The Exhaustion of Barely Getting By


Ezra Klein's powerfully pointed Washington Post column this morning has stayed with me all day. The piece digs into a portion of Romney's video-taped statement which immediately bothered me most, but has gotten less mainstream press than other bits.

“The worst of Romney’s now-infamous comments about “the 47 percent” came in this couplet: “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

I've read plenty of other great responses to Romney's 47% remarks but this bit resonated with me something fierce:

“The poor use up an enormous amount of their mental energy just getting by. They’re not dumber or lazier or more interested in being dependent on the government. They’re just cognitively exhausted.”

Today was one of those Big Picture days where I unintentionally got a glimpse of my family's future, and felt sick with dread. Enduring insecurity is paralyzing and I do my damnedest not to focus on it but after three and a half years, the toll it has taken on us is indescribable. On days like this one, I am quite honestly mystified as to how we've even made it this far without giving up altogether.


We are strong. We soldier on. But the cognitive exhaustion noted in Klein's column is a very real. I know we're not alone in this. I know that for tonight at least, we are better off then many.

About a year and a half ago, on a day much like this one, I dashed off a diary titledI Want My F*#%ing Life Back. Re-reading that piece today, I can see the small improvements. As well as the kindness of strangers which helped cross off some of the most pressing and specific items on that list, we've made real measurable progress.

As a 99er who abandoned the traditional job market after nearly three years of fruitless searching, I make a little with freelance copywriting. It isn't income we can rely on, but it patches holes here and there. My husband was able to return to his previous employer this Spring and we've got health coverage now (which is actually HUGE) but his new position is in the East Bay and he now commutes for hours each day without the kind salary that would allow us to move closer, where rents are exceedingly high.

Even with these incremental improvements, I have had to make peace with the fact that we will never return to the life we once had, and more pointedly, the hope we once had that if we worked hard and acted responsibly, we could attain a certain level of security. I have had to make peace with the fact that at the ripe age of 43 I am apparently unemployable by virtue of being unemployed. I still struggle to make peace with the reality that the world into which our son has emerged as an young adult has no easy path and I have no comfort to give or means with which to support his dreams.

I started this diary merely to highlight Ezra Klein's column, but it seems to have gotten away from me. The thing is, I'm not surprised that Romney views people like me in this way. After all, he has no real-world experience, has never lived a single day with the kind of insecurity we face for months, years, all too often entire lifetimes. What bothers me most, is that his mindset is shared by so many who should know better; Republicans who have seen those around them struggle, who themselves have benefited from the safety net and yet continue to believe that the rest of us are simply not trying hard enough and shirking our responsibilities.

On these Big Picture days I weep. And when I can't weep any longer, I pick myself up. I shoulder my personal responsibilities. I care for those around me as best I can and I move forward.

*cross-posted @ The Daily Kos

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