There’s this website called Making Light (often abbreviated to ML). I’ve been reading it so long I don’t even know when I found it, or even how, although it was probably by way of either Neil Gaiman or John Scalzi (both of whom are terrific writers and both of whom you should check out). At any rate, a few years back on or near the autumnal equinox, one of the moderators there, abi, started what she called the Dysfunctional Families Day thread, based on the idea that not everyone’s family of origin (birth, foster or adoptive family, whatever structure it was that raised them) was the basis for a Norman Rockwell painting or a gooey-sweet greeting card. That some people, in fact, had had it rough, and some had had it horrifically, terrifyingly bad, and many of them were still dealing with the fallout. So she started that thread as a safe haven, where people could talk without judgment about what they’d experienced, share coping mechanisms, ask for advice, or just…talk. Get it out of their systems, because sometimes just being able to do that, to talk to people who weren’t going to immediately say, “Oh, but you have to forgive [parental unit/sibling/other relative] despite the fact they did [horrific thing] — they’re your family!”
Well, no, being family doesn’t actually give you the right to fuck up someone else’s life, even if you didn’t mean to do it.
And every year around the first day of autumn, a new Dysfunctional Families Day thread would go up, and a couple of months later, it would essentially peter to a halt and abi would close it until the next year. Until 2011, when the thread filled up (reached nearly 1,000 comments) in just over two months and abi started another. And then another. And it stopped being an annual thing and is now ongoing because people don’t, it seems, only deal with family fallout during the holidays, although this is a particularly fraught time of year for a lot of people.
What I’m leading up to is that I posted on those threads quite often, those and the various Open Threads, when I was losing the fight to keep my house two years ago. I posted there because it was safe, because if I wanted advice I could ask for it, if I just wanted to vent, I could do that too, and it helped. My life was falling apart in ways I’d never imagined, and it helped to go to ML and write about it.
Things are so much better now. I just passed the one-year mark at my job, had my first annual review (of many, I hope), and they still like me, they appreciate me, they consider me an asset. Oh, I have room for improvement, I always do — and hell, if I ever did get a perfect review, where would I go from there? 😉 — but it’s good.
What follows began life as a post on Making Light, bad poetry and all. It’s been edited to add font differences in an attempt to make it easier to read, and proofed for the most obvious punctuation mistakes, but otherwise, what you see is what I wrote one dark night in 2011.
Posted on entry Dysfunctional Families Day: Tangled Emotions ::: September 30, 2011, 12:19 AM:
So, just what is it I need now to do?
I wish I knew, I wish I knew.
Well, part of me does: “Find Work!” it screams.
“Why spend all your hours on wishes and dreams?
“The lottery? Okay, daydream now and then,
“It’s nice to have ‘plans’ for a make-believe When.
“But DO SOMETHING productive in this real world
“lest you find all your stuff in the street being hurled!”
You’d likely admit it makes all kinds of sense
That, when facing foreclosure, I’d get off the fence
And do more for myself than just reading job postings.
That I’d send out my resume, samples and “boastings”.
Talents have I in the art of the word:
When proofing munged copy I fly like a bird
Through the rat’s-nest of prose that’s in need of a polish.
When I speak for myself, though, things get all brick-wallish;
I’m fearful, I’m tongue-tied, I think of my mother
Whose thoughts on promotion of Self (but not Other)
Were such that I don’t take a compliment well—
Which gets in the way when you’re trying to sell
Complete strangers on why they should offer to YOU
The contract or project or full-time job. Too,
There’s the fear that, once hired, I won’t last a week,
That they’ll figure it out ’fore my work can but speak…
“She’s a fraud! She’s incompetent, grossly unsuited
For this task that’s important—it’s time she was booted!”
And so I’m defeated, my chances made thin
Not from outside, but inside, before I begin.
So what can I say? I’ve a talent for wishing…
Just not so much so at the art of job-fishing.
All of which is prelude…
What [other poster] said at [post previous to mine] fits me as well, to a large extent: if my work is for someone else, I go great guns, but doing the work I need to do for my own benefit never gets done. Like working to find clients, or find a job that will pay me enough to keep my home. And it’s biting me in the ass big time, and I think I may have stumbled upon a connection while reading this thread.
I am also one of the lucky ones, in that my family’s dysfunction wasn’t of the violent kind. (I wrote about some things in the first iteration of this thread under this nym.) But my family was still broken, and to a large extent it revolved around money.
Mom grew up during the Depression, worried all the time about where the money for their next meal was coming from, working several jobs to help make sure there was money for the next meal. She knew she couldn’t count on her family, and she had rotten Relationship Radar, and so she either didn’t wind up with any man she could count on, or she left without really giving them a chance. (Well, during my formative years, anyway. The ones she went out with once I hit high school? Forget it — Not Suitable for a variety of reasons.) Anyway, the gist is that she always worked very hard to earn money…and only once do I remember ever having a conversation about the subject.
