Life As A Hedgepig
 
Saturday, 19. October 2002
Turning Points

This is the first assignment for my Leadership Class. We were supposed to write about a "scene or memory" which "should evoke a time when you saw something or did something which revealed to you your own need to act better or act differently or seek more learning." I don't know if this is quite what they were looking for, but this is what I came up with:

My initial response to this assignment was a certain mental paralysis. I searched my mind and could find no incident, no moment, no sudden revelation of a need to "act better or act differently or seek more learning" as the assignment said.

There are a couple of different reasons for the lack of such "moments" in my life. I tend to analyze everything to death; I reach decisions after long "chewing over" of factors in my mind, rather than by sudden inspiration. Nor am I much given to thinking about needing to act better or act differently--I am doing the best that I can and have been for a while.

I did finally bring to mind a few times in the last few years when I arrived at abrupt decisions that it was time to make a change, and I took action to make those changes happen. Those decisions and subsequent actions have a lot to do with where I am today--both physically and emotionally.

One of the most dramatic decisions was the decision to leave my husband, who was mentally ill with what I now believe was manic depression. I agonized over that decision; it was something I never wanted to do or thought I would do. But it was necessary; I do believe that--I have to. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't believe it; he killed himself nine days after I left.

Many people think that John killed himself because I left him. In truth, I left him because he was in the state of mind that led him to kill himself (though I didn't realize that he was suicidal). He was terribly depressed and had been for some time. When he wasn't depressed, he was angry, and his anger had a frighteningly hysterical edge to it. He would scream and throw things, and while he was never physically abusive towards the children or me I had to wonder if he was going to become so. Living with him became like living in a war zone. I did what I thought was best and safest for me and especially for our three children, who were ages 8, 6, and 3 at the time. I left.

That was all pretty dramatic (and traumatic) at the time, but I moved right from that situation to a very similar one, from depending on one man to depending on another man, emotionally if not financially. We moved in with a man who had proposed marriage to me; he lived in a three-bedroom duplex with his oldest son and another man (and three cats). I think they were pretty comfortable there, but four more people moving in made it a pretty tight fit. I believed in him, though; believed in us, that we would find another, larger house and blend our families in some harmonious way and live happily ever after. He talked a good game, but the follow-through turned out to be poor. In fact, it turned out to be non-existent.

We lasted just about eighteen months. The situation had deteriorated; we were all turning on each other like over-crowded rats. Tempers frayed. The kids were at each other's throats. The Man and I were barely speaking to each other. His son and I all but came to blows, not just once but repeatedly. Moving to a bigger house had become a distant dream; marriage was definitely unlikely. Moving the children and myself was sounding like a real possibility, but it was the dream that pushed me over the edge.

The Man was working nights, coming home, putting in ear plugs, and going to sleep, leaving me to deal with the kids in the morning, both mine and his. It was in the mornings when his son and I usually had our worst fights, and he never heard them--including the abusive language his son was using--because he had the earplugs in and was out like a light. His son was not quite ten at the time, just a few months younger than my daughter. One night I had a dream that the boy and I were in the midst of one of our regularly scheduled morning fights. In the dream, he picked up a pair of scissors and threatened me with them, and I picked up an even bigger pair and threatened him in turn. When I woke up, I knew that it was time to move out, or that dream could become a frightening reality.

Shortly thereafter, our landlady asked if I knew anyone who might want to move into the recently vacated other half of our duplex. "Yes," I said, "me." As soon as possible, we made the move. I did have to ask for some help from my dad--for deposit money, and also for help acquiring a bed. (Not to be unnecessarily gruesome, the bed that John and I had shared had not survived his death.)

The Man and I had determined to remain a couple, and in fact the change in living conditions resulted in an immediate improvement in our relationship, which resulted, unexpectedly, in the birth of my youngest child not quite a year later. The relationship, I am sorry to say, did not last.

In many ways, this was an even more dramatic change in circumstances for me than leaving my husband had been. I was on my own, pretty much for the first time in my life. I had gone from home to college to marriage to not-quite-marriage, and there had always been somebody else there to lean on. Now, not only was there no one to lean on, I had three (eventually four) little people leaning on me. I was suddenly the "grown-up," the one in charge. I was, in fact, the leader! I was used to being the Second in Command.

It has been (though it sounds trite) a real learning experience. I have learned that life really does go on. I have learned that being a single parent stinks, but that I can do it; that I can be responsible for everybody and everything. I have never been and am not now an organized person, but pretty much everything that needs to be done gets done. I have learned to be self reliant, and even so that I am not entirely alone in the world; my parents, especially my dad, have been very good about helping out along the way. (He was very helpful when I made the next dramatic decision, to get the heck out of Bremerton and the nasty neighborhood we were in; he was instrumental in moving us to our present location.) I have learned that I have reserves of strength and patience that I never dreamed of. And I have learned to be my own person again, and that, much as I love my children, there might be life beyond motherhood someday.

