We’re Kidding Ourselves

 

 

*I fully acknowledge that I have made generalizations with this post, but I clearly do not believe that any one group of people can be characterized as all or nothing. There are good and bad and those that sit somewhere in the middle in every recognized group that make up societies around the world. I also acknowledge that this post is chock full of pessimism, but given our social history, given the continued ideology associated with racism, sexism, religious marginalization, homophobic slander, and all the other ways so many human beings find to both overtly and covertly hurt those they feel superior to, I just don’t see much to be optimistic about.

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I’ve tried to start a post for days now but every time that I do the words circling around in my head get lost somewhere before they reach my fingers and keyboard.

What can I possibly say that hasn’t been said? What could I possibly add that will make the pain and sorrow and anger lessen? How many more times are we going to sit at our computers and try to write out and scream out, and remove our feelings and emotions and frustration and terror and pain?

Right now I hate that I am privileged. I am white. I am a member of a class of Americans that has never known hunger or homelessness or poverty of any kind. I am heterosexual.

I have never been stereotyped because of my race, the color of my skin or my sexual orientation. I feel guilt. I feel shame. Even though I have never been the perpetrator in any of the ongoing violence and hate, neither have I been an agent for change.

I am an atheist. Typically I am simply overlooked because of my lack of belief. I am not faced with disrespect for worship at a mosque, or because I cover my head with a scarf. I am not blamed for associating with ‘radicals’ because of my non-belief. I am not blamed for the ever growing number of lives lost to guns and hatred focused on difference. I feel as culpable as everyone else of privilege should feel. I am embarrassed.

I am a woman. I know sexism. I am an older woman. I know ageism. The marginalization I have encountered pales in comparison to the hatred displayed toward people of color; toward people of non-Christian beliefs; toward those in the LGBTQ community, and toward anyone who is deemed different or less in the eyes of of those of who can claim the label Euro-White Heteronormative American.

I have studied society and the evolution of class, race, gender, and religious systems. I have read about and written about the process that occurs within a group of humans as they begin to shift from egalitarian, open societies to structured systems based on wealth and power; based on sex and gender; based on skin color and family heritage; even based on innate characteristics that help to define who they will love or on how they define themselves and their bodies.

I have no doubt in my mind that we alone, not a god or other supreme deity, but human beings who inhabit this planet, are fulfilling the process begun ages ago when simple groups of people began to seek power, and possessions, and came to the conclusion that a select few were better, were right – while all the others were wrong, or inferior, or better off silenced.

I have no doubt that this process will continue well past my lifetime and well into the future.

Just stop hating, just listen and see and hear and understand. Just love and allow others to give love and be loved. Just accept. Just look at the beauty in difference. Just understand that underneath we are all human beings. Just stop…

Except stopping means backing down, means relinquishing control and power, means admitting to countless decades of mistakes and injustice and brutality and hate. Stopping means that the status quo, established when white European men founded this country, would be demolished. Our society would be in chaos as colors and beliefs and ideas mixed freely, as millions were encouraged to express themselves without fear.

White might be meant to express nothing more or nothing less than Black or Brown. Straight might go back to simply meaning a line that is not bent rather than defining a moral and sexual high ground that demeans Gay or Transgender. Those who follow a Christ-centered belief system might also choose to be open (and perhaps worship alongside) their Muslim or Jewish or Hindu neighbor.

Stopping also means looking deep into oneself. The history and background of many white Americans is filled with cracks and lies and deceit. Perceived superiority is just one of the many lies told to hold onto control. Is it really plausible to believe that those in control are, or will truly be willing to step aside, to admit, to relinquish control and give away the privilege they have done nothing to earn.

Again, I am ashamed to admit that my comfortable life and my privilege would be difficult to give away. I would fear the repercussions and the possible violence waiting for me outside my door if I woke up tomorrow with darker skin, or it was known that I loved a woman. I am embarrassed. I am guilty. I am unsure if an apology holds meaning, but I feel as if I have to apologize, to take some responsibility as a Euro-White American who has never been made to feel fear or confront hatred and loathing based purely on my race or beliefs or sexual orientation. I remember as a child/teen always feeling left out. I stood on the outside of groups that I wanted to belong to. Those were the groups of privilege and power, the leaders and the takers. I never made it into one of those groups but their influence was everywhere and I have not completely escaped their reach. Many might say that by some divine right I was a member of that group all along, and they might be correct. I certainly look like them, and I have come to have an ability to dress like them and live in comfort like them. I may be more like them than even I realize.

