As I write this, I'm sitting in an Indian restaurant taking advantage of the last day of a Groupon deal I bought last year. Looking around, I see couples, friends, and multi-generational families chatting, laughing, and enjoying breaking naan together.
Sitting alone at my computer, I could feel lonely, but I feel strangely connected to this "dining community." Why? Maybe because I've recently had an incredible lesson in my personal life that has dramatically proven the bond of my tribe around me.
As I termed out of office at the beginning of January, I was excited to find a consulting contract that could start right away. How lucky was I to have the connections to make that happen? But soon, I would find out that the work would be postponed and postponed and... postponed. Four months later, still waiting to start the project, I had somehow managed to live off the reward points of my maxed-out credit cards, coupons, health expense reimbursements, dinners at friends occasionally, hors d'oeuvres at events I'd be invited to, and my daughter's help with groceries. So essentially, since January, I've lived off of $400 income. Finally realizing this contract may still not start for a while, I started looking for other work, but by now, it was too late. I had already spiraled down.
Perhaps you're thinking, "Why didn't she have a savings account?" or "How could she let herself get so low?" Or maybe your thoughts are more like, "Finally, someone who lives like me" or "Yup, been there before." But recently, I had to re-learn at a deeper level, that any thought or judgment you may have about me, is just that - your thought. I could go into defense and explain that living on a legislator salary of about $2 to $4 dollars an hour over a period of eight years doesn't allow you to put anything in a savings account or blah, blah, blah. Or I could feel guilt about having the privilege of even having a credit card. But neither of those were my lessons I needed to understand this time.
Last week, not being able to pay my mortgage, bills or groceries, I knew I needed to reach out, but was too full of shame for not being self-sufficient and fear that I would be judged. But after days of trying to negotiate my bills and nights of little sleep, I finally swallowed my pride, explained my situation on Facebook, and asked for help. Instead of judgment, I immediately received ideas, leads, prayers and kudos for being so nakedly honest. Within a few short days, with the loving and generous help of my tribe, I'll now be able to stay in my home, manage my bills, and most likely, secure work by next week. Obviously, I needed to remember to walk through my fear, ask for help and receive the gifts of community around me.
Now, although alone at this table, I am deeply grateful once again that I am also enveloped by a loving and nurturing community around me. So if you are experiencing fear, shame or guilt about something and suffering alone, reach out and ask for help. And if you feel you have no tribe to turn to, ask your neighbor, your grocer, your county or state officials. The support may shock you. You are never alone.
Linda Newell, a Littleton resident, is termed out as the state Senator of Senate District 26 and is now educating people on how to understand and influence their government. She may be reached at Senlindanewell@gmail.com, www.lindanewell.org, www.senlindanewell.com, @sennewell on Twitter, Senator Linda Newell or @TheLastBill on Facebook.