Monday, August 22, 2011

Diving In

I used to be the first person to jump in the water, and the last one out. As a kid, I'd ignore my mother's repeated calls to get out of the pool and into the car. In college, while everyone else needed one more beer before they'd brave the ice cold lake --looked as big as an ocean from the sandy shore-- I'd be impatient, hopping from foot to foot, finally plunging in alone under the moon, feeling as free as I ever have floating in the indigo waves.

We took the kids to the beach again this summer. My son's not much of a swimmer, preferring to putter around on the shore, digging in the sand, creating worlds with his shovel. My girl wanted in that water though. I'd take her deep and she'd struggle to get out of my arms, imagining she could slip into the deep green of the lake and slither like an eel into it's depths. I'd hold her tight, take her closer to shore, and sit down, letting the waves wash over us, feel the undertow tugging at our toes as the water washed back out to sea.

She was fearless.

* * *

I'd never have quit my job; I loved it. It was perfectly tailored to my strengths and interests. It gave me an outlet for some of my obsessions, and the spiritual impulses I don't have anywhere else to put. Having had that, though: The Perfect Job, I find it hard to imagine settling for the Eh, It's Alright, I Guess Job. I sound spoiled as shit, saying that. I recognize that. People everywhere are scrambling desperately for the Eh, It's Alright, I Guess Job, or even the I Hate It, But It Pays The Bills Job.

I'm both incredibly lucky and a little bit smart, and I've dodged that particular bullet. For the time being, at least. We're all just one global financial catastrophe away from ruin, right? I say lucky, because I don't believe most of us earn the grace we're given, any more than I believe that we earn our devastation. God may or may not have a detailed plan for each of us; I'll leave that to the theologians. But I'm pretty sure the bumper sticker got it right when it read: Shit Happens.

I say smart because we bought a house in my husband's name, on his salary alone. Now, if he leaves my ass and takes the house, that won't look so smart anymore, will it? But when I lose my job and we don't lose the house, it looks rather brilliant. It was, brilliant or foolish, a conscious choice to set myself up for stay-at-home-motherhood, to prepare our family financially for that choice.

A choice I never made, although I certainly considered it often enough, even while fortunate enough to have landed The Perfect Job. A choice that has been made for me now. By the scarcity of part-time, professional positions, and my antipathy for full-time work. By the large-scale layoffs of teachers in my area, the scarcity of work available even if I wanted it. By the high cost of quality childcare, eating more than half of my take home pay in the best of situations. By the Congressional cutting, cutting, cutting, and the way the trickle-down effect seems as certain as death and taxes when it comes to poverty, but never to work quite right when it comes to wealth.

* * *

My favorite part of diving into waves has always been the feeling of utter freedom as your feet leave the sand and your body becomes weightless. My favorite part of motherhood is the abandonment of What's Supposed To Happen Now and the surrender to immersion in What Is Happening Now.

My favorite feeling? My very, very favorite feeling? The one I wish for my children, for myself, and for everyone I love to experience as often as possible?


* * *

It's so sad that my program has been eliminated. It's so very sad.

But it's not that sad for me.

This is why it's difficult for me to believe that God is stage-directing our every move, or that The Secret to life is as simple as Like Attracts Like. If God directed Congress to eliminate a GED program for parents so I could stay home with my babies, then I'm terribly sorry to be the one to call attention to it, but God is an asshole. And if I Secreted myself into unemployment because I secretly want to be home, and the collateral damage is a group of barely literate mothers who have even fewer options than they did a month ago, then I'm an asshole and should be banned from Secreting things into being ever again.

So I'm left with bumper sticker pseudo-wisdom, luck, and smarts.

I can work with that.


  1. At some point today I was spacing out and thinking about how very few moms really get to choose whether they work or not. Our hands are always forced by the hours or the pay or the cost of childcare or our partners or our mortgage. Choice, "opting out," is such a myth. If I could choose I'd also take meaningful and satisfying part-time work or a year of paid parental leave from another job. So I guess I'm a SAHM. It's fine, but I just wish I had genuine options other than trying to emigrate to Norway.

  2. Sorry your program was eliminated, maybe you will stay at home then? Or will you be reassigned? Don't know how it works where you live.
    Hope the universe goes easy on ya.