607: Independence and Subsidies

 

AntGrasshopper

It used to be that Americans were independent and took care of their own.

Why is it now the responsibility of other citizens/taxpayers if I fail to adequately plan, provide for, and save for my own retirement (what used to be called my ‘declining years’)? When did that personal failure become a subsidized ‘right’?

Was it when the US government established the Social Security program in an effort to ameliorate the fallout from those grasshoppers who foolishly played and spent their lives away, while the ants prudently saved and stockpiled against an uncertain future?

Now that social security is firmly entrenched (even if the last generations of lawmakers have plundered the fund to help offset their own grasshopper profligate spending) Americans save even less than they ever did – and our performance as a nation never was too good on that score in the first place.

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Yeah, I’d LOVE to have spent my productive years engaged in pursuing my own interests (financially supporting or not) instead of reporting to work – but having proved myself stupid enough to be willing to work, I don’t qualify for any benefits for sitting on my fat behind.

The idea is that people work to support themselves. Each one responsible for him/herself – unless you have turned over your financial future to someone else who agrees to be responsible for both themselves AND you (this is what many women believe marriage is for – absolving them from all responsibility). If you put your care into the hands of another person and they fail to make adequate provisions for themselves and for you in the event something happens to them, well, they failed you.

My first husband did that – he let more than a half million life insurance policy lapse a few months before he unexpectedly died. Thank God I was already a working wife, and didn’t have all my eggs in his little basket, so I had something else to fall back on besides Uncle Sam. Plus, in the past, families cared for each other. When a family member became disabled or elderly and needed care, they were cared for within the family unit – not handed off for the government (really, other citizens/taxpayers) to care for.

It isn’t the fault of the citizens that you failed to provide for yourself – it isn’t even the fault of the citizens that you are disabled, and need assistance. Neither is it their fault if accident or illness befalls you that you didn’t plan for. Yup – it’s a tough break when that happens. Thankfully, assistance is available for those who are unable (legitimately unable, not having simply purchased their disability from an unethical physician) to provide for themselves, but it still isn’t the fault of others that they are disabled, such that others are then required to pay their way.

THAT is what used to be called charity, before charity became a dirty word, and it used to be the province of faith-based people who took up the slack and provided that assistance locally. They knew their neighbors, and they knew who really needed the help, and who needed the harsh life lessons earned by making very poor decisions.

You know, like the grasshopper.

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584: Decisions

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Before I knew you

I made decisions

that can’t be undone

now that I know you.

I would like to be able to give you

what I can’t

because I made sound, logical choices

before I knew you

that I cannot undo.

I can’t regret

but I am sorrow full

over what I cannot do for you

and eternally grateful

that I know you

now.

577: Maturing with Age

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I hope everyone is aware that growing bigger and older does not equate with becoming a mature person. Achieving the age of majority and being considered a legal adult has absolutely nothing to do with making wise decisions, or living your life in a mature, healthy manner.

Maturity is coming to grips with yourself, all of yourself, the good, strong parts that you like and celebrate, and the shameful weaknesses that you have struggled to overcome, and that you may still struggle to overcome – but at least you have named them, and in so doing, you have robbed them of their power in your determination to rid them from your character and life. You can look back at your personal history and come to some sort of peace with it, knowing and accepting that you were not perfect, and that you are no longer that person, thank God.

Part of that maturing is understanding that even if you could go back and change things, that you would not do so. This is because you made the decisions you made thinking they were the best ones you could make. Looking back with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, I can see that decisions I once made for the greater good (not only for me, but for those I was responsible for) didn’t work out as I had hoped that they would. I could not have known that looking forward -no one could have known that. Thus, I would not change them. They helped me grow and mature into the person I have become, who is not the person who others knew years ago.

My conscience is clear. I made my apologies to those I  wounded along the journey (both deliberately and unintentionally). What they do with my sincere regret is not in my hands. They will have their own maturing to do, as they come to terms with their own flaws. All humans have them.

I am responsible for me. I always have been, even when I blamed others in my youth, arrogance, and ignorance.

Maturity is a hard-won badge of honor. Not everyone gets there.

492: Decisions

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Every day brings decisions. Most of them are not Earth-shattering choices. What to wear. Generally, that one ranks fairly low on the importance list (unless you have a career in fashion). Some have potential long-term consequences: what to eat today, for instance, is not terribly important. But over time, with repetition of good (or bad) choices, that daily decision becomes vastly more important as the health consequences compound, with interest, over time. That is a daily choice with long-term repercussions. Some decisions are like that.

