Maintaining power

quitclaim, by IconDoIt

“You can’t maintain,” the social worker said.

“I thought you helped people who couldn’t maintain,” I responded, knowing my words were futile.

I regret going to the social services yesterday.  I felt good when I woke up.  I had some energy and a smile to go with it.  I took a shower and put on something I enjoyed wearing which I think was a mistake.

I wore a pair of blue jeans.  Maybe it was because they were Capri length and not the faded and lately, baggy, jeans I usually wear.  I can’t recall which blouse I wore but I remember wearing a necklace and earrings.  I need a hair cut so I used hairspray to keep my bangs out of my eyes, which I don’t like using.  Hairspray makes my hair sticky or stiff and I’ve never liked it.

I’ve been so stressed lately that I can’t find things, like my hair clasps I would have worn instead of using spray.  Maybe my hair looked too stylish since it was all puffed up.

I wonder if I looked too nice to be a good candidate for assistance with a large power bill — assistance that she said was available and that I qualify for.

I told her I had been sick but she gave me a weird look.  The kind of look that implies she did not believe me.  I told her I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia but she didn’t respond.

“I’m filling in because everyone is in court,” the woman told me, which I thought was kind of odd.   Every social worker in the entire county were all at court at the same time.

“I’ll take the application and when the social worker returns I’ll give it to her,” she said.  Her next remark surprised me. “You should be aware though that if someone comes in before she gets back and ask for the same help they may get the funds instead of you.”

“But I’ve just applied,” I asked,  “what do you mean?”

“Because you’ve stated that you don’t have the funds to pay the remainder of what we can’t help you with,” she said as she kept on typing.  “If someone comes in asking and they say they can pay what we can’t pay then we will give them these funds.”

“I will pay the remainder,” I told her, “even if I have to put it on a credit card.”

The social services say that it is okay for a person who lives on a low fixed income to have a credit card.  I’ve only used mine a couple of times.  I’ve used it for a car repair, one $40.00 trip to the dentist, and once at the grocery store.  I told her I had made a $25.00 payment on it this month.

“Using your credit card to pay would only put you in the hole more,” she remarked.


“Yes, I realize that,” I said politely.  “I’ll use my credit card to pay before I let them shut off my power service.  Wouldn’t you?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she answered.  We made eye contact.  For a moment I thought that maybe she understood the position I was in.

The department of social services also allows a cell phone and cable vision as an expense, the latter of which I’ve never had, not in my entire life.  My cell phone however has been a lifeline when my son has been in a crisis or a hospital.

Once he got lost and literally ended up in the middle of our country.  He was on that list of people who have a mental illness and are missing.  My mom came here to answer the phone if he called, while I was in the mountains with detectives searching the woods where we thought my son may have camped before getting into a van with a man who took him all the way to Illinois, a long way from North Carolina.

My son called home from a phone booth but he didn’t know where he was.  The driver of the van had abandoned him because he said my son did not cooperate by not panhandling in the parking lots of Walmart, which is apparently a common practice for some people.  They travel the country and not only panhandle in Walmart parking lots but they sleep there too.  Apparently both are legal.

My mom was as stressed as I was and failed to get proper information from my son when he called.  She called me on my cell phone but all she knew was that he said he was at a Kroger grocery store.  She did not know which state he was in.  She was able to dial *69 and get a number.  The detectives I was with helped locate the number.  We called the police there and they found my son.  I wired the officer money to buy my son a bus ticket.  He arrived home two days later.

I wonder how many psychiatrists I’ve spoken to over that cell phone throughout the past eight years while I’ve been an advocate for my son?  I bet if I had one dollar for every one I’ve talked to I’d have enough money to pay my power bill.

I use the cell phone for my own doctors and nurses too.  Anyone who lives with a chronic illness might well know that if you leave messages for doctors and nurses, you really need to be available when they return your calls.  My cell phone has been pretty important.

Without the cell phone I’d be at that phone booth and I can’t recall what state I was in when I took this picture.  Phone booths are hard to come by.

I think if cable vision is counted as an expense, then a person ought to be able to choose between that and an internet connection.  It also seems like an internet connection would be more useful than cable vision to families with children in school who need access to do homework.

I don’t know what our social services thinks about people with disabilities having an internet connection.  They seem to think cable-vision is more important and it cost a lot more, so this doesn’t make sense to me.  I’ve learned through experience that an internet connection for me is a lifeline, which cost me about twenty dollars per month, a lot less than cable.

