So much going on!

So much going on I have neglected my writing therapy here!

There’s some new obstacles to deal with. After almost a year of my attorney working on my divorce, suddenly my ex finally decides to hire his own attorney, therefore starting the process over again…

Up side the ex has taken a greater interest of being a part of his is daughters life. He takes her for a day every week and she stayed overnight for the first time this weekend. Yay for developing a relationship finally!

Bonus, on the days he takes her, I can finally go back to the gym and start running again. Running has always been a great stress reliever for me, but I can’t run outside with my daughter in these sub-zero temperatures.

I got two small tailoring jobs recently. A simple hemming of a wedding dress and an 18th century workman’s jacket. The jacket is still a work in progress, but I just finished draping the pattern and fitting it to my client. So it’s not much, but there’s some money coming in.

Money….the other obstacle. Until recently I wasn’t even sure I was going to make it into the field this summer because of money problems. Tickets to Ireland are still pretty high. My advisors grant is up this summer and she had told me that there might not be money to pay for our airfare. Normally I only have to pay for my daughters airfare, which is had enough. However, I met with my advisor the other day and she can pay for my airfare. Yay! I do not and will not have the money for for my daughters airfare, so, now I have 2 months to arrange childcare for 6 weeks…daunting task. This is our last year in Ireland and academically I can’t not go this summer as much as I don’t want to be separated for that long. Oh the troubles of grad school mommies.

Now on to grad school. Here’s where there’s been serious progress. FINALLY! As previously mentioned, I met with my advisor. With minimal changes to my dissertation proposal (seriously minimal, we’re talking a handful of single words) as of today it’s being forwarded to my committee and I can finally take my advanced exams this month! After that it’s just writing my dissertation. Second, I’m presenting at another conference in Toronto this month and next month I’m co-authoring a paper for the SAAs in Austin with my advisor on managing grad school and motherhood. I’ll post my write up on my experiences with motherhood and grad school at a later time. Progess!

I even found time recently for one of my hobbies, painting! I haven’t been able to paint in years! I took a quick photo of my watercolor. This is a view from Navan Fort aka Emain Macha in County Armagh, Northern Ireland.

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Depression – Single Momhood

Normally I would post another meditative excerpt from Meditations For Women Who Do Too Much, but today I was inspired to look into some help for the depression that is experienced by divorced single moms who have to regularly deal with their ex. This was in response to a rather poor visit from mine this morning when he picked up his daughter. Suddenly he has decided to be a part of her life and has been taking her on a weekly basis. Hurray for her, her Daddy is finally waking up and taking responsibility, but on the other hand its very difficult on me and the hardest part of that is not letting it effect her. Luckily she’s young enough that we can have a conversation in front of her as long as we both keep our cool…easier said than done, but I think I managed this morning. When there’s an issue to deal with and he sees that someone else is home with me, he tries to insist that I call him about it later so that 1) he can just ignore the call and not talk about it or 2) won’t have any witnesses to the conversation so he can say and do whatever he wants to me. I thought I was working through all this, moving on, but these weekly visits are just showing me that I still have no control over my own feelings and he still has a lot of power over me. He’s very adept at making me feel guilty for things that I have no reason to feel guilty over. I go from wanting to scream to just wanting to curl up into a ball and cry. It’s a hard spot to get our of, but I find writing about it here therapeutic even if no one reads it. I get it out of my system.

In an article on depression and single parents single parent families are 90% single moms and of those 40% are suffering from depression. “They very often neglect their own needs as they toil to provide for their children alone, and this can affect both physical and mental health.” (Dr. Wendy O’Conner). They recommend the following to help with the self-esteem and depression issues:

  • swallow your pride and ask for any help you can get – even if its just for a peaceful hour in the tub
  • stop criticizing yourself; you are human not a super hero
  • use quick stress relievers: 10 minutes in a hot shower, deep breathing, 10 minutes of yoga asana’s with the door closed, a five minute phone call with your best friend, a take-out dinner now and then
  • organize your daily routines and keep them as ritual
  • get rid of clutter and keep it that way
  • let your children be independent and help out
  • get financial advice
  • join a single parents support group

So which of these have I used so far? Living with my family I do get help that a lot of single moms don’t. It’s still hard to ask them to watch her though so I can do something, but I’m getting better at it. I regards to criticizing myself, well I was far too good at that myself previously and then 4 years now of having someone else criticize me that’s a hard one to deal with. Everyone is their own worst critic, but I am trying. The quick stress relievers: I started doing yoga everyday after Christmas and it makes a world of difference. I decided, not as a New Year’s resolution per se, but just as a promise to myself, that while my daughter is my world, I cannot take care of her if I don’t take care of myself. So I decided I was going to strive to do at least 15 minutes of yoga, everyday and I was going to get healthy. It’s not about losing weight, while that is part of my becoming healthy, its about eating right, decreasing my stress and being the best I can be. So I have nutritionally balanced smoothies for breakfast and lunch and then a nice dinner with the family. The stress was really hurting me because I have been accomplishing this for about a week and a half now and have lost 9 pounds without even trying. I have found balance. My daily routines have been a ritual for a long time and I’m de-cluttering as much as a can, being that it is my parents house. My daughter gets to help whenever she can (she is only 3 after all) and she loves doing it. I am currently looking in to single parent groups in my area and that’s a big step for me. I’m not very good at meeting new people and sharing (one of the things I’m addressing by writing this blog).

