Monday, September 22, 2008

Better to give than to receive

A lot of people don't know that my family was on Welfare as a kid. I remember a portion of my life during which oatmeal was an ingredient in most of our meals, if not the central ingredient. Living in poverty didn't traumatize me, though there were times when I knew I was different from (read: not as good as) the other kids I knew. As an adult, like almost any difficulty people have to overcome as kids, I appreciate having had that cross to bear at a young age. Instead of getting a new pair of shoes when mine weren't cool anymore, I decorated my old pair with sequins. Instead of throwing away my "holy" jeans, I bleached or dyed them and turned them into totally cool shorts. I'm good at living simply, and getting by on very little money. It's a part of who I am. Even after I hit it big as a travel writer and make millions, I'll still be working class. I'll always be working class.

I'll never get tired of telling people about how my mom pulled me and my three siblings out of poverty by working full-time during the day and attending the local community college full-time at night. After a couple of years, she had her Associates degree, and with honors. Though she couldn't be around as much as she wanted to, we always knew we were number one. Instead of feeling rejected or abandoned, I felt only pride. This was my example, my training at a young age, that I can and should accomplish anything I want. I take pride in doing things myself, like fixing my van, or paying for college. The unfortunate side affect of this is that I have a really hard time accepting help. Somewhere in my brain, needing help becomes translated into weakness. Needing help is a sign that I am failing at doing it myself.

Hence one of the biggest challenges of my Vantasy. Owning a twenty year-old vehicle which is also a house means there's always a repair to be made. For example, I've been driving around the country with a leaky sewer valve. It's a slow but constant drip. drip. drip. of pee*. I've essentially peed a trail from Portland to Denver that has even Ralgh the dog impressed. I'm sure if he could invent such a contraption for himself, he'd do it.

*A side note on bodily waste: DO NOT READ IF YOU DON"T WANT TO READ ABOUT MY POOP! I never do number two in Vanta C's toilet. I've found that there's plenty of opportunity for poo during the day, and having weighed the pros and cons of doin' the two in Vanta C, I made the decision to put only liquid waste in my toilet. I have a back-up emergency plan in case I wake up in the middle of the night with the runs, and it's hilarious. I'm too classy to tell you about that just yet. Anyway, the leak in Vanta C's sewer didn't bug me much, because I'm not dripping dookie everywhere and polluting [Barack Obama's] America the Beautiful. So, that's the 411 on my scat, my doodie, my crap, my dung, my solid waste, my turds... Have I missed any g-rated poo slang?

After a month on the road, I'm still struggling with asking for help or even just accepting unsolicited offers from people. I'm an adult, dammit, I can take care of myself. Sometimes, though, I get overwhelmed and just have no idea how to fix something, or I get tired of eating out of cans. So a meal is offered and I awkwardly accept, wondering how I can contribute even though I know I have little to offer outside of saying thanks. I mean, I can't just show up to dinner with a can of sardines as a contribution, and anything worth bringing costs more than what it would cost me to just eat a Cantasy in my Vantasy. My budget is so tight that I'm forced to accept gifts without doing much in return. I just say thanks, feel like a burden, and try to find ways to avoid getting any more help from the donor.

These past couple of days I spent in Cherry Creek State Park in Denver with eight other campers I'd never met who are all full-time RVers. They're young and resourceful, make their money while traveling, and have made an art of living simply. They took care of me, fed me, gave me lists of websites, advice, ideas, examples, dog food, and one of them fixed my sewer valve and another leak in my grey water tank. For free.

Kevin gets dirty with the sewer valve

It got to the point at which I felt like their child. I was needy, had nothing to offer in return. I felt like a burden. But I accepted their help as gracefully as possible and tried to avoid my tendency to want to feel humiliated. After all, when I help someone, it's never because I feel pity for them or think they need it; it's just because I like helping people. I'm generous with my time and money. It's a gift when someone allows me to help them because it grows our friendship. I have to trust that when people want to help me it comes from the same place. That I am giving them a gift by just accepting their help and allowing them to feel good about giving. It takes practice, though, and humility.

Check out my new friends and what they're doing!

Kevin changes the way we RV.

Rene and Jim hit the road full-time with a three-legged dog.

Me, with Bella, daughter of Sara and Matt with the veggie oil RV.


Anonymous said...

You missed "BM".

Love, Barf

Cija said...

I am so happy you met up with Rene, Jim, Jerry and crew. I would trust my life to Rene & Jim. I have known them since college days in San Francisco (read long ago in a galaxy far, far way) and they are some of the most passionate, generous, inspiring people I know, just like you. (By the way I only hang out with and know cool people, so it was bound to be good.)

Rachel Tamed said...

Your smile and energy is enough to share Eva - you give a lot more to those around you than you give yourself credit for. I miss you!!!

Kevin said...

You are such a beautiful person! Your words resonated with me so much, as I am that kind of person too. First to help, fast to refuse it. You nailed the feeling though - if you deny someone's gift, you are denying them the thing that makes them feel good.

Remember - gifting, like karma, is never a one-for-one transaction. Let the beauty you have given the world come back to you. You are deserving.

To me, it was a wonderful gift just to have met you!

Your Colleague in Excreta -

John Judy said...

"I remember a portion of my life during which oatmeal was an ingredient in most of our meals, if not the central ingredient."

Ah yes.... I remember powdered milk, cereal with water, "toughskins", etc. etc.

Sounds like you a finding more than your fair share of awesome people... which is awesome.

LiveWorkDream said...

Eva, your honesty and writing is so beautiful.

Meeting you was the best gift for all of us. Seriously. Please don't even THINK about not calling if you're in a jam or just want to chat OK? We plan on meeting up with you again sometime soon.