Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wistful Words on Women

By an unlikely twist of fate, I was given the chance to teach Women’s Studies this Fall. As one friend commented when she heard the news, “That’s right up your alley.” And she is right. I have spent my life reading women, studying women and in general, being fascinated by women. In her bestselling novel, The Red Tent, Anita Diamant wrote, “If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully. Stories about food show a strong connection. Wistful silences demonstrate unfinished business. The more a daughter knows the details of her mother’s life—without flinching or whining—the stronger the daughter” (2). Well, I never knew my mother. She abandoned me when I was still a baby. The woman who raised me in her stead despised me and never missed an opportunity to remind me that she was not my mother…

It is hard to describe the pain a child feels from being abandoned by her mother. It is something all consuming and, I believe, deeper, sharper than the pain that comes from being abandoned by one’s father. Perhaps Lily Owens, the protagonist of The Secret Life of Bees, describes it best: “My whole life had been nothing but a hole where my mother should have been, and this hole has made me different, left me always aching for something” (Kidd 293). To ease that ache, I went in search of a mother. I idolized and impressed my teachers. I fastened myself to friends whose mothers, to me, seemed perfect. I prayed, but even God could not fill that void. I was a mother myself, many years over, before I learned that I could never replace her.

Adrienne Rich wrote, “The loss of the daughter to the mother, the mother to the daughter, is the essential female tragedy” (Of Woman Born). My life-long interest in women, that thing that “has made me different,” is a response to that tragedy. But as Anita Diamant predicted, it has also made me stronger. I may not know my mother, but I know our mothers. Their stories fortify and uplift me. Their history is my history. In a very real sense, I am my mothers’ daughter.

And so, when I stand in front of a room that (I predict) will be made up entirely of women, I will begin by asking them—without flinching or whining—to tell me the story of their mothers. To correct the silence left behind by indifferent scholars and sexist historians. I will listen carefully. And with their help, I will work to create a generation of stronger daughters.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Just Venting

I've never thought of myself as a pessimistic person...until recently.  Lately, I feel as if nothing is ever going to get better.  As Heather P jokingly remarked when we had coffee, my glass isn't just half empty; it's bone dry.  And I'm really thirsty. 

It's kind of funny that I was just telling Danielle today that a couple of weeks ago I began meditating, and it's helping.  But this afternoon, I finally had to admit that a Ph.d is not in my foreseeable future.  And it makes me sad. More than sad, but unfortunately, I can't think of any synonyms or strong enough adjectives that work right now.  (Grading brain sucks!) I was depressed when I found out that I wasn't accepted anywhere this go-around.  But I thought to myself, "There's always next time."  Now, I know that it's not going to happen.  The finances to do everything we need to do just aren't there.  I'm making shit, and Tom's making less than shit.  And today, we  acquired over $1000 more debt each and every month.  I'm having surgery that we have to pay for, and because I'm a loser who couldn't get into school (or get a full-time job) I have to start paying student loans.  There's no realistic way we will have the money to make the repairs on our house to sell it, Ph.d. 

Not only do I feel disappointed, but I'm afraid all of my mentors will think I'm such a waste and such a loser.

I envy Tom's ability to focus on the "right nows" of life.  I see the big picture.  I'm goal oriented and see all of the many things we need to do, want to do, and alas, can't possibly do.  What do you do when you have no obtainable goals?  The last 8 years of my life have been leading toward a Ph.d with a lot of mini-goals sprinkled in between.  Get a B.A.: check. Get into M.A. program: check.  Make money: check. Present at conferences: check. Get grant: check. Get awards: check. Make connections: check. Teach: check. Finish Thesis: check. Get M.A.: check. Submit article: check. Apply to Ph.d programs: check.  Now what? It all led to that.  And I feel as if I'm stuck now. It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't want it soooooooooooooo badly.

I've never liked treadmills.  If I'm going to walk or run, I want to be outside.  I like to be going somewhere.  And I'm going nowhere now.  All I see in my foreseeable future is continuing to adjunct to pay bills.  No extra money to travel.  No money to renovate the house.  Nothing to look forward to.

You know, all of this started with my stupid attempt to create my own "Happiness Project." What a fool I am!

I need a full time job making real money so that maybe, just maybe I can start making baby steps back toward my original goal. But even then, I wonder if taking so much time off will look badly to the programs to which I'm applying.  Who sucks.  Just thought I'd let you know.