By the Numbers

Christmas Ruby4: Number of months since I lost my job, my primary source of income, and my insurance.

337: Dollars left in my checking account.

3: Nights I spent in the hospital with a severe asthma incident right before losing my job.

12: Unpaid medical bills sitting on my counter.

93: Puffs left on my inhaler. (I’m rationing them until I’m insured again.)

2: Times I have looked over my ninth floor balcony and considered a jump.

4: Reasons I would never actually do it (all of whom share my last name).

1,000: A wild guess at the number of tears cried every day. But it has to be close.

3: Angels who sent unsolicited funds to help keep me afloat.

73: Number of personalized resumes and cover letters I’ve written since mid-September.

12: Days until Christmas.

0: Presents purchased.

6: Inches I cut off my hair.

1: Amount that has grown back since realizing I still don’t look good with short hair.

2: Rescue pups who love me no matter what my bank account says.

222: Pages in my finished memoir. The upside to not having a job is having time instead.

You might wonder why I’m sharing such private information. It’s this: I’ve seen the underbelly of despair over the past four months. I’ve cried myself to sleep more nights than I’d like to remember. I’ve felt the sting of rejection over and over and over again. I’ve questioned my worth, my talent, and my ability to make a difference in this world.

There are days I put Sissy in the car with me so I know I won’t be tempted to drive my pretty Subaru — the one I bought when things looked so much better — into a tree. On those days, I value my sweet pup’s life far more than mine. On other days, too. There is a sense of loneliness and despair in being unemployed, uninsured, and unable to find your place.

Day after day, I struggle to keep my head above water — emotionally and financially. In the mornings, I begin with new hope. By the day’s end, I am flattened again. It is a vicious, unending cycle.

And here’s what I’ve learned…

I am so lucky.

When I take my dogs across the street to where my homeless neighbors huddle together for warmth and companionship, I know I will never have to walk in their shoes. I have friends and family who will catch me before I fall that far.

But my homeless neighbors don’t. They didn’t. And I understand very intimately now how close to homelessness I could be if I didn’t have those who love me in my life.

How far away are we all from ruin? One paycheck? Ten? Twenty?

How far away are we all from despair? One lost relationship? Ten friendships ended?

I read recently of a once-successful business man who took his own life after becoming homeless. I get it. I do. When you are struggling to stay alive — every day of your life — you wonder if it’s worth it. If you’re worth it. And it’s easy to believe in the lie of “no.”

I will get to the other side of this. It may not be pretty, and I may lose everything in the process, but I will persevere. That stubborn little redhead who used to hold her breath until she passed out is still inside of me.

I’m not afraid of starting from scratch. And I’m not afraid of doing whatever I need to do to survive. I watched my single mother work three jobs to keep food on our table. I know what survival looks like.

But there are others who don’t.

So, in this season of giving, please remember them. When your office asks for donations of clothes and gifts and food, please contribute. When a homeless neighbor asks for help, please reach out. And if you can’t give money, please give your time. Or at least give a smile.

It’s easy to feel invisible when you’ve lost everything.

See them.

Hear them.

Love them in any way you can.

After all, as Ram Dass so beautifully says, we’re all just walking each other home.




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Life at 49

RubesI am trying to stay positive. I am trying to remember everything that remains rather than dwelling on what I’ve lost.

But so much has been lost.

Much of that is my fault.

Much of it is not.

Much of it is simply life.

Choices. Consequences. Paths that twist and turn and diverge. The unexpected. The known. The glorious highs. The gut wrenching lows. This is life for all of us. This is what it means to be human.

But without a job, without money, without insurance, I am struggling to keep my head above water–emotionally and financially.

How does it come to this? Nearly 50 years of trying to live right, to raise good kids, to be a kind and loving mom, to be a supportive wife, to be a good friend, to build a business, to work hard, to write your heart out… and to feel so alone, broken, jobless, penniless, with medical issues, and threats of small claims court by one who used to love you.

Of course, I’ve made mistakes. Many, many mistakes. There are words I wish I could take back, hurts I wish I could heal. There are situations I wish I’d handled differently, pains I wish I hadn’t inflicted. But every day, I try to do better. To be better. And I feel like I’m getting worse–like I’m turning into someone I hardly recognize, someone I don’t want to know.

Someone no one wants to know.

There are days that I feel I can conquer the world. Like I am a phoenix about to rise from the ashes. Like these past three years of pain and sadness and reclamation will have a happy ending–the one that comes when you live your truth and share your story and claim your own path, the one you denied yourself for so very long.

And there are days like this. The drowning. The tears. The hopelessness. The overdue bills. The waning checking account. The shooting back pain that takes my breath away. The heaviness of friends who weren’t really friends. The Lonely. Lonely. Lonely.

“You’re so smart,” people say. “You’re so good at what you do. Something big is coming your way–I know it. The people who have left weren’t really your people. This is all temporary.”

But the temporary feels like forever when every day is a struggle.

This is my life at 49.

I thought, somehow, that it would be different.

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Meeting Indiana Bones


It’s no secret that the past couple of months have been challenging in every way–emotionally, financially, medically, professionally. And on the heels of a few extra challenging years, I wonder sometimes when I’ll get to take a breath again. One that feels more like a restorative exhale than a sharp, anxious intake.

Today wasn’t that day.

I left the house for a late lunch because I had to get out. When the darkness pulls on me, my bed is far too alluring. Productivity often has to happen outside my door, or I can easily sleep the hours–and the days–away.

Walking back home, Taylor Swift’s “This Love” was playing a private performance in my ears, and I couldn’t hold back the tears. As I waited for the light to change before crossing the road before me, I noticed a small black lab and his owner standing on the other side. The pup and I made eye contact, and he began to wag his tail wildly.

When the light changed, the owner and her dog waited for me. “I’ve never seen him so excited to see a human he doesn’t know!” she said.

“Maybe we knew each other in another life,” I said as the dog gently jumped up and wrapped his paws around me.

“He’s a hugger,” his owner said. “He’s a trained emotional support dog. He knows when someone’s having a bad day.”

My breath caught deep in my throat as I leaned over to hug my new friend, tears falling freely into his thick, black fur.

“He knew,” I agreed. “He definitely knew.”

I wiped my snot away with the back of my hand.

“What’s his name?” I asked.

“Indiana Bones,” she replied.

I leaned down to hug him again.

“You don’t know how much I needed to meet you today, Indy,” I said. “Thank you for noticing me.”

Sometimes being seen is all we need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Thank goodness there are furry friends offering unconditional love to remind us.

We don’t deserve them, these magnificent, loyal, soulful creatures. But I wouldn’t want to live in a world without them.

Good boy, Indiana Bones. Good boy.

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