Below is an excerpt from a letter I sent out today. It was anxiety inducing, scary, and also necessary. I hope you will read and receive it gently. Love.
Living with chronic illness is difficult. stumbling on financial hardship is difficult. Experiencing both simultaneously is a thing that can drive even the most optimistic of us to stumble far too close to the edge of hopelessness. The past six months to a year have really tested those boundaries for us, have really pushed and pulled and threatened to send us over that proverbial edge, and without this amazing lighthouse of a community, we may very well have toppled over, because Lord knows, there have been days where I personally, felt like I could not hold on any longer. That is when, not just the money has made a huge difference, but the resounding voices of love that have come forward in so many forms to encourage me and to send us all their incredible love. For this - for all of this - I thank you over and over.
Now, I want to be frank with everyone, because my plan was to write with a thank you, and with an update to let you know how we are doing, and I have been hesitant to do so, because what I would really like to be able to write, more than anything, is that everything has finally settled into a breathable scenario, that this past few months was a hard fast blip and we are putting everything back together again, but the truth is, it's not that simple, and I feel urged deep down inside, to not be silent about it, but to share and be open.
Truth: We are putting things back together again. But, have been a constant state of urgency. My Lupus flares have been worse and worse, and I have not seen a doctor since February. I have prescription refills waiting at the pharmacy that I haven't been able to pick up - over the counter vitamins and anti-inflammatory meds that I am supposed to take daily and can't even access because we simply don't have the money. I have applied for insurance where we are now and am waiting for an interview where hopefully I will be approved and be able to see a Lupus specialist nearby. Because of my illness, I am not able to work outside the home.
My husband's (M.'s) job search continues, tirelessly. Our bills are behind and we are nearing a point where things are once again, in danger of being shut off. and we are once again, pondering whether we have anything of value left to pawn. And to make matters more terrifying, yesterday, we received notice that M.'s unemployment benefits have stopped, and Oklahoma has a strict law that one can only receive unemployment for 26 weeks, no extensions.
We are currently in Dallas, Texas, where we relocated in the middle of May, and where M. will be attending an aviation academy at the end of this month. Why Dallas? Because they had an academy similar to the one in California, but the cost of living here is far less expensive; something he discovered when he had to fly out here in April to attend his mother's funeral, on top of everything else.
We do have an apartment and M. has been job searching right away, from day one, filling out applications relentlessly. This month he's already been to four interviews, including the one he is at, as we speak, and yet nothing has come through so far (hoping with all my heart this changes immediately). He has been applying for any and everything, many jobs he is vastly overqualified for and therefore is passed over just the same as if he were under-qualified instead.
Through all of this, our kids remain so amazingly strong and resilient. We would be foolish to think all of this uproot and transition has no affect on them, we know quite well that it does, but we are thankful that we have been able to be there, together as a family, through all of it. I believe it's the only thing that has gotten us this far in one whole piece, even if a little bumped and bruised. But I do worry about them; of course I do.
Yesterday, I had a breakdown moment, they come and go, but this one was particularly bad. The thing is, it is so difficult to tell people you are having a hard time. it is so difficult to continuously feel like you are someone that people in your life have to show up for, that you are a burden. It is difficult to be in a state of seemingly constant crisis; to be sick and have limitations; to be doing everything that you absolutely possibly can, or at least is within you knowledge base, to fight and survive and live and rise above, and to still be sucked under. It is difficult to fight so hard to keep your head above water, and to feel like an inconvenience for talking about it, for getting other people wet. It is enough to make someone question their worth and value and place here. It has absolutely made me question mine, and I don't really have reservations about sharing that; it's the truth. Life isn't always pretty. I feel like we get so caught up in it needing to be triumphant, when some times, some moments, some days, it's just plain ugly, and we are fortunate to make it to another day. And yes, there is beauty in that.
So friends, loved ones, and those I may not know but who have touched me immensely, this is where we are. It has been suggested to me, more than once, by more than one person, to let another fundraiser be put together, but I would rather not go that route. The idea of it causes me a great deal of anxiety and heaviness that I cannot imagine how to contain. But, what I have to get past, is my fear of asking for help at all, in any shape or form, and there are some ways that you can assist my family, if you are at all able.
