A Collective of memoirs by J.S. about Trauma + Mental Health + Abuse + Healing.
#christmas #poverty #trauma #equations #joy
Your worth is not a mathematical equation to figure out.
Yet here I am, a hypocrite with a calculator and a bag of snotty tissues.
Just crunching away the numbers.
I have been low income since I was born.
Born into a marriage of domestic violence, addictions, bad decisions, and poverty.
Every year for Christmas, god I have no idea what I ever received.
A knocked over tree by Godzilla herself after a wild night of undercooked meat for dinner, the stove top left unattended and my preteen self trying to figure out now to test for carbon monoxide poisoning.
A barren womb after the violent loss of 2 babies she had tried for and was unsuccessful in hosting after months of bed rest and nurse visits. Iv drips, barely eating, writhing from the pain of sobriety while carrying children.
Christmas meant uncomfortable visits with family and sly remarks about how she had a kid already from the inlaws.
About how she used the cleaners obsessively and that's why she suffered a loss.
I grew up around trauma.
As an only child, I suffered greatly at the hands of abuse because I was the only kid.
No one else to blame or fall back on. Not even the dog. Trust me, I'd tried.
My company was a tiny square TV that took VHS tapes and a notebook I used to draw in.
I was grounded so often to stay in my room, I should have been named rapunzel.
I dont know if I ever believed in santa or magic or joy.
But I did know a lot of adults tried real hard each year to pull it off for their kids.
I knew one day I'd want that to be me.
After countless years of losing the battle with my birthday candles and wishing for adoption, I surrendered to the fact that that was my life.
We never talked about money and it always seemed like we were strapped for it.
No food. Tons of bills.
Holiday meant family time.
What I learned about love and joy were that they were meant to be had by the people who could afford it.
Besides ordering random items from QVC and stocking the bar accordingly each month, Cathy did things that served herself.
Whatever santa left under a tree, she wrapped it herself. Whatever her miserable husband left her, was either metaphorically or literally burned.
On the tv down stairs i'd see commercials and classic old movies about Christmas. My favorite was Santa Claus is coming to town.
I loved watching Chris give the Winter Warlock a toy and his icy heart melting because of the love and joy felt in receiving.
Every year, some how, I was able to give my mother some kind of gift.
Years later I would discover a box with everything I ever have her in it. Shoved away behind the steve madden's and baby photo albums in the back corner of the closet.
I was not sure if I was being treasured or just neatly tucked away, out of sight and out of mind like all her other problems.
I knew when I became a mother I would do whatever I can to make Christmas magical. To make holidays and anniversaries and achievements all feel joyful.
So when I had my first child at 16, and was shunned by my parents, I knew I had a bargain to keep up.
A life of joy and fun. Security and stability.
As it seemed, life did not go that way in my twenties. From 17 with a newborn to 25 finishing up college with my little girl by my side.
I learned from being out on my own that I had to keep my child away from toxic people and dysfunction. We had to chase joy because it was not free.
Sometimes I felt like a failure.
Like joy was just unattainable.
No matter how hard i worked or how much i saved, it felt like i was just meant to be poor.
To make it "worse", i gravitated towards careers and passions that would be rewarding in many ways but in the bank account.
Math, again, was not on my side.
And I felt torn between wanting a career to help people OR finding something stable just to pay the bills and get by.
Still, I knew my worth enough to go to college on my own and make something of myself.
My parents had both dropped out in high school. Barely 10th grade before getting into drugs and alcohol. Something that would rob them of their lives and almost mine.
When I met my husband, I was just finishing up 6 years total of college and the sum of 2 degrees. I felt so empowered and ready to take on life with my passions.
But depression and anxiety began to get the best of me. Everything started to come undone.
A horrible breakup. Loss of friends. Doubt in my career choice. The end of my college financial aid. Fear. Insecurities. Regret.
And then I met someone.
Someone who I felt in my gut was my soulmate.
So I took a leap.
And that leap turned into 5 years, 2 more babies and marriage.
Void of career or passion. The price I paid for changing directions.
Instead I learned how to coparent and be a partner. I learned how to have a safe night in bed with someone who wanted to protect me, not be the thing I hid away from.
