I’ve been mulling over the last year a lot in the last couple of days. I think, in many instances, this is fairly normal for everyone anticipating (or dreading) the upcoming New Year and the celebrations therein. People across the world tend to put a lot of stock into the whole shebang and with each person’s ever-steady progress toward the New Year, they all, in my opinion, take stock over the previous year. I’ve been no exception to this. As much as I attempt to not assign too much significance to the calendar year changing from one number to the next, I still go through my own preparations. I clean house (under the silly belief that a clean and organized home at the end of the year will be replicated throughout the next year); I take stock in the gains and losses over the last year; and I attempt to plot out a few of the upcoming year’s goals and expectations. Not really resolutions, per se, but just a kind of set of hopes and dreams for what I want to come out from the next year. Too often, though, the shit steam rolling from the previous year gets in the way and I forget the hopes pretty quickly.
I’ve thought about what hopes I probably entered the last year with. I think the biggest hope was the act of getting a job. I was unemployed and depressed at the end of last year, feeling like I was worthless, unlikeable, and that no one would give me a job. Outside of that, since the act of being unemployed was all-pervasive throughout the year of 2012, I don’t think I had too many hopes and wants. I know that I wanted to be self-sufficient, money-wise, and that someone, somewhere, would give me a job. Beyond that, I know I didn’t think too clearly. I wonder if I should have.
If I had to choose one word to describe this year, I think it would be difficult. It seems like this year was a consummate balancing act that I may not have been overly successful at doing. In many instances, I know I felt very much like I had failed the balance I was attempting to maintain. In other instances, I didn’t even acknowledge the idea that I was balancing and just went whole hog ignoring the balancing act I should have been doing. I think, above all though, the reason this year is best described as difficult is two-fold. It was a fucking emotional roller coaster that always ended at the bottom of the biggest drop and usually, the drop wasn’t from as high up as I would have preferred. The rest of the time it was very much like I was living in a fugue state the rest of the time. Neither of those experiences are really fucking good. (As a side note: do not recommend.)
With my hopes entering on the New Year, I got a job. Sometimes, I think that I was successful in getting a job because of the spell I crafted to get what I needed. I did get what I needed, but I didn’t take into consideration the other financial ramifications of what I was asking. In effect, the spell I did fucking worked, but I fucking low-balled the hell out of everything. I don’t think I ever really considered that TH wouldn’t have another job lined up at some point and he would have unemployment as a fallback position. Wrong and wrong. TH’s father decided in February of this year to get out of the union and that meant that neither one of them would work until the paperwork was finalized. Of course, things were okay for a while because TH had his unemployment checks coming in, as paltry as they were. However, as anyone who has been alive in the last year can tell you, unemployment benefits aren’t inexhaustible and he used up his last extension. That got us through until July and things have been precarious, financially, ever since. I’ve used a good deal more of my “in case of emergencies” savings than I would have preferred since, you know, the emergencies the savings were supposed to go to were for my car or needing a new dryer or something. Instead, it kept us barely floating at or below poverty level until the state of Massachusetts could stop dicking around and agree that, yes, we were below poverty level.
The loss of my financial padding that I very purposely and intently save for emergencies and for Christmas purchases was a big blow. I’m very good about saving and I’m very proud of the fact that I have money in my savings account should the need arise. What I didn’t count on was that the padding I usually have for my family was used in the fashion it needed to be – for an [ongoing, financial] emergency. However, the point-of-view is that most emergencies are things that have an ending in sight. In this particular case, with our finances as completely up in the air as they have been – and with me, spending more time worrying about money and less time worrying about other things – I’ve had a hard fucking time of it the last few months. I would like to think that all of this shit wouldn’t be so horrible if I just felt like the job I was working was absolutely worth the misery and anxiety it can put me through. And I have to admit, months upon months later, as much as I enjoy the work that I do, it doesn’t fulfill me, it won’t fulfill me, my boss thinks of me as a lowly peon to be snubbed down to from on-high, and chances are I will stay at the job only because I need the paycheck.
Misery loves company, I guess, because most of my coworkers are in similar straits.
This year has been about a lot of changes, too. My son started school this year and this has been a learning curve. My son is an only child who doesn’t have to share or play nice with others very often. TH and I are very strict about a lot of things and school is one of them, though. I don’t know if I expect my son to go to college, especially considering how expensive that all is and how the economy is right now, but I want him to get an education. And I want him to know that there are other people in the world besides his family. He seems to be doing all right. He’s incredibly intelligent and he does seem to have a legitimate love of learning. Yet more learning curve for his parents: how to handle the endless expanse of questions that enter this child’s head.
“What is air?” “How do you spell regret?” “What does ‘can’t believe’ mean?” “What does ‘don’t believe’ mean?” “How do you spell ‘exit’?” “How does the eye work?” “What does a nerve cell do?” “Can I see pictures of Venus?” “Can we talk about lava?” “Can I see the universe?”
I love the questions, truth be told. My son is finally, I feel, at the point where he is truly a ready canvas in which new things can be painted and taught. I attempt to teach him as much as I can and I attempt to answer his questions as much as I can. Some of the things he asks me, though, come completely out of left field. I use my mind a lot at work because of the higher level projects I’ve taken on, but it really doesn’t help when coupled with the need to spell a word and then define the word with words he’d understand. And on top of that, I’m also trying not to dumb down my language so that he’ll be used to a higher level vernacular. My mother didn’t do it with me and I’m not going to do it with my son. I have never been more proud than when he was able to define impervious and obstreperous with a grin on his face. (It’s like a game to him.)
