Never dress in the dark and stop the pity party
I know, what a title, but it’s all about humility. You see, our family struggles financially, as many do, living paycheck to paycheck, worst than most, better than some. Although my husband hasn’t had the best job history, we did ok while I taught for 7 years and then worked in the publishing industry for 18. Always had medical and life insurance, went to the doctor regularly, could afford our prescriptions, had our teeth cleaned every 6 months, paid the mortgage on time, and generally plodded along in life. That is, until 3 years ago when I was laid off from my “secure” job with benefits. With my husband’s so-so jobs and me out of work, times were and have been tough, financially and psychologically. But we have kept our spirits up for the most part. We have not had a vacation in 8 years so obviously my job was no always a factor in being able to afford it. For the last 5 years my husband has chaperoned our church’s youth on a mission trip and used his one week of vacation to do so.
So this week a friend asked me to substitute for her this Sunday at church. We are lectors and occasionally fill in or switch where needed. She explained that she and her family were leaving for vacation that day. I asked, “So where are ya going?” She said, “Germany and Austria.” I agreed to sub for her as long as she didn’t tell me her two youngest, ages 8 and 10, were going to Europe. Surely, their huge protective lovable labs could watch the girls while the rest of the family was gone. She replied that I might not want to read her answer as she reported that all six (his daughter, her son, their 8 and 10 year old daughters) were going. I tried to laugh it off and tell her that if her children did not appreciate this vacation that I could come over and give them lecture on how lucky they were. But it ate at me. Remember, I subbed for this friend in March when she took her 16-year-old son to New York City for his birthday. I remembered that I was drank bourbon and coke, got drunk, and went to see “Paper Moon” with my 2 girlfriends for my 16th birthday. Times have changed.
I really try not to let jealousy invade my life. There shouldn’t be any room for it, but sometimes it’s hard. I don’t begrudge hard-working adults who need and deserve time off. I have even learned to admire and respect stat-at-home-moms who can afford to stay home because I have seen the amazing things they do in their “spare” time. But I think it’s when I hear that little kids are going to Europe on vacation that I start to seethe. These kids, especially, as they run all over church with very little discipline. During that trip to New York, this friend had my daughter watch the two little girls, and she took them to the movies. She reported back that it was obvious no one had taught these kids how to behave in the movies and perhaps this was the first time someone had told them not to talk or move around in the movie theater. At church, they are always running after each other in our big hall and often unsupervised. Sweet kids but totally disruptive. And they were going to Germany on vacation. My husband is 100% German and would love to visit the place, and I kept thinking how, at 50, he has never even been to Europe. Hell, he doesn’t even own a passport. But these two little girls are going to the land of his grandparents’ birth. Life isn’t fair. And life sucks. And welcome to my pity party.
And then last night a friend from church e-mailed me a note about needing a babysitter. This friend is one of those statistics of women, like Dana Reeve, who has lung cancer but has never smoked. My heart aches for her as she goes through treatment after treatment, doctor visit after doctor visit, disappointment after disappointment, but still manages to persevere. Her experimental treatment had to be stopped because they found “spots” on her brain. Oh shit! More chemo. And now a recent CAT scan has found blood clots in her thighs and suspected lymph node involvement. She, too, has two little children, but they aren’t going to Germany this summer. She wants them to have a good 4th of July weekend so she is sending them with their father to visit her family in Alabama because she cannot travel because of the clots, per her doctor’s instruction.
And here I am in the middle. I’m not going to Europe. Can’t afford a vacation. Haven’t in some time. But, for the most part (Do we count high cholesterol?), I am healthy. I do not have to stay still for fear a blood clot will travel and burst. I do not have to send my family away without me just because I can’t travel. I do not have to worry every time I go in for another test. I do not have to replace my valuables like our friend GreekCheekie who was robbed while on vacation. So what if I don’t have life insurance because the company I worked for that offered it to me laid me off 3 years ago? So what if I just now got a job, albeit boring and lowly, that offers benefits after 3 years of none? So what if I don’t get to take the family to Germany for vacation. So fucking what.
And then today I got dressed for work. I am wearing that Chi O mom outfit I talked about in the letter to my daughter. Black and gold for Mizzou’s colors. Black slacks with gold flowers on the bottom. White shirt with same gold flowers on it. I chose to wear my pink bra since I am, after all, pink in color. Sure, it’s dark when I get ready. I do turn on a light, but it’s bad lighting, and I’m half asleep. So the first time I went to the bathroom this morning and looked in the mirror, I see these two bright pink beacons staring back at me. Apparently, I’m more pasty white than I am pink and this bra is more Pepto-Bismol than it is my skin tone. So yes, there were my two honking pink boobs glowing from under my white shirt. That’ll teach me some humility.