So now I’ve selected a couple of highly recommended books for women in my situation and continue on the road to recovery. I know there will be some backtracking, but I am ready to move on. This is something I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of my life, I have a child with him. It’s time to learn how to deal so that my life is balanced and healthy and after writing this, maybe things aren’t as bad as they seemed this morning after all.

Self-Deception/Illusions

“We live in a system built on illusions and when we put forth our own perceptions, we’re told we don’t understand reality. When reality illusion and illusion is reality,  it’s no wonder we feel crazy.” – Anne Wilson Schaef

“The choice to deceive ourselves is ours” is the last sentence of the meditation entry for today in Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much. Speaks volumes. The concept of the world being built of our own illusions is actually something we are taught rather early on when you’re studying Anthropology and Archaeology. One of the difficulties in both these disciplines is objectivity and removing oneself from our own cultural viewpoints in order to understand others. It’s a difficult task to accomplish. Now the author is saying that we try to live in illusions within our own culture: illusions of control, illusions of perfectionism, illusions of objectivity. Objectivity in it’s true sense is unattainable. We can never truly remove ourselves from our own culture and our own lives. It’s a complex subject that I honestly do  not want to get into. We harm ourselves and deceive ourselves by trying to live in the illusion that we have complete control, that we can achieve perfectionism and objectivity. Each person has their own criteria as to what is perfect and what is the definition of control. The world is how we perceive it.

And we’re back at perception. Perception comes at many scales. Perception of a culture; perception of a group; perception of a family; perception of the individual. As an optimist in a house of pessimists and a realist (my brother insists he’s a realist), I have a completely different perception on life. I know I have control over very little except what I put in my body and how I take care of myself. I can try as hard as I like to control other things, but I can’t and that’s OK. I refuse to fool myself into thinking I can control more because reality can then be a very depressing place.

The illusion of perfection I think needs a little elaboration. I think it’s perfectly fine to imagine what would be perfect. But make your idea of perfection attainable. Keep it simple and don’t let anyone else’s ideals change your mind. We’re still struggling and causing great harm to all generations with our cultures current perception of physical perfection and beauty. I don’t fall into that pit and I sincerely hope I can raise my daughter the same way. I love that there are those like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Winslet that are standing their ground and speaking out against the issues at hand. The problem with the illusion of perfection is not believing and imagining something as perfect, but being realistic in your criteria. Everything is perfect in it’s own way. See the perfection in everything.

The key is realizing when your “illusion” is out of control and doing more harm than good. The illusions that you strive for and live for need to lead to happiness and contentment, not be so difficult to attain that they cause depression, sadness and loss. You shouldn’t have to work so hard to achieve and live within them. We need illusions in our lives; illusions are our dreams and without dreams there’s no hope.

Excuses/Choices

“So at an early age I witnessed the fact that work was the first importance, and that it justified rather inhuman behavior.”- May Sarton

Workaholism, like other addictions, is intergenerational and oft times learned at home. Scary thought! We ourselves are propagating this illness on our children. Workaholism was created by the American ideal of prosperity in money and I think is the most common addiction in our country. We grow up learning that we play after all the work is done, we relax when all the work is done and well the work isn’t done until we retire and for most people retirement isn’t an option so we work until our dying day. We use this excuse of having work to do and money to make as an excuse to be inhuman at home and sometimes even cruel. We are trained from the beginning that money is so important. Money means everything. It’s a vicious cycle. Yes, we need money and most of us have to work hard for it. We have to work hard just to put a roof over our heads and food in our bellies with the cost of living these days. Then to top it all off, we’re told to work hard in school and go to college so that we can get a good job and be able to support our family, a family that we have no time to spend with or choose not to spend time with because we’re working so hard to provide them with everything we think they need or want. Then there’s the vicious cycle of college and graduate school expenses. We go to college for four years and get our bachelor’s degree, spending around $20,000 on average in loans that we have to get a job to pay back. We enter the work force and are constantly told we need more experience or more education. We then make the choice to go to graduate school to gain more experience and education just to be told that we are now over-qualified for the jobs. I’m getting a PhD, which when I decided to pursue this path was a good choice…at the time. Now, you need a PhD in order to teach at a university, but most universities are no longer hiring full-time professors, only adjuncts who are lucky to get one class to teach, per semester, that’s about $3000 for 15 weeks. Most graduate degrees come around to bite you with $1300/month in student loan payments. Need I do that math for us here? I am never going to move out of my parents house on an adjuncts pay.

