How do I keep the music playing?

This article recounts personal events that are a common experience in public and subsidized housing. All names, including that of the author, are pseudonyms.

By "Jenna Murphy "

The year was 2013. I had moved back to my childhood home to take care of my Mom till she died in 2012. My family pretty much all drifted in different directions that following Christmas. I always knew it was my mother's love and guidance that kept us all, including my three brothers, together.

I found myself still coming to grips with the reality that she was gone, along with a big part of myself.

I had been diagnosed with several autoimmune diseases that changed my life. No longer could I lead a national sales force, no longer could I speak before 1,500 people, no longer could I travel the world, no longer was I capable of independence in all things.

Mark, a firefighter friend of mine stopped by; he saw me from the street struggling with carrying groceries from my car to my apartment. He called out to me to slow down; he would take care of the rest.

I hadn't seen Mark in years, and he helped me in from the cold into the ground floor apartment where I was living.

I started to cry as I was embarrassed to be living alone and in such wonder, as what was going on in the world out there, and to my world.

Within three weeks my friend Mark noticed the building I was living in had a code violation---it lacked an entrance suitable for a disabled person, my new label.

I was 53 years old and so began my experience in public housing. I remember my intake with the executive director in her fancy office, the tour up to my new apartment. The assistant to the director said, "Look around and I will be back." I had a great feeling deep down that a new world of experiences were coming my way. Remember, I never said "wonderful experiences."

I was still in a deep fog of existing in life as it had been, before my Mother died, before my Dad sold our home, before my health deteriorated.

Moving day came and my family came out to help as the moving company brought up my years of memories, furniture, and a few home warming gifts from afar. I had inherited some of my Mom's love of art pieces, and many boxes of music CDs and DVD's.

I spent days into nights decorating to the song "How do I keep the music playing" by James Ingram. That was pretty much the only one I couldn't shut down in my head. I was starting to come out of the fog, yet never realizing the next two years would bring severe anxiety and not knowing how to fit in.

The year 2015 came, I remember just a few ladies always sitting in the lobby. I felt outraged by the intimidation where everyone tried their hardest to make you feel so uncomfortable you could just scream. The memories of running off the elevator in fear of the same faces I saw in a big blur would haunt me till I could drive myself away from the big bad house.

I feared the faces of those who spent most of their life here, staring to see what floor the elevator stopped on. It became a game of where the pizza delivery was going to, who was getting a prescription delivery. I so wondered what sad lives they lived and the gossip and drama they all talked about was such a waste of time. There was the miserable old man who thrived on using hate to get them all to laugh at every negative word that came out of his mouth.

I heard a familiar voice, it was my neighbor JoJo, two doors down from my apartment. I had met her the first day I moved in two years earlier. She called out to me, "Looks like you're finding your way around finally." I wanted to scream.

JoJo invited me, "Please sit down, What's your name again?" Nothing came out of my mouth. JoJo introduced me to Helen, Harriett, Wilma, and Mildred. They asked " When did you move in?" Of course, my neighbor JoJo said loudly, "She's the young girl that keeps to herself and has been here for two years." I wanted to curl up and hide in that lobby behind one of the chairs.

For the next three years, I observed so much heartache for residents whose visits from family and friends who came often, as the visits become reduced to hardly at all. Whether young or old, they dreaded the door to the lobby of intimidation.

Where was the sound of music? Why weren't these residents using the beautiful room off to the side, away from that damn lobby? What was the movie of the night being shown on the beautiful big screen TV? I so often wondered, where did the joy in their life go to ?

After living here for close to six years, I'm coming to realize why I never wanted to be a fixture in the lobby of intimidation and negativity. I lived in fear of what was going to be on the other side of the elevator doors as I ventured out into my real life.

The reality is, if you choose to stay in the same negative surroundings, you chose to be susceptible to that negativity.

So many elderly and disabled people are stigmatized as being weak,slow, poor and uneducated. How wrong society is. We are all of the same, we are all unique, we all make choices. We can be influenced by joy and positivity, and at worst, influenced by evil. We can surround ourselves with the wonderful choices that make us happy.

We need to stop the intimidation!