Archive for the ‘fear’ Category

that yours?

Something is happening. As I progress to the inevitable, I recognize how many before me have dealt with the very same issues. I hope to show grace during my tenure.

My elders are leaving the planet faster than before. Some are great friends; some are dear family. It is difficult to endure but everyone knows the transition must come.

I keep seeing the same scenario: who gets or wants what. Even as I begin my relocation, people ‘shop’ my belongings, knowing I have to downsize. They love me. They love my things. They want my things. Sometimes I am thrilled to give things to certain friends, as a memory of our relationship. Sometimes I would appreciate people recognizing that I love these things, that I have treasured them, and that I am out of money and asking for my belongings as gifts could get a little old.

I am not being selfish with my things. I have given more business clothes away, designer clothes, evening clothes, and accessories than I ever realized I owned. I will never use these things again and I want them to make someone feel good, or happy or well dressed. Fine. I am getting rid of furniture constantly. Then, there are the collections that I need to sell to pay for my move. Friends want them, at a huge discount. I have written before that I recognize how little something actually costs when you have owned it for years. It is miniscule. There are still times that I find it a little hard on my heart to have people ask if they can have an obviously expensive item for no cost. I realize they will sell my treasure. I no longer have time to sell the small stuff. Maybe I have just had too many people ask in too short a time. I know they mean no harm. It just causes an odd feeling. I have become a thrift shop. I ask my step kids and my nieces and nephews about things they might want. I have asked my sisters. That is my choice. If I can get things to people before I pack, we both win. I think sometimes people forget that I have family to consider. I think sometimes people forget losing your favorite things does not feel as good as they feel, sniffing out a bargain.

As my relatives reach their ending, the family is already asking for things. I admit I used to have the same thoughts. I reached a conclusion years ago: I would prefer having the memories of spending time with my family. If they decide they want or need more money and I cannot help them enough, I hope they sell everything and live on the proceeds. I would be thrilled to see them well enough to take a trip around the world; selling off every single item, they own to finance it. No inheritance is necessary. It was never mine to begin with.

None of these things belongs to me. They belong to the person who actually owns them. The person who remembers why and where they purchased that item and the memory that belongs to the storyline. It is not mine. It is not yours. It is not OK to begin pestering people for ‘when they die’. I heard someone not long ago ask if she could go ahead and take a table, since she was going to get it anyway. I almost gave her my jewelry because after that comment, I was about to die right then.

No. it is not OK to ‘go ahead and take belongings that you want from someone who still wants them’.

A very dear relative of mine says that my brother, a nephew, and I are the only people not expecting things from her demise. It made her sad. It broke my heart. When I see her, I always ask about family, about where she purchased things, what the reason was. I love to see the history of items and think about when she and her husband were young and furnishing their homes. Those are cherished memories, not things that ‘would look good in my place’.

So, as I craft my new will, making lists of things that will go to my relatives who will live much longer than I care to, I try not to be offended by the things I’ve already had people ask me to ‘gift’ them. Selfish as it seems, I am still using some of my things. All of us are. They will one day be a gift. When that day comes, enjoy, appreciate, and have a kind word to say about the true owner.

Only then will it be yours. Sometimes the price is higher than expected.

About Face

I am in my 60’s. Not terribly long ago, a woman told me she ‘bet I used to be attractive’. I can handle that. I DID. Now, I am older. I am not as upset about that, as I am that people are unaccustomed to what we should really look like as we naturally age.

I saw Goldie Hawn on TV today. Face-lift. I remember when Mary Tyler Moore got hers. It broke my heart. I watch some cooking shows. Sandra Lee suddenly looked very odd. Honestly, I thought she had been in a fire. Nope. Face-lift.

As I see women changing their entire facial structure, I question for whom they do this. I used to wonder the very same thing about men who wore toupees. Did they sleep in them at night with the person they loved most? Probably not. They wore that stupid looking fake hair or did a ‘Donald Trump’ every morning for the people who do not really matter. Why is that?

We are the baby-boomers. We are supposed to have more answers than our parents had. We are supposed to be more perceptive. Why in the world are we afraid to be ourselves? Why are WE pretending to be younger than we actually are instead of showing how well we can age? I am perplexed.

