607: Independence and Subsidies

 

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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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598: Failure

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Nobody likes to fail.

Nobody likes ADMITTING that they failed, much less the painful process of actually FAILING.

The constant mental re-plays…if only I had done THAT instead, it would have changed the outcome……why didn’t THAT occur to me at the time, so I could have done something differently……why did I not recognize that as a RED FLAG? Heck no, at the TIME, that red flag was a glowing, rosy PINK flag……..sheesh. Gotta get rid of these glasses.

And then comes the sneaking, stealthy, sly subconscious. The DREAMS about failing. Not necessarily the specific thing I failed at, oh, no! These are horrible, inventive fantasies; dark, macabre imaginings of all the OTHER ways I could possibly fail at something.

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Such as – dreaming of being a waitress (yes, I, too, did this in college) at a pizza-cum-sandwich shop – and getting ALL the orders wrong, having to apologize profusely to all the incensed customers, take all the blame, and give them their food for free – which I know is going to come out of my miniscule paycheck, of course. FABULOUS dream. Can’t WAIT to have it again. The groveling, you know, that’s what excites me the most.

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Then there’s the nightmare about the trip – I get to the airport, after having meticulously packed (and pre-weighed) my bag for this international flight, and discover my purse (with the passport, of course), is missing. Instant panic. WHERE did I leave it on my journey to the airport? On the train? In the taxi? OMG! The flight departs in an hour! Or, (alternate variation on this theme), the bag I carefully packed and weighed to comply with all the myriad regulations for flying (which I looked up online prior to getting started packing, just to be sure), ISN’T in compliance, after all. And now I must choose, standing at the inspection table surrounded by harried passengers, which items to discard so they will actually let me get on the flight using the ticket I have paid for. Should I ditch the shampoo? The tampons? The evening gown? The sandals? The sunscreen? AAUUGGHHHhhhhhh…………! Meanwhile, the clock is ticking down to the time they will close the boarding gate, and I will be…..LEFT BEHIND. With no refund of monies paid.

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Or the teacher dream: supervising a field trip and having something go wrong when I am responsible for twenty something (or more) students and chaperones. I am scrambling to fix whatever thing has gone awry, and doing a perfectly miserable job of it, because, of course, this is a FAILURE dream, and nothing I do in one of those dreams works out to my advantage. Ever. And usually, it involves a copious amount of my favorite thing – groveling to all and sundry as I meekly confess my culpability.

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Or my personal favorite – I am fleeing a menacing, pursuing presence through all the halls and rooms of an infinite decaying, crumbling mansion….for hours and hours, all the while knowing that the terrible pursuing menace is going to corner and catch and murder horrifically. Yup. Personal favorite. I usually wake up trying to scream from that one, panting like I’ve just run the Boston Marathon.

Bad enough to fail in real life, when I am conscious. Failing in my dreams is infinitely worse – the dream failures seem every bit as real as the real-life failures, and I can have more than one of them per night. Subconscious self-torture. Whoopity doo.

570: My bad

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In this culture of victimhood that current society is wallowing in (pig in mud inference deliberate, here), where everyone and everything ELSE is to blame for everything I do and everything that happens to me – even at this seemingly simple task, I FAIL.

I am totally to blame for all of it. I have been unable to weasel out of anything….EVER. I try, believe me. I try. I figure if everybody else can slime their way out of any and all responsibility, I should be able to do the same: after all, I am female, have two adult (mostly) children, am regrettably white, old, fat, college educated, and employed full-time – a reasonable victim by anyone’s standards.

The problem is that pesky conscience, which I am assured that most modern people do not possess, as evidenced by their behavior laid out for all the world to see. I have not found the switch to turn that sucker off. And I am unsure which government form to fill out to evict the troublesome conscience as a result of its no longer being required or desired.

It can’t be as difficult as I am making it, this conscience-shredding process, or most of the world’s people would not have managed it so effortlessly.

*sigh* I’m a failure at being a failure.

568: Effort

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As another school year winds to a close, I am forcibly reminded that many, many, many people have a ridiculous sense of entitlement. I posted in my classroom a few weeks ago (for exactly this time) the statement “Don’t be upset over the RESULTS you did not get from the EFFORT you did not invest.”

As a teacher, I provide students with multiple learning opportunities: assignments. I count (grade) most of them. Our school uses a continuous average grading system, which means we do not set in stone your grade as a student each reporting term. So, your final grade is not determined by the averages of your first, second, third, and fourth grading term results, but instead, the overall average at the end of the year.  This allows students who do poorly to bring up their averages and earn credit for the year.

It also means students who have done moderately to marginally well all year can fail the entire year (even posting a passing average for the first three quarters) by slacking off at the end – which is RICHLY coming to pass. It is amazing how seven or eight zeros at the tail end can drop a close to failing year-long average right over the cliff.

I have warned students in every class that if their averages are in the low 70’s, that they are in danger of failing the course for the entire year, and they are, as usual, ignoring me. Problem is, time is short for completing work, and I am not grading anything turned in late now at full credit, PLUS, I am not accepting work from FIRST,  SECOND, and THIRD TERMS at this late date. Seriously?? You even bothered to ask?

I watched you sit and do nothing for days and weeks, while I chivvied you and reminded you and redirected you countless times, and NOW you get concerned about course credit and passing averages? NOW you want me to provide you with “extra credit” work? Nope.

In twenty-six years of teaching, I have NEVER, EVER, not even ONCE, had a child fail a class I taught with low grades on work they submitted. Not once. Every single child (and I work mostly with high schoolers) who fails has done so on ZEROS: work they just chose not to complete and submit for scoring.

