Wednesday, October 8, 2014

This morning, I awoke to discover that my get up and go had got up and went. I went to sleep last night before 9:00 p.m. because there was nothing more interesting to me than just going to sleep. Any person who has wrassled with depression will tell you that sleeping a lot is one of the signs that things are not great. So, I recognize these things, but it's not like it's a big shock that I'm not waking up singing these days. I slept in my clothes because my room was cold, and I didn't really care enough to take them off last night. The kids aren't too cold to sleep without the heat on yet, so I am playing Heat Chicken with the weather and delaying the regular use of heat as long as I can. I have turned it on in the mornings occasionally to take off the chill, and we can all smell the heater coming back, the slight smell of singed cat hair and dust signifying its slow wake.

I can usually fight past the depression or even simple ennui, even when I stay in bed til the last possible minute. Getting up and bathing and putting on my face are all part of the routine-- I don't even have to think about them much, but they help me transform myself into a public person. This morning I bathed, but then I stalled. I spent some time unclogging the bathroom sink. Then I cleaned it. I knew I should be getting ready, but I couldn't get myself to stop ignoring myself. So, around 7:30, I decided to call my boss and tell her I needed another hour to pull myself together. I took Christian to school, came home, still in my bathrobe, and poured some coffee, emailed my students to reschedule meetings that had been scheduled for this morning, read Bibi's blog, and started watching Once Upon a Time. Christian made the coffee, for which I am grateful, and I'm not sure what measurements he uses, because it was not very strong, but it was hot and wet, so I drank it. I remember the former Duchess of York, Fergie, saying once that the Brits don't have high standards for tea: If it's hot and wet, they'll drink it. I can be that way with coffee.

I canceled my meetings with students because I thought I could muster making four bibliographies today quietly in my office, but interacting one-on-one was more than I could really face today. I mean, yes, I could have done it, but it wouldn't have made me heroic or anything. They don't care. And I am so far beyond the idea of being able to do or have "it all" that doing or having "enough" is what I'm celebrating these days. ___________________________________________________________________________________

After 23 minutes of television, it was time to go and pull myself together to get to work by 9:00, which is when I said I'd be in. I considered calling back and taking longer, but I hit pause on the Roku remote and went into the house. I am wearing a long skirt today, because elastic. I'm not feeling like I'd have trouble fitting into my pants, but I literally thought it would be easier to put on a skirt, so I did. I'm actually wearing matching socks (my shoes have a hole in them though) and a sweater, and I made myself put on makeup. Sometimes if how I look matches how I feel, it just makes things worse. Even though, by my own criteria, I feel cobbled together today. I let my hair dry naturally, so it's curly and I just put it into a barrette. I hate my hair like this, but drying it and curling it (actually, to straighten and then control the curl) would have just made me later. I need a hair trim, and I need new black flats. But if I don't get either yet, I will save money, so I'm holding off.

So, I'm at work, students are re-scheduling with me, and one is coming at noon, so that's what I get for taking an extra hour this morning-- I will lose it at lunch time.

I try to be careful about using the word "need." I said earlier that I "need" a hair trim and new shoes. Well, in order to maintain a professional look, I do "need" these things. The shoes take priority over the hair, which can be worn back. But generally, I try to ask myself whether things are a want or a need. After looking at my own budget closely, I have been bringing coffee to work instead of stopping to get a 34 ounce gas station refill, because in doing so, I save $1.50/day. That is about $28/month. It's not much, but it adds up. Don't worry, I indulge myself in wine, instead. The other day, as part of the Humans of New York project, there was the story of this guy:  

"If they raise the subway fare one more time, I'm going to explode. I'm making nine dollars an hour. I walk home three hours from work every day to save that $2.50, because that's a half gallon of milk for me and my daughter."

Some of the comments on this man's picture and narrative are horrifying. Lots of people telling the man to a) get a bike to save time on the walking (which will also allow him to work extra hours and earn more money); b) get more education so he can get a higher-paying job; c) move.

There is a strong misconception in this country about sheer will. Sheer will *should* be able to make us move mountains! If you have the gumption, you will be able to make not only a decent income, but a great one! So, if you are not making one, then you lack gumption. Perhaps you were born with a limited amount of gumption. In that case, you are a less-worthy human being than all of the people who were born with gumption and a strong sense of personal responsibility, so you deserve to make your low salary. Because you are obviously doing it wrong to be in the position you are in.

Well, what about my friend Missy who has a Masters in the sciences and cannot work because of Crohn's Disease? Damn, she should just have been born with more gumption and personal responsibility so she could work through this.

