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This is what it looks like, in slow motion.  This is the unravelling.  This is the end of a families dreams for the future, for its aspirations and for its plans.  This is the beginning and the end right here.  Don’t let your guard down, don’t ever think you are safe, that your future is all set.  Don’t plan to pay for your kids college, to travel when you retire.  Don’t plan to stay healthy, and don’t expect to take care of yourself when you get sick.  Don’t expect to have a roof over your head.  If you already have one, don’t expect it to stay.  For the love of god, don’t ever expect any sort of security or dignity.  It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how badly you want to work, how many letters you have after your name.

It doesn’t matter if you went to a good school, come from a good family.  It doesn’t even matter if you’re in good financial shape with no debt and never even got swindled by a crappy mortgage high interest rate cards.  You can be sitting there with all your ducks in a row, heat turned all the way up to 68 and before you know it, one little shift in the universe will send you and the people you love most into a tail spin.  You will slowly start hurtling towards earth, faster.  And faster.  And you will cling to anything you can find, even as you stop being able to feel.  Anything.

Don’t think a handshake means anything to anyone anymore.  Don’t ever think that someones promises hold any weight.  Don’t expect that your hard work will ever pay off.  And don’t think you can run.  You will be pinned down, forced to live through it.  You will be forced every night to lay awake and think about where you can get food, money, security.  You will get really good at doing math in your head on the fly, and you will also learn that people are selfish by nature and largely don’t really care about you or your kids.  You will feel yourself being observed and discussed.  You will find yourself marked as Other, so that people who are just like you used to be don’t have to feel what you’re feeling.  The betrayal, the promises that you stupidly believed in.  The phone will stop ringing soon.  You know people get uncomfortable when you talk about it.  You know people stop caring, lose sympathy.  Your friends will start dropping like flies.

I don’t think about Next Year, or In Ten Years.  I can barely think about next week.  I don’t know anything anymore.  I don’t know how I’m going to stay in my house, how I’m going to feed us, how the hell I’m going to pay for heat this winter, how I’m going to pay for the Halloween costumes I just ordered two nights ago thinking that there was a job that was going to start this week.  Silly me, apparently deciding terms of employment and negotiating a salary and shaking hands is meaningless.

We are good people.  We work hard and save money and invest in the market.  We give to charity and volunteer.  We bring casseroles to people when they are sick, or have a baby.  We are good tippers.  We have never carried debt aside from student loans and mortgage, both of which we watch closely and refinance at low rates.  We overpay our bills to get ahead.  Our cars both have 130K miles and are 8 years old, and we are perfectly ok with that.  We don’t have iPads.  We own one TV.  We haven’t taken a vacation in years.  We wear hand me downs and clip coupons.  I don’t know what we did to deserve this.  I don’t know how many more times I can handle my daughter asking me if I’m crying because I’m mad at her.  All of the clichés about something better around the corner, and windows and doors opening and closing, just sound like cruel, horrid jokes now so please spare me that.  We are the 99%.  We are also the 47% for the first time in our lives.

So, here is your front row ticket.  Now you can observe from a safe distance what it looks like when a family falls apart.  Enjoy the show.

It’s hard to be optimistic for so long.  It’s hard to always try to look on the bright side.  It can be rather tiring after so long to be the cheerleader.  A couple of weeks ago one of our cars started bucking and the engine light went on.  Since we can’t afford any big repairs, we just have been driving the other car.  The other car can’t pass inspection, so it has been overdue since June.  Every time I drive it, I’m scanning for cops who will pull me over and give me a fat ticket and a deadline to get it done.  I know that when it happens, I’ll break down crying and I just hope they dont think that I’m being a manipulative jerk.  Well, tonight it gave out.  It was two hours past the kids bedtime and we were at my parents house 30 miles from home.  Both cars gone.  Both needing major repairs.  Kids crying and whining to go home and go to bed.  And we are supposed to be on the road at 7:00 the following morning to get to my nieces birthday party in New Hampshire.   Sometimes it feels like every straw is the last straw.

You start to look around your house and see everything falling apart around you; doors falling of hinges, all the dinner plates are cracked, drinking out of mason jars because the glasses are broken, it gets harder to find clothes in the closet that aren’t stained and ripped.  The little things keep getting bigger and pile on.  There seems to be no end in sight.  You wonder if you’re going to be Miss Haversham, or Norma Desmond living in your rotting castle dreaming of the past.   Sometimes the pressure makes your eyes burn and when you look at your kids you panic.  The future seems less bright every day that goes by, and you feel yourself giving up hope.  You just feel it slipping away, and looking at what a studio apartment costs per month.  If it wasn’t for the kids, this would be easy.  If it wasnt for the birthday parties you are invited to and can’t afford to get presents for and hope no one notices.  If it wasn’t for the weddings you have to go to two thousand miles away in 11 months, 9 months, 6 months….

You wish you could afford to be depressed.  You start fantasizing about staying in bed all day and sleeping it off, taking so many Benadryl that you can just sleep and sleep until something good falls in your lap.  Then, the overwhelming guilt washes through you, reminding you how horrible you are for complaining while you still have a home, and your kids still have food, and youre here complaining about not having a car when there are children in refugee camps in the Congo.  How dare you, you self-indulgent jerk.  You go to bed, and wake up and the cheerleader face goes right back on in the morning.

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