About a year ago, I believed I had affluenza. I tried in every respect to live as simply as is possible, hoping for a panacea.
Then I read Your Money or Your Life, which is mindbending. The authors present a simple formula for figuring out how many minutes of life you are bargaining in any particular purchase. Suddenly, I was spending life instead of money. I decided that the gobs of money I was (am) spending on office overhead was a waste of life. She's closing.
Too simple. Self diagnosis usually fails. And I am not quite cured.
Currently, the unnamed disease has spread. Jon has not been to work in some time; he is an insurance agent and cannot bring himself to continue to participate in the insurace scam. Shannon is metamorphosing from a lucrative area retail manager to a bartender and eventual feminist club owner. Her friend is giving up her nursing practice very very soon. A successful computer programmer in my neighborhood has quit, grown out his hair, and is starting a non-profit group. Angela has sold her law practice. These are just a few of the people that I know who have caught it.
I would like to chalk this up to midlife crises- but these people are all of different life stages, experience, and places. These people are all successful. Educated. Smart. There appears to be little commonality between us, well, except for me. I may be the Typhoid Mary of recognizing our counterfeit selves.
Previously we needed boats and new cars and status and respect. And we all worked really hard, and got it. And we still were empty, eating anti depressants and xanax, with a bottle of wine chaser. Says the abovementioned computer programmer, "The money never fills me up."
I can't speak for the others' but I never knew myself well enough to even guess the proper roller coaster to ride. I always chose the path that made someone else believe I was worthwhile. I even worked at an insurance defense firm in law school, for god's sake. For plenty of money. And plenty of posing.
The defense firm offered me a job in the end, which I politely refused. This resulted in a three hour exit interview, anger, shock. It's similar to many of the reactions I now get when I share my pending office closure. That and all out smartassery. (an aside: at a party this weekend, a palsied old lawyer told me that it took him thirty years and a stroke before HE wanted to quit. he was being an asshole, and i'm trying to avoid the stroke. the evil smartass retorts going through my head did not come out my mouth. but nearly.)
People hate it when you don't follow the script.
And I have also consistently denied my feminine self. As a child, I wanted to please my mysoginistic father (who sadly, had no sons to corrupt) so I hunted and fished and cut wood with him. Skinning Rabbits. Hunters' Safety Course when I was ten. Shooting practice. Motorcycles. Physical.
After a year of college, I took the extra step in trying to grow a penis, by joining the U.S. Navy, which at the time was around 85% male. Even better, my job within the Navy was physically laborious, and I was the only female who worked as a guard on the base. Boot camp. Shooting practice. Pressure points. Forklifts. 9mm and PR-24 training. I was an expert marksman. (seriously, i got a ribbon and everything. word.)
And believing I was tired of the testosterone overload that was the military, I returned to college and majored in a science- a science that could land me nowhere but working for the TWRA. Carrying a gun. Arresting spotlighters. Wearing a uniform. Ugh.
And again, believing I was giving up this incredibly phallic path, I applied to law school. ERROR ERROR ERROR. I landed in a world populated with old smartass men, sexism so strong that it's fairly comon for me to get felt up in court, letters and conversations so brutal that I actually hang them on the wall to PROVE they occurred, and a vague perception by others that I am brutal, I am masculine, I am bitch, I am cruel, I am hard, I am lawyerbot.
And the funny thing is, I see myself as soft. Tenderhearted. Hyper sensitive. Weak. Afraid. And I need to be the softer sex so badly, that a few months ago the simple act of a man putting my suit jacket on me without request or permission made my knees buckle. Small gestures feel huge to the brutal bitch that receives no gestures absent gross sexual overtures.
Affluenza is not the disease; it is a symptom of an inauthentic life. Looking back, the loathing of my feminity, my station, my everything, is apparent.
I am thirty-five. I finally recognize these mistakes. I recognize my need to change, to give up control, to let people who love me take care of me. For me to take care of me. I recognize my need to be fully genuine. I am a late bloomer, but I finally see worth in my own feminity. I credit motherhood for this.
And so, the move from firm to home feels like a beginning. A reduced caseload. Less need for money. Release of the ego that drives my particular profession. More time with my son. More home making. Something I have never done.
When a woman takes on the attributes of a man and tries to mimic theSuddenly, I'm more Camille Paglia than Gloria Steinem.
actions of men . . . she is lost. - Tracie