Sunday, January 25, 2009

To Be

I hate the month of January. I feel guilty about it because it's the birthday month of both Cupcake and my father, but there it is. It's gray, it's cold, it's back to work, it's drab, it's looooong. I once wrote in a old journal that January is like a month full of Mondays. Hardly an original sentiment, but still so true.

January reminds us every single fucking year that we here at Golden Manor do not plan ahead well enough. You see, the school system pays its staff early in December (on the last day of classes) and we go six weeks without MathMan's paycheck.

Each year, we try to set enough money aside to get us through and each year we fail, leaving us with at least a few days without funds for even the essentials. We have tedious discussions about how we'll have money for gasoline and groceries. We eyeball everything in the house carefully, wondering what will bring in the most money at the pawn shop. We gather the children and brainstorm legal ways to raise cash. In private, MathMan and I debate the merits of and potential income from having one of us turn tricks.

This year is no exception. Now that we're in Chapter 13, we can't even slide on paying bills to ensure that we have the cash we need. The banks, bless their stone cold hearts, are getting their money through automatic deductions from my paycheck. So we'll hang on a few more days, wishing for January 31st (of course it can't be on a weekend so the money would hit our checking account a couple of days early) to get here fast, fast, fast!

Money issues give me a knot in my stomach. You'd think by now it's a familiar sensation, and I suppose it is, but it still makes me edgy and desperate. I think of the mistakes I've made and the high price we all continue to pay. Each time I have to say something like "Be really stingy with that milk, it has to last us" or "I wonder how long this tank of gas will hold up," I'm covered up in guilt and chant stupid, stupid stupid to myself.

The money angst bleeds over to other areas of our lives. The tension is thick, the anxiety palpable. Each of the Spawn processes it differently and reacts in their own ways. The Dancer escapes to a different kind of life, enjoying moments of calm as the guest at her friend's country club for brunch or by rehearsing her solo piece at the studio. The Actor sulks alone or gets very loud and obnoxious and pushy. Cupcake, rather like a poodle with a nerve condition, develops physical symptoms such as tummy aches and bouts of crying. I contemplate suicide until I remember that my life insurance isn't paid up anymore. MathMan tries to remain calm for all of us.

Yesterday was the kind of day that requires an emotional jujitsu I simply wasn't capable of. I've been doing the mental equivalent of curling into a fetal position and humming Journey tunes to myself. Cupcake decided that she wasn't going to her basketball game, but we forced her anyway. Yeah, that was a great idea. We may have stuck to our principles, but she was just as determined. As we sat and glared warnings at her to shut up and cope from across the old gymnasium, she sat on the bench melting down, crying and begging her coach to let her go home. I swore under my breath about having given up hours of my morning and the gasoline it took us to drive the forty miles round trip to watch this lunatic child cry in public.

Giving up, MathMan finally crossed the gym to retrieve Cupcake and after a thorough ass chewing punctuated by some vileness from me, we rode home in silence. Pulling into the garage, MathMan ordered Cupcake to her room and requested that I stay put. I knew what was coming. MathMan was as disturbed as I was by what I'd said to Cupcake. I owed her an apology, to be sure.

The worst part came when MathMan wanted to know what was in my head. He should know better. When it's bad, it's really bad. The word that I'm fixating on lately is futile. And there seems to be no end to the futility. I tried to explain what I mean when I say I just don't want to be anymore. Be. I don't want to be. I don't want to be guilty. I don't want to be angry. I don't want to be worried. I don't want to be anything. I don't want to be. There are moments when I'd love nothing more than to just cease to be.

But it won't happen. I know this. When Suzanne Horne, who blogged as Liquid Illuzion, committed suicide on Christmas Eve, my reaction was one of horror and the first thing that crossed my mind was "how could she do something so cruel to her children?" That tells me everything I need to know about whether or not I could actually perform that final, selfish act. I could not.

I hate how judgmental that last paragraph sounds. Although I cannot imagine the depths that Suzanne must have reached, I do understand that what drove her to do what she did was a combination of profound sadness and a sense of overwhelming hopelessness that most of us will never encounter. Thank goodness.

