On Living Life in Survival Mode

I have been sitting here for a full five minutes trying to figure out how to lay this down without sounding like a bitter bitch! How can I truly capture the edge of my seat existence without sounding every bit as angry about it as I am? Years of societal condition has taught me that failure at finding financial security is because I just haven’t worked hard enough.

Bootstrap mentality has made it so my worth as a person is tied to my financial success and poverty is attributed to my own failings as a human being and not the parasitic corporate structure sucking the life out of good, hard working people like my husband and I.

Hard work and gumption will makes your dreams come true is the mantra of the bootstrapper and he picks himself up and dusts himself of with his trust fund money just to prove his point. I believed that too though. I truly believed that. I started working as a teenager and I have not stopped since. There has not been a job beneath me. I have bussed tables, slung wares on the street, cleaned toilets, dedicated countless hours to hard work. My corporate career is no exception. I have built an incredible network of colleagues over decades. My resume is legit. Not a single lie on it!

I’m a hard working woman, I should be a millionaire.

Hard work + “gumption” is not a secret formula to economic prosperity.

I’ve got both and all it’s given me is a stubborn and persistent will to live. It keeps me surviving.

I think about that a lot. In fact, I’m obsessed with it. I can’t stop doing it.


Lord knows that looks different for everybody. Surviving for me looks like happy children not feeling the weight of our financial stresses.

survival-chart-1That takes a ton of masterful surviving. I am an artist at surviving. I make it look effortless. Like a ballet. Balanced and finessed, the perfect lighting, full of flair. A masterful show intended to make all the heavy things feel light as air. It’s slight of hand. I recognize the extra I have to be to pull it all off and I put the spotlight there, instead of my pain over never having enough. That’s the trick to surviving. Making the pain wait until there’s time. The pain believes me but what a fool because there is never time for that. Survival mode means there is always something to do, some plans to make, some move to orchestrate to make it through the day.

I know what you’re thinking…but, I promise you, I love my life and I regret none of my choices. I am not in a happy deficit. On the contrary…I laugh easily, I find joy in every place…that’s another trick of surviving…forcing yourself to see joy in things most find annoying.

The wind in my hair. The rain on my face. The chaos of raising six kids.

Incredibly gifted, insightful, intuitive and compassionate kids. They are my super power.

The truth is living in survival mode is bitter business. The absolute truth is, hardworking people are always one illness or catastrophe away from falling apart. I envy folks who have it “together.” All their entire needs met always and consistently without thinking too much about it. The truth is, I’ve had a few periods in my life where the work was abundant and I didn’t have to worry about silly things like bills. I had free time then too. I made plans.

I know many, many people in my circle who can relate to this. They are brilliant, intelligent, talented people. None of us getting what we are worth. That’s exactly how I know existing in survival mode has less to do with my own personal failings and more to do with the deck being stacked unfairly against a working, woman of color like me.

That’s just the truth and it was a truth I am grateful to have come to, cos that’s the last trick to living life on survival mode, knowing my worth and holding to it without compromise, without apologizing for my existence ever. My basic needs can’t be met because society is flawed as fuck and uncaring and critical of my poverty.

That’s not my fault. I’m fucking fabulous. Fight me!

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