POVERTY SERIES #walmart #triggers #shopping #needy #poor #trauma #emotions #shame #guilt #poverty #mindset
I've written before about being poor and living in poverty, but consider this the Christmas edition.
For the past 3 days, my husband and I have stayed up in Utica in a place that he is renovating with his brother to turn into rental apartments. My husband has been learning all about real estate, flipping and renovation projects from scratch because we want to head down that path next after almost 5 years of struggling in previous businesses.
Today my husband and I had to treck to walmart, in the snow, with our kids so we could get more food + warm clothing for our two toddler boys. We packed for this trip with whatever groceries we had in the house before we left and what clothing fit the kids.
We left my inlaws and headed up here hoping to be alright and not need anymore. But, as all parents know, it happens.
Needing more outfits because the kids grow like weeds. Because hand me downs are starting to run low. Because kids get into everything and 7 outfits can run out in just a few days with these little whirlwinds.
So there we were, both feeling overwhelmed as we counted our budget and went over what 3 more days of food would cost + 4 more outfits. Seeing how far pasta can stretch and if the clearance section would be kind to us.
My husband stared at me as I picked out fleece pants for the boys, and asked "How can you stay so positive every day even though we are struggling?"
I saw love in his eyes as he watched me laugh at a joke I had just told. And I realized he was dead serious.
I also know what he partially meant was, "How can you love me even though we are poor?"
I thought about how triggering it is for him that we struggle. Because he wants to be the strength and the provider for our family. And he feels in so many ways like his hard work has still failed us. Meant nothing because we still struggle.
He does not realize what it means to me every time he feeds me and our kids. Every time he plays a board game with us. Every time we cuddle on the couch.
He does not realize that every single joke we have shared and the belly rolling laughing he has given me since the day we began talking [via dating app] that he has made me feel so rich and so full.
In that moment I do not "see" struggle, but an outing with my family. We look like every other family in walmart. 3 cheeky kids not using their indoor voices. A mom and dad asking what dinner should be. Dad shrugging and saying anything is fine.
We blend right in. And there is no need to feel triggered or sad.
So we walk, me pushing the kart filled with 2 fleece pairs of pants, 2 long sleeve shirts, 2 boys leggings and 2 hoodies. 4t, 5t. Hip colors. Golden dinosaur head. Silver monster truck.
I know I took 15 minutes to sift through the same 3 tables of clothing. Looking for the cheapest, while feeling around like a mad woman for the right textures and designs.
"I want my kids to feel cool, not poor", I think to myself as I search and have a big smile as I land on cool dinosaur geometric pants that my 4 yr old will go wild in excitement for.
Laughing as I tell my husband that our little guy will ROAR when he puts them on. And instead of being met with laughter, watching my husband lock eyes with me and smile in such a deep way at me that it touches my soul.
We walk past the pjs and Women's section, my eyes following the tops of racks and flirting gently with the fur lined hoods of cheetah print and rose gold puffer jackets. Oh to be young, and in style.
But I don't linger long.
My husbands thick L jacket feels good on me. Good enough for winter. Good enough to not need anything else.
Now we are coming up to the home section, rows of wood decor and industrial farmhouse table settings. Plate and serving sets.
I grip the wheel. Intoxicating, I think as I close my eyes and breathe deeply in. It smells like a home. Like a home well decorated and cared for during the coming holiday season.
I see Christmas mits and towels, "If you need me, I'll be watching Hallmark and baking cookies" which usually makes me laugh and nod in agreement.
But now all I can do is choke, force down a hard swallow and then begin panting.
These carts, these people are just not moving. I want to go faster or ditch down an isle but instead I am locked here between baking Betty and decorate it Debbie who are trying to decide if they should just get 2 of each and maybe some for their grown kids.
These are my triggers, I suddenly realize as I try to fight off a panic attack.
Almost 5 years in with the man of my dreams, both of us feeling beat TF up from entrepreneurship and parenthood. Us both feeling defeated by the mistakes, mishaps, breakdowns, blunders, and headaches our last business gave us.
The ways it showed us our best and worst selves. The way we were at our best AND worst simultaneously as business partners and marriage partners.
The way we both learned to "make the best" of everything as we slid hard down that mountain right into mud.
I finally get to dodge down bedding and catch up to my husband who is looking for the last thing he needed. My child is having sensory overload in the top seat of the cart, spotting every. Single. Thing. He. Wants. Santa. To.bring.
Me too, buddy, me too.
This Christmas I want to ask Santa for that BIG BREAK.
That one we see in movies and sitcoms.
You know it, don't you?
That turn of fate after struggle that FINALLY gives the lead character what they DESERVE in the end.
You see, being poor looks like many things.
And though no one knows us here in walmart and we pass as any other family, we know weeks of pasta and beans. And we are hiding out because we should be SO LUCKY we have a roof and my inlaws.
