Archive for August, 2012


The Dawning

The Dawning

 

There comes a time in every divorced (or divorcing) woman’s life when she realizes that she not only left a marriage but she left a life behind.  That dawning came yesterday.  As I stood in an empty house folding laundry that had not been folded in months it dawned on me that I felt empty folding laundry in that house. I no longer belonged there even doing something as mundane as folding laundry that was not mine.

 

When a woman leaves her marriage she not only leaves her husband but in my case I left my son(and the French toast on the first day of school), my 12 year old dog, my friends, my neighbors, my car, my life basically.  Even the artist coop I belong to has given me a break.  I’m not alone in this, there are women in shelters all over the country who have to live in fear and basically give up their entire lives to be safe every day.

It was years in the making and yet I have to admit it hit me like a ton of bricks to realize that the life I had, my entire life had been changed on the day I moved forward .  I’m at a point now where I  literally cannot decide where I want to plant myself and now I know why, because I don’t think I want to be planted  here.  I have nothing here except my son.  Does it really matter if you start over from scratch a half hour, 2 hours, 6 hours away?  I’m only an hour away but it may as well be 6 hours away.  The whole landscape is different.  I might as well be in a foreign country.

I’m usually a pretty optimistic person.   I can find lemonade somewhere tossed along the lemons but today I’m bitter and angry.  I’m also disappointed in myself.  How did I let myself become so dependent on a life that was built on fantasy? I bought into a fantasy of a life many woman buy into; a fantasy where they are loved and adored and have a house, a happy marriage, their dream profession, a coffee clutch of their own choosing waiting for them.  And then one day it is all over and they have hopefully only crashed and burned once, the day they decide to leave.  In my case that was spread out over several months and probably is the reason why I have nothing today except what I can bring with me.  But I’ve survived.  And I will survive.  And I will rebuild my life on my own terms.  I know I will feel better an hour from now after hand embroidering myself into a little peaceful meditative state, but I also know I can’t depend on anyone except myself to make me happy.  I have to find joy myself and then share it hopefully somewhere down the line.  Now tears are flowing and I am grieving the Debbie that used to be and hoping to find the DebraAnn that replaces her.

Now yes this post was a bit of a pity party, but tough.  That is my mantra at the moment, that’s tough.  I am on a quest to be authentic and this post is authentic.  This sucks, plain and simple.  And you know what I will get over it, but the bottom line is that somewhere there is a woman living in a shelter with 3 kids who doesn’t know how she is going to rebuild her life and where she is going to find the money to do it and she is the one we all have to worry about.  In my case it’s just tough, in her case it is survival so be kind and donate to your nearest woman’s shelter, offer a woman a night on your couch if that will help her.  Help her find safe haven.  Help her move on.  Help her to realize she is not alone and that you care about her.

And for all those women luckier than I am, I know you know the feeling too.  The devastating punch in the gut that accompanies that moment when you realize just how much you gave up to be free and you are not alone either.  We are a sisterhood and we will all survive with a little help from some kind sisters.  Thank you to my kind sisters, just because I realize just how much I have given up that does not mean that the help you gave me was not very much appreciated, it was.  Authentically pissed, keep stitching.

Safety Nets

I am a 52 year old woman and I could be a homeless person if the safety nets we have in this country are taken away by politicians too blind to see that the people they are allowing to write their laws will take away the only thing keeping people like myself and those worse off from completely falling through the cracks of society.

 

I decided at the end of last year that I didn’t want to be married anymore.  My son is 21, my husband is retiring in a few years and I just could not see myself growing old and retiring with someone I have nothing in common with except a 21 year old son.  That decision left me teetering on the edge of sanity, and in a place where I can look at my life and be grateful that I am really a fortunate daughter but I digress.