Be careful what you wish for…

My reality likely seems harsh to those who carry the faith that love will triumph, or that understanding and acceptance will take the place of hate. I understand the need to believe, because without belief there is no hope. Pragmatism apparently is my defining characteristic and optimism seems only to be for the naive. Our society is at war with itself and that war is almost surely not one that we can win.

 

 

 

 

Moving day(s)…

I’m starting this post on Wednesday evening, just two days before Alison is basically moved out and on her own. She is undeniably fortunate to have great landlords, who will be out of town come June 1st – her official move in date – and who were nice enough to provide her with her keys early, before they depart. They are also going on a walk through with her tomorrow to answer any questions.

By Thursday, yesterday, 1/4 of her possessions were at her new home. She took a significant amount over before work which will now be about 5 minutes away rather than the 30 minutes it has been. The other perk will be the money she saves in gas for her car. I loaded my car up after dinner, along with hers again, and this time almost 1/2 of what she owns left our home.

This morning, Friday, we loaded the last big piece of furniture some odds and ends, the remaining food from her shelf in the refrigerator, and made one last trip. The only thing left to move is her bed. It just wouldn’t fit in either of our SUV’s so some sort of truck is needed. She’s in the process of arranging for that now. She also purchased a small couch. I’ve held onto a large, olive green (I know – let’s throw back to the 70’s shall we) love seat for some time, always assuring her that it could be hers if she wanted it. It’s spent most of it’s life as a cat perch. The top cushions are squishy and as the couch typically sat in front of a window, the cat always loved to curl up and watch the world go by then have the perfect napping place as well. Alison planned to take the behemoth, but we quickly realized that it would never fit through her front (and only) door. So, I still have this lovely olive green couch, should anyone be interested…

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Those entries began what I hoped to be a short, lighthearted post highlighting the moving process of the last child to leave the nest and enter the adult world of rental responsibility, and bills and independence. I couldn’t continue it. As I wrote on the final process I realized just how starkly alone I was, sitting at my computer, in my empty home, staring at the pieces of Alison’s bed waiting to be moved today.

It is now Saturday morning. Each moment that passed after Alison left yesterday brought new realizations that I will never have to drive around her Ford Escape parked in the driveway again. I will never have to give over a refrigerator shelf or cupboard for her food again. I will never again see her curled up on that olive green couch, reading or doing crossword puzzles while the cat sleeps on her lap. I will never again smell the scent of her candles wafting down the stairs and colliding with my candle scents to form an imperfect but oddly harmonious mix. I will never hear the upstairs shower turn on again, nor will I hear the sound of her feet on the stairs…the thump of her backpack as she arrives home from work…the creak of the hall coat closet door when she reaches for her jacket. I definitely won’t hear the sound of the tea kettle as often, especially at her customary 3:30 pm tea time. Who will sit with me, watching the news reports of the latest craziness that is our current political scene? Who will freely opine with me on our preference for Bernie, our understanding of the likelihood for Hillary, and who will laugh (and worry) over the joke that is labelled Trump.

I’ve known for a long time that this day was approaching. I have wanted this day to come for her just as it did for her brother and sister, but now there is no next sibling waiting in line to take her place. There is emptiness now, in specific spaces and rooms. There is silence that seems deeper than any ocean. There is joy and pride in my heart trying to surpass the ache, but the ache is winning, and from moment to moment, feels overwhelming.

When she left yesterday, I didn’t say goodbye because I knew that Alison would be back for her bed. I know that she will be back to visit the cat over the summer until work obligations and travel allow Snowflake to settle into her new home as well. I think that saying goodbye will not be an option. It hurts to much to say goodbye. It is too final. I want this moving day to be joyful for her. I want her to see the promise and the possibility ahead.

Alison - Buttons and Bows preschool (1997)

I want -wish- that she could stay here longer, but wanting and wishing for that is selfish. It was my job to raise her, to create an independent woman, and that is what I did. I learned when her sister and brother left home for the last time that while very hard, this goodbye isn’t forever. It’s just a “so long, see you soon!”

Just as it should be.

 

 

Confrontation

I don’t mean a simple disagreement when I use the title word. This isn’t something like, Damn, she left the top off the tomato paste tube and it dried out so now I can’t make sauce, type of discussion. It’s not even the desire to leave a nasty note on the windshield of the car parked just a bit too close to your driver’s side door when you come out of the Target store. It definitely isn’t the passing thought that it might be more powerful to hang around and actually confront the driver of that vehicle. God knows what might happen if you choose that option.

