I have heard a quiet echoing question, from Facebook and the hallows of the internet, "Oh where has Jenny been?"
I've been out fighting, as always, against my health, against poverty, against adversity - that's where I've been. Yesterday I spent my day in the ER. Friday, I spent my day working with the local police after the landlord's handyman punched my living room wall because I asked him for the 14th time to fix my leaking roof. Tuesday I spent mourning a family member who died suddenly after lifelong struggle with addiction. Monday I spent caring for my sick children. Such are the struggles of many women. One challenge piles on the other till it seems unbearable... and yet we bear it.
I speak of my difficult times, not to ask for sympathy or pity. I speak of my difficulties because I am not alone and that sickens me.
When I lie awake at night, unable to sleep for worry... I have this lump in my throat as I wonder if children's medicaid will cover my son's braces. I have this disgusting knot of shame in my gut as I realize for the millionth time that my family invested in my education, and my body fails to provide for my family what was promised. I feel this awful weight - the impending doom of debt, the fear of illness and pain, the wonder of where tomorrow's rent or grocery money will come from... and I have to say that I truly, honestly, feel that if the entirety of this black cloud were solely mine it wouldn't bother me so very much.
What shakes me to my very core, what fuels this fire in my heart, is knowing that I am not alone, rather I am a single soul in a sea of faces. My cloud isn't the alone on the horizon, it's among the piles in a thunderhead looming close - shaking with thunderous electric energy.
The fact is that in spite of my fear, and shame and sorrow, I didn't do anything wrong but fail in a failing society. I cannot expect society to fix me. I instead expect me to fix both myself and society. It is a daunting task made particularly difficult by distractions like 7 hour days in the ER, but not impossible. I may not have health, but I still have a voice.
My voice is small in the vastness of humanity. My suffering is insignificant. My purpose in life is simple. I know that, but it doesn't mean I shan't speak. I doesn't mean that my suffering matters for nothing. After all, it takes a very small, insignificant, simple light to break a solid wall of darkness. It takes one flicker of light. It takes one small voice, one insignificant fire, one devoted purpose. The lightning only has to strike once.
So - Where has Jenny been? The same place as always. I assure you, my light will never cease to shine, the challenges life brings me are nothing but happy fuel for my fire. For you, for my sons, for myself, I smile and fan the flames.