 

At the time I decided I wanted to end my marriage I gave a speech, made a statement and then backed down because I was reminded by a friend that I was a 52 year-old woman without a job, who had been a stay at home mom since I moved to Upstate NY, an artist and a blog writer with no discernible income.  She told me to work on my marriage and I told her and my husband that I would.  But in my heart I knew I couldn’t, I knew the ship had sailed and there was no other option but moving forward.  I don’t know how I knew but I knew.  I had known for a long time but it just came bubbling out on Christmas Eve of all days, Merry Christmas.

 

The decision to stay because of security almost ended up costing me my life and sanity, because a woman trapped by a series of circumstances and a man who knows that he is living with someone who doesn’t want to be married to him anymore are a very toxic combination.  I can’t blame either of us or both of us but we were not the same couple who were married for 25 years we were monsters together.  But we were stuck together; things didn’t get any better due to outside circumstances which are not really relevant to this blog post.

The relevant part is that women all over the country are realizing as their children age and their husbands near retirement that they are desperate and don’t want to be married anymore and that there are really no safety nets for women like us.  Poor women have resources but those middle class women who were able to be stay at home mothers don’t really have any resources.  A lawyer told me to go live downstate with family if I could find someone who would let me move in with them.  My son was here that wasn’t an option.   I didn’t have enough money to move out, I couldn’t possibly wrap myself around the idea of working at McDonalds and to be truthful couldn’t have kept the job for a while.  Also a job in McDonalds or Wal-Mart(another famous suggestion for the unemployable) would not pay the rent on an apartment and then I would be living in the home I didn’t want to live in and working at a job I didn’t want(nor thought I could keep).

 

I did all the things I was supposed to do I went to a county run job placement program which was even more depressing than a career in McDonalds, I was surrounded by wonderful, experienced people who lost their jobs in the last few years through no fault of their own who could not find a job even with years of experience among them.  It seems those in our late 40’s, early 50’s and early 60’s with years of good work left in us are not in the cheapest demographic people wish to hire.  Business wants kids they can underpay.  So I felt that was another dead end.

 

I was hopeless and ended up taking advantage of other county run services which did not provide answers but gave wonderful counseling services and I am very thankful for that.  But I was still trapped in a horrible, devastating situation in which I crashed and burned several times trying to search for the light at the end of the tunnel.  I’m lucky I survived it.  I am very lucky.

 

I had a car accident which was a pretty bad one and walked away from it without a scratch; I had not been sleeping since December and should not have been driving at 11:30 in the morning around the corner from my house.  That was the last day I could technically call myself a member of my neighborhood.  Two days later I was roaming the streets in the rain unsure of where my brain had gone and I ended up in a mental health unit, which was an experience I will write about separately as it was one of the most inspiring experiences of my life.  You can learn a lot about people and yourself when you are among the most vulnerable in society.  You learn of the beauty and the horror of the mental health system which can be a revolving door of medication and commitment and how that safety net really doesn’t work and doesn’t really allow people the skills to make it their own.  Some do but the majority end up in and out several times hoping for a new life.

 

When I came out of the hospital I couldn’t go home and I have ended up taking a settlement to give my husband and I closure.  The settlement will allow me to start over which is something I am so grateful for, as many women in my position do not even have that small bit of confidence in their futures.  Now in this economy if I don’t figure out who I am and what I was put on earth for I may be forced to go on Welfare and Medicaid and many other social programs.  I am lucky I at least have a chance to pave my own path, but what about those women not lucky enough to be given a settlement who have no way out and no way to get there?  What will happen to them?  Do they end up working in McDonalds and Wal-Mart?  If they do and they are treated with the dignity they deserve God Bless Them, but if they don’t what happens to them?  Do they live in loveless marriages becoming more bitter and unhappy every day until they do something drastic like kill themselves or end up with a life threatening disease?  Do they snap and end up doing something crazier than wandering the streets in a rain storm with no explanation of how they ended up there?  Or do they recklessly surrender to drugs, alcohol and life on the streets?  We should care about them and their children.  There should be places for them to go where they don’t have to end up desperately seeking something in the rain.  They need a safety net.

 

Women leaving lifelong marriages are only one segment of society that needs a safety net, but they are a forgotten segment.  They raised their children, gave up their lives when they were young and finally want their lives back.  There should be a way to repay them for the sacrifices they made instead of the opinion that they should do anything to make money and live in loveless abusive situations because to leave them would be financially committing suicide.  But in the end there are a million ways to commit suicide and at least a financial one allows a way back.  What about those women who find no other way but to crash and burn one final time? Think about those ladies and your mother the next time you bemoan safety nets like welfare, and domestic violence centers, and Planned Parenthood, and Medicare.  There are people out there who need them and they could be YOUR mother.

And before you think stop feeling sorry for yourself, I don’t feel sorry for myself.  I’m a working artist with a new start on the horizon.  The world is my oyster and I am appreciative of every single lesson I learned in the last year.  I just thought a different perspective than the one being offered by the right wing of the republican party should be addressed as I’m sure there are lovely republican women trapped in loveless marriages with no way out also.

How Do They Get Women to Vote For Them?.

In my opinion, they don’t.  Women just say they will vote for fools who seem to think that just because you are raped the body knows it shouldn’t want a baby.  Are these politicians living on Planet Earth or circling a drain somewhere?  I consider myself a rather purplish blue, a moderate in the days of extremes but when I hear a ridiculous statement like the one made by Mr. Akin(I can’t even make myself call him a candidate of any sort) it makes me want to puke.  It is just so ridiculous and anti woman you wonder if he has any campaign consultants at all?

While we are discussing the apparent contempt that Republican candidates  hold of women in general, why don’t we discuss the barefoot and pregnant mantra they seem to hold onto from the 50’s and the 60’s.  No abortion not even in the case of rape or incest, closing of Planned Parenthood which will not allow many women even basic contraception.  Is this a good idea?  I don’t feel it is.  I think it will lead to many an unwanted child who will be mistreated and abandoned.  I myself am pretty much pro life but I cannot make decisions for other women who perhaps cannot fit a child into their life especially if that child is one of rape or incest.

So what do women do?  Do they close their eyes, hold their nose and vote for a Republican anyway?  Do they listen intently and vote against their party?  Do they vote for Democrats and talk Republican in mixed company?  Or do they just wish to follow the narrow path of the Republican woman who wishes to remain barefoot and pregnant no matter how they got that way?  I’d love some answers from some real Republican women and I’d like to say that if her answer is any of the above she has the right and the power to make her own decisions just as I do.   Women are a minority and if Republicans take power in January we will all suffer through this together whatever position we take.

Just to tie this up in a neat little bow, Mr. Akin.  Children of rape live all over this country.  Their mother’s decide to keep them and give them the best lives they can give them in spite of their entrance into the world.  Not only do you diminish their mothers when you say ridiculous thoughtless things like this but you diminish your own gender and your own political party.  That goes for any other buffoon who replaces sexist ideology with common sense too.  If you are famous enough to be quoted on a national web site use your common sense.

In which direction are we going in this election season?  Are we going towards the kindler, gentler direction where everyone has a place at the table and a voice in the world, or are we going in a more disenfranchised direction which leaves everyone in a constant state of struggle and strife.

It’s hard to say at this point, there is no candidate for hope this time around.  There is a man with limitless potential who was unable to follow his vision because of obstacles placed in his path by the other party.  There is also a good man who has a very muddy vision which seems to change by the day.  There is an old wizened partner with a penchant for saying the wrong things and a young wunderkind who appears to be saying the right words but seems to have a message that will leave anybody who is not wealthy and self-sufficient out in the cold.

So I guess that leaves it to us to figure out what each candidate offers and which kind of life we can envision.  With Obama we can see a clear path to helping those who need help the most, the uninsured, unemployed, disenfranchised, a community in need of organizing.  With Romney we see a world where there are no safety nets and it will be survival of the fittest.  A place where your very survival depends on how well you can play the game and what kind of breaks you have had in your life. 