I am speaking of a confrontation whereby I had The Power and whereby I Spoke Out over stupidity and childish anger, and cowardice. I am speaking of a confrontation where only I spoke and where I would not tolerate words from the other side, because this was NOT a discussion. It was not a mutual give and take of ideas and thoughts and problem solving methods. This short moment, all 45 seconds of it, was all about my need to win, to call out the other person, to show that I didn’t give a flying f**k how they felt, just as they didn’t stop to think how their actions and words would feel to someone innocent and standing on the fringes – inside, but wanting to be outside this ridiculous place called home.

I don’t often set out to be so bold, to speak with such clear, calm precise words and fully ignore how and where those words will land. There is no benefit to that act. The time for words and understanding has long passed in this case.

Today however, the words were absolute. The words were imperative. The words were voiced directly from a mother who would kill to protect a child; her child, even when that child is an adult. Nothing, and no person, will ever come between my instinct to stand up and be heard when it involves one of my children.

Today, for the first time in such a very long time, I felt empowered. I felt like the woman who has been lost for so very long. Today, the strength that has been hidden away emerged when I needed it.

Today was a first step and I feel alive.

Nuanced.

We have approached the point that a comment is bubbling up on marriage once again. Spurred on by the current set of changes within the house as Alison prepares to leave and live her life, I am closer still to confronting me, myself, and I on the state of my future.

Her stability can be checked off of my ‘reasons to hang on’ list. I know…staying for the children (even adult children) is not a good reason to live a lie or to force oneself to muddle through in misery. I did find plenty of ways to justify using her still living at home not to face these issues, but now that ship will sail.

I went outside to toss some garbage into the bins yesterday morning. My neighbor was out gardening. She’s a friendly woman, opinionated and perhaps a bit pushy, but well-meaning. Conversations rolled around to the soon-to-be new roof as preparation for selling our house. 

“Where do you want to go once the house is sold?” 

My overused line about “oh, just someplace smaller without a yard” popped out of my mouth, but this time I added the caveat, “although I’m not sure if going means just myself or both of us…” which allowed the door to swing wide and her opinions to be unleashed. This lady knows bits and pieces of my life. She knows I am not happy. She, like other friends, is supportive and loyal and has her own lived experience with unhappiness and marriage failure. 

“If it was me I would just go up to the property and live. I know that I can get by on $1000 a month. That’s all I need.” As she told me that she would have packed up long ago had she been in my place (and this wasn’t a surprise considering what I know of her past) I mentioned what I believe to be the last remaining hang-up in this holding back phase.

“I’m not working,” I said. “Knowing what I know about myself right now, I can’t imagine being totally dependent on some sort of alimony as my sole means of income. I also don’t want to take everything he has, or screw him over. Just because we shouldn’t be married doesn’t mean that I want to be vindictive. We both worked hard for what we have right now. That also doesn’t mean I want to take everything earmarked for retirement and try to figure out how to live off of that just to get by.”

“Couldn’t you get a position teaching dental classes? After all the experience you have there must be some way to step into an academic position.”

Without getting into a long explanation of the qualifications required for this sort of position, why I no longer have those qualifications and the time/money that it would take to get them, and without telling her that I’ve already explored so many likely options over the years, I simply noted that my preference wouldn’t be the dental field anymore.

“Just get your resume out there. Post it on as many job websites as you can and you’ll get contacted. I’ve found my last two employees that way. They can answer a phone and they have computer skills. The rest is all teachable anyway.”

Here’s where that nuanced difference in both our experience and outlook comes into play. She left a verbally abusive marriage with small children. He was a cop who wanted nothing but total control. Given the same situation, I might be inclined to take what I could get and go. My conflict lies in the fact that I began marriage with a skewed viewpoint of myself and my own self worth. I lacked confidence and took on the roll of wife while never giving myself a chance to live just for myself. I have come to realize that very likely he and I really never wanted the same things to begin with.

She also seemed to forget that she is a business owner. She would likely not be looking for a job where she to be moving on at this point. Simply having experience, while now being five years out of the workforce and starting a new search at 57 years of age isn’t likely to be as easy as ‘just putting your resume out there…’ and waiting for the calls to roll in. She also has another place to live should she need to. I do not, which also increases the financial needs and burden.

