Tuesday, April 09, 2013

I'm thinking about poverty this afternoon. I recognize that many in society think it is a choice, a laziness, a lack of ambition etc. I've spent most, well, all of my adult life in poverty. I currently receive a social security check for 838.00, which Repubicans want to cut. In any case, it's not the politics of the matter, but the realization that I've lived most of my life in abject poverty that has me thinking. And interestingly enough, this is not a complaint about it, but it's rather a celebration of the fact that I have that lovely gift-- time. Now, I am at ease with it because I am no longer struggling to juggle 6 plus classes a semester with no health benefits. Adjunct hell, I'll call that. Now, I have time to write, time to heal, and these are huge blessings which make up for the low income, but the low income means I can't afford things like AWP, sending out to too many contests etc. A low income means living within one's means very carefully.  Sometimes, I think there is such a thing as destiny, or more so a place where the universe wants us, a place where we are meant to learn and grow. A friend thinks any concept like this or belief in God is silly, but for me, things seem to fall in place when you accept what the universe is giving.

I am going to advocate for mental health rights in the state of Colorado. After the tragic shootings in an Aurora movie theater, people who have a mental illness, are at risk of losing rights. The stigma which says most people with mental illness are violent is simply incorrect. There is so much stigma surrounding mental illness, I feel the universe is guiding me towards trying to tell my story in order to help others, who in many circumstances, are unable to speak for themselves. It's the one thing I can do. I can write letters to legislators and possibly speak at events. It's something which seems to be calling me, as I keep being asked to attend such events, to strive to support mental wellness in the state of Colorado.

My SECOND collection of poetry, in part, deals with trauma, both personal and cultural, and how one seeks and works for recovery. This concept of recovery has come into my life as well through various groups, invitations, therapy and organizations in Colorado. Recovery is all about healing and becoming whole and compassionate towards yourself. When one is broken by trauma, one can only recover and grow as best she can. A metaphor for trauma is a tree sapling that has been damaged, possibly almost broken, and then, despite the trauma, continues to grow. The direction of the growth may be haphazard and even appear abnormal. For example a sapling with a broken branch may find that very branch crawling along the ground, before gaining the strength to grow upward. It looks different.

Poverty in a sense, may be a symptom of having been ill and untreated, but when we are in flow with our purpose in the universe, we are essentially floating with the current rather than swimming and taking in water against the current, we are blessed. This is something I truly believe. We let go of that ambition that is unhealthy for us, we are drawn to the things that bring us to a place of compassion for ourselves and others. Poverty is really not such a terrible thing if it allows you time and peace, yet for many years I struggled against poverty in an unhealthy way. My worst time was working for the Seven-Eleven on the corner of Ralston and Wadsworth in Arvada, CO after I had taught at CU Boulder. I have a poem about it in my new collection SEVEN. I was devastated and believed myself to be a failure. Our society deems success to be in what we "do" rather than who we "are." I still think my suffering in part was due to my going against the grain of where the universe wanted me to be. I wanted to teach and that drove me to remain in a field which is not where I belonged.

Part of being ill, is being willing to ask for help, to accept health, which is also frowned upon by our capitalistic-marketing-ownership-for-profit society. I am not equating poverty with being ill, but in my own case, illness is tied to ambition, career and "success."

This is not to say that people who are poor aren't doing what they are supposed to be doing, but it's more about an inner struggle to find peace where we are at. Also, as I write, I am working things out in my own head, but being a failure may just be the best thing that has ever happened to me (in terms of having a "career"). It's difficult because now when people ask me what I do, I may say something like "write" or "I'm taking time of from teaching to write" and so forth. This seems to unnerve some people in that I am not "doing something for money"--because money is what career is essentially about in our society. Going further I would say that money is what our society has become to be about. Who has it and who doesn't have it, but letting go of that desire for financial success can be such a relief it is unbelievable. I am blessed that I've been able to almost let go of these societal norms about making money. Poor but blessed.

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