Both men have impressive resumes as do their running mates but where does that leave us? We can listen to the propaganda of the media and let them color our perspective or we can look at the reality of what they are offering.  If we hire Romney what will that do for millions of Americans still waiting for Obama’s healthcare provisions to kick in for them? These provisions have already helped millions of Americans but what about those still waiting?

 If we hire Romney what happens with Social Security?  What happens to not just the current seniors but those in their late 40’s and early 50’s who will not have decades to amass huge bank accounts to get them through their waning years? 

Charter schools are great in theory but if the education system is lumped in with the energy department what happens to our children and their education?  Far too many children will be left behind in substandard schools with little or no incentive to teach them how to overcome poverty.

What will happen with our energy policy?  Does the current move towards green technology take a back seat to something a little more oily and slick?  A world where a prince in Dubai has more pull over American politics than a housewife in Dubuque?  Whether we like it or not that is the truth, the current gas prices have people deciding on a daily basis whether to buy food or fill up their gas tanks; it will only get worse without a clear cut green policy.

These are questions we have to ask ourselves because to ignore them is to simply ignore the consequences of what could be a tragedy in the making where millions of Americans end up begging on the streets for food, education, healthcare, and lodging.  I know my words sound a little alarmist but think about what they are proposing and what will happen if it somehow comes to fruition.  Use your own head and a piece of paper and chart what each campaign promise on both sides will cost in taxes and humanity and then make your decision.  We really can’t listen to the opinions of others in this campaign season because like it or not we are talking about real people who will be left out in the middle of the wilderness without a clear vision out of it if some of these policies come to fruition.

What would Jesus say about the current rash of violence of one man against others using a hand gun or several guns?  He would be appalled.  He would not want the guns of mass destruction in the hands of someone not mentally capable of understanding the difference between life and death and hatred and love.  He would not support gun rights over the right to live a free and peaceful life; he would not want to condone the death of even one person in a senseless display of one man against others especially in the sanctuary of a place of worship.

When does the killing stop?  Imagine a gun piercing through your flesh, imagine it passing through your bones and coming out the other side, imagine the force, the pain, the burning that it would leave.  Imagine knowing that you are a hair away from dying, a hair away from knowing that feeling and living with the constant psychological and physical pain from surviving that kind of attack.  Imagine it if you can.  Imagine what Jesus would say.

Now imagine if you are Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.  Imagine that you are a pacifist and a man who ran on the themes of hope and change four years ago or that you are the man who is running on themes very different from the man you said you were when you were the governor of Massachusetts.  What are you thinking?  What are you saying?

Imagine that you are selling your soul to make people like you?  That is an easy imagination, we as human beings do that every single day in many different ways.  The difference between us and the candidates is that when we sell our soul, we are just selling our souls.  When Barack Obama does not take a stand against something he personally feels just to appeal to voters, he sells our souls.  Even gun rights advocates must realize something must change, even they must imagine the feeling of bullets ripping through their skin while they pray in front of post offices and say we must uphold the 2nd amendment. Surely if they spout how important it is to uphold their rights they must know what it feels like to be shot, surely?

I venture not because then they would not be able to stand in front of a library and rally against gun control.  I venture Obama and Romney don’t know that feeling either, especially Barack Obama because if he did he would work with congress TODAY to find a solution to this horrible carnage that happens on an all too daily basis.  I listened to him 4 years ago and I know that is how he feels personally. I want him to sit back and imagine a world where even one life is spared because of something he believes in.

The time to hesitate is through. It is time for Barack Obama to be Barack Obama and frankly it is time for Mitt Romney and every member of congress to imagine a world in which we don’t have to read a story every week about a lovely mother or a lovely child who either will not be coming home from an attack like this or even worse living with the pain and sorrow of remembering how lucky they are while a sweet mother or child was not so lucky.

It is time for the politicians in Washington and the people who support them to find their souls and save some lives.  Even one life is a gift, so multiply that across the country when guns are taken away from people who don’t deserve them, don’t know the meaning of life and don’t know what their placards mean.  Find your soul call your congressman.