I can work with a student who shows me some effort, even if it is not up to standard. As an employer, I want someone to work every day at the tasks I have set for them to do. As a teacher, I want exactly the same thing. I can help you if you are working. You can ask questions, and we can fix your work on the spot to provide you with better scores. You can get feedback on where this work could be improved.

I do not “give” grades: you earn them and I post them. I can credit someone who is working, even when they do not possess the native ability to do it at A or B quality work. THAT is not required. It is wonderful and appreciated and celebrated, but so is the determined effort to get the work done and submitted on time when assigned. I cannot post credit for something that is not submitted.

And the time of reckoning is at hand.

 

514: Icarus

Desire, heat, bright and beckoning,

my goal, my paradise, my home.

Striving, straining, struggling, reaching:

faltering, failing, falling –

pain and destruction. Anger.

Bitter ashes.

Time and healing, forgiveness.

Resurrection of hope – looking skywards once more.

New wings; better, stronger than before.

New hope, and new desire; better, stronger than before.

Flying ever higher, higher, higher…………

Touching the face of God.

 

I made it

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481: Starting Over is Overrated

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There are TONS of blog posts and memes on the positive aspects of starting over, and, I get it, I really, really get it. It is great to approach starting over with a positive attitude, some faith in yourself and the limitless opportunities of the future, and the courage and determination that it will be better this time. That’s great, and I get it. Really. Yo comprendo. I understand.

However.

Let’s just face it. Most of us are starting over because *something* failed. A marriage. A relationship. Our health. Our control. Our sanity. Our investments. A job. A business. A life. Fill in the freaking blank. Most of us don’t just wake up one day from a perfectly satisfactory and fulfilling life and announce to the Universe: I am throwing all this delightful existence away today for the incredible, life-changing, exciting chance to START OVER!! Um……no. That is not how it happens, except for Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love. The rest of us have more sense.

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Nope – we start over because we HAVE to start over. For nearly every one of us, starting over is a have to, even if it is also a want to because we consciously made a choice to get OUT of whatever failed, once we recognized and admitted to ourselves that it did, in fact, fail, and that we would be far better off starting over than remaining there to continue fighting to survive/succeed.

That has always been my biggest dilemma in a potential starting over scenario – whether to remain and fight, or choose to move on, acknowledging that continuing to struggle is counter-productive and damaging, with no or very little chance of success. For me, that choice was always tempered by whether or not the choice affected only me, or if my choice would impact others I was responsible for. Sometimes that consideration ultimately made the choice for me. Even if I chose starting over, it was still essentially a forced choice. Sometimes choosing to stay and fight is harder than starting over, I’ve found.

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At any rate, starting over is, ultimately, an acknowledgement that something failed (even if that failure was completely and totally out of my control, and I was an innocent victim (yeah, right)) but that I am not going to curl up and die in the face of this failure, I am going to take my raw courage and my tear-stained determination, and I am going to sally forth and establish something bigger, better, and brighter than I had before.

And starting over is not something we do voluntarily, even if we choose to do it. Being positive and hopeful about it helps.

Does not mean I relish the opportunity.

 

 

462: Slap in the Face

Wow. Sometimes it takes the astute observation of another person to make you realize you have not been honest with yourself. I like to think that I am honest with myself (who doesn’t?), that I am fairly logical and think things through. Well. NOT. Looks like I have some work to do.

I am divorced.

Nobody likes admitting and looking at failure, particularly when it is their own failure. I skirted around this issue, being divorced, because it’s just easier, and there is less to deal with socially, if I just don’t mention it. That is a form of lying to myself, and to others as well. My marriage ended, formally on paper at least, about a year ago.

The problem with loyalty as a character trait is that sometimes it gets in the way of taking action that you know that you need to take. Especially when it involves people you care about. The person you cared enough about to marry is a prime example. When a divorce is amicable, with the good of both partners considered, no fireworks or screaming, it can be another problem all in itself. Screaming and anger makes it much easier to walk away – run away, probably. We did not do that, even though I did move, on my own, to another country.

So, for a time after the paperwork was finalized, we communicated, and continue to do so. I don’t hate the man. I just could not continue to live with him. Being friendly, even on a long-distance basis (we were in different countries, for Pete’s sake) led to the idea that possibly, somewhere down the road, the relationship we had (mostly a good one) might be resurrected. I toyed with it, I considered it. I know better. I always knew better. I just wasn’t facing it.

As time moved on with no change in his circumstances, and as part of my own process of moving on, I took a new job in a new country. And, I joined an online dating site – determined to do something concrete to begin the search, once again, for a life partner (by long-distance, written communication first, where there was no physical attraction to gum up the works). I hoped that getting to know someone intellectually first, discovering common ground in interests, values and goals in advance of a face-to-face meeting, might make for a more secure foundation for a long-term relationship that what I had done in the past. So far, so good. Nice theory, and I hope it works.

It took an astute comment from someone I met online (who is thoughtful and wiser that I), however, for me to finally come face-to-face with my own intellectual dishonesty – to myself and to others. I was still referring to my ex-husband as my husband, and I have been doing that for some time. Even when I met with him one last time to discuss the future and how I did not want it to include us as a couple, I continued to refer to him as my husband….not my ex-husband.

Damn. I am not liking what I see in the mirror today. It stinks being ashamed of yourself, especially when it was something you did to yourself. and you have absolutely no one else to blame but your own stupid self.