“In Search of a Better Life”, Color pencil on paper, 2018.
I have been a searcher all my life. I didn’t choose to be this way, it’s just who I became. Shaped, I guess, by the circumstances of life, I have become somebody who is always looking for something. What it is, I may not even know. Happiness, justice, peace…I’m not really sure.
Over the years, especially since I’ve been living in the US, I have met a lot of people who put their faith in God. Whenever life gets too hard or overwhelming, they just turn to God and somehow unload all their worries on him/her. How I wish I could do that; how I wish that I could just hand over all my worries to some strange power/force/philosophy and breath a little easier. But I just cannot.
I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe in religion, especially the kind that I have seen the most of here – the politicized one. The religion where God chooses some people over others, where God picks this group as the good guys and that group as the villains.
I just don’t believe it.
Would be nice though.
I’ve been searching high and low, like some fictional character from some great novel; a wanderer, always travelling by foot to solve the great mystery of life.
When I was about to start 7th grade, I moved from my father to my mother. She had asked me if I wanted to come live with her and her husband and I said “yes”. I was curious of what that might be like. I was scared too, because it meant moving halfway across the country, starting a whole new school and leave everything I knew behind. But I went anyway. Only a year or two later, my mother fell ill and was taken to, in lack of a better word; a mental institution. This was the start of a 10 year period where she would go in and out of institutions and hospitals, on and off of medications and therapy until she finally died from an overdose of pills in the early summer of 1998.
Searching for answers and some kind of meaning, I started writing songs about her and it helped me sort out some of the questions and guilt I had. I searched for answers, traveled wide and far in my songs, went to some really dark places and some pretty happy ones too, in doing so.
I devoted my life to my music and my band and I kind of forgot everything else. When the band fell apart, so did my world. They were kind of one and the same and when I lost one, the other followed and I fell into a really dark place, the darkest place I have ever been. My wife, then girlfriend, and I came very close to breaking up, or killing each other.
There was no light.
No friends, nobody around to talk to.
Losing my band and the world of music is the hardest thing I have been through, emotionally.
Out of the darkness came a tiny, flickering light. A small flame, glowing on the horizon and though it seemed like a totally crazy and impossible thing, we decided to move to America.
My wife, a US citizen, stuck in Sweden for 20 years since moving back from Texas as a kid when her parents divorced, went through hell and high water to get me my visa to the US. She was advised to hire a lawyer, but that was a cost way out of our range, so she did everything on her own. In late spring 2009, I had passed my interview at the US embassy in Stockholm and my green card was on its way.
We were going. It was our way out of a darkness too thick to penetrate and burst out of. We put everything on one horse and off we went.
Here we are now, nine years later and things haven’t exactly turned out the way we imagined, whatever it was that we imagined, I don’t know.
I do know I didn’t imagine this.
Getting off to a rough start with finding; first a car we could afford, then a job and a place to live, eventually we had managed all those things and we had a year or two where it felt like things were going to be OK. It was rough and money was tight, but it was OK. Then my wife lost her job, got sick and could not work. Our cat died, my wife’s father died from cancer, we moved into a wonderful apartment, only to be forced out a year later after a crazy, abusive, alcoholic woman from hell moved into the apartment above us and made our life a nightmare. We moved again, into a nice, clean, well kept apartment complex and we like it there, but as Austin was growing and getting more and more crowded and expensive, we decided to move to a smaller city, close to nature so my wife could focus on trying to get better.Or so we hoped.
We came to Santa Fe. I started working at Whole Foods, but only a few months later, that store closed. I transferred to another store, but so did most other team members and any openings for supervisors etc were closed. I took a drastic pay cut leaving my old job as assistant manager. Choosing Whole Foods as a place to work was very deliberate, there are so many possibilities of advancement within the company and I wanted to make WF my career. Eventually, I was promoted to supervisor. A first step, I thought, in the right direction towards a better life, financially. Little did I know that the 2$ raise meant we would lose our food stamps. The loss of the food stamps overshadows the modest increase in pay and we’re actually struggling more now than before.
In the past year, several of my wife’s medications have gone up in price, or are not covered at all anymore and she is right now in the middle of a serious relapse. We’re more broke than we have ever been before. Today is September 4th and I am missing about $800 to be able to pay my rent. And then it’s all the other bills…our internet and our phones will be turned off in a couple of days and I have no idea how to come up with all the money needed.
We have applied over and over for financial assistance, but apparently I make too much money to be able to get any help what so ever. My wife has been denied disability, so that’s not an option either.
So I am reduced to being a beggar. I have been asking for money online for years and it is a strange feeling, being almost 44 and not be able to take care of yourself. This constant begging for money has also pushed away most of the people I knew. Very few people are left in our lives.
There was a short period there, in Austin, where it seemed like we were making it. That little window came and left and right now we are back in a very dark place.
The constant, relentless stress of not having enough money for bills, medications, rent, clothes (when did I buy anything new for myself last?) and so on, is wearing us down and the fear of losing our home is like a big dark shadow, like Sauron in the Lord of the Rings, a shadow about to take a physical form.
I dare not think about what it would mean if we lost our home. My wife is not going to get any better if all we ever have is this constant, relentless stress…
I have been searching for something my whole life. The things I have been searching for has changed over the years. It has been different things, different goals, dreams and ideas. Right now I am searching for a quiet, protected harbor where my wife and I can take care of each other without having to worry so much about everything all the time.
Some peace of mind.
Just a place to call home.
Here’s a link to our fundraiser: https://www.gofundme.com/2bbs9xfq