Thursday, January 13, 2011

Not So Ancient History...12.29.2010


I did absolutely nothing yesterday, in direct opposition to what I had set out to accomplish...SIGH. Today has to be filled with something more...there are only two days left until this year ends and another begins. Two-thousand-eleven will arrive and with it the start of the second decade of the twenty-first century! What a time of recollection then these last few days bring on...of the last year, the last decade. So many things have happened...so much to recall! I know that one of my more “secret” goals is to start a blog this year, a general “just-me” blog not connected to either SparkPeople or Facebook or MySpace – but I am unsure of how to begin or where to go to find such a site... I have seen advertisements for blogger and Windows Live but getting the real scoop is one of my goals for these last two days of two-thousand-ten.
That's not to imply that I will stop writing on any of the other sites, I just want a place where I can feel free to pull it all together and also a chance to see if I could actually develop a following... I think I have a unique perspective and since I have always wanted to make at least part of my contribution to the world and my economic security via writing, this seems like a perfect opportunity. Lord knows I have a lot to say... I read others' writings and watch a myriad of non-fiction television and have yet to see myself reflected as well as I would like...there's always a bit too much “gloss” in the rest of what I see “out there”. My life doesn't look like that – even though I share many of the features of each and every other story there is always that part that seems absent – an absence of admission and/or recognition, I think.
I live in Rockford, Illinois – a town where many of the homes hover well below one-hundred thousand dollars and yet when I watch HGTV I get the distinct feeling they are completely unaware that we exist. I am a 53-year old full-time returning student at Northern Illinois University and O magazine really thinks I should outfit myself in $700 leather trench coats and designer blouses so that I can maximize “my look” - really? We live on a fixed income since my husband went on disability this last year – losing our insurances – all of them – life, health, you name it... no, we are still well above the poverty line but are still struggling to live at 40% of our former income. Yet I don't see many articles about us, only stories devoted to people much younger or much older. My husband is 60, too young for Social Security and too old to start over in a new career given the economic realities of our country. My three sons are in their 20's – two of them hold Bachelor's Degrees and the third will get his in the spring – yet only my oldest is employed, and he works for a large retailer in their merchandise pick-up department – hardly the career for which his degree was intended. Yet we do not appear on the government indices because none of us are unemployed in the way the government seems to think is worth noting. Over the past decade I have been the primary caregiver for both my mother until her death in 2007 and for my older brother while he was battling Wegener's. Just this fall I became my younger developmentally-disabled sister's legal guardian. Although there are many good sources of information for caregivers there is very little written about how one goes back to one's own life after these responsibilities wane through either death or recovery. The years I spent away dealing with their respective illnesses left me feeling very different when I ultimately returned to my “former” life.
Over the last two-and-a-half years I started working out again, diligently going to the YMCA until my husband's illness made affording even that impossible. My finding SparkPeople happened shortly after I started getting back in shape and the two years I have been a member have seen me lose 58 pounds and although I struggle like hell now to keep going I have maintained most of that weight loss longer than at any other time in my life. Look at pictures of me through the years and you will see that I am “accordion” woman – shrinking and widening like the folds of an accordion. But even here the constant “upbeat” mood of the site is only vaguely assuaged by the real stories I find on the message boards and most of the calorie-saving suggestions I find onsite are blatantly unrealistic – such as the one that stated you could save calories when eating a Big Mac by ordering it without sauce, cheese, or the middle bun – exactly how is that still a Big Mac? I get uncomfortable with the site's reliance on what I consider to be “fake food” - such as no-fat sour cream and mayonnaise – all chemicals and no food. Now I am also smart enough to realize that neither of these is patently “necessary” in anyone's diet, but I would rather eat less of these in their natural form than indulge in some convoluted facsimile.
I haven't even touched on my political and religious leanings – socially progressive and Roman Catholic – an odd mix if you look at either without the other. But I live both, a reality invisible in anything I read or watch on any kind of regular basis. Yet clearly here I am, trying to navigate the complexities of psychology and faith, ethics and dogma. I am both a social scientist and a devout spiritualist and I believe that my voice is not alone in the crowd – it just encompasses too tangled a web for any one dedicated site to contain. So I am embarking on a new journey, or heading in a new direction depending on how you look at life... since it can be said that no matter the path we take or where it leads, in a very real way all movement is forward. And there is more to me than even the details I have started to share here... a history that is at times quite graphic and gritty, layers of my personality that are not readily apparent to anyone, secrets I carry... but have gotten tired of keeping. All of these are fodder for the blog – each of them will speak to what it's like being a “real” person... light and dark, at times scarily dysfunctional on one level while maintaining complete competency in another... and sometimes living the middle ground between complete chaos and outstanding accomplishment – being ordinary. It could turn out to be a fascinating story or a complete bore – but either way it needs to see light. 

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