Other decisions obviously are more weighty from the get-go. Where to go to college – what major to study. Who to date, and who to marry. What job to apply for – and which job offer to take. Where to live. Whether to procreate (sometimes that choice is taken out of our hands by other choices we make).

Some of our choices lead to other choices, of course, and not just that ‘whether to have sex’ choice that results in ‘whether to have children’ choices. For instance, the ‘you choose a partner or career (or both), that is not conveniently located geographically close to your present location’ choice, for instance. This choice dilemma results in some difficult decisions, assuming you are not satisfied with doing things at a distance – which might work with SOME careers and a few (a very few) people.

You can move to be closer to the object of your desire (partner or career). Sometimes that solves the difficulty. Sometimes the chosen partner chooses you, too – and perhaps they can relocate instead of you, again, resulting in problem solved. That seldom works well with a career choice, but some careers are more portable than others are. For instance, being employed as a nurse is a universally necessary career with job opportunities anywhere there is a clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital. Pretty much anywhere. Some careers are like that – and some are not. You are not going to find employment as a nuclear physicist in Podunk, Iowa. You are going to have to relocate, or take a job they do have available there.

Where things get complicated is when you have a partner, and you need to move for a career change – especially if your partner is also employed. Whose career takes precedence, in the choice of stay or go? Or, do you become a weekend-and-holiday relationship? Is there another solution that will work for you both?  Hmmmmm…….decisions, decisions.

What if you have a career, and find the ideal partner somewhere else? What then? Weekend and holidays? OR, do you pass on the soul mate in favor of your secure, enjoyable, good-paying career? Just how fulfilling is your secure, enjoyable, good-paying career….solo? Hmmm…….decisions, decisions.

Well, conundrums and arguments aside, people of faith don’t always have to make those choices. When you surrender your life to God, you discover that He actually does have your best interests at heart. When these gritty choices rear their heads, you can seek His wisdom and counsel. He is adept at opening doors, making circumstances and disparate pieces fall into perfect alignment, and placing the right people in the right moment to have everything that He wants just….work out.

The hard part is trusting that He will, and waiting until He does.

Keep your pants on, Abraham.

376: Following Your Inner Muse

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OK, I get it. People are different. It doesn’t take all kinds, we just HAVE all kinds. We all get to learn to live with not only the few people we can stand for short periods of time, but also the other people who are genuine jerk-offs.  I get it. Just because I don’t like you, the way you look, your ideologies and beliefs, your political, racial or sexual orientation, or fill-in-the-blank, I don’t get to wipe your existence off the face of the Earth just so I can feel better. Neither, BTW, do YOU get to do that to ME. Nyah, nyah, na pooh pooh. Tough titty – suck it up.

I have my own goals and dreams. You have yours. Yours are not any more legitimate than mine, even if yours are currently working, might work in the future, or worked in the past at least at one time, and mine never did. If they are my dreams, they are mine, and I can pursue them as long as I don’t hurt others in the process. That is ethical behavior, and there are too many people breathing good air right now that other people could be using, who don’t get that. You don’t crap on others to get what you want – whatever it is that you want. Why do you think I never went into politics? It is nearly impossible to make any decision that affects large groups of people without crapping on at least some of them. That is the nature of the dirty, slimy, filthy business of politics. It takes big cajones (male or female) and a very thick skin to do it, even when you are mostly an ethical, moral person with genuine, humane values. You are still going to make enemies, because some people are going to be harmed by your decisions and actions, and that is that.

It is like being a parent – to several hundred thousand children at once. Boggles the mind. I had only two and I am batting .500. My daughter is human, and my son….well, my daughter is human. If you can’t even do a perfect job of caring for and making parental decisions for one or two humans, how the hell do you think politicians and others in positions of authority can do a perfect job? You just hope they don’t screw up too often or in a big way, and that is the best you can do, dude.

Our current crop of politicians have one impeding factor in their way, however. They have completely forgotten the ethical part of making decisions that affect others: do as little harm as humanly possible. These guys, far too often in this current time, are focused on their own inner muse, and damn the goals, dreams, values and aspirations of anybody else, regardless of how many anybody elses there are that disagree with their personal, internal view of the rightness of the universe. That is the number one problem: the current politicians earnestly and stubbornly and BLINDLY believe that they know best for everybody else, and they are determined to force their view of utopia on all the rest of us, who are pretty much blowing razzberries at the view.

I don’t like your world view, I don’t think you are correct in your vision of the future, and I am furious that you are making decisions that are screwing me over…and over….and over. Modern politicians, hear this: It is not that I don’t like anal sex, but I prefer to choose my own partners.

