It is 3:30 in the morning, and suddenly I am wide awake. Questions after questions quickly rush into my mind without any welcoming arrangements. It is another day. What am I supposed to do with my life? How can I make it better, just a bit better, for me and my three kids? Where do I go from here? How do I get there? What will happen to us?
I am 47 years old. I have little education. I have no career. I have not worked for over 20 years. My only experience is being a full time mother and a homemaker, but this doesn’t count in the real world. Now, I am at cross roads and have no idea what direction to take, where I should be or where I am at.
I am old. I am Asian. Moreover, I am handicapped. My physical limitation determines the outcome of my life. All these factors might be small to very few people if they knew me, but to a potential employer, it brings a significant different result. I have no alligator tears. I am not crying wolf. I experienced it through the ways people dismissed my being. My name, the wobble way I walk, and my accent, are the major causes for rejections.
It is the daily unpleasant thoughts that wake me up. My body is still tired. My mind is still full of yesterday worries, doubts, and agonies. I want so much to have a decent night of uninterrupted sleep. I want so much to rest a full eight hours. Maybe six! Not four or five hours of sleep a night! Waking up early and not being able to sleep has brought no solution, or answer. It only wears me down on the weight scale.
I listen to the sound of birds chirping from a distant, the gentle breathing of my baby boy, and the quietness of the house where everyone is still in slumber land. It is peaceful. It is a new day.
I go down stair and start my boring morning ritual: making coffee, turning on my computer, and going outside to smoke. I stand in the door way looking at my shaky hands, feeling the pain of my arms, wrists, and fingers. My shoulders stiff. My knees tremble. My back endures a subtle and nagging ache that will not go away.
The morning chill brushes over my skin. I realize that I am getting old, and still have not yet make my mark on this earth, or what I want to be. What is my purpose? What plan does God have for me? How can I make ends meet? What is my future looks like? These questions and thousand other questions devour me to the core of my being. I am too old to begin a career. I am too old to start over. At this age, people think about retirement, where to build their second home, and where to vacation. I am, on the other hand, dead on track of a single, handicapped mother of three.
I only have an Associate degree. I have no job. I have no money to even get us by for next week. My bank account carries a balance of eight whole dollars. My bills stack. My refrigerator is empty. The inside and outside my home is falling apart. Money is such a rare and precious commodity. No matter how much I try to cut down, I still do not have enough to make it through the week.
My oldest boy wears a pair of shoes with hole on the bottom for months now. His feet are soaking wet when it snows and rains. My little boy’s pants are way above his ankles. And my daughter gets yelled at for asking to have three dollars for lunch. Those three dollars, sound like 300 dollars in my ears. My credit cards are in the 20 thousand dollars debt, carrying 80 percent from the previous life, the married life.
Who could believe that for a jobless person to carry such an amount? I charge everything to get us by, from grocery, to clothes, to shoes, to school supplies, to gasoline, to over the counter medicines. They are not fancy or extravagant, but necessary things, the very basic needs that dictate our existence.
I live through many criticizing agonies, and I weep many days and nights trying to justify my own actions. There is not a space left in my mental capacity that did not get beaten.
I spend every morning going through this torment, self-doubt, wishes, praying, trying to think of a way to get out of this dark hole, and wondering what is like to live with a few extra dollars left in the bank.
My coffee is bitter. My smoke is burning in my throat. My worries weight me down. Days after days, weeks after weeks, months follow months, I survive in limbo. I go through the motion of a human being without any idea how I manage to keep us alive.
My oldest boy witnesses how I save a portion of my food for the other two kids so that they can be filled. “Mama, you eat! I know what you are doing,” he warns. He was 17 when I got divorced. The same age as I was when I became a refugee from Vietnam. I feel his confusion, and turmoil as each day goes by. My self-worth is in question. My belief is in doubt. My values and standards are nowhere to be found. Everything is a puzzle. Worries do not bring peace. Tears do not wash away the ache and pain in my heart or soul.
I wanted the divorce, but it doesn’t matter at all who wanted the divorce. The aftermath of it still has an enormous impact in our lives, at least for me and my children. I am afraid of the nights. I fear the mornings. Nothing is making any sense to me or my morality.
Rain or shine, my thoughts are always faithful to the questions that I have no answer. My emotional and mental are in the stage of no mercy. I am trapped in the invisible walls that build around me. Constant worry and constant thought of what to do leave me paralyzed for days. I am numbed. I am blind. I am deaf. I am alive but not living. I am in a trance, and I am a zombie.
By 7:30, my oldest boy has to be in school. By 7:45, my daughter has to be drop off for school. Every morning, I wrap up my baby boy, still asleep, put him in the car, and we take the two older kids to their destinations. Then, I spend hours going through the pantry to see what is left and what ingredients to make for supper. What can I put together that consisted as a healthy meal? What to do to feed my kids until the child support check comes? How can I stretch until the beginning of the month when the disability money is deposited in the bank? If I could manage another day feeding my kids, I feel as though I have just conquered Mt. Everest. I feel invincible. I feel worthy of my children’s life.
The morning is usually going by in a blur, with thousand thoughts in my mind passing like lightening. I feel the actual weight of life on my shoulders. It drags and pulls me down like a sinker. Sometimes, mustering up enough spirit to carry on another day is extremely difficult, or remaining focus on having a happy face takes all that I have to give.
Feelings of bitterness, anger, failure, frustration, uncertain, and lost are at their best feast inside me. I welcome the morning as much as I fear of what it will bring. I welcome the night for I desperately needed to put the internal war in my mind to rest.
Occasionally, I made sure to pull the covers on the children’s body. I walk up and down stair checking to see if the house is all right. Often, I go outside to look at the stars and immerse myself in the dark of night. When it become too cold to be outside, I lay in my bed and watched the clock until it was time to get up. Sometimes, I get mad for waking up at odd hour. I have no idea what wake me up, or why I cannot sleep any more. But, 2:30, 3:30, I am fully awake. It has not failed me once yet since the divorce.
Time has not really eased my pain, sadness, or anger. I just learn to push it back farther in my mind as each day comes. Time has not made anything easier since life is full of challenges. I accept all the troubles and solve them as best as I know how.
I was a full time mother before. I am now, legally, a full-time single mother, father, friend, disciplinarian, bread-winner, house keeper, and the many more roles that I must take on. I do not feel alone or lonely, since I have done all by myself even when I was in a marriage.
My financial problem stands a hardest problem, but I am learning new ways to deal with myself. I remind myself of positive self-talk. I allow myself the forgiveness of making mistake. I become gentler in handling a difficult situation. I develop more patience in dealing with my children’s different personalities. I let myself absorb the pain to its fullest.
If time has not changed my destiny, then time has slowly changed me to be a better person, in an extremely bad situation. Maybe! Time will heal my wound. Maybe! Another day will begin. Maybe darkness will lift soon..