Saturday, October 31, 2015

My (humbling) experience with gofundme (so far)

Once again, it's been over a year since I've blogged.  It's interesting to me the things that inspire me to blog, and the many things that don't.

I'd heard about gofundme, have read some of the stories that people have put there, asking for help, and while I've felt sorrow and compassion for the tragedies in those people's lives, I was thankful that, by comparison, mine is a relatively worry-free life.

These last two years have been the most challenging in my life.  Divorced after 23 years of marriage.  Two of my three children struggling to find their way, one an Asperger's kid who, god love him, lives in his own unique world, with all the troubles that brings.  The other, my youngest, and of my three, the one dearest to my heart, struggling with years of self-harm, a cutter, who's gotten progressively worse, not better.  The financial and emotional blow of being divorced...  Finally, this year, after years of ignoring my own health, having to have two significant surgeries to set myself on a path to reclaiming a healthy body.  And my oldest, strong and centered as she is, struggling with her own insecurities, her own feelings of loss and inadequacy, and suffering mostly in silence, at least not sharing her struggles with me, or looking to me for support.  Still, more often than not, I've found myself counting my blessings...however bleak things might seem to be for me, there are many others who suffer so much more than I.

This time has not been devoid of brightness.  Last year, I met a wonderful woman, with whom I now live, who loves me in a way I'm unaccustomed to being loved.  Despite all of my challenges, all of my failings, she loves me for who I am, not for what I can do for her.  When the time came for my surgeries, she helped and supported me completely, in spite of having lost her mother to cancer just a couple of weeks before my first surgery.  I've lived with her since April, and together we've made a home that is full of love, even as it has its own burdens and challenges.  Her older son has just finished the second week of what will be a fairly longterm inpatient rehabilitation program for drugs and alcohol.  My youngest has just finished her second week in an inpatient treatment facility for kids who self-harm.  Two of the most difficult things either of us has ever dealt with, and yet we both rejoice that our children are finally receiving the help they need to return to health.

The blow that pushed me over the edge was learning that an investment that I was hoping...depending pull me out of financial ruin to some sort of equilibrium, and to pay for my surgeries, collapsed.  And so, having just seen another gofundme story, I wondered whether that path might help me pull myself up again.

One thing that is true about me, for better, and sometimes for worse, is that I never ask for help.  I've always tried to be self-reliant, always, even in adversity, maintained an optimism that, as my best friend from childhood used to tell me, all bad things come to an end.  This, too, would pass.  Even though in many ways I was at a particularly low point in my life, perhaps the lowest, if I continued putting one foot in front of the other, continued to keep my head down and work harder, I would find a way to muddle through and come out the other side.  It's what I do.

So, I don't know how I finally reached a breaking point, a place where I realized I couldn't move forward without asking for help.  And so I launched a gofundme campaign.  I have to tell you, it is a most humbling experience to admit that you can't do it alone, that you need help, and most importantly, to actually ask for help, from those who know you, who've been in your life at one point or another, who have no idea what your life has come to.  It's humbling (humiliating?) to admit how far you've fallen, and to ask people for support and help.

The response from my friends has been overwhelming.  From old high school buddies, some of whom I haven't seen in close to 40 years, from colleagues with whom I worked years ago, even from some who don't know me, but know people who know 24 hours, they have opened their hearts and their wallets to offer their support.  It's not only the money, which is significant enough, but the outpouring of messages of encouragement, of love, of concern.  I've used the word "humbling" a couple of times now, but I can't think of a better one.  I've been their love, and by the lesson that, in spite of living in a world that often feels devoid of concern for others, there are people who truly are concerned, and who are ready and willing to act on that concern.  In addition to the personal experience of being on the receiving end of their generosity, of spirit and of finances, I've realized that, too often, I stop short of acting on my own concern, of going the extra mile to share what I have with others less fortunate.  That will change now.

I'm reminded of a line in As Good As It Gets where Helen Hunt's character tells Jack Nicholson's character to say something nice to her, right now, and he says "You make me want to be a better man."  When all is said and done, my experience has made me want to be a better man.

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