So we are taught to first work hard and when the  work is finished then we can play and relax; then, go to college so you can get better jobs and not have to work quite so hard to get by. There’s a problem here. If you don’t go to college then you have to work multiple jobs in order to support a family (in most cases not all). If you go to college you’re lucky (I hope to God that you are lucky!) if you can get a decent job after you graduate that will  allow you to afford to live on your own and pay off your student loans. I live in an area that’s still grossly effected by the economic regression. There’s a major problem with our American ideal…we work so hard to make money and provide for our family that we have no time to spend with this family that we love so much. How is this ideal? How is this healthy? How is this a joyful and fulfilling life? What are we doing to our families out of love for them?

I didn’t realize how crazy and insane the way we live in America was until my life fell apart. Money was always tight for me from the moment I bought a car. Once I bought a car I was living paycheck to paycheck. Mind you I was only working part-time at a Music School because I was in college. Then I moved out of my parents house for a short time, but hours were cut and I was back in the house. Then I met my (now ex) husband and we moved in together. For a while we lived on my income, then his income alone, but eventually I decided to get a full-time job, even while in school so that things weren’t so tight. There were no children at the time so it didn’t really matter. When I got pregnant, we decided I would only work until I gave birth and then I would stay home and raise our baby and finish up school. Things really deteriorated at this point. My husbands spending was out of control combined with alcoholism and gambling and then his hours were cut practically from over 40 hours per week to 15 if he was lucky. Happy Thanksgiving. So we sold everything we had of value trying to stay afloat long enough for a new job. He was never home, between work and the depression of not being able to provide for his family. Finally, I made the decision that we could not longer stay in the house we were renting. He spent the rent I managed to pull together faster than I could get it to the landlord and then he quit his job. Couldn’t find another one, but quit the one he had. Generously, my parents took all 9 of us in. By 9 I mean, my husband, myself and my daughter, our 2 dogs and cat, and my sister (who was living with us at the time) and her 2 cats. My parents are saints! My sister got the one open bedroom since it was two small for us. We squeezed ourselves into the basement family room. No privacy what so ever. There were a lot of tears. We had no money. My husband was doing nothing to find a new job. We had car payments we couldn’t make, bills to pay from our old house that I couldn’t pay. I had no support from him. He’d disappear for days without word. He’d been verbally and emotionally abusive for some time, but I hadn’t realized what he was doing to me until I got into the field that summer and got to talk about what was happening with my friends and advisor. My advisor wasn’t going to let me leave Ireland if I hadn’t already been living with my parents because she was so scared for me. I hadn’t even realized I should be scared. Within two weeks of my return home, my husband went to “work” one night (he had a job but we never saw any of the money from it) and never came home. I called over and over for a few days, but nothing. A friend informed me he was staying with him and eventually he checked in to the psych ward at a local hospital under duress from his best friend. He never came home and honestly I was ok with that. So many things happened after he left, so many things uncovered that I realized it was all a lie.

So now, I have a beautiful 3 year old daughter that I can’t provide for in the American sense. I do not have a job because I can’t get one that will pay me more than the cost of putting her in day care while I work, so what’s the point of that job. I’d rather spend my time with her. I have no money, ok I have 72 cents in my bank account, so I have some money. I’m not poor as dirt, I’m poorer than dirt…dirt can grow food. The lack of money gets me down sometimes, because honestly it does make life hard, but I have a loving family who provides us with the necessities and I get to spend all my time home with my daughter so that we have a wonderful relationship.  I earn my keep in trade. I make dinner for everyone every night. I do the grocery shopping with my dad (I don’t have a car, repo-ed). I clean the house, take care of all the dogs, tend to the gardens (ok I guess I can grow food too, so I’m just poor as dirt), fix things around the house or do the research to find out how to fix them, I do the sewing and mending, baking….and the list goes on. I’m trying to start a small side business sewing for some pocket cash since I can do that while at home with my daughter. I stop working, even when I’m not done to play with my daughter or just sit with her and watch TV. Why? Because money doesn’t buy happiness. Money is nothing if you don’t have a happy, caring and close family to share it with. Having all the money in the world won’t show your kids that you love them, not in the way they need or want. They just want some of our time.

The need and drive for more and more money is replacing compassion, love, relationships, quality time, togetherness, cohesion and our humanity. We strive for so much and to be better than those around us that we are at risk of becoming inhuman. What does it mean to be human? How many times do you use work and the need for money as an excuse to be inhuman? Take a look at your life because I was appalled by my actions; actions and choices that I had no idea I was making.