Tuesday, September 3, 2013

In Defense of...

Too many TV shows about serial killers. Too many books about the post apocalyptic world. Too many nights in a row with interrupted sleep. Late in the season of one of the worst casts of Big Brother ever. Giant storm. These are the things I am pinning last night's weird dream and middle of the night mind zoom on.

What would you do if you had to defend your life every year? If you had to stand in front of a judge, who by the way had video tape evidence, and take the blame or credit for all of your actions? And if you didn't pass, if you couldn't justify your existence then you stopped. Stopped existing. Someone else got your shot.

The dream was very much like the movie Defending Your Life, but instead of an afterlife courtroom where you had to show you were courageous in your time on Earth, it was a yearly review where you had to show that you were worthy of the resources you are taking up.

Now we all know I am prone to more than my fair share of navel gazing. But this dream was even beyond for me. Can you imagine having to justify yourself every year? Not just what you did but that you did enough to keep going. And years go by quickly. I'm looking at September right now and my list of "Things to Do This Summer" got tossed out because I realized that I wasn't To Doing any of them and had no urge to start! (not entirely fair, some of the things got done, some got shifted as the debate on To Move or Not to Move was re-opened). I have things that I talked about at Christmastime that I wanted to start that I haven't done anything towards doing. Hell, I have things I have talked about for years, literally years, that I haven't done anything towards. And it blows my mind each time how fast the time goes by and I still haven't done them.

We all also know that the past few years I have been adrift. I don't have to work right now. Brent makes enough that we are fine. Yes, extra money is always good but we are at that tipping point where taking a job could hurt as much as help. Taxes, extra car and all of those related expenses, grown up wardrobe, convenience items. All of that stuff that you add up to see if the money really ends up being extra or not. As Brent put it last spring, "If you go to work again you just need to make sure it's a cash neutral position at the worst." But the bigger issue is I have no idea what I would want to do if I did go back to work.

The smaller part time jobs that are out there I've done before. I've done fast food, slow food, retail. Shopping this weekend I saw Macy's was hiring and I thought about it. A discount on clothes, hmm...not bad at all. But what are the odds that they will take me on when I say I only want to work during the day during the week. And honestly Christmas in retail is one of the circles of hell, do I want to do that again? I also clawed my way off the sales floor and in to the back office when I was doing retail. How would it feel to go back and do it again? How about food? The person in front of me in line who doesn't know that a Venti isn't a medium and wants to have a lengthy discussion about caramel drizzle drives me nuts, can I make the brain shift to helping them instead of being bothered by them? Didn't I view retail as the escape hatch from food services?

I don't want to do advertising anymore, and honestly I've been out of it for so long that I would have a hard time getting hired again anyway. But my second go round showed me that it wasn't just the agency but the whole job I was really over. Why would I want to go back? Bookkeeping is the same way. It's easy for me. It's something I can do without breaking a sweat. Handling someone's a/r and a/p accounts. But do I want to? And since I am in a position where I don't have to....

And that brings me back to the dream last night. I was sitting at my desk waiting for the judge to come in reviewing past years' files. The years I was growing up were all stamped with "POTENTIAL" and passed. The years I was home raising C were very thin, not a lot of back up documents, just a few pictures of me and the baby, stamped with "IMPORTANT" and passed. The years following that were thicker, but basically the same sorts of things. I was raising C. I was working to keep the family solvent. Almost automatic passes, from what I would see. Then the files got thicker. More pro and con statements mistakes highlighted with notes for corrective actions, but still passed. And as I sat there with my current year in front of me the best I could come up with for my defense was "I didn't mess it up." Yep, basically all I could come up with for the defense of my year was I could have done worse. Then the thunder boomed and the storm woke me up. Thank goodness, because I'm not sure that dream was going to end well!

But of course as the storm kicked in to high gear and there was no real going back to sleep I started thinking, how would I defend my year? What would I say made what I was doing worth justifying? I'm still a good mom, but what C needs from his dad and me now isn't really a lot. We did our jobs. At this point we are advisers and a hotel. The framework is all there and now he's building his own house. So I can't really say, well my last year was worth it because I was a good mom.

How about good wife? Good homemaker? Brent and I have this discussion probably more than he cares to. I keep the house running so he doesn't have to worry about it and he views that as a worthwhile use of my time. But I view it as something I did when I worked as well. Yes, he was expected to pitch in more when we were both working but at the times he was working more hours I did more house stuff. In Colorado we both worked but he worked insane hours and went to school while I worked limited hours. So the house was mine. I've done both. And is it fair that the entire financial burden of our family rests on his shoulders? And does that matter? Would he work less if I worked more? Knowing his personality I can't say that he would. So would it just be that both of us working would not really be a good thing? Because what would we be working for at that point? Less time together but at least we have more money in the bank. Does that even make sense?

So maybe I just need to do more around the house. Instead of keeping it clean(ish) and keeping us fed (restaurants totally count), maybe if the house is Aunt Jeanie clean and the meals are scratch masterpieces I would feel like I was DOING something. Or I wouldn't.  Haven't we been here before? I want to cook more...I just hate to plan meals. So what would make this different? I'm sure that was in my file in the dream. Probably a faded xerox copy they just kept pulling and putting in the new year file. "Cook More, Write More, Find Life's Purpose"

It's odd for me. I watch friends send their kids off to college and I see a lot of moms go through the panic of Now what?? They have spent their lives defining themselves by being "The Mom." So now that the kids are gone what are they? I don't have that problem because I didn't define myself by being "The Mom" or by being "The Wife".  But I don't have any definition at all. I am me. I do a little of this, I do a little of that. But is it enough? If I had to justify myself would it be enough? I've always faced the Now what?? Just the past few years I haven't had an answer.

Now here is where the depressing blog takes a little bit of a turn. Maybe it's not up to me to decide if it's enough. Maybe that was really the point of the dream. The judge position. I was waiting for the judge to come in. Who was it? My early files were all marked with POTENTIAL and passed.  Who stressed my potential so much that it is as much part of me as my name? My parents. The files where I was a stay at home mom were marked IMPORTANT who judged that? Brent and I did. We both felt that since we could afford it when he was a baby it was IMPORTANT to do it. And so I did. The thicker files from working and raising C and being the wife and the rest, those were fuller because it was harder during those years. We struggled with finances, with parental patience, with having enough hours in the day to get it all done but it was all worth it. Who is the judge on if I did a good job during those years keeping it all together? Well I would say that it's C and Brent. And since C seems to be doing fine and Brent is still sticking around voluntarily I'm taking that as a good sign.

So if I had stayed asleep longer who would have been the judge? Would it have been C? Or my mother? Or Brent? Or would it have been me? And what would the questions have been? What is the measure that I should be taking to see if I can justify myself?

And do we really need to justify ourselves at all?

Or do I just need to get some more sleep?

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