I stopped coloring my hair a year ago. I know it ages me. I look so much better with my hair hi-lighted. Now, there is no mistaking that I am an elderly woman. Nevertheless, I AM an elderly woman! I recognize that 60’s isn’t the end of the path but when we start retirement, get our social security and have problems remembering and falling and driving, why should we be trying to look like we are a decade or two younger? If we were acting this way in our 40’s we would seem daft or drunk. If men could really see what a woman is SUPPOSED to look like as she ages, maybe they would stop trying to date women 20 years younger than they should. Maybe. Ok, bad example.

While I am on that subject, why do older men need to date younger women? Everyone knows how foolish they appear. They are trying to ‘borrow’ the youth of that younger woman to appear younger themselves. They are trying to appear more virile. They are trying. Trying. If you need a pill to have more sex than your body can accommodate, you are too old to be having that kind of regular sex. It is not the end of the world. It is just a slowing of a chapter in a section. We all live.

So, as I watch women I have admired throughout my generation, I am saddened. Too many of them have decided they cannot stand to be their age. They are pretending to be of a different age while all of us watch, distressed at how fake our generation is threatening to become. We do our daughters no favor.

Gloria Steinham had it right at one time: ‘This is how I am supposed to look’ or something to that effect. I felt the same way for ages. I let myself be what I was supposed to be. How sad that our society does not. How sad that again, men are telling us we are not ok unless we do ‘this or that’ and sadder still is that women do it to each other. When Marlo Thomas got a face-lift, I was heartbroken. Another woman who is supposed to be secure, brilliant, honest, talented, and beautiful. She used to be.

Yep, I used to be attractive. Looks fade. I hope I have managed to cull more than the skin on my skeleton for the next chapters of my life.

Joan Rivers aside, how often are you disappointed in the women you once admired because of plastic surgery? Plastic: doesn’t that say it all?

daring

It is a nasty time of year. The leaves have begun to fall. The pine needles need constant raking. The rain makes for muddy footprints in the house.

This nastiness has made me begin to think of my abuse.

As I recognize the need to forgive, but not forget, I finally have started to see the fear of the abuser.

He beat me to a pulp one day in New York. We had dated for about 2 years. He drank too much. I could see it coming. I told him I was getting concerned that he might hurt me. He was surprised and honestly stunned at the idea. He told me that he had a tendency to do things to hurt him, not others.

I remained wary.

We got up early one Sunday to go for brunch. He decided to have a drink. It was 8AM. I could not understand the need. That was a warning I allowed to sink into my brain. He wanted scotch before we went to breakfast. We had mimosas with our brunch. We were having fun, flirting. We were in a very nice, well-known NY restaurant.

I saw it happen. His face darkened. He was angry. He began to berate me, taunt me. I sat, still, afraid to move. Then he pushed away, forcing the table onto me, everything spilled onto my dress. He stood, glared, exited.

A man and woman at the next table looked at me. He asked if I was ok. I was dumbfounded. I was in shock. I was disbelieving. I was frightened. I was humiliated. Yet, I assured him I was fine. I got a cab.

I had to return to our apartment. All of my clothes were there, my airline tickets, belongings, money, and ID. When I returned, he was asleep (passed out) and I began quietly packing. I think it was the click of my suitcase lock. He was on me immediately. He screamed, furious that I was packing, calling me names, and hitting me. I fell; I tried to shield myself, without success as he continually hit and pushed and threw me. Finally, I hit him. I hit him in self-defense, almost afraid to hit because as a woman, no one had trained me to hit. I do not even know where my ‘punch’ landed. I only know what happened next. “You hit me!” “How DARE YOU!” he screamed. Then, the beating took on a new urgency. He threw me onto the floor, began to kick, throw things onto me, and kept screaming at me, calling me names. Somehow, I got to my feet, and hit the intercom button on the wall. I screamed and screamed. In minutes, someone was at the door. I got to the door ahead of him. When I opened it, a neighbor and the security guard were standing there. I said, “He is hitting me.” they were speechless. He was a beloved neighbor. A young, upwardly mobile man beautifully dressed, polite. Angry. The woman came into the apartment while I picked up the rest of my belongings. She saw that he had ripped my clothing from me. He had even torn my leather belt in half. I was dressed again, but disheveled and able to leave. Oddly, he was in the shower. She never saw him.

As I think about that time in my life, I have realized how much he resented what I was seeing. “You hit me” “how dare you.” it makes sense to me now. His weakness was an affront. How DARE I see that side of him? How dare I become someone to see the real man? How dare me. It let him know what a little person he was. He was 6’3 and yet smaller than my 5’7 frame. How dare I show him to be so small?