I don’t have a car payment, thank goodness, but I have repairs.   Social Services will allow for repairs but won’t let me use the expenses I’ve incurred because I put it on my credit card.    Even though they allow a person asking for one-time assistance to have a credit card, they don’t include the monthly payments in expenses.  Go figure.

“I will find the remaining funds if you can help me and I need for you to tell the social worker this when she returns,” I told the woman taking the application.

“We have at least one hundred dollars we can pay towards your bill and possibly two hundred,” she said looking at the computer.

“That would be very helpful,” I said.  “Even if it is one hundred dollars, I’ll pay the remainder.”

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve asked social services for help during the seven years I’ve lived here.  Each time has been a difficult experience.  It isn’t swallowing my pride that has been the most difficult part but instead is the things some of the social workers say .  I do remember one time when a social worker helped me without preaching at me or putting me down.  I couldn’t believe it.  She said something like, “Wow, how do you make it each month?”

Exactly I thought!  Exactly.  I’m fairly creative when it comes to, “making it each month.”

Usually they ask, like the woman did several times yesterday, “How did you get in this position?”

I should have said something like, “Well, how much time do you have because it all started about ten years ago.”

The social worker finished the application but she once again asked me the same question that I thought I’d answered at least twice already.

“I just don’t understand.  I’m looking at your expenses and they are less than three hundred dollars.”

“You are forgetting the power bill, which is $255.00,” I reminded her, again.

“Oh.  That’s right.”

Why the hell did she think I was there?

“Yes.  That is almost half of your income,” she reminded herself.  “But you say you can pay if we don’t.”

“Yes, but on a credit card,” I reminded her, again.

I signed the application and left.

I came home and immediately lied down on my sofa.    I’d eaten a piece of string cheese on my way there.  I had felt so well when I woke up I was actually looking forward to coming home and eating lunch.  I had lost my appetite though.  I was depressed from the interaction.  Maybe they would help me though, I thought, so I rested.

My cell phone rang and I knew it was her.

“We can’t help you,” she said immediately.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Well, because you told us you have a way to pay.”

“But you said I had to have a way to pay the remainder to qualify for the help.”

“Well, we still have questions about how you got yourself in this position.”

“I’ve had a power bill that has been over half of my monthly income for three consecutive months,” I reminded her, again.

“You can’t maintain,” she said.

“What?” I asked.

“You can’t maintain.  You’ve been in this position before.  I’m sorry.”

“Well, maybe if I lived in a tent I could maintain,” I told her.  She was starting a sentence when I hung up on her.

I didn’t care if I was rude and I still don’t care.

I don’t need someone reminding me that I’ve found myself in these shoes several times in these past eight years — and most certainly — I will not stand and listen to someone who says it like I’ve committed a crime when that person doesn’t have one suggestion as to preventing this situation in the future.    My apartment is not insulated well and as a result, I pay.

I have maintained! I’ve never had any utility shut off. I’ve also camped enough to know I can live in a tent, which I might do before I would ever ask those people for help again.

I believe if I had dressed differently and lied, although I’m not sure which part I was supposed to lie about, that I would have received the assistance that is there for me.

I have a feeling that the people who get help know what to wear or rather, what not to wear, what to say or not say, and how to act.

An acquaintance of mine called me late yesterday.  She asked how I was doing.  I told her about my experience.  She’s been in my shoes, only not sick, just poor.  She said I should have never told them about the credit card.  She said I should have said I could pay out of my checking account and then they would have helped me.

I  didn’t know the right answers, but the right answers are not the truth.

I know what I would have liked to have said, but I won’t say it here.

Sometimes this world seems harsh. Sometimes, it seems like a hard place to be.

“You can’t maintain.”

For some reason that remark has stuck in my brain.

The thing is, is that I can maintain.  I do maintain and will continue to do so.


14 responses to this post.

  1. Hubby just read to me a quote from his book of daily affirmations. I thought it was particularly appropriate to your post. “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of suffering.” (Helen Keller).
    Have you ever thought about trying to establish a column in a local newspaper, maybe about the very issues faced by those living in poverty and/or with chronic illness? I’d think that with the present economy there is an increased need and interest in these topics and with your writing talent and personal experience, I believe you could create a very compelling asset for your local papers. Since columns are often only once or twice a week, there wouldn’t be the kind of pressure of a daily job and probably could be done from your home, not requiring you to travel to their office. Maybe try writing a couple as an example to pitch to the Chief Editor… Just a thought but it could be a win-win thing for you and your community.