That is, my mom never talked to me about money. Not the earning of it, the saving and spending of it, budgeting, goal-setting — even if she’d have used different words based on her own experiences, we never had those kinds of conversations. (Somewhere upthread someone talked about not knowing how to set goals — that’s also me, in spades.) I never received an allowance; I was never paid for chores. The only money I received, other than the occasional dime for a treat from the ice cream truck, was as gifts, and they went right into my savings account.
Not that I had any idea what I was saving for, mind you. That was just what I was supposed to do with it. No idea now whether I ever actually spent any of it, or if it just stayed there in Home Savings until they were taken over by Great Western Bank and I maybe converted it to a checking account… Oh, well.
I mean, I knew money existed, and I knew she worked hard. I learned early on not to show too much enthusiasm for the newest Barbie or fun-looking game that appeared on TV because I knew my mother would want to get it for me — and I didn’t want to be the cause of her having to work even harder so she could buy it. The one time we did talk about money, it was in the negative: “I’m sorry, honey, but all we have for dinner tonight is hard-boiled eggs in cheese sauce because I can’t afford anything else right now.” And me turning my nose up at it because I was going through some stupid phase where I didn’t like hard-boiled eggs unless they were deviled, and her standing there with the saucepan under my nose telling me I’d either eat it or go hungry that night, and I honestly cannot remember if I ate or not, if we both cried (although I kinda think so), what dinner had been the night before or was the night after, as in was it just a short paycheck because she had, for some reason, worked only ten hours of overtime instead of her more usual twenty hours and maybe her next paycheck came the next day and so it was moot by then?
Up until a couple of days ago, I was convinced that because Mom had come through the Depression, she just never wanted me to worry about the kinds of things she did when she was younger. That she thought she was sparing me something by not “making” her child deal with money issues the way she did as a child, from both the standpoint of budgeting an allowance and that of how hard she worked to pay our bills. But reading this thread gave me a brain-flash about a different possible explanation: somewhere along the line, I think I convinced myself that the reason we never talked about money is that my mother didn’t think I could be trusted with it.
So you can imagine the guilt I lay on myself every time I read a job listing online and think I might be good for it, but never quite get around to submitting a resume. Hell, I’ve got a whole nother browser open with a batch of jobs and it’s been open since yesterday and I have spent more time thinking about writing this entry than about applying to ANY of those jobs. Then there’s the guilt about the fact that my mother worked like a damned dog to have the money to put down on this house, that she had to fight not to have an impound fund when the loan officer half her age told her that “as a divorced woman, we really think you should have one” — and she won, [the fact] she was so proud of this place…and I’m the one who’s going to undo all that and lose it because I can’t be fucking bothered to get my fat ass off the couch and find a job. I’ve got myself in such a bind right now, due soley to inaction, that there’s virtually no way I can buy myself another postponement of my sale date.
And I’m so scared, so scared, and I know there’s been stuff out of my control, like this stupid loan that no mortgage broker with an ounce of fiduciary responsibility toward me should EVER have guided me to, but I wasn’t as smart as my mother about asking questions for the long term (which itself may be moot because I don’t know if this kind of loan even existed when she bought the house, or if she would have been able to ask the right kind of questions about it), but there’s been so much that’s been well within my control, like how much I spend and on what, and how I really should have been eating out almost never during the last year or more and yet I convinced myself it was okay to eat out two or three or four times a week if I was only eating that one meal during the day — and often, that restaurant meal was the only thing I ate all day, so I could “conserve” what I had at home and not have to go to the store as often. Ha.
So. Broken about goalsetting, about planning ahead, about having self-confidence enough to state clearly that yes, I am worth what I’m asking because my work is that good (“The kids who tease you are just jealous that you’re so smart.” Sure they are. That’s why they try so hard in class — not.). I mean, if I spent half the time sending out resumes as I do on my elaborate scenarios about What I Will Do When I Win The Lottery, I might already have the job that will pay me enough to get another postponement while I qualify for a loan mod.
Or not. What gets me is I’ve lost that time now, so I’ll never know. I’d welcome ideas or suggestions, but there’s a part of me that says I’d be a hypocrite if I said I’d actually DO something about them.
****END OF COMMENT AT MAKING LIGHT****
Damn. More than a little self-loathing. More than a little fear. I still feel both, now and then. Humans do that, I guess. But I’m getting better at seeing it, and stopping it. I still have some spectacular failures, but they tend to happen inside my head where I don’t have to publicly ask for a cleanup on aisle 5.
Overall, though? LOTS better. 🙂