I learned that once a person hits, it will come again. You need out. You cannot trust yourself or that ‘hitting person’. Make plans. Leave.

I saw him once after that. We met in a public place, allowing him to try to convince me it was all ok. It was early on a Sunday morning. I could smell the alcohol.

You can still have fun in life. You just cannot have it there.

You must not dare.

take only if needed

People watch me in the grocery store. Decades ago I was watched because I was attractive. Now, it is a different situation: I am on food stamps.

Women watch what I place on the belt to checkout. I have no shame. I am so grateful for the financial help right now. I get food stamps. Thank YOU.

I have had no income for almost 2 years. I felt guilty to ask for help. A social worker suggested it and I am grateful. I get food stamps!

So many people have misconceptions about government help. My dad once said that anyone homeless just did not want to work. As a single woman, I knew better. I was part of the huge group. Missing one or two paychecks would mean I could not pay my bills. I was a flight attendant. To some people I earned great money. The thing is, when you travel for a living, you also spend more. The cutbacks at our airline were legend. We began flying more and earning much less. I knew I was on the precipice. My dad simply did not understand. It was black or white. More importantly, having never been in such a situation, it meant that nobody honest could. He was mistaken.

When my airline job crumbled, I began working in earnest, to pay my mortgage. Amazingly, the phone company, the utility company, and many others worked with me. They saw my huge credit history and knew I was not a bum. They put bills on hold while I reconnoitered. The mortgage company sent me a letter. If my payment was late, they would foreclose. Just like that.

I took every job I could. I did landscape work, I sold sandwiches from my trunk, I cleaned gutters and downspouts, weeded flowerbeds every evening, walked dogs early every morning, watered gardens while owners were away. On the weekends, I washed and waxed cars. It was hard. 7 jobs every week. I earned enough to pay my mortgage. I got food at the local food bank. It was humiliating. The woman handing out the choices gave me peanut butter. I cannot eat that. When I suggested she save it for a woman with children, she told me that I must not be very hungry. Humiliating.

The difference between then and now is that I was only 38. I had my entire life ahead of me and was strong smart and industrious. Now I am 61. I am not so good physically or mentally. I get food stamps.

I see women in the store, using their stamps, and look at their choices. I am not being critical; I am trying to learn. So many things are not included but you have to buy them to exist. No cleaning supplies. No light bulbs. Light bulbs in my home are a huge expense. Moreover, they are expensive. I try to buy CFL’s but now it is prohibitive. No pet food or cat litter. No personal hygiene products. No laundry detergent or softener sheets or bleach. Just FOOD. I am beyond grateful. I get food stamps.

I do not smoke but I certainly see the huge cost. People addicted to cigarettes have to feed that addiction. They have no choice. You do not stop smoking because you have run out of money. It is as powerful an addiction as heroin or meth. Your body makes you continue. You have no choice. Stopping is so difficult and society already hates smokers so the added shame of the addiction feeds the problem.

Medications. I take a ton of them. Between my brain injury, my blood sugar, my Cholesterol, my general stress of life circumstances, bills and an impending divorce, I take a ton of meds. They are not food. They are not covered.

I buy wine. Yep. I buy wine. I do not buy it nearly as often. I do not buy the 35-dollar bottles I used to get. I buy 6-dollar wine, on sale. Right now, it makes me almost feel normal. A few days a month, I can have wine with dinner again. Like things used to be. Before I got food stamps, before my life turned upside down.

You get a certain amount per month. Nothing more. It is up to you to decide how to parcel that money. I cannot pay for gas for my car, cannot pay for my utility bill, and cannot pay to see my doctor or light, cool or heat my home. No cosmetics or bath products. I can buy certain foods.

Next time you are shopping, look at your cart as you check out. Bear in mind that many people will not feel you have the right to certain things in your basket. They might judge. If you are on food stamps.

I am on food stamps. It is a huge relief.

head games

Wishes were granted yesterday. I had my head examined. I was overdue.

Testing was intense. 5 hours of sitting in a small office, doing all types of things to show how my brain works, if at all. This is necessary because of several brain injuries and Alzheimer’s is being rampant in my family. As I prepare to move, I need to plan based on my hope to live independently.

My good fortune is finding humor everywhere in life.

