I have been “accused”
Of living in a Utopia
–as if that is a bad thing.
Here’s the thing,
I wake up with dry mouth so severe
That it takes about an hour
of brushing, rinsing, and drinking
Just to begin regulating it for the day.
I can’t eat a snack on the run.
I can’t eat a sandwich, French fries, chocolate…
It takes me about 2 hours to eat a simple meal –even soup
Coughing and choking all the way through it
And drinking an average of three cups of iced milk
–Yes, iced milk to wash it all down. Because
It hasn’t been a year yet since I was declared “cancer-free.”
It hasn’t been a year yet since I got my feeding tube out.
It hasn’t been a year yet since I got my voice back.
It hasn’t been a year yet since I felt like a holocaust victim
From the intensive chemo and radiation treatments
For tonsil cancer
Yes, tonsil cancer –who knew, right?
It was stage four by the time I got my neck slit in surgery.
I still have nerve damage from my right ear to my shoulder
PLEASE, don’t touch me there!
And then there was the day I did get my feeding tube out
And I thought, this is the moment
The moment true recovery begins
Not a remnant of this hell left
I don’t have to look back, just move on…
“Are you sitting down?”
“Yeah,” I lied.
“That man you were married to,
the one who beat you,
left your children,
stole your credit cards,
Who had the high education and the vocabulary
That put your English Major ass to shame,
Who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, or didn’t find a job for over two years,
Yeah, he’s been arrested for two violent felony charges.
He’ll be gone until your girls are grown.
You’ll have sole-custody,
but you won’t get a penny of support.
Happy Mother’s Day!”
And then, “Wait a minute, what?”
Yes, I have taught university students for six years.
Yes, I have created and copyrighted curriculum.
Yes, I have published research.
And yes, I qualify for food stamps and daycare vouchers.
But, wait a minute, what?
You canceled my assistance because
I was on a feeding tube, and couldn’t actually eat.
And since my parents had to take care of me and my girls
And my mom was too honest to use my card for them
You just boot me out of the system, without asking me why?
Because you DO understand that I am bringing in only 50%
Of my previous below-poverty level income?
So let’s do some math.
Now I need to pay $800 a month for daycare
And $750 a month for rent
On my $732 every two week paycheck.
The “check engine” light has been on my car for over a month now
And I still have to feed my children?
Thank you WIC,
because at least we have milk, eggs and cereal.
And so, my angel of a friend lends me the money
To go to the third-world country where I served
In the Peace Corps 12 years ago.
For two painful days, my girls watched
All of their things leave the house.
We left our family and friends,
And our way of life,
Because I was pretty sure I could get a better life for my girls there.
I make half the money I did in the states,
(the same as the oncologist I tutor)
But I can afford a cute little house
And a nanny/housekeeper –which helps A LOT
Because being a single, working, mother of two pre-schoolers
Is crazy hard!
I still feel sick or tired sometimes from the effect of the treatments.
I’m told that can last up to two years.
Yes, I still lose my hair,
and what I have now is not growing as fast as I would like,
When I go to a store or work,
I cross a 10 lane highway and pay about thirty cents
to ride on a bench on the back of a pick-up truck.
Then I walk about a half mile in 100 degree heat
With my umbrella
Because if the sun touches my radiated neck
It will turn black and burnt and itch
And it takes a lot of Noxema for about a week
To get it back to normal.
And, I get these migraines that incapacitate me
For about 8 days out of every month,
Either from carrying my heavy backpack,
Or sleeping on a rock hard bed.
I can’t find a good school for the girls,
At least one I can afford,
So I home-school them,
Because I am a teacher, right?
And I tutor and edit on the side
For extra money, so we can
Visit family and friends.
We don’t have English TV programs,
Or a car.
Cream of Wheat,
bras in my size,
Not available for thousands of miles!
Oh, but wait!
You’ve never heard any of this before,
Because I don’t whine, complain,
Blame others, or
Air my problems in public.
What you hear is:
“Had a great dinner! –Ate every bite!”
because that is such a big accomplishment.
“The girls had a wonderful time swimming with their friends,
while I got to take a nap.”
“I just got a massage, and I feel so much better!”
“We have such generous and helpful
friends and neighbors here. I am so thankful!”
So yes, I guess I do live in a Utopia
Because I chose to.
I created it.