1) If you know anyone in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and can connect us with viable networking for job leads or anything else that could be helpful in Michael's search for employment. He has extensive experience in the communications field, ran marketing and advertising for a record label for many years, is a licensed life insurance agent, and even did private personal training sessions, at one point, among other things.
2) If you or anyone you know may be needing editing services and would like to use me for said services - I provide editing on all sorts of projects, as well as bio writing services, and many other things in this realm - just ask. I have over a decade of experience doing this kind of work and it is work I can do from home.
3) If you or anyone you know may be needing vocal services for any of your projects, I also do paid vocal work, whether that means singing on a project you have, or providing lessons.
4) Love and well wishes from time to time, if you have them to spare. I tend to isolate when things are rough, and things have been rough for some time, and I have isolated like a champ. I have admittedly not been as good a friend as I know I have been in the past, because I simply don't have the energy at the end of the day when all I am doing is trying to survive, and being in survival mode is hard. I know I have received them from many of you and I appreciate it, so basically I'm saying, it matter, it really does.
5) Last, but certainly not least. everything in me wants to have shame surrounding this request, but yesterday, I cried so hard that I didn't want to be here anymore, because of said shame, because of such deep feelings of worthlessness, feelings I wouldn't wish on anyone, so I have to ask for this with love and respect, not just for you all, but for myself. Here it is: Love and well wishes and help with any of the above means the world and is truly significant, but right now, we do need monetary help - we do have to earn a living. Because M.'s unemployment so abruptly ended, we are once again in a scary place. I have a phone interview with medicaid next week that I won't be able to participate in if my phone is shut off. Job searching thus also becomes more difficult once utilities start getting shut down. We need food on the table, not to mention, we simply cannot afford to lose another home.
What we need is to be able to make it until M. finds some employment to fully support us. I have merchandise on my website for sale. Several items are brand new. You can purchase some music or poetry from me, or you can simply make a donation via the donations page or you can do both. Either way, every single dollar that we have right now makes a difference; every single one. So I am asking you to please consider purchasing merchandise or making a donation to help us during this time.
And as for me, I will keep you posted down the road on how things are progressing. I will do my utmost to make every single moment count. I will pay every single kindness and goodness forward. My whole family will. That is something I can promise you.
With more love than I can ever find words to conjure, with more gratitude than can ever fit inside this heart of mine, humbly, and with great thanks,
Sarah Myles Spencer and family
EDIT 7/10: To everyone who has thus far shared my site, my familiy's needs, and put the word out to their own personal networks to help us find the resources that can assist us in our time of trial; to those who have purchased merchandise from me and/or donated to quite literally aid us in surviving; to those who have messaged me in one form or another to lend some of the most beautiful love, assurance, and encouragement during what feels like such an unrelenting period of tribulation: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I cannot even know where to begin expressing my gratitude. The need is still real so if you can continue circulating all of the above, I would really really appreciate it. Also, If you have a paypal account and it is convenient for you, you can skip the donate button below and donate directly to us through paypal by using my email address firstname.lastname@example.org and no fees will be taken out on our end. Please know though, no matter how you do it, it not only counts, not only helps, but makes a huge difference in our lives. So much gratititude. Another aside, for those seeking editing or vocal services, or if you may have job contact info for M. please use the contact form to send me an email or just email me directly at the above stated email address. Forgive me on my slow correspondence, I'm physically drained and emotional to boot, but I'm here. I'm staying.
Love beyond words, and very tearfully, Sarah
Although I haven't blogged about it here until now, many of you know through other forms of social networking, that times have recently been very tough for my family and I. In November of 2013, we unexpectedly lost our sole income, sending us into a tailspin once we had depleted our savings. Soon after, I experienced a severe autoimmune flare that turned into pneumonia and put me in the hospital three times in the course of a month. With bills piling up, my continued medical issues, and no relief in site, in March of 2014, my family wound up losing our home and having to relocate 1800 miles to stay with a friend, and in May, relocating once again, 1600 miles to a new place, hoping for a fresh start.