The man (psychologist) was just as you would expect. He ‘tried’ to be fun, but is, after all, something of a scientist, anal, orderly, and controlled. My polar opposite.

While I took tests, he observed and surreptitiously scribbled secret notes. I asked if I might please have some water. He grabbed a coffee cup and obviously saw the horror on my face as he started to fill the dark brown-stained cup for me. He stopped. I had not meant to show my concern. I must have been fatigued. He said, “This bothers women,” pointing to the stains inside the cup. I agreed (wholeheartedly). He said, “It doesn’t bother men, why does it bother women?” I told him that most of us would fear the cup was not clean. I went on to say my brother had a heavily stained coffee cup. He carries it with him everywhere. Once, without realizing my transgression, I cleaned it. Thoroughly. I did the old ‘Polident’ tablet in the cup, twice. Then, I took a scouring pad to the offensive stains. The next morning, after putting it through the dishwasher, I proudly handed him his pristine cup. He asked what I had done. I told him I had just cleaned it, as if it were no big deal.

My brother left. When he returned, he had a new cup. He did not openly complain. After a year or so, his new cup looked just as bad as the one I had spent hours cleaning. He was happy again. I had clearly ruined his cup. I learned the lesson.

This man across from me asked if I needed a different cup. I said no (I lied). After another section of testing, he asked me how to remove the stains. Amazingly, men know that women fight stains. We get no extra salary for this. We get no recognition but men know we fight stains. We are wonder women without the snazzy costume and lasso. I told him to put a Polident tablet in it.

The look on his face was so odd. He almost looked embarrassed. Then he explained that he does not wear dentures. I smiled slightly and leaned over the table. I said, “You know, it’s interesting. You are allowed to buy them anyway. ‘They’ don’t even check.” He just stared at me. I could see I was not getting through to him. So, l leaned in a bit further and said, “In Texas, men are even allowed to buy sanitary napkins.” That did it. He broke. He laughed. He saw the humor.

We went back to the testing.

Two hours passed, immersed in the paperwork and the various tasks I was given. He finally saw that I needed a break. He told me I could take 10 minutes. I almost felt as if a lock was taken from the chain that held me in place at that small table. I bolted.

When I returned, I carried a large cup of coffee, extra shots. He was noticeably concerned. I apologized for bringing something into the exam room, assuming that was some sort of ‘rule’. It confused me, though, because we had been sitting there, drinking water from cups. He explained that the testing materials were very expensive and spilling coffee on them would be a problem. I was mortified that I could not be trusted with my cup of coffee, even though I am not known for being sloppy with beverages. Each time I took a sip, he watched carefully. It was an agonizing drink. During the time I consumed it, he explained twice more the expense of the materials. I knew I was on thin ice.

He turned a page in my booklet in front of me. There was crayon all over the page ahead of it. I asked how crayon got on this expensive booklet and how he could possibly expect me to use it, thus ruined. He was serious: “children are not easily controlled.” He went on to explain he had tried to get the crayon out of the page, to no avail. He asked if I might know of a way to remove the crayon. He asked if I needed a new booklet. He simply cannot help himself. He is a serious type.

During one part of switching materials, I asked him how long he had been married although I felt certain he was divorced. He did not want to share that information, which was fine. He DID mention that the crushing blow to the union was the desire of his wife to have a pet. He explained that a pet means there would eventually be a pet hair somewhere that it “doesn’t belong.” I had enough of a mental picture and needed no other explanation.

As we were reaching the end of the testing, he was rushing me. We were behind schedule. I realized what a huge transgression that was so I was doing my best to accelerate. He announced that we would not be able to finish but he thought he had enough to complete his analysis.

As he rushed me to the door, he explained that I would need to return for his results. We made another appointment.

I am edgy about the results. I am hopeful but recognize it is just going to be my life and I cannot control the outcome too much. I want to take a piece of cat hair. I just can’t help myself.

Independence Day

I had a dream about my mom last night. She passed away several years ago. Any dream of her is a treat, even when the news delivered is not fun, I still had the opportunity to be with my mom again.

I dreamed that she was helping me pack. It was not a great time. I was moving to a small efficiency apartment, for the rest of my conscious life. She explained to me that eventually, as I already recognize, I would be ‘discovered’ and moved to full care. Alzheimer’s disease is rampant in our family. I have suffered 4 severe concussions. I know my limits.

