“The slipperiest substance known to man”
By all accounts, Teflon ® is the slipperiest substance known to man. It is this that I will base my story on. It is this, Teflon, ® which I will try to get a grip on, to hang on to, and to anchor myself and my family to. There are many things in this world that make things harder or easier for some people, some races, some genders and some courses of life. Harder things are blockages. They are blockages of life, finances, and upbringing; there are blockages to merely living, to some.
This is a story of the blockage in my life, not by my choosing, not by my making… but by the “Man”. We all know who the Man is. The Man is any shape, intellect or form of upper authority. It is slang for how the government, including its governing bodies, who prefer to talk to or treat anyone who is an “underling”. Being an underling is oppression. Being an underling is derogatory, and demeaning. There is a certain stigma involved, of course, as stigma seems to be associated with this type of living. It is downward and downhill. It is low living. It is under educated. It is lazy. It is lackadaisical. It has no gumption, no ambition, no need to evolve. It has no reason to carry on. It has no reason to be supported by the rich, the taxpayers, the doctors, lawyers, and burghers of our society. It has no reason, other than to be a burden on the existence of others. Perhaps if it has paid its own taxes at one point, perhaps if it has served our community, does it deserve to carry on? Does it then deserve to be the burden?
It is hard to answer questions such as these. It is hard to base our answers without actually “wearing the moccasins”. I have done this. I wear them as I write this. My shoes are worn, they are tattered and broken. They are ill fitting, they are deserving of a new pair. My life as I write this is being tossed, turned and thrown around by circumstances beyond my control. My life has been taken from being a married woman of influence some years ago, to being one who has hit the slope. To being one who has realized what Teflon ®really is like. It is a fast paced run. It tosses and turns you as you whirl through the abyss, nothing to grip, nothing to hold, nothing to anchor your “self” to. Mentally, it is a nonstop whirlwind of ups and downs, mostly downs as you ravage your way through the “System”. As it spits you out the end, after chewing you to pieces, you will never be the same. You will likely be distraught, taking some sort of medication, some sort of therapy…perhaps many. Lastly, under great embarrassment, you will turn to the very system that has stripped you of what final self esteem you have. Your very Self. You become a number. Numbers have no rights; they are easier for the workers of the system to look at you as a non person, a non entity. The System comprises of different ministries. Ministries that change their names on a regular basis, as the government sees fit. The Ministry of Housing last week, is now the Ministry of Social Development. This is truly one of the most ironic misnomers of them all. This is still welfare, plain and simple. This ministry is by no means out to help you socially, or even developmentally. It is another government run oppression machine. You are on the slope, you ask for help and “they” get to decide whether you are worthy, whether they deem you deserving. I have been told I am neither worthy or
deserving of extra help this month. I have asked too many times before. Three times in 18 months they have had to help with extras, this is too many times in their eyes. This month there have been extenuating circumstances that have given me a huge decision. Do I pay my rent? Or release my car from impound, where it is up to four hundred dollars in fees… incurring twenty odd dollars a day in more fees. In one month, my car will gain $620.00 more in fees. How can this happen, how can one decide what to do? The repercussions will be devastating, either way, I will soon find out.
While working diligently through mental issues, diagnosed years ago by a male doctor, who took the initiative to “keep her quiet” and add me to the huge percentage of women taking antidepressants compared to men, mood stabilizers, anxiety medications, taking Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), course after course of Mindfulness, Relaxation Therapy, courses offered by Mental Health, Womens groups and as many opportunities out there for self help, I have also started to attend College/University. I am enrolled in University Transfer courses plus a couple of math upgrade classes, something I should have done years ago, but being a single parent it was out of my reach with child care expenses, etc. I did return to school a couple of times for Trades courses which after a year of my life each garnered me with jobs paying $9.00/hr. I likely would have been making more than that in raises alone had I worked for that year, not including having to pay back hefty student loans. In fact before entering school I was making $10/hr cleaning toilets. Perhaps I should have continued with that.
Working three jobs to try and pay for the house, the kids, food, utilities and maybe some new clothes for them for school. The slip started then. I started to lose hold of the house… I lost two houses as a matter of fact, not only losing them but losing every penny of equity in them. What little self esteem left is now starting to slip also. Just how a person who came from middle income, high income, marriage, divorce, children and being a decent, hardworking taxpayer suddenly find themselves being the very lowling we all fear. This should be inconceivable in this society, where we live…but it is not. In my opinion, many of us are one cheque away from being homeless. One month away from having to have not.
Without the help of some very amazing women’s groups in my city, I would be without a home this weekend. I would have been busy moving today instead of writing this. I quote the final lines in the decision the ministry wrote to me in their letter in answer to my request. “You advised that you spent $400.00 to have your car release from impound. While realizing and sympathizing with you that your vehicle is very important to you, the decision to use those funds as you felt best was yours to make. You chose your vehicle over your shelter. Your request for a crisis grant of $500.00 for the outstanding rent is denied” (2011, Ministry of Housing and Social Development, Comox Valley). I have picked up an appeal package. I have a meeting with an advocate on Monday. This coming month will be no better. After falling into the use of a money lending “store” I owe $595.00 to them on the 29th of this month. Rent will be gone again. The cycle of poverty never ceases. The cycle just keeps going, encircling me with what seems like a black cloud of despair. Deep feelings of worthlessness and constant reminders of hunger, depression and of absolutely no way out.
I do see things changing in the future. I do feel that schooling is the best and only way out, for me, of this never ending cycle of oppression. In the meantime I will persevere. I will continue to move forward, for even though I can feel the man grabbing my ankles, pulling me downward always, I will make my way out. I will have a house again. I will have money, food and bills paid. Essentials owed to every human. I will get my rights back. I will learn how to fight for the rights of others, to help them to get away from this evil thing. There are many young women facing the same if not more adverse conditions. There are many older women being tossed aside to make way for younger minds, younger bodies. There are even more who do not have the luxury I feel I now have, with a roof over my head, dry clothes, a bed.
I am deeply saddened by this, for them. I see you on the streets. I do not shun you. I see you walking aimlessly, carts and bags asunder. I do not shun you. I will never shun you, judge you or wonder “How did they let that happen?” No one, not one of them ever “wanted” to live on the streets, to live at the door of the church, waiting for a hot meal. Your dignity long gone as you drop your eyes as I drive by. I drive by. How lucky I am to have the very car I drive by in. I will reach my hand out to you. I will attempt to help in any way that I can for you are me, I am you. When the money starts coming my way, I will share with you. I will donate to every cause that has helped me. I will help you with your children. Our children. We are a community; it is time to start acting like one. It is time to drag myself out of the very gutter I have been kicked to and work towards making a difference. For if I see this, if I leave this? I am nothing myself. I become one of them. That is the biggest fear in my life. That is an outcome that I will never become. The slide stops here.