"It wasn't supposed
to be like this -
I was supposed to be comfortable."
Thank you for PAPER DADDY, your new play.
I saw the staged reading Saturday and, even though it
wasn't a full production, you made me weep. Why? I guess I felt sorry for myself.
Your play made me think about my own situation.
I didn't expect to turn out this way - my life. It wasn't supposed to be like this.
I was supposed to be comfortable.
Until last September I was a fully-employed citizen.
I'm not going to go into too much detail here -
you have my permission to publish this because I think it might help others.
But I was a tax-paying, insurance-toting member
of the middle class. Until September. Over a year ago.
I've been employed my whole life.
From 16-years-old for my whole life, I've always had a job.
My mom taught us that our employers were to be respected
and we were lucky if we had work. I always felt lucky;
all of us were employees in my family - forever.
I remember coming home from school, changing my clothes
and heading to Powers (in Highland Park) where I sold shoes.
In college - even though I would have loved to go out with
my friends, I was even happier to go to work. I worked at
Buttrey's in Midway Shopping Center where I sold dresses.
I saved enough to buy my first car - a Gremlin.
I paid cash for that car in 1978.
I never made a whole lot of money, but I made
enough money to raise my kids and take good care of myself.
Now, after earning myself a Master's Degree, after giving
over thirty years of good, productive service to three
wonderful employers, I'm out. I'm nothing. Nothing to anyone.
I have been job hunting, non-stop, for over a year.
I've had many interviews - and have been
first-runner-up for two great jobs. But I'm not employed.
My house is for sale. My children are pitching in by
buying me a bag of groceries here, paying my utilities there.
I don't know what will happen after I sell my house -
I don't think anyone will rent to someone without an income.
I am not eligible for Social Security for another three years.
In the past six months I've cashed out my
retirement to make ends meet.
Kristine, it wasn't supposed to be like this. Four years more;
forty three months, to be exact - I'd be downright comfortable.
I had investments to take me to 62 - and I planned to sell
my house, buy a little condo on the beach at Fort Myers and retire.
Now, I'll be lucky if I'm not homeless. How do I get over
the disappointment of my diminished life?
How do I hold it together? How can I function?
Your play was inspiring - it was also free admission - and
I thank you for that. But what do I do when the stage lights
dim and real life steps up?
I'll watch your website for your answer.
Thank you for your help -
Dear Lillian -
Thank you for your email. I'm so sorry. I am.
I understand and I am sorry.
You're right my intentions behind my play.
I wrote it to touch you. I know how hard these times are.
I don't have a friend who isn't affected by them.
I don't know a soul who feels at ease.
Lillian, you must do three things:
First, you must stop feeling sorry for yourself. I know this sounds
harsh, but hear me - you are not alone in this.
You share this awful experience with millions of American men
and women trying to hold things together. Please do not
blame yourself, fall into shame or allow yourself to wallow
in pity. You deserve more from yourself right now. You
are your own, best ally. Don't let yourself down when you need
yourself the most.
Second, you must accept and forgive. Accept that this is your
circumstance - that you can shape and move through it with
grace and joy. Don't be insulated by your anger. Don't let
what you cannot control take away your power. Look at your life -
accept it. Make plans to survive it. Make plans to rise
above this circumstance and prevail. Consider thinking of
something other than your financial future.
Obviously your finances have been in the spotlight
most of your life. Right now, however, you must
plan for another part of your life. You must consider
your circumstance and find joy in the heart of it.
This is will not be easy, Lillian. I know how hard it will be.
Even so, you must do it. You must remember who you
are - remember and re-member that person; put her
back together again.
What do you love? Where do you find pleasure?
Do you enjoy the outdoors? The theatre? Dance?
Music? Children? Whatever you love, start loving it
every day -- - actively loving it. Do it again.
Get in the world, recover from this blow, make
your life fun again. And forgive. Forgive the
selfish, greedy, culture-killing capitalists who
brought us to this place. Forgive their voracious
appetites for money, power and violence. Forgive
them and recover - live your own life.
Finally - (and this might be the most difficult action of all)
- you must stop defining yourself by your bank balance,
by your employer, by your work. Look to Lillian -
to the girl you were, the woman you became, the
great life you led and are preparing to transform.
Remember who you are - love who you are - be
who you are. No matter what happens to you, Lillian -
you will always have Lillian. No matter what circumstance,
she will be with you. You have everything you need to be happy.
I wish could tell you to "hold on, everything is bound to
get better." But I can't tell you that.
I can only tell you to hold tight to what you know is
good, true and kind. Live your life with dignity and imagination.
Be strong. Take chances. Be free.
None of this will get better - you, however, will get better.
I promise. Have faith in yourself, Lillian.