The dream was daunting. I finally saw my future and it was not great. A small efficiency. That meant a one bedroom, one bath, small fridge and small stove, small living room. I have been here before.

When my mom left my dad, she left with one suitcase. Many in my extended family have never understood this. We were a military family, living abroad. The military person controls everything in the family unit. My mom and dad had been married 26 years. She left with a suitcase. Her allowance was 40 pounds. Think about that. Everything they had acquired together was under his control. As I look at my bleak-seeming future, I sense her immense fear. My mom never faltered. In my eyes, in my brother’s eyes, she never faltered. Privately, I later learned, she cried into her pillow.

Once she left, she went to the city in which she had spent most of her life. She got 2 jobs. She lived at the YWCA. She took the bus. She walked to work. She saved every penny.

We would have appeared to others to be wealthy. We lived in a 4 bedroom, 3-bath house, based on my dad’s high rank. We had a housekeeper, a cook. At one location, we had had a housekeeper, a cook, a gardener, a repairperson, and a nanny, on staff. It depended on where you were stationed. Therefore, we had a good life.

I joined her after a few months. Life with my dad had become difficult. She was thrilled. She bought me a ticket to fly from Europe to New York, to Florida. She met me in New York. I can only imagine the huge amount of money she spent for this. My dad did not help with the costs. He was angry that I was leaving. I had to leave.

When I arrived in New York, I had to clear customs alone, 13 years old. It was way over my head. My mom was standing in the upper levels of that most incredible terminal, JFK, watching, and dying for my inexperience. In those days, nobody helped kids alone on flights. Unheard of today but this was 1966. When we could finally embrace, it was lasting.

We got on a flight. Amazingly, it was an Eastern Airlines flight. I later flew for Eastern and had never put the two together. After a few years, my mom reminded me that we had come to Florida on Eastern. I just remember the flight attendant being so kind. We were in first class. Holy moly. The only tickets left on the flight. Mom not only had to pay to get me from Europe to the US, she also had to pay for 2 first class tickets to get us to Florida. A huge expense for a woman working 2 jobs, no car, no place to live.

We spent our first night in a relative’s home. The next day we moved into our own place. My nose could not have been higher in the air.

We lived in an efficiency apartment. It was dreadful. In my spoiled life, I had never shared a bedroom. Now, my mom and I were sleeping together, in one bed. We had a small bathroom, a very small living room, and a ‘kitchenette’. I was blown away. I am sure I was not grateful. She had worked so hard to start a new life for herself, then to add me, at my request. She was killing herself to make something for us both, and I was haughty with disrespect. Spoiled.

I began high school where she and my relatives had gone to school. I walked. I had been driving in Germany. You got an international license when you were 14, so driving at 13 was typical. We were poor. I did not remember ever having been poor. It was very hard to accept this new life. I was a teen, attending my junior year of high school.

Women do it all the time. Women are financially bereft by divorce. It is a government statistic that women never fully recover from the devastation of finances after divorce, unless they re-marry, gaining financial stability. Incredible situation. It still exists.

My mother was killing herself working, walking, and paying for an apartment because I could not live with her at the YWCA. The sacrifices she made were lost on me. I was a junior in high school and suddenly poor. This did not bode well for me becoming popular. Spoiled.

When my mom retired, at age 52, she was almost a millionaire. She and my step dad had amassed a great retirement. She was a whiz at investments and she saved every penny. I appear to have inherited that trait and I am so grateful. They had no debt. They owned 15 acres and a custom home. They raised cattle and had an active solar home. It was 1978. She had done it without help from my dad. He kept all of their furnishings, all of their money. They split a piece of land. She did it alone. Grit and determination should be named Marguerite. She did it. When she married my step-dad, he had never owned a checking account. He lived on a cash basis, renting a room in a woman’s home. He and mom loved each other dearly. She was in charge of the finances and served them both very well.

On this day of our country’s independence, I think of my mother. I think of my future and the way she would have had no nonsense about my next step. Living in an efficiency apartment, a trailer, on your own terms has no shame. You have earned your independence. Embrace it.

what did that cost?

I am selling everything. Ok. Almost everything.

I consider myself to be ‘divesting’. It is all very odd and different since I spent much of my life ‘collecting and holding’.

I wrote once about letting things go that you hold due to love and memories. I still adhere to that lesson. I recognize that ‘things’ are not people and ‘memories’ are not ‘things’. Therefore, I get the fact that by letting things go, I have not let go of people and memories that are important to me.