I know that she means well. I know that she means to be supportive and encouraging and to remind me that I have a lot to offer as an employee. I am less optimistic than she is though, on the sorts of jobs that I might find. I also have that little fact that my reality for the last few years as been to care for my granddaughter(s). Of course, I made that commitment at another time, but it is a commitment I respect and would never back out of suddenly or without a great deal of thought and planning. Childcare is a huge expense and one that I find difficult to simply dump onto my daughter and her spouse. They have counted on me, and yes…I know that many will say this is just another excuse. It likely is that, in some ways, but I have this very real issue with my children’s needs taking precedence over my own. And yes, it is likely time that I get over that and perhaps begin to think of myself for once.

See, I know all the logic and I do know what I should do. I listened to my neighbor and agreed with her because she was right.

It’s that damn reality of actually ‘doing’ that hangs me up every time.

 

Share Your World 2016 Week 19

I am, with decided intent, taking a break from Share Your World this week. To be totally honest, I felt completely unmotivated by the questions, and even after waiting a few days upon returning to them I just can’t find any inspiration in their content, rather I seek to answer them truthfully or even frivolously.

I will however, link the site as I always do because I think it’s important to acknowledge the effort Cee puts into this challenge each week.

So as not to simply end this post now, I will share some news. The reality of what I am about to share is both joyous and, if I allow it to be – which I am trying not to do – also sad. The news is also clearly life-changing.

My last adult child is moving out and into the world.

With the good news a few weeks ago that she finally has an (almost) permanent position at her current job she felt that it was possible to cut the last few strings in the child-parent cord and be on her way. I don’t want to imply that she has been lolling around here for years, or not contributing, or not eager to move on. Alison moved through college quickly by completing the first two years during high school. That allowed her to graduate with her degrees just after turning twenty-one. She just turned twenty-three in March. Two years out of college and still hanging around home is nothing.

She’s found a small apartment in a renovated house just minutes from her office. There are only two other apartments in the house. For an introvert, who prefers her world to be quiet and orderly and predictable, she’s found the perfect place. They allow pets so guess who’s going with her! Senile Snowflake, the yowling kitty of indeterminate age, will be packing up her litter box, her water fountain, and her pee pads and moving to a new home as well. Alison couldn’t stand the thought of not taking her, and I think Snowflake would miss her too much as well.

Move in day is June 1st.

Clearly this will not be the last mention of this change, although right now I am trying to embrace the fun of helping her shop for needed items rather than curl up in a corner and focus on selfish negativity over the loss of my last child.

When her soon to be landlord called her with approval of her application Alison’s first words were, “I’m an adult now!” When I heard that I tried to remember just when it was that I felt like an adult. I couldn’t truly pinpoint a moment.

What about you? Did you have a significant life event that made you say to yourself, “So this is what it means to be an adult…”

 

Share Your World 2016 Week 18

Challenging one this week on Share Your World

Who was your best friend in elementary school? Initially I would have responded that I didn’t have a best friend during elementary school because, given the decade, I would have wrongly assumed that a girl would likely have another girl as a best friend. Then I had a ‘moment’ and realized that perhaps some early hints at my equality for all/feminist ideals shown through even then. I had many girl friends, but they were more school friends and not hangout and play friends. I played with boys. We played cars, and army, and war, and built forts, and hunted things in the little creek near our homes, and shot at each other with stick guns. Unequivocally my best friend was Patrick Meyer. I would love to see him again.

What things could people do for you on a really bad day that would really help you? Listen to me whine and bitch, make me dinner, tell me that no matter what I will figure it all out eventually, give me a flower.

If you could make a 15 second speech to the entire world, what would you say? I’m sure people would expect something profound but 15 seconds isn’t long enough for me to do that. How about:

Bonjour, mon nom est Debbie. Je suis une femme. Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix. Au revoir!

The above is about the only thing I remember from French class, but I would really love to say it to the entire world.

Would you rather be an amazing dancer or an amazing singer? Oh, an amazing dancer. I want to be graceful and strong, and I want to know what it feels like to move my body with complete freedom. I want to leap, and shimmy, and have flawless rhythm, and not give a flying f*** about how my body moves.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? 

Absolutely grateful for my trip to the coast. Coming up…quite likely that will be the sleepover with my granddaughter. She’s been hinting, then full on asking for some time now, to spend the night again. Apple pancakes and a trip to the park will be just some of the fun we have.