As unhappy as I get, as much as I blame myself for our problems, as much as I would like to cease to be, I understand that more than anything, I owe it to my children and to MathMan to continue. I have much to make up for and so much to repair. As imperfect as I am, they'd rather have me here, than not. Besides if I cease to be of my own accord, how will they ever have a chance to deliver the revenge I so richly deserve?


  1. You have no disagreement from me on the difficult emoitional day it was yesterday. Progress is slow and painful and good and bad and sad. I suppose if you had mentioned the Journey songs playing in your head I would have turned on the radio looking for Rage Against the Machine or something.

    At some point, the pain of past mistakes will subside and the joy of our children will be evident to us when our grandchildren are handing right it back to those crazy kids. Love you!

  2. I think we both must have had the music blaring in our heads today...I know what you mean about January, it is one of my least favorite months as well.

  3. I'm very sorry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I appreciate your honesty and courage in sharing what is so, so hard for you.

    I feel like I should reach out to you, but I don't know how. Part of me would like to give you money to try to help a little and feel less bad myself in this moment, but I can't realistically do that for several reasons.

    I hope that the days leading up to the end of the month will get a little better, and that things will be Much better once the next pay check arrives.

    I'm sorry! Please - know that we - out there - in blogland do Care about you and wish you the best!

  4. it does take a lot of courage to reach out for help. help is on the way dear. really.

  5. Lisa, I am...oh geez, I don't even know how to say it! I am UPSET! I am WORRIED ABOUT YOU! I LOVE YOU AND YOUR DEAR LITTLE FAMILY AND DON'T WANT ANYTHING BAD TO HAPPEN TO YOU! Please, please stop and think about what is most important in your life. It is NOT money or lack of it. It is the love you have for your husband and children and the love they have for you. And please, please don't take out your despair on the ones you love, e.g. Cupcake, for heaven's sake! And don't even THINK! NOT EVEN ONE MORE TIME!about the worst thing you could do to the ones you love...SUICIDE! Suicide rips a person's survivors to shreds! Believe me! I know! First my mother did it. My sisters and I blamed ourselves and raked ourselves over the coals. Of COURSE she must have done it because we had not been attentive enough, or loved her enough, or, or, or. THEN! Five years later, to the day, Daddy blew his brains out. My sisters and I almost killed ourselves with grief and guilt. It happened twenty years ago and we're still not "right" in our heads.

    I know, I know. I'm not in your shoes, and we've never even met one another. But, as I've said before, I feel like I know you, and whether it makes any sense or not, I truly care about you and your family. So please, please, try to remember what's most important in life. Hint: It's not money. It is love. That probably sounds corny, but I believe it with all my heart. If you have to hock something, DO IT! If you have to give up dance lessons or ball games, DO IT! If you have to scale down your lifestyle for a while, DO IT! Eventually those nasty bills will be paid off, one by one, and you'll be free again.

    I've probably said too much, but I can't help myself. I'm crying right now and can't stop. Please let me know that you're all right.

    Love, Zelda

  6. Your candor is astounding. I mean that in a good way.

    You can articulate what most of us can't even think about.

    If I had any money it would be in your hands. This all sucks, I am sorry.

    Hang in there dear Lisa, hang in there all of you.

  7. (((Lisa)))

    Your honesty is bracing. Thank you for trusting this community with the hard stuff.

  8. Lisa -

    You left me speechless. That doesn't happen very often.

    You have so much more strength that you know - more than most people. You are resilient, the mere fact that you can discuss these things so openly (and so well) shows that you have the stuff to triumph over adversity.

    What you might not have is enough faith in yourself. So let us have faith in you, for you. I know, Know, KNOW that you are going to prevail over all this.



  9. Hey… don’t know what to say that won’t sound trite or overly cliché or just plain lame. But I am sending you inter-web happy thoughts.

    January has already been a month of highs and lows for me and I too am looking forward to February.

    I hope things get better and that next month gets here fast.


  10. I'm so sorry for the trials you and your family find yourselves facing.

    For whatever it's worth, there are a lot of people rooting for you.