We are not poor enough or struggling enough to come out about it socially. That is a trigger for everybody.
We are struggling "light". Kinda like a "lite iced tea".
But we are not just struggling because we have less than many and we are not doing "well" just because we have more than some.
Our struggle is layered.
We both have unhealed trauma. We have little kids that are being raised by 2 people with so much love and good intentions but a HUGE responsibility to start fresh [after ending the cycles of abuse we knew].
We both have passion and hard work being put into outlets that do not pay well yet.
For me, not at all.
As everyone talked about black Friday and cyber Monday, I spent my time OFF social media.
I could not handle all the triggers.
Because I have been taught, through poverty, to not want things that I cannot afford.
I am not supposed to view websites or deals or sales when I know I cannot afford them.
I am not supposed to think about beauty or fashion or fitting in when it is just a fantasy.
I enjoy the little things and I window shop. I get panic attacks and cry a little when I stroll home sections of stores and I feel FUCKING WEIRD FOR IT.
But you see, tears do not come from poverty. They come from trauma.
I come from a broken home.
I spent years fearing being in my room and sleeping with furniture infront of my door because the only worse thing than being grounded to my room for years was possibly being attacked by what dwelled in the living room, drunk and hazy.
I then lived with family for a short time and wanted so badly to feel like I had parents + safety. I know my family did so much for me but after I moved out to spread my wings for college it no longer felt the same.
In fact, my relationships have mostly dissolved over the last 10 years. I feel alone mostly.
Self sufficiency is my fashion. My style. That thing I choose to invest in. It's a lonely shade of rouge.
All I used to ask "Santa" for every year was my own home. Like on Miracle on 34th street.
Gah that movie makes me bawl like no other.
I feel the same swell of tears and build up of emotions from that movie, precisely when the little girl says "mommy, mommy it IS our home".
I get that same rush running my fingers through a shag carpet and matching throw pillows while my kids cry out "PIIIIZZZAAAAAA please mom???" And my husband breaks my daydream to tell me it's time to go.
As everyone checks out their karts, filled to the brim with decorations and stocking fillers, I am calculating our stock before we ring it all up because I am sweating literally at the idea of going over budget.
Even though we calculated 3 times already.
We go $10 over and he hugs me.
"Its ok. We will do better this year."
And with his embrace I want to melt like a tiny child and pause time.
In this moment, I force myself to remember what this all feels like. What STUFF can do to a person.
What Christmas shopping does to people.
And how much people take for granted what they have already.
Their home. Their tree. Their belongings.
The wish lists their kids make that they can easily fill, maybe even twice.
But none of that is even the point.
I realize poverty teaches us about gratitude. Sure.
It teaches us about love. And kindness.
But it also teaches us longing. Despair. Fear.
It teaches us compliance and defeat sometimes.
When we clutch those things that trigger us most, the material desires we crave.
And we say things like "I can't" or "this isn't for me".
When we feel utterly defeated by the woman on the line who is buying her kids toys for that moment, because 23 days is still far away.
Not because we hate her. Because we want to be her.
I want to be her.
I want to pull up the driveway of a lit up home that is MINE, knowing it has all the trimmings and perfection inside that I put together myself. Out of love and appreciation for the walls. The carpets. The hard wood floors. The high rise ceilings.
I want a train running round the tree and a crystal star so bright it shines rainbows off the ceiling.
Some day, I want things.
And I still want to be the same girl who laughs with ease as my husband stares adoringly. Unchanged. Just secure.
Because being poor my whole life, it is the stability and peace I crave more than the dollar amount in my account.
But this year I am no longer asking Santa for a home with the trimmings.
I decided though I still believe in his magic, this year I just want the gift of believing in myself.
And seeing what it feels like to walk around knowing the gift was inside me all along.
I want to do the things that my heart feels called to do.
I'm tired of the poor mindset of "I am not enough to be better. To have better. To give better."
Of "this is just my lot in life."
It's not. It is no ones' lot in life to just suffer.
Sometimes we just need help.
Sometimes we need to change our course.
Sometimes we just need to be reminded that we are capable AF and resourceful AF.
Let this be the last year we struggle.
And the first year ahead that we thrive.
J.S. Jaded Savior
Published by Jean Soto JS Jaded Savior blog: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean Soto, mother of 3 and wife, is a writer + artist in the Hudson Valley, NY community.
Content mention of Rape, Abuse, Neglect, Addictions, Mental Illness, Kidnap, Molestation, Child abuse, Teen Pregnancy, Abortion, birth, body image, gender/identity dysphoria, sexuality, personal trauma, domestic violence and other extremely personal stories. Please practice caution. I am not a licensed physician or mental health professional. No medical prescribing is provided on this site, Only personal insights, experience stories, and advice; All stories published have had prior authorization. Questions? Contact Jean at: email@example.com
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