    • Wow! Helen Keller, one of the few books I owned as a child included her life story. I was forever amazed and never tired of that one book. Yes, I have always wished I had a column. Then I chicken out and think there are too many better writers than I. I think that would be so cool. I do have a voice when it comes to these subjects. Maybe I will try your suggestion.
      Thanks for the inspiration! And the affirmation, I love it!



  2. I worked closely with students with special needs in a public school setting. I was a parent trying to get help to understand the system and find out what I didn’t know—which was a truck load! I ended up forming a parent support group so we could help each other. You cannot believe–well I guess you can– the lying that was necessary to get services for these kids!!! If something was not phrased in a particular way or if the truth was not “embellished” students, who quite obviously were in need of lifetime help, were denied. It was and still is a travesty!

    And, because of this #@*!% illness I have I had to drop out of the community and let die something I had worked so hard to make happen and that was making a difference in the lives of these students and their parents.

    How do they expect us to fight for what is rightfully ours when we are so darn exhausted and in so much pain we can’t make it upstairs to go to bed at night and lay restlessly on the couch downstairs, praying for just a couple of hours sleep?!?




    • Hi CJ!
      Thanks for the response. I actually have to get off the computer so I can figure out how to “maintain,” this month! I think it is a screwed up system when honest people must “embellish” the truth. I also think it is screwed up that a sick person must fight so hard for the help that our government has directly stated is there specifically for disabled citizens on a low income who get in a tough spot. Having power bills that are almost half my monthly income puts me in a rough spot.
      Sigh… I’m sorry that you are not able to be a part of the system. We sure need people like you who understand what it means to need help.
      I hope you got yourself some sleep. I have lost a lot of sleep lately. It is wearing on me too.
      In friendship,



  3. Posted by Debbie on June 13, 2010 at 9:53 PM

    I looked for one and I didn’t see it. Maybe I am over looking it? All I see is the email subscription widget, which is used to subscribe to posts. I don’t see a contact widget. But sometimes I overlook things that are right in front of my face. LOL!
    Which reminds me, I don’t have a “contact me” on my newest blog either. I need to fix that.



    • Hi Debbie,
      You are right. I don’t have the contact form. I will get it. In the mean time you can email me through a comment. Sorry about the confusion. I’m slow when it comes to this technology!
      I look forward to communicating with you.
      I hope you have a nice day!
      Sincerely, dogkisses.



  4. Posted by Debbie on June 13, 2010 at 5:53 PM

    I am sorry you are going through this. I will pray things get better for you soon.



    • Hi Debbie,
      Nice that you stopped by my blog and thank you for your prayer.



      • Posted by Debbie on June 13, 2010 at 8:59 PM

        You are welcome. And thank you for stopping by my new blog. 🙂 I looked for a way to send you a message privately, but didn’t see one. So I didn’t say much, but let’s just say that I found your blog after your comment on mine and I can really relate to a lot of your experiences on here. Almost shockingly so. Not all, but many.
        But I really enjoyed the posts that I have read so far, and I plan on coming back to read more – and to read more of what you post in the future. 🙂



        • Hi Debbie,
          I’m glad you could relate to things I’ve written. Thanks again for reading! There is supposed to be a widget for emailing me on my blog. I’ll check it out.
          I look forward to visiting your blog again and feel free to contact me — hopefully my widget works.



  5. I’ve encountered situations like this and have been put down, as if asking for help makes me less of a human being! It’s hard enough to ask for assistance, but to be treated the way you were – well, that’s not right! The phrase “You can’t maintain” would get to me too, I think.
    I am sorry you are going through this, and I hope you can figure something out.

    Sending happy thoughts your way,



    • Hi Victoria,
      Thank you for reading.
      It was very depressing hearing that as the reason they would not help me.
      I must go rest now. Thank you for your warm and “happy” wishes! That means a lot.
      I hope you are having a better day than I’ve had today and yesterday. (That isn’t saying much but you know what I mean).
      I wish you, and yours, happy thoughts too!



  6. If I know anything I know this. If you tell the truth you will never get help. Unfortunately, this is reality. Also, they don’t care. There are people making six figures off the system but you can’t get help. It’s a travesty. What are you going to do? I’m dreading this summer because I’ll probably be in the same position. The heat out here is unreal and I either sweat or pay huge bills that I can’t afford. I hate this. Okay, how do we get out of this mess?



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