    And having seen, up close and far too many times, the effects of a suicide on those left behind, I wish I could just reach out and grab you and tell you you're doing the right thing by sticking around.

  11. The family is the only thing that's kept me from offing myself.
    I know they need me and I need them. I'm sory about your tangle of emotions running fast and furious in all directions, money problems split us wide open though and you have to stop blaming yourself.

  12. I don't think it was is an incredibly selfish act. I need time to read the rest of your post; it seems deep and slow, which is how I want to take it...

  13. I'm a survivor of parental suicide and let me tell you, it fucking sucks.

  14. Lisa; I've had those same thoughts many times. I've come close to pulling the trigger on many a dark day, when even the pawn shaop couldn't help me out. My kids have much to hate me for, but somehow they still love me.

    Yours do too, and they see a very strong woman who keeps on trying every single day. That's the best example you can hold up for your children: perseverance under fire.

    You've got lots of fire!

    You deserve much more than you give yourself credit for.

  15. ((((((((((((((((Lisa))))))))))))))))) Take good care of yourself.

  16. No! No! You must'nt cease to be. Been there, felt that...more than once. Thank goodness I opted out of doing it. Damn, I would have missed so many wonderful things if I had done it. I determined if things were that bad at the time, they could only get better. Sure enough, they did.

    I think right now life is a project for everyone in one way or another. The idea is to hang in there and beat the beast. It can be done. It really can.

  17. It will get better. It may be hard to believe on dreary days in January, but there will be a Spring -- and you guys will manage to escape the financial hole you're in now.

  18. "It is always darkest before the dawn" ( we can only hope!!!!!)

    Hang in there...and be gentle with yourself.

    (((golden manor))))

  19. I get it. I totally get it and I am precisely where you are. 100%

    I totally understand how she did what she did. She justified it in her head that her family would be better off without her--either that her presence was the problem or that her absence would make things easier.

    I have about $300,000 in life insurance through my job but not the kind I can take a loan out against. If you don't think I've researched whether or not it would pay out if I should commit suicide...well, I have and it doesn't.

    So, today, Keith will register at the day labor place and then we'll both go the plasma "donation" center to get $60 for groceries so we can all eat dinner tonight. /sigh/

  20. Ive been a "lurker" here for a while and wanted to let you know that you are a girl after my own heart. We are so similar in our thoughts that it is very unnerving.
    When I found out I was carrying my last child, I was already a single mother with 3. She was an oops, did I forget my diaphram? incident and fathered by a man whom I had no inclination to be with long term. I also knew that he would not be depended on to help support her let alone raise her.
    I know what it is like to do without, to have to save for a $5 hair cut for the boys. If it weren't for my children I would be either dead or in jail. At times, they were the only reason that I got up in the am to go to work.
    My bother committed suicide Dec 14, 2003. He was 35 and the baby of our family. I will always fill guilt about his death as I feel that I was a contributor. I didn't see the obvious signs, I didn't address the seriousness of his alcoholism as it would mean I would have to confront mine. this is something that i carry, I cannot go through a day without thinking about him.

  21. i am employed by the school district here, so i know all about that six week stretch. gah!

    hang in there. :)

  22. Does it help to know that it's 15.2degrees in lovely Des Plaines at the monent and the wind chill is 6? Or that we are expecting snow tomorrow (ok only about an inch, but it is still snow)! Hang in there. It will get better. You're doing something about it and not just sitting there letting everything blow up around you. You are in control, maybe not of The Spawn all the time, but you and MathMan do have control over this.

  23. I've been in the Chapter 13 boat, baby. It's a long long ride, but once it's over--wow. I can't be sure, but I think I felt something similar to what I'd feel if I'd been in a gulag for five years and was finally released; it was that good.

    You are--everyone is--too rich a person to "cease to be," honey. The universe needs you to be exactly who you are; that's why you're here. It'll get better. It's just been a long fucking winter (like 8 years long), and it's been exhausting. But spring will be here soon.

    My thoughts are with you and the family.