I am in new territory. Things I have owned and used for years and still see huge asset in owning. Point here is someone else should own them. I have had my time.

I have a shelf unit. My husband hated it from the get-go. During a time of particular stress in our family, I moved in with a relative to help him save his house. This shelf unit was almost our “un-doing.” The fight about this dumb thing was huge and scarring. My dad came to me one night, explaining that he could ‘cut the bottom of the unit’ to make it go to the basement and fit. That was heartbreaking to me. Nevertheless, I was the intruder. Saving the house did not mean I was welcome. We cut the poor shelf unit. Nobody would ever know it had been changed. I lamented. It was my custom-built shelf unit.

When my husband realized I was bringing it along to our marriage, he balked. I was surprised to recognize his dismay over my shelf unit. It has a drop down desk in the center, beautiful oak, cubbyholes, and all of the shelves fit onto dowels so you can mix, match, and create any design you desire, with your changing needs. What’s not to love? I just did not understand his upset. It ended up in our daughter’s bedroom. She could use the desk. She had lots of books and stuffed animals. It worked. We moved again and it was too tall for the ‘basement’, which we refer to as the ‘lower level’. I allowed it to be cut, again. Again, I am the only person aware of the cut. This thing has been impervious to pain.

In one place I lived, no wall was long enough for this unit. Therefore, I disassembled it. I put the desk into my bedroom and used the two rectangular shelf units in the living room, on each side of my picture window. Worked just fine. Perfect. I do not see the problem with this unit. Every time I move, and I have moved 6 times since I got the unit, I just work the puzzle of the thing to manage my new space. However, in the meantime, since it goes together immediately, sitting on dowels, I can get about 16 boxes off the floor, to create space. When you move, that is a huge deal. I love this unit.

Now, I am divesting. The shelf unit no longer suits my life. I know I will miss having the ability to get so many boxes off the floor in my next apartment or house. That was always a lifesaver, making a pathway through so many boxes. But. I have grown. I do not use 70’s shelf units anymore. The fact that this is relegated to the ‘basement’ of several houses says everything. I am letting the shelf unit go.

Someone looked at it and suggested $80. I almost threw up. A contractor came over, looked at it, and said there was probably $200.00 of good wood. Well, now we were talking! The problem, he explained, was how the wood was tied up with this shelf unit. Oh.

It took me another 6 weeks to digest this. I am now asking $80 for the shelf unit. Someone will get a great unit, or a bunch of good usable wood.

Am I crushed? No. I finally saw the light: I have had use of this shelf unit for 34 years. If I get ANY money for the wood or the unit, I am way ahead of the game. It is like selling a house. When you are leaving, you need to disengage yourself from what the next people might think or do. It is not longer important because you are ‘selling’, “divesting,” moving on.

I am moving. It is time. I am ready. Moreover, whatever anyone wants to buy, I will be willing to part with so that I can move forward. Looking into my past has not served me. Looking forward, to what I might create next is the only logical step I can take.

I love a bargain.

I need security

What am I missing?

I worked from the age of 16. I paid taxes, paid into social security. I gained skills, increased my income, continued to follow the rules, paying into a program that we have been warned will soon collapse.

I have seen people ‘game’ the system. I see people paid to do nothing. I see people using social security as their ‘fun money’ because they really do not need it. I see very wealthy people, still taking social security as it becomes due because they are due. I see elected officials make laws about our social security that cannot touch them. They pass laws; they do not abide by the same laws as those of us who put them into the position to represent our rights.

Today I learned that I cannot claim disability. I have a brain injury. I have 3 broken places in my back. I have a broken knee, wrist, thumb, and finger. I jammed a leg evacuating an airplane in the 70’s. That leg has caused me problems with my foot, ankle, knee, and hip. I have a broken pelvic bone.

In spite of this, I continued onward. It wasn’t hard. I was young. As I reached my 60’s it became harder. However, I was lucky. I married the man of my dreams. We agreed that I would sell my holdings, pay his debts and we would live on his earnings, which I knew would increase. I had faith and confidence in him.

Now we are divorcing.

Because I stopped working full time, stopped paying individually into the ‘system’, I no longer exist on the social security rolls. I was still working. I was cooking, cleaning, dealing with the kids, shopping, entertaining for his business connections, and keeping everything and everyone organized. In short: I was a stay at home wife. In 2010, that still means I did not work. In 2000, that still meant I did not work. Why? Every time a television program shows a man taking over the job of his wife, for just a few days, he changes forever. He is apologetic, he is apoplectic, and he is ashamed. It is WORK.