Well, what about me? I have a Masters Degree, also, and I am making a whisker more than minimum wage at Department Store. I do earn more than that working at my other two jobs, but considering my experience and education, I should probably be earning more. Well, then I guess I should have gotten my Masters in something useful (see Missy with Masters in sciences above) instead of in English. Or, I guess I shouldn't have gotten married at age 22, after obtaining my undergraduate degree. I certainly shouldn't have had children or stayed home with them, because those decisions have undoubtedly hurt me financially. Oh  no, wait: What hurt me financially was divorcing my husband. Never should have done that.

I'd have much more earning potential if I had a better degree, not in English, and no children. Or, if I had stayed married, because divorce is sinful and wrong. I should also leave this economic area, because wages are so low. I should move somewhere where there are more jobs. OK, I'll just pack up my kids and my mother, and because I don't have savings, I should take out a loan from a local payday loan company. They'll give me MAYBE $500. That will definitely pay for a moving truck, first and last month's rent (which will be more in almost any city with jobs, so my higher salary will go to higher cost of living), security deposit, and gas for the move. And I will definitely be able to get a job somewhere else, because I have education, gumption, and personal responsibility. Problem solved. And if I point out any of the complications of uprooting my teenagers and elderly mother, then I should just shut up and take some initiative to make my life better instead of sitting around complaining about it all the time.

But the thing that makes me the angriest about all of the rhetoric about personal responsibility being the magic bullet that is going to fix things is the fact that these attitudes smack of emotional abuse. In cases of emotional abuse, the ground rules are not fixed. Rules shift according to the abuser's whims: Well, you must not have a good education. Oh, you do? Then, it must be your fault because of where you live. No? Then it's your fault because you are lazy. No matter what, it is poor people's fault. There is no way to win. There is nothing we can do to deserve NOT being poor except not be poor.

I also love the mantras about: bloom where you're planted, be happy with what you have, count your blessings, so many people in the world have it harder than you do; life isn't fair, nobody owes you anything. If mantras like that worked, I would have stayed Mormon and stayed married. If mantras like that worked, women wouldn't have the vote and it would still be illegal for blacks and whites to marry. But I can't afford to placate myself with pretty new baubles or vacations, things that might distract me from injustices around me, things that might make me less angry.

The thing is, my angry voice is only one of the many. My Facebook feed is inundated every day with stories and voices and injustices. Honestly, I think we do need a revolution, but history teaches us that that is not very likely to happen. But I sympathize with anarchists who think the whole infrastructure needs to be chucked and replaced. Because there are actual CEOs out there who think that access to free, clean, water is not a human right. And there are politicians calling who think that Ebola patients should be rounded up and killed. Let's not forget the people they exposed, also. Remember when people were crying for everybody with AIDS and HIV to be shipped off to Guantanamo Bay? We are becoming a human race bereft of empathy. It's hard anymore to know what I'm supposed to be fighting for, but it's okay because I'm too busy working anyway.


  1. I think that it's fear that makes most people say the stupid things that they say...because if you can label the person with the problem (the poor person, the sick person, the not-enough-gumption-person) as having created the problem or being somehow at fault for the situation, then you can mentally separate yourself from the idea that the same situation you're criticizing (or downplaying, with silly platitudes) could very well happen to you. I think most people realize, at least deep down, that they are really just one major accident or illness away from having their secure-ish world turned upside down, and that is...terrifying. So they mentally separate themselves from that possibility by judging those for whom it's become reality.

    1. Tracy, thank you for reading and commenting! I think you're right. I wrack my brain about this stuff and never come up with any workable solutions. It's a very helpless feeling.

  2. I recently taught an elementary art class. We were reading a scholastic mini magazine that talked about artists. There were a lot of articles about street artists. One artist they talked about was taking pictures of people who lived in poor areas, blowing them up to billboard size, and posting them on the sides of houses in the area. He was hoping to draw attention to those who live in poverty. I mentioned that he wanted to draw attention to this because there were people in the world who didn't have what they had - who didn't have clean running water or who had to go outside to use a community bathroom. The comments I got from the 6th grade kids floored me. "That's disgusting." "Why do they live there?" "That's their own fault." I just muttered that they had a lot to learn and moved on. We were almost out of time anyway. I was stunned at the ignorance and insensitivity displayed. I think I stared and blinked at them for several seconds trying to process the attitude. And by the way, It's good to have you back in the blogging world. We've moved out of state, and I'm craving connection, so I randomly thought I'd see if you'd posted anything new. And have you! Love your voice. It's amazing how I connect with random things you post. Welcome back! KT