So the half century draws ever closer…
So many days and nights wondering and imagining what the Future would be like. I know for a fact it looked nothing like this when I was fifteen, or twenty, or thirty. Even five years ago, I could not see the road ahead of me . I saw an endless line of days full of work and caregiving and little time for my own pursuits. I had a seemingly infinite list of things to do related to others: cheering them on, picking them up, helping them out, leaning in to the common cause.
But life had other plans. I lost my main support in my obstacle race. Although I was married, my main support was another woman, my mother in law. When I think of it, it is amazing that most of the influential people in my life have been women. Different women at different times. Different women in different circumstances and stages of life. Some were younger than me; others were older. Some were married; others weren’t.
And at this precise point is when the voices in my head start wailing out their litany: ‘Stop complaining! How dare you complain when there are people dying in the streets around the world! Famine and injustice rot away Humanity, festering wounds on the face of the planet, and you DARE to say that you had a tough time?! You are a crybaby and exceedingly simple… do something for the world and stop your snivelling, woman!’
These voices are, for the most part, male. This doesn’t mean they belonged to men, but that they came from a masculine perspective of what a woman should be. All my life I’ve been divided between the urge to tell my Truth and the fear of being crucified for it. Whenever I even tried to express my thoughts, I was scowled at, tsk’d at or told I was too loud, too boisterous, too bossy, too demanding…too much of what a girl shouldn’t be. I should be meek, mild, small, soft, compliant, sweet and easy to please. Then and only then would I be lovable enough. Turns out not even then. Maybe it’s because I am a very bad liar and I can’t pretend to be what I am definitely not. When I was younger, I tried to fit in. But it was never quite enough. I had to fragment and parcel bits of my soul and keep them hidden.
The problem is that no matter how articulate I became and how clearly and briefly I stated my logic and thoughts, it was never heard or understood or appreciated. Feeling unheard has a profound effect on you. It causes to overthink every last tiny insignificant detail hundreds of times and even after that, when time comes to open your mouth and say something, you freeze. You think that maybe you haven’t really thought about it enough, that perhaps what you are going to say is not that important. Silence is better. No one can blame you for what you haven’t said, right?
You will be judged and made accountable for every word said or unsaid, even if you didn’t even think them. You will be a smart idiot, a conceited bitch who wears her heart on her sleeve, a good baddy, an indecent prude, a loudmouth who doesn’t speak her mind, a selfish person who makes no progress in her own areas of interest because…well, she has no areas of interest.
I have often commented on the fact that most of the films I’ve watched and the books I’ve read. have deleted themselves from my brain. I know I watched them or read them but don’t ask for details. I was too busy being interrupted every few minutes or so. I didn’t listen to more than two songs I liked back to back for over twenty years.
Of course, I have no one to blame but myself. I have, as they say, made my bed so I’ll just lie in it and keep my thoughts to myself. I should have made my demand clear, because if you don’t look out for yourself, others will assume they can just forget that you may not want to hear the same music as them all day, every day. And when they allow you to hear your two songs, don’t push for more…you’ve had enough. You don’t need more, just like you don’t need to sleep eight hours. You get up early in the winter because you love leaving a warm bed for a freezing kitchen to start the fire. You are not responsible. You’re a nag and too soft. You cleaned up the living room because no one cleaned it in three days and there was nowhere to sit. You are an accomplice of the lazy ones because you spent seven hours cleaning a house from top to bottom, only to be told that you are exaggerating, that it wasn’t so dirty ( although the bedroom floor was invisible under the layers of clothes and other things and the kitchen tiles turned out to be white instead of cream) and that they would have done it if you’d let them.
People do not see that if they can afford to be dirty, lazy or irresponsible, it is because somewhere someone else is picking up their slack. Some people are born with an acute sense of responsibility, paired with an overgrown feeling of guilt. Others feel free to be as they are because they should be loved as is, whether they are dirty, disgusting, gaslighting or what have you. I belong in the first category. My incapacity to relax is no smaller than my need to overthink things 400 times a minute. I can count the few times in my life when I haven’t felt judged or ridiculed in any way on my fingers.
And when I finally decided that I could no longer bear someone else’s burden because I cannot change them and almost lost myself along the way, I was suddenly selfish and ¡hadn’t really thought about how my decision could affect others.’ As always, what matters about my life is that it affects others, not how it affects me. This sounds creepy, in a way. My life was not truly mine for years because I sacrificed most of it for people I loved. This is something that has been used to shame me when I’ve said it. I was promptly reminded that I was in charge of my life, a grown woman. True, I would answer, but then how is it that others are coddled and cajoled and spoilt and their flaws tolerated while the likes of me gets told to stiffen up?
Crickets are chirping as I wait for the answer.
I’ll conclude the rant with a few thoughts that are not mine but nevertheless express something close to the Truth.
“There is a tendency to construct a type of foundational myth around sexism, associating it to a hypothetical dependence of women on men, with the archetype of hunter-men that go out into the steppe risking their life to get food. This is an archetype of a dependent person. If we base (our beliefs) on this archetype, we tend to blame men for our situation and expect them to change. That is , we wait for the situation to be different in terms of the modification of male conduct. This is difficult because (we tell them) you must stop oppressing even if oppressing is beneficial (to you). That’s when you fall into a religious vision: If you oppress women, you are bad, a sinner. There’s no analysis based on interests but on morals, and it doesn’t take us anywhere.”
María Jesús Izquierdo, retired Sociological Theory teacher, UAB (Autonomous University of Barcelona)(Interview given to the’Diario de Catalunya’, 7th March, 2016)
“Caregiving is not more natural for women. They do it because men are granted the privilege not to”
Joan Tronto, sociologist, (interview given to ‘Diario de Catalunya’, 1st October, 2016)
Basically, take care of yourself first because it is your duty.
This is a recurring issue that comes up constantly in everyday life. Carers should be seen and not heard. Nobody cares for the carer.