I used to say I would love to have a wife. I would love to have someone who would take care of all of the mundane chores, the errands, the cooking, the cleaning, and the crap. Everything I did not want to do would be ‘done’. Yes, a wife would be wonderful.

When I became ‘that’, I balked. It was a very difficult transition. I felt like someone had stamped ‘stupid’ on my forehead. I got little respect and began accepting that as the stupidity of the masses. I was the very same woman who had run a successful business, who kept her own home, who hired, fired, kept payroll and ran accounts. Suddenly, I was just ‘his wife’.

It took me almost a full year to come to terms with being ‘only that’. When I finally did, I began to recognize this was what so many women before me had done and I was lucky someone was willing to let me take care of everything else while he earned the most money. Heaven knows, I could not have earned as much.

Because of that, my social security stopped. Dead. Stopped. And because of that, in spite of the hundreds of thousands of dollars I paid into my account, I cannot use that money now. And now I really need it. I desperately need it. I cannot do what I did before. I cannot process my computer programs any more. I cannot count on getting up in the morning because of the headache that will not let me sleep until 3 or 4 in the morning, night after night. I cannot say I am capable of driving daily without causing harm to someone because my brain just does not understand anymore what I am supposed to do. I choose to stay put, keeping the city safe by my staying off the streets, away from that huge machine that I can still steer, but not necessarily remember the rules that govern.

I cannot be dependable. If I could, I would still run my business. If I were dependable, I would manage to vacuum my house constantly as I used to. If I could, I would not run out of so many things before I realized I needed more. If I could, if I could, if I could. I cannot.

And no help. Nothing. I am too young to draw my social security and I do not have the required credits to draw my disability because our income was lumped together and FICA paid out of the whole. Huge lesson. No wonder people complain about marriage taxes. I had no clue. I merged everything. I have nothing. I paid lots to the system to take care of myself in old age. Well, old age has arrived and it looks grim. Another old lady without income.

Let’s Pretend

Someone very important in my life is pretending. It disturbs me. That makes me question why:  not why she is pretending, but why do I let it disturb me?

She lost her husband, the love of her life. Now, she has taken up a sort of ‘cause’ to collaborate with another man, because he reminds her of her husband. The new guy is driving the family nuts. They cannot stand him. She cannot explain the attraction. I suspected. I asked. She said that sometimes she even calls him by her husband’s name, and then realizes what she has done. Fortunately, the man is so hard of hearing, he does not even know. She is paying many of his bills.

Another family member is keeping her doggy long past time. It is painful to see. The dog is not allowed outside. Ever. Will never again be allowed outside. The dog does all of its ‘business’ in the house, which is causing issues you can imagine. The dog can never be around any other dog due to an autoimmune disorder. The dog has such a small life. My family thinks it is better than putting the dog to sleep. They are continuing to search for ways to lessen the pain, to ease the suffering. My heart is breaking for the dog. My heart hurts for my family member. Prolonging the agony. I see no winner here.

Someone who used to be in my life is a chronic liar. It seems impossible to stop. Oddly, this person has high moral standards where others are concerned. He has shed people who lied. He has refused relationships with people doing exactly as he does. He pretends to be the man he wants to be. He pretends he is honorable. He pretends to be truthful. At the mere mention of a lie, he reacts negatively. He pretends.

Another person, very close to me is pretending his mom is doing well. She is not. She cannot hear, but neither he nor she will acknowledge that. She cannot remember but makes up reasons and blames others. She has begun hoarding things and creating reasons to do that. She is not well. He pretends she is.

I pretend all is well. I am out of money. I am frantic to pay my bills and find a place I can afford to live. I pretend to others that I know I will be fine. I will leave a life of luxury to live in a mobile home. My best friend reminds me that it will be the cutest mobile home anyone has ever seen. I pretend that is true. I pretend the place I park my new little trailer will be great. I pretend.

A neighbor of mine is battling for her child who is on drugs. My neighbor is a recovering alcoholic. Her husband pretends the daughter is fine. My neighbor sees the truth and cannot pretend. The daughter pretends she is clean every time she comes home to get some rest and money. Then, she leaves, buys more drugs, and pretends until she needs help again.

