided a small, but nice bonus. Yet for some reason, no one wants to buy anything now that I really need the money.
Besides being systematically deconstructed by the continual abuse I suffered while in the “care” of my parents, I learned that a person could never count on anything or trust in anyone. I learned needs probably wouldn’t be met. That love was painful, cruel and selfish. That security was a fairy tale. That life would throw disaster after disaster into your lap and…you just might not make it.
I’ve been trying. I’ve been trying to make it my entire life. But I’m not certain what I’ve accomplished could be called anything close to success.
I’m still not sure I’m going to make it.