Monday, May 6, 2013

"...Til Times Get Better"

I keep meaning to pen an essay about my favorite black folk phrases. Once my Uncle Greg was going off, as only he can, about the infuriating nature of some person's ways and he said "I should still be whippin that muthafucka's ass til times get better!" And after about two beats when the phrase finally registered in my head I fell into a laughing fit. And everytime I think of it -- of "til times get better" -- the same thing happens, a laughing fit. Because, obviously, it seems like times never do get better. Lately it's one of those things, just the acceptance that Hard Times are here and they are here to fucking stay.  

My generation has to be one of the most pampered generations in memory. I'm at the tail end of GenX born in the mid- 70s so throughout the 80s there was a very comfortable living style. Even during the brief recession  in the 90s I can't recall much belt tightening. I do know that there was enough of a change caused from the 90s recession that my grandfather frequently commented that the bettors were not coming in as frequently nor were they spending as much. This naturally meant that with less incoming capital that it was costing him more to pay out hits. And my grandfather hated -- he hated -- to pay out hits. He did it. He never cheated a bettor. But nothing made that old man unhappier than parting with money. However I digress.

I, like all my friends, benefited from a stellar education. Went on to college and enjoyed a four year holiday that ended during an economic boom of such incredible wealth and promise that not having a job meant one didn't need a job. It was definitely was more fun to have a job in the early 2000s. Besides you might as well be working since everyone else was and it's not like you could just be hanging out from 9-5 as one could conceivably do in college. So we worked. And we partied. I know quite a few people who have made some notable gains and made names for themselves as well. Frankly it wasn't that hard. If you were at least moving your ass at all, with even mediocre talent you could make something out of the opportunities that came your way in those early years of the oughties or whatever one calls the early 2000s.

But holy fuck did those opportunities dry up hella fast!! I know for me personally the last five or six years have been terrifying.

And I know that I've heard my private thoughts echoed in many conversations with friends. Thoughts like "Oh shit. I thought IT was going to happen for me. I thought that I was a Contender. A Player in the Game. And I'm sitting here on the sidelines half-hungry, barely making rent."

Thoughts wondering if you were going to be sentenced to a life caring for an elderly parent with Alzheimer's forever. Were your life and the parent's life inextricably linked now... for always As the parent disappears,do you as well?  Aside from the horror of watching a beloved person disappear....

Wait. There isn't anything besides that thought. There's just horror.... and you just watch that person disappear.

Everyone's wondering if this is a slump in the game of life....or is this the way the game plays out. As in This is check -fucking-mate, dude. Or did you just play your own self? Have we grown up with too much TV? Did we all think that we should be living like glamorous celebrities? Were the dreams you dreamt too outrageous, too impossible, too unrealistic?

Every woman has joked at one time or another that if times didn't get better she might be selling her ass soon. There is a serious time in life when that joke is exceedingly unfunny. When you look at people doing much worse than yourself and feel deep fear knowing that that person could so easily be YOU. When you have to refuse to help a friend in need simply don't have any funds or help to GIVE.

Personally I struggle by through the means of Friendship Welfare. In place of state sponsored welfare the onus of making sure a desperate person survives becomes a dear friend's job. And you know you have a friend when they break out the straight up Friendship Welfare. At that point you stop discussing how fucking bad and pointless and awful your situation is. You and The Friend accept it and move on. A friend does what s/he can...and moves on.

And those friends who are the helpers....I don't know if they understand the abject level of gratitude that one has....or the abject shame. Either way it is God's blessing if you do even have such a friend who can help. I've had so much help that it is wrong to complain and I hope, Dear Reader, that you do not register this epistle as a complaint. I have been damned lucky. And blessed. Because my grandmother always told me -- well she told me many things, truly -- but the least of what she told me was truth of a  woman ALONE in the world. I don't think it is un-feminist of me to report that shit is so much harder for a woman alone is it?

A woman alone often has to survive with that extra sense of hustle about her. You have to play the game. That extra smile to the butcher might mean just that much extra bit he leaves on that cut of beef as he weighs it on the scale. Ah, but that is another story.

The thought that is the loudest, the one no one wants to say out loud for fear of making it true is Have I wasted my this crappy, desperate  fearfulness going to be the rest of my life? What did I do wrong? When did I fuck up? 

Because everyone --- from what I can tell -- seems to be feeling like "I fucked up. Clearly I fucked up". Because EVERYTHING around us is fucked up.

And I don't have anything philosophical to add to that. It's just scary and everything is fucked up. It feels like none of the dreams we dreamt can possibly come true. In fact it feels like we were silly fucking fools to have had dreams in the first damn place. So many people outside the West suffer so much just to have clean water. But it's no joke to suffer to pay the water bill either. Though were I to trade places I wouldn't be writing this essay because I would not be alive surely.

You can look around and spot people you went to school with who for some reason are Doing It. The SUCCESS thing. They've Made It.

In the have not.

Why not? Why haven't you (or I) Made It? Well there's lots of reasons. And some of them are just about the shit that happens in life. There are times that you will have to take care of your parents. And there are times (though no one likes to say it out loud) that you will resent the fuck out of it.

There are times when illness strikes out of the blue and you discover how shockingly difficult it is to get your life back. In fact you may even discover that you never again attain the level of health and ease of function that you so took for granted.

Sometimes you get into dead-end jobs. You fall in love with the wrong person. Or you fall in love with the right person and you struggle together. The single folks struggle alone and think "Am I always going to be alone in this? A little companionship might be nice."  I suppose the couples secretly wonder "What if I didn't have him/her? I'd be all alone." That has to be a scary thought.

Then of course there's the scary thoughts about the condition of the world, of one's country (they're all fucked up apparently). The Guardian on Saturday ran a story that by 2015 all the Arctic ice will have melted.    Then there's the overwhelming amount of war, famine blahblahblah.

Last week on the same day I found out that one dear friend (whom I am not speaking to but still care about) has cancer. Later that day I discovered that another dear friend apparently is in the process of testing to determine if it is cancer or not. Either way she's sick and it's a big damn problem.

And still in the midst of all this, one has to look in the mirror and face the fact that whatever kind of superstar you thought you would be by are not. You're a pleb. You're the regular Joe. You're fighting just to put food on the table.

It levels the field though. You start to realize that you don't even want to be a superstar. You just want to be sure that you'll have a place to live, someone to love, and a job to go to if tomorrow comes.

However hard you thought you were, these past few years made a punk out of you at some point. Because the ease in what used to be so Easy is gone.

And the fear it puts into you makes you want to beat something, someone.... til times get better.  


No comments:

Post a Comment