The change in his interests has been very interesting to watch. He started off this year with a typical boy interest: dinosaurs and space. Part of the love of space comes from his aunt indoctrinating him into the love of the Apollo space program when she was watching him. He may not remember Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong by name anymore, but he has always enjoyed space related things. I think the space book from The Magic School Bus and the related episode are his two favorite episodes. And of course, there’s the whole dinosaur thing that seems pretty typical. I think, maybe, that may be my fault. And honestly, it doesn’t matter because dinosaurs are cool. But the really surprising thing was his sudden obsession with the human body. This has also been a really interesting learning curve because I had to come to grips with my innate belief that children shouldn’t be taught about sex stuff. But, well, since there aren’t too many children’s books about the human body out there, he’s come into contact with it.
And guess what I learned?
If you just explain the thing with no details beyond the question asked, everything is smooth sailing.
I’ve found myself changing a lot in the last year, too. Personally, I’ve always ever thought of myself as “broken” in just about every way. The last year, with all of the shadow work that I’ve done and all of the choices that I’ve made to leave things behind me, has been a lot of little things all built with a single purpose in mind: creating someone who isn’t broken. What I didn’t realize until only recently was that I was never any of the things I thought of myself as. I was never fat. I was never broken. I was never a destructive personality. I was never any of those things, per se, because I was just who I happen to be. In other peoples’ eyes I may be any of those things. And I have come to accept the fact that people can view me however they want to. I personally don’t give too much of a tin shit anymore. I wouldn’t say that my self-esteem has skyrocketed, but that I’m just completely at peace with who I am, the choices I’ve made (for good or bad), and what the circumstances are relating to them. I’ve also come to discover that even though I am, medically speaking, overweight, it’s okay.
I’ll admit that a lot of this self-esteem stuff started off as religious related. Over the last few months, though, it’s morphed into a kind of personal pet project that hasn’t gotten a lot of air time. I think what really made me realize that I am who I am and that’s just how the fuck it is was after TH officially but unofficially moved out of the house. It was hard. I began to think that no one was supposed to love me for who I am or want me for how fucked I am. And I realized that I was looking at things from the completely opposite end of where I should be looking at things from. It wasn’t that I was too fat, too mean, too negative, and too bitchy and that was why people wouldn’t want me. It was that there are and will be people out there who cannot accept me for what I am. And if I couldn’t be bothered to care about who I was and who I am, then why did I want anyone else to accept or want it either? In the end, it was a moot point – TH came back and made me quite aware that it was me he loved and cared about, whether I weighed too much or too little, whether I was being bratty or nice. And that was just enough, I think, to make me realize that I matter and that no matter how others look at me, I am still worth whatever the hell I think I’m worth.
And that’s a whole hell of a lot.
Above all, though, this year has been about balance. I’ve been attempting to find that balance all throughout the year.
With the start of my new job, I had to figure out how to balance being a mother with being a blogger with being a wife with being a religious person with being me after eighteen months of not needing to do any sort of balancing whatsoever. There are other things that I had to balance in there, as well, and I’ll admit that the shit is fucking hard. Too often, I would leave work, feeling as though I had been ripped across sandpaper and needing to go home and do something religious related because I had told them I would. Or, I would come home and promise my son a game of some sort to play, a movie to watch, and figure out how to maintain my religious obeisance in the meanwhile. I think what this taught me, above all else, was that I don’t think I ever adequately or even attempted to balance my religious life with everything else even when I was working previously.
It got to the point where I began to feel very badly about what I could or could not get accomplished. I was too busy attempting to actually find a balance that I forgot that there are other ways to do the things and still feel accomplished. A lot of my religious life has been more devotional in its basis. I’ve been able to find ways to pay attention to my gods without taking time out of my day or taking time away from my family. I’ve also come to realize what devout, to me, actually means versus what I thought it should mean. My definition doesn’t really correlate, I don’t think, with too many others. But I consider myself rather devout and even though my religious practice may often-times look like something cobbled together at the last minute, it’s actually incredibly functional. And I’m able to do the things while having a life, both work related and home related.
What this last year has really made me realized is that the year off was good, religious wise, because I was able to get into a groove. That established groove was something that kept me feeling focused, even when I felt like I was a miserable failure at all of this. That groove was also something that gave me a better ability to keep my faith with me when I’m at work – a place that is highly Christian and Republican in nature and would, really, probably enjoy firing me or burning me at the stake (possibly both?) if the truth of my religious affiliations actually came out. Whatever the case may be, even knowing that my religious affiliation needs to be kept quiet and too myself, the groove I established when I wasn’t working has continued in differing veins but is still to be seen in a more adult form to this day.
And with the ability to balance my work and my religious life as much as I do, I’ve come to realize that everything else is kind of a piece of cake.
This year has kind of sucked, but it’s also been kind of good. It’s yet another thread in the ongoing thing that is my life. I’m glad it’s over, though. With its passing, I have a couple of modest hopes set in motion. I don’t know if I’ll be able to realize those hopes as much as I was able to realize my hopes for last year.
All I can do is… well… hope.