Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How Poverty Changes Things


I should be in the church hall eating pizza right now instead of sitting here in the near-dark dusk of dinnertime, hearing only the hum of the fridge and the open quiet of a drier that just made its last go-round.

I should be there with Cory and the kids, but I'm not, because my husband loves me in every right way. He reads the words that aren't written and the ones that are and he tells me to stay home.

I remember a handful of years ago, reading the Gospels and wondering why none of us were suffering. Isn't that what was promised us? We wondered about the absence of suffering, Cory especially, and it weirded me out. It seemed like he wanted life to hurt a little. It seemed like he thought it might dip down from the sky like a winged creature, landing crow-like and ominous at our door - suffering.

Now, everything I ever knew about life has been tilted. The light catches different parts and sometimes even that changes by the day.

But today I spent the morning cleaning my friend's new apartment while the babies lay curiously quiet and Silas caught blips of cartoon between static pops.

The thing about poverty is that it's hereditary, contagious, an epidemic. It's not one person with nothing, it's her along with everyone she knows.

The thing about poverty is that it's worn and eaten. It's the dingy house and the car that no one can drive. It's the gallon jar of banana peppers because that's what the church was giving today. It's fuzzy house slippers with blackened bottoms and so many clothes that she doesn't know what to do with them, can't possibly ever wear them, but can't bear to part with them because they are hers. Poverty is every single one of these things but it's not her. It's a condition, not a personality type.

The thing about poverty is that it makes "small" wealth look opulent on a good day, disgusting on a bad one.

The thing about poverty is that it makes me tired. It spends me up in ways that don't cost money. It changes my relationships, forcing bloom from understanding, turning others into ghosts.

So here I am, tapping my toe in a wide arc around me, looking for sure footing. I want to find that secret place where there's time for everything and my selfishness loses its swagger. I want to swear off the feeling of fraudulence. I want all the incoming texts to be happy ones and I want to not feel guilty when those No days come around. I want to make sense to someone, mainly me.

I'm the girl who appreciates courageous layering and judges a meal by how many things I get to chop. I'm the one day-dreaming about art for the walls; the one who watched every single minute of the Golden Globes because it mattered enough to know that Jessica Alba looked most beautiful, Jessica Chastain had problem hair, and Jennifer Lawerence might spend the rest of her career dodging questions about her acceptance speech.

I'm fitting jail visits and diaper drops and everything else into a life that was already fluffy-full. But I'm sure not suffering. I'm caring for my family - a family that looks straight-up crazy compared to the way it looked just one year ago.

I know some of you want a little crazy in your life. You know it won't be without a price, but I promise you this: it won't be without shiny prizes, either. The crazy will wrap its many arms around you and squeeze you 'til you're blue. It'll stir you up until you're confused about the place of new Winter boots in the broad scheme of life. You won't care because God told you to. You'll care because the thought of losing track of those faces will hurt more than a thousand tired nights. You'll care because you'll fall in love.

I don't know what to say about suffering - maybe suffering by osmosis counts?

All I know for sure is that balance is a lie, a too-full life is better than a quiet one, and it all started because I finally believed that the Bible was true, so I asked to see what I was missing and I asked to give a rip.

Oh, I also know that sometimes solace can only be found in the saggy middle cushion of the couch while everyone else eats pizza down the street.