  24. The beginning of the year, especially Jan. is the thick black hair sticking out of the mole under the ass cheek of the year. No doubt we all feel like shit during this time of year, with the short days, cold weather, the longest point from summer. It's a bummer for everyone.

  25. I do know something about this:

    Stay focused on today and the important people in your life.

    Take your camera out and shoot beautiful things then revel in them.

    Make sure you breathe.

    Set up for a good night's sleep. If you're having trouble, don't drink.

    Learn from your mistakes and move on. Don't keep cycling through the what ifs.

    Know deep down that things will get better. You'll look back and learn important things.

    Hang on and try to give yourself credit for getting through each day.

    Victories are small and they come in the moment.

  26. Your hubby has a t-shirt "Math is hard", get yourself one that says, "Being Mom is hard." Learning to love how difficult it is just as hard (so my siblings with children have told me). Plus, they won't really appreciate you until they have kids of their own. Somewhere therein is the reward for being a Mom.

  27. Whew...I've been there. Once, when Iwanski and I were first married and down to our last $10, we decided to experiment and put the money (in single dollar bills) in a box labeled "FREE MONEY" on the sidewalk. Of course, some teenagers took it...but the next day, I got a check for $100 from my Mom in the mail--she just thought we could "use the money." Boy, could we!! :)

    Yeah, I know money doesn't grow on trees...but I know it will get better for has to. I know it sounds cliche, but this too shall pass. And I know you're not particularly religious, but I'll still say a prayer for you and yours. :)

  28. Thank you. Each of you for your incredible strength and support. I appreciate it more than you may know. And I promise. My reasons for sticking around are many and they include this wonderful bunch of people.



  29. You'll get through this. We'll all get through this. It's fairly horrible right now, but it will work out. Lucky you, you've got MathMan. Chin up, sugar.

  30. Lisa - I feel so much sympathy for you. I hope that being able to write about it helps.

    Hang in there, 'cause January is almost over.

    xx, Bee

  31. my reaction was one of horror and the first thing that crossed my mind was "how could she do something so cruel to her children?" That tells me everything I need to know about whether or not I could actually perform that final, selfish act. I could not.


    The very act of coming to that realization brought neither solace or satisfaction, but rather a further deepening of the feelings of futility.


    Take care friend.

  32. I started to read this post yesterday but was at work and couldn't concentrate on it so waited until I was home tonight. I can understand the feeling of futility when it seems as if it's just one thing after another to deal with. But it's also January. And January is the worst month for me as well. (Anytime I ever got fed up and decided to look for another job in my long career at the Big (and constantly morphing) Corporation, it was always in a January.

    Things will get better. And you will feel hopeful again. Things are tough right now but you and Mathman have each other and will get through it. Your kids are great kids and you are raising them well. Money is only money. It's really important when you don't have it but when it comes down to it, it isn't the most important thing in the world. You have done what you need to do to move forward. The Chapter 13 thing is the way to deal with it. Not fun, but it will let you move forward. You'll move on and things will improve, I promise.

  33. Oh, Lisa. We had a suicide talk last night. Me: "You're not thinking about suicide are you?" and then "You're not going to murder me are you?" Thankfully, no and no. Ed was decrying the, "What these unemployed people have to do is pound the pavement, network, and pull themselves up by their bootstraps" mentality that is often spouted by people who are NOT in the same situation and never will be. You are in your situation (and we in ours) because we have been fucked over by corporate America, aided and abetted by BushCo and Congress. It is NOT because of bad choices that you made.

    So what is the answer? In my opinion, everyone needs to cultivate something that brings them real honest joy. For example, it is clear to me that making music has been the lifesaver for Ed over the last year. When all else is stripped away -- even the family you love so much -- what brings you joy?

    And then there is community. It is clear you have community here in cyber space. I'm hoping you also have a community close to home. People who love you, love your kids, and are just there for you.

    I am thinking of you, holding you in the Light (that's a Quakerism.) It will get better. Call me, IM me, contact me anytime you want to. Sometimes venting is all you can do. I had a good vent to a friend on Saturday, after which I felt good to go again for a little while.


And then you say....

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