I learned how to have holidays with peace. Calmness. Love.
I watched as my heart expanded with each child we welcomed into the world and my expectations grew threw the roof.
Now that I finally built a little family of my own, had a best friend to navigate adulthood and life with---> I wanted it to be my soul mission to give them the world.
To be their rock, their everything. Their person to call "home".
But out came the calculator every single occasion. Crunching numbers on our oh so tiny budget.
Now both wearing shackles of shame as we realized the math did not equal the kind of parents we wanted to be.
Every Christmas, the theme of giving goes around and everyone feels so thankful for what they have.
As low income people, we are so thankful for everything we do have.
But looming over our heads constantly are the things we go without.
We've been taught, as poor people, not to talk about the poverty. Not to ask for things. Not to go for help.
It is not in the words but in the thoughts people have when we speak up.
The suffering always do so in silence.
As the social media bombardment of photos come in with Christmas wishes, Holiday decor and family photos, we stay scrolling for joy.
I scroll for joy.
I love to see photography sessions and milestone photos, santa photos and Christmas cards. It may seem silly to people but I feel envious of those.
An unhumble trait I picked up in my years of having less.
Then there is the comparison cold.
As I see and I know and I remember all the commercials for Christmas time shopping.
Big trees filled with presents and toys underneath so that Christmas morning the kids feel loved and like their wishes were received.
As a single mom I was always so terrified of doing santa letters because I may not be able to give what my kid hoped for. Many years I "helped give ideas" for her list after already shopping. .I was so scared to disappoint her.
In movies, Santa came to poor children with oranges in the stockings and toys by the tree.
I was so frozen with fear year after year at the chance my kid would feel like the math wasnt adding up and she was not worthy enough for santa.
Now that I am married with 3 and we struggle to feed the family + cannot afford to save, that fear has grown.
Into the size of an abominable snowman.
But recently I remembered something that carried me away in tears as a child.
That damn cheechoo train and the winter warlock.
His tears brought the resounding message of joy that I clung to for years.
Give joy. And hearts will be full.
So this year and the last 4 years prior, I have focused on joy.
How I could make every season, not just the date, feel GOOD.
I wanted to give my kids the excitement of each season because it meant all year felt good and mindful and purposeful.
Unlike when I would anticipate the 3 holi - days we left the house to see extended family and my parents would try to pass as normal.
Every year I still made the samemistake.
I took out income and replaced it with the measure of joy, just to reassemble the equation.
To finally have a shot at making myself worthy as a mother.
And I felt like I failed each time.
With each gift or craft or idea, I felt empty and sad after.
Like my kids just KNEW it was not enough.
Like I knew I was not enough.
This year I gained a beautiful gift.
The gift of an awakening.
A journey into my own healing from trauma.
Now I am discovering why I always reached for the calculator.
I always felt I needed tools to become more.
Being me never felt "enough".
That affected every single holiday or celebration.
Every single birthday wish.
Every single absent gift I thought I was too unworthy to receive.
I was taught that worth was measured by people who felt unworthy.
Sick, addicted, traumatized, irrational people taught me by example that worth is bought.
That self love is bought.
And that joy is bought.
That is just not true.
Money does mean something.
Being able to give my kids a dream Christmas, like a scene out of Miracle on 34th Street is THE GOAL.
I cannot seem to shake that childlike, tear struck face of wonder at the idea of driving up to a dream house that is wrapped in lights and festive decor. That has a wide staircase and open living room with 10 ft tall ceilings and a huge Christmas tree illuminating the house.
But this time, I am learning that should have actually written those wish lists. I should have talked out loud about my desires.
I should honor them and honor myself.
I want my kids to see a brave, strong woman who is not afraid to ask for what she wants. And happily receive it.
I want my kids to know joy, feel joy, give joy.
Because their childhood was not traumatic.
It was filled with magic and spirit and hope.
So now instead of just Santa, invoke my spirit and my soul to feel worthy.
To be the joy.
The smile and the warmth and the love that made my kids' Christmas special every single year.
J.S. Jaded Savior
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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