It’s hard to be unemployed. It’s hard not to have the monthly salary come in, hard to budget carefully, hard to decide whether we can afford this doodle or that doodah. Hard to talk to family and friends, hard when meeting strangers, hard to believe in yourself. Then I met TS*.
For a little over a month now, I have been volunteering three days a week with the Hamilton Group Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA). The RDA works with the physically/intellectually disabled, helping them by teaching them how to ride. This is therapeutic at both physical and emotional levels. My job is primarily to lead horse and rider around an arena, sometimes a paddock, and when lucky, a walk in the country. The ultimate goal is to help the rider (mostly children) canter on their own.
When I first met TS, I was told I needed to go with him because he disliked women, and was known to have slammed his mother against a wall. TS is autistic, and can barely talk. Most of our conversations have been rather one sided, with me prattling about the weather, and TS responding with the occasional “Yeah”. He finds it hard to hold himself upright, especially when we trot. He cannot comprehend right and left, and so finds it difficult to steer the horse. His favourite activity apart from the horse riding seems to be story writing, which always go-“Dear TS” and stop. When asked, he tells me that the grass is red and the sky is green. And the tractor is purple. And his favourite song (I haven’t managed to catch it yet) is by the Bee Gees. I am really excited because TS has started pulling the reins and trying to guide the horse.
Point is, it is unlikely that TS will ever be ‘employable’. He may always need care. I don’t know if he’ll ever fall in love or get married. Or move to another country. He may never ride a Yezdi** in the pouring rain with his mates (David and Venky, I still love that trip). Or argue politics on Facebook. He may never play a power chord or the drums. Or Football. Or Scrabble. And suddenly, perspective changes.
I know I have family who love me (most days, at least). Many of the children who come to the RDA live with caregivers, not parents. I hear that some parents haven’t had any contact with their children for years on end. I am married to my best friend. I have friends (um, I do, right?). I can write. Read. Work. Break bottles. Volunteer at the RDA. People visit my blog (!). There are so, so, so many things I have. It’s not that I don’t have a job-it’s just that I am not paid for it. Not in money, at least. Not yet.
It still isn’t easy being unemployed. I really do hope to get a paying (money) job soon, doing something I love. But it simply isn’t as hard, anymore. TS has problems. But he sings Bee Gees and rides his horse and things are better, somehow. I really hope the therapy at the RDA is helping him. It sure is helping me!
*Name changed to protect privacy.
**The best motorcycle in the world. Just a little smoky.