I find the thought of that exciting, the possibilities for the future endless.

... Link


Monday, 9. September 2002
Niggardly

Anyone who thinks I just used a racial slur goes to the back of the class. Get a dictionary and look it up before continuing to read this!

I see the "niggardly" issue has raised its ugly head again. Followers of the news may remember a few years back when a white staffer in the Washington DC mayor's office was compelled to resign when he used the word "niggardly" and some of his colleagues thought he was being insensitive at best and racist at worst. I recall that at the time I foamed at the mouth repeatedly about stupid people who don't understand perfectly good unoffensive words, and about stupider and obnoxious people who deliberately and stubbornly insist on taking offense where no offense was intended or even implied. Now we have a similar case.

This time, a (black) parent in North Carolina has taken offense at a teacher teaching the word "niggardly" to her fourth grade students. Her daughter was apparently offended by the word. (I would venture to suggest that if the daughter was offended by the word, she wasn't paying attention to what the teacher was saying, but that's by the way.) The teacher has been forbidden to talk about the incident, so the circumstances in which the offensive word came up are not clear; however, her son (who doesn't feel bound by the orders of the North Carolina Association of Educators) says that his mother was reprimanded for "poor judgement," ordered to send a letter of apology to the family of the offended student, and further ordered to undergo "sensitivty training."

It's stuff like this that dissuades me from seriously considering a teaching career. I am taking the first little baby steps towards finishing my four-year degree, with my eye on a Master's Degree after that, and every now and then I think I should take that Master's Degree in Education and go into teaching. But if you have to put up with being accused of "insensitivity" to "cultural differences" just for using a word that has no racial connotations whatsoever; or if you have to let students get away with plagiarism because catching them at it might hurt their self-esteem (that's another story); if teaching involves being politically correct and ignoring or worse, kowtowing to willfully stupid people, it is not the career for me. I do not tolerate stupid people very well, or ignorant people who prefer to cling to their ignorance.

There is a happy note in all of this. While following the various links to find the current story, and refresh my memory about the previous one, the hapless DC mayor's staffer, I ran across a little list on "adversity.net" that cheered me up a great deal, and I am pleased to share with you:

http://www.adversity.net/special/niggardly_terms.htm

This is a list of "Niggardly Terms to Avoid." There are words that sound the same but have different meanings:

"Everyday Usage: boob: Person who makes stupid decisions or comes to inexplicable conclusions; of diminished mental capacity; (syn.) dummy; idiot; Bill Clinton.

"Offensive Interpretation: boob: A single breast, usually part of a more or less matched set, generally in reference to the female anatomy, although my Cousin Buck has a nice pair."

Then there are words that sound similar: chap/jap or masticate/masturbate, for example. The whole list is a very funny example of the not-so-funny consequences of taking this sort of thing too far. Marcus will like it, if for no other reason than the gratuitous slams against Bill Clinton--one of which I included above.

... Link


My "Cowboy Bebop" Song

"Cowboy Bebop" is an anime show, my favourite of that genre. I found a quiz on-line (I love on-line quizzes) that was supposed to determine the quiz-takers "CB" song, and this one is mine:

Adieu

Been a fool, been a clown
Lost my way from up and down
And I know, yes I know
And I see in your eyes
That you really weren't surprised at me at all
Not at all
And I know by your smile it's you

Don't care for me, don't cry
Let's say goodbye, adieu
It's time to say goodbye, I know that in time
It will just fade away, it's time to say goodbye

I stand alone and watch you fade away like clouds
High up and in the sky
I'm strong and so cold
As I stand alone
Goodbye, so long, adieu

Oh how I love you so, lost in those memories
And now you've gone
I feel the pain, feeling like a fool, adieu

My love for you burns deep
inside me, so strong
Embers of times we had
And now here I stand lost in a memory
I see your face and smile

Oh how I love you so, lost in those memories
And now you've gone
I feel the pain, feeling like a fool, adieu

My love for you burns deep
inside me, so strong
Embers of times we had
And now here I stand lost in a memory
I see your face and smile

I confess that I took the quiz a second time, to see if I could get a different result, since I didn't know "Adieu" that well, and wasn't sure that I liked it. Now I do like it, and I think it was the right result. I can see John, and my relationship with him, all over this song.

You can download an MP3 of it here:

http://www.jazzmess.com/merch/cds/blue/adieu.html

... Link


 
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