305: Turning Over a New Lifestyle

Nador, Mellia 056The good thing about humans is that we can change. And, SOME of us think about our situations and circumstances, and choose to do just that. Some of us don’t.

I was at the local chicken man a few days ago, and what I observed there struck me fairly forcibly. Not the fact that I went there to choose my victim for dinner – that would have been shock enough for many Americans, to look my dinner in the eyes and say – “that one.” No, this was even worse…..I noticed that the chickens were all congregated together in an open area at the rear of the shop, with nothing between them and the open street but a low, four-inch-tall barrier. They all stayed together, squawking only when the man went among them to choose the next victim, and then settling down again while the newly chosen was slaughtered, de-feathered, eviscerated, cut into portions, bagged and paid for. I caught myself thinking: RUN!!  RUN!! as the feathered ones settled down to nap again.

Then I began thinking about me and the chickens. Sometimes I am comfortable in my situation, too, with nothing between me and freedom, settling in for a nap, when what I should be doing is screaming: RUN!!!!  I woke up enough, with the help of my husband, to do that once in my life, when we sold our belongings and emigrated from the United States to live and work overseas. We wanted to travel and see some of this wonderful planet we live on, and he suggested that instead of waiting for retirement, that we just work abroad and travel while there, earning a living. It meant that we could travel some while we were still young enough and limber enough to actually do it, and also that we got to live there for a time, which is vastly different from visiting there on a vacation.

Besides, when we got overseas and I began my first job there, it felt like I was on vacation for the first few years, and when I accepted another job in another country, the “on vacation” excitement returned full-force again. Seriously cool. Plus, since I do not make enough money to have to pay US taxes on my teaching income, I have A BETTER standard of living now than I did when I earned, on paper, much more money in the US. This is also seriously cool. And what is best of all  is that I am no longer supporting an US government gone totally out of control. I can hardly credit what I read about how my beloved country is rather quickly morphing into a dictatorship, complete with rampant civil rights abuses, scandal and illegal behavior that passes for political business-as-usual. At least I am not helping to finance them anymore. That is the coolest beans EVER.

So, I am an expatriate, like Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and countless other disaffected Americans whose works I read and teach to my Literature students. Wonder if one day my ramblings might actually amount to something, too. Like Bogart in Casablanca, I sit in an American cafe across from the US Embassy in Casablanca, awaiting my woman friend to return from her interview with US government officials to see if she, also, can get her visa to leave Morocco. If God wills, she will, and then we three travelers will embark on the next chapter of our journey through life.

Moving to a new country also gives one the opportunity to start over, begin afresh. So, I will make changes in my lifestyle that I have known for a long time were the right thing to do, but have been too lazy to do before now – a new page, a new life. Time to BEGIN!!

263: Decisions, decisions

I am packing up my apartment in preparation to making a move to another country. The country I have been living in, Morocco, is cold – at least the part of Morocco that I have been living in. Most of Morocco is NOT cold, but on top of the Middle Atlas Mountains, where the little international school I have worked for during the last three years is located, it is cold. Bezeft (Arabic for ‘too much’). So, I have acquired blankets, coats, boots, galoshes, scarves, hats, gloves, sweaters and underwear that is appropriate for this climate.

I am moving to Panama, where my new job and school are located. Panama has a climate that  is 70’s at night and mid-eighties to low-nineties during the day. Every day. The only difference is if it rains. I will not use any cold weather stuff. So, I am having to pick and choose what to take and what to sell off to the used clothing store.

Plus, Morocco uses 220 volt electricity, and a special plug. Panama, due to its long association with the United States during the construction of the Panama Canal, uses 110 volt electricity and the US plug I am used to using. So, I am not taking any Moroccan electrical appliances to Panama, and am selling them off, too.

I had the local metal smith here make for me four shipping crates to ship belongings in. These hand-made METAL crates each cost me less than the CARDBOARD boxes I bought in America that I shipped my stuff to Morocco in. I kid you not. I am going to turn these crates sideways when I get to Panama and stick a wood top on them for my patio tables, or maybe I will use them in my art studio as worktables. Then, if I take another job in another country, I will already have my shipping boxes ready. If I stay in Panama, I will have four nice tables. Till I die – they will last forever.

Still, what will I take that will fit inside the four boxes I had made? What will I sell or give away? What can I replace at low cost, and what can I not get easily there that I should take with me? Do I keep (and ship) that gorgeous sweater even knowing I won’t wear it for at least two years, or sell it? What about that cashmere canary-yellow swing coat I adore, that I found at the souk for 10 dirham ($1.25 US)? And the over-the-knee suede boots?

*sigh*