At the beginning of this year, my wonderful friends put together a fundraiser for us that raised a few thousand dollars, and it was a huge help in getting us through my illness, our transitory time, and ultimately relocating us to our new home.
I am grateful; we are clothed, sheltered, fed, and loved; however, as much as we have worked to stretch what we have had, we are still barely making it, and as we seek to permanently replace the income we lost, and put more of our plan for a better life in action, bills are still past due and we are unable to obtain many important essentials. On top of that, because of our perpetual transitioning over the past few months, my medical care has been sparse. I am still having severe flares and am unable to see a doctor until we have insurance again. Unfortunately, this leaves me in a precarious position health wise.
In the midst of all this, though, something happened. Earlier this month, I was invited to a women's writing retreat in upstate New York, that I have wanted to attend for the past three years. Initially, I assumed this would be the third year in a row I would have to decline the invitation, but on a whim, I sent in a scholarship application with a sample of my work, and waited. One week later, to my surprise, I was awarded a partial scholarship. At first, my excitement was in-containable, but that quickly changed to panic and grief. How could I possibly afford to go to a writing retreat with my family still barely making ends meet and my health so delicate? I was poised to send a letter with my regrets to the woman who curates the retreat every year. But then something really magical happened, I allowed myself hope for just a moment, allowed myself the belief that maybe, just maybe, the universe was offering me something good, that maybe this was part of the better that is coming mine and my family's way. Well, within twenty four hours of allowing myself that hope, I was gifted a plane ticket. And after some initial hesitation, poking and prodding from those closest to me, I accepted.
That's where you come in, friends. Our current income is completely based on a couple of small unemployment disbursements every month. To make matters even more nerve wracking, we just found out those disbursements will stop within a few weeks. This money is a fixed amount and has not always covered all of our essentials to begin with, so this means we have had to choose what gets paid and what doesn't. This also means there is no additional money in our current budget for my trip. Now, I still need to pay the fee remainder from what my scholarship doesn't cover, I need certain items during my trip to ensure I can take care of my body to the best of my ability, and I really need for my family to be okay while I am gone - like just basic essentials such as making sure lights stay on, food is in the fridge for the kids, and gas is in the car for my husband's job searching and when he starts school at the end of July.
Going on this trip is something I only ever imagined could happen, even just a few short days ago, but now it's a part of my reality. I will get to go and be among fifty of some of the most brilliant, talented, empowering women identified writers in my community, to grow and learn with and from them. And, on top of it all, this trip also affords me the ability to see what little family I have left, that I haven't seen in a decade, since before my father died. And while I am there, I will get to finally fulfill a longtime wish, to take some of his and my mother's ashes, and scatter them across my grandparent's grave.
This weekend, I am releasing several new projects that I've put a lot of blood, sweat, tears, love, and time into - I cannot tell you how difficult it was to get all of this completed, fatigue is real, and I am feeling pretty grateful that I have been able to hang through. All my merchandise will be on a sliding scale. There will also be a donation option for those of you who would like to contribute more than the allotted amounts OR those who maybe cannot afford the merchandise but would like to donate anyway (if this is you, please let me know, I would still like to give you something in return). Also, keep in mind that I am charged a fee for merchandise purchases, but all donations are free of fees.
In closing, I want to say thank you. I want to tell you how grateful I am that I can put myself out there, no matter how scary it is, and feel like I have people who are in my corner waiting to catch me. I want to say thank you for how this community has held my family and I during one of the hardest times in our lives. I know times are tight for a lot of people and I appreciate you putting your support, not just into my art, but into my actual real survival. Thank you for supporting independent artists; thank you for supporting me and my family. Our gratitude is deeper than words can express. You can always be assured that whenever moments arise that I am able to pay it forward I absolute will and do.
-Such massive love, Sarah
EDIT 7/8: Unemployment ended unexpectedly yesterday. We now have zero income coming in and are in danger of having certain utilities shut off. All funds from purchases and donations will go directly to bills, food, medicine, and other costs of living. The travel costs of the Pink Door Retreat were already covered prior to this change in circumstances due to a gifted plane ticket and payment arrangements made for additional fees to be paid at a later date. Again, all purchases and/or donations will go towards our family's survival. Please help. Thank you. -Sarah