My parents pretend they are going to downsize. They live in an over-crowded home that they cannot maintain, in spite of the elevator they installed. They live in 3 rooms of a large home. They cannot manage much of anything but pretend they do. They pretend they will move to a smaller home and give in to age. They have pretended this for almost 15 years, when they began to look for homes in their area, slightly smaller. Now, in their 80’s, they pretend they will actually move to a 2 or 3 bedroom place, get rid of at least one car, since neither should drive anymore, and they will be fine. Neither of them is fine. They are elderly and have a list of ailments that would frighten anyone in their 40’s. Nevertheless, they pretend.

I used to pretend that love would solve anything. I pretended that one day someone would ‘complete me’. I used to pretend that my life would be different. I pretended that true love would make everything else work. I pretended that having someone to share my life with was important. That being alone was somehow sad.

When my friend lies, I pretend to believe. When my parents contemplate their move, I pretend to listen to new plans. When my neighbor says his daughter has finally learned, I pretend to congratulate. When my relative pretends her husband is still beside her, I pretend to understand. When someone tells me of love, I pretend to bask in his or her glow.

I remember how I would pretend as a child. I would pretend I was a doctor, or a nurse, or a pilot or a mother. I would pretend my future, always rosy, never difficult. I would pretend I would be popular, famous, smart, or beautiful.

When things go awry, don’t most of us pretend they will improve? I think improvement is really acceptance. At first, we cannot envision accepting the difficulty we face. Then, we grow accustomed to what life will be. Then, we recognize it did not kill us. It did not end so many things. We just learned to get along.

I guess I never stopped. I just pretend.

friends

I’ve been thinking about my friends. Learning who your friends are is important. Your friends are people you can reach for when you need to lean. I recognize how fortunate I am to count so many.

I have many friends from my airline days. These men and women have been physically absent from my life for decades. If I need any one of them, they will  immediately respond. That is friendship. I just got a phone message from one. She lives in Atlanta. We haven’t seen each other in 25 years but stay in constant contact. Her husband had an affair. Then her next husband did the same. She is living on social security, close to the bone, after marrying with houses and investments. She is now bereft emotionally and financially. She is a wonderful friend to me. We have the same pain. However, we had such fun and wonderful memories. We laugh. Everyone needs to laugh. It reminds us to live and enjoy life. We are fortunate. Sometimes we just need to remember.

I have friends from so many neighborhoods where I had homes. Manhattan, Orlando, Miami, Boulder, Colorado Springs, St. Croix, Gainesville, Salem, Spokane, Nuremburg, Munich, Frankfort, Oberammergau, Ft Knox, Redstone Arsenal, and others that I can only remember vaguely. Incredibly, I still am in touch with friends from almost all of those locations.

Now I have many friends I have never met. They are all on Facebook. According to my profile, I have 176 of them. Amazing. These men and women know of my impending divorce, know I have a cat and recently lost one, know I live in Washington and know I love to write. They know I flew, they know I care. They are my friends.

If these friends were around me on a daily basis, I wonder how much they would still want to be my friend. Am I whiny, controlling, difficult, dumb, or boring? Who knows? The beauty of this group of friends is the instant connection we all know. If I need help, look to Facebook. My friends there will immediately rally. I have seen them come together as a force whenever needed.

I have a wonderful friend nearby. We never see each other. We plan, we swear, we promise, we mean well. It simply does not happen. Like me, she is recovering from an ‘indiscretion’ from her husband, the love of her life. As he has moved on with his mistress, she has had to pick up the pieces of their lives, sell their home, and find a new place to re-start, saying goodbye to so many memories and so much pain. We ‘get’ each other completely. She is about 1 year farther down my road. It helps me to see that. I remember when I learned of her pain. Now I recognize I was not supportive enough. We all just go through the motions of help and support. We do not necessarily tie that to our hearts when we should, as friends. My lesson came later. Gratefully, she has continued to be my friend in spite of my lapse.

This is friendship. We ebb and flow. We understand and forgive. On a daily basis, it might not work so well.

As we each move through our lives, some friends come and some simply stay forever. I am blessed with both. You need some of them for a bit of time. That time finally passes and the friend needs to pass with it. They did their job. You did yours. Time to move. Time to change.

A friend just called. Incredible. We have not spoken in so long. She just asked me to come for the weekend. I am going. What could be better than a weekend with one of your dearest friends?

We have so many and they are so willing to help.