Privilege

In a lot of the conversations I’m having with others these days, the word privilege seems to surface. Whether we’re discussing the plight of people all over the world, or in our own backyards. Whether we are discussing the global pandemic, or gun violence, or mental health, someone will mention privilege and the conversation will inevitably blur into a new one about how we can help, how the privileged classes can impact the lives of others, whether or not we should ever feel bad for ourselves.

My friends usually say something like, “I feel guilty because…” then insert the reason they feel guilty right now. Maybe they have great health insurance. Or maybe they are still working full-time, with full-time pay, just from the safety of their home. Or maybe they have healthy children, or partners they love to spend time with. The point is this here world is made up of a lot of different people, and some of us, just by being born who we are, or where we are, live a life of privilege.

Now would I consider the life I lived as a child a life of privilege. Let’s recap: I grew up in poverty, the last child of a single mom of four, we were welfare recipients, Section 8 people, I was a free lunch kid. I watched my mom struggle to make ends meet every month, play the whole Which-Bill-Is-Skipped-This-Month Game. We didn’t have the best healthcare, etc. etc. So did I live a privileged life? Yep, I did. Because while we didn’t have money, and I missed out on some things growing up, I learned a million life lessons. I’m also, as it happens, a white person, born in America. So even though my childhood was rough, even though I had family members in prison, and several addicted to alcohol, or drugs, or gambling, or all three, I still led and continue to lead a life of privilege.

One of my professors once told me that she hasn’t figured out a way to write about guilt. It’s a tricky subject, a tough emotion. And I suspect as a member of a privileged class she doesn’t want to upset anyone. And honestly, since she told me that I’ve been trying and trying to figure it out too. But have come up short every time. Maybe it’s a dead end. Probably it is, but just talking about it in a space like this might be good enough. Because here’s the thing: Some of us do recognize that we live a life of privilege, and we do all we can to try to help others. To be compassionate, to lend a hand, or an ear. To make donations. To reach back and lift others up.

But it may, at times, seem like we are ungrateful. For example, I’ve stopped myself a thousand times in the last two months from complaining about one thing or another because honestly, it just isn’t right for me to be complaining right now, when there’s so much uncertainly in this world. But the truth is, I have had hard times. I still continue to, even with my privileges, and like all people it feels nice to discuss them sometimes, lest I invalidate my feelings. If I wouldn’t want to invalidate the feelings and emotions of a compete stranger who lives 3,000 miles from me (I’m just wired that way, it makes me sad to think I have unknowingly hurt someone), so why am I okay with invalidating my own struggles and feelings?

Yep. I can see now how this is a messy subject. Can you? I hope you can. And I hope maybe you’ll think more on it. If you come up with anything let me know. I’m drowning a bit here.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

Seasonal depression! Sing it with me! Everywhere you go! You know what it is, it’s the lack of the GD sunshine. It’s the lack of the GD sunshine, and the lack of other people’s common sense. It’s a lack of boundaries from family members. It’s a lack of confidence. That feeling of not being able to keep up with the people around you. That feeling that no, I won’t spend $500 on my child for Christmas because spending $500 on a child for Christmas is nuts, but if I don’t spend $500 on my child for Christmas will other mommies judge me? Maybe. Probably. But you know what I like to wish I could say, “Fuck them!”

This is a stressful time of year, regardless of how you slice it. Slice it six ways, slice it eight, it all slices down to stress, anxiety, lack of boundaries and control, crappy weather, and usually feeling some sort of weight pressing down on you. Maybe it’s mounting credit card debt. Maybe it’s disappointing your family because you’re not coming home for the holidays, maybe it’s disappointing your children because they want more than you can give. But it’s always there, pressing down, down, down, until you feel like you can’t breathe.

Normally I’m already crazy by December 1st, but I gotta be honest, I’m not this year. I think there are two things at work here: 1. My new medication is AMAZING! I highly recommend it if you can swing it. It’s called Trintellix and it’s done a number on my reactionary nature. And 2. I’m easing into this mindset of gratitude. I’ve realized I have sort of always lived this way, the way of the grateful, mainly because I’m a big, empathic, nerd. And usually speaking, not always, but usually, being an empath brings with it gratitude. Because we see and feel the pain of others, and sometimes we clearly see that we are not in those shoes, even though sometimes we feel like we are. Here’s an example.

Last weekend Jackson and I ran to Kroger to pick up a couple of things. When we walked inside there was a man asking for money near the entrance. He had a sad story, sure, they usually do. And Jackson usually falls for it, hook, line, and sinker. He’s eleven. This man needed money to get home for the holidays. That was his story, and maybe it was true, but most likely it was not. Jackson was very upset when I told the man sorry, but I didn’t have cash. That part was true, but Jackson asked why I couldn’t get cash when I checked out. Oh this child of mine!

So I said maybe I’d get an extra $5 out for the guy. But Jackson said $5 wasn’t enough to get the man where he needed to go. I said I knew that, but I wasn’t going to pay for a airline ticket for this guy. Jackson thought on this as we strolled through the store. Later at checkout I got the $5 out and we walked outside to find him, but he was gone. Jackson suggested we keep the $5 in the glove box in case we run into him again, or someone else who might need the $5. Later that night Jackson ran down stairs upset about that man, but also very grateful. He recognized that we were also far away from what we consider to be “home” and that if we want to go “home” for the holidays we can. Sometimes we just choose not to. Because honestly #MyOwnBed, #StabilizingMyMentalHealth, and what not. See that empathetic nature giving way into gratitude.

So yeah, it’s a thing around here. The other thing that is helping me stave off seasonal depression is regular therapy. Which by the way Patsy says I need to give myself some credit. That’s it’s not just therapy and medication, but I’m working hard too. But I’m not ready to credit myself for anything. It’s a slow process.

So what am I saying here, y’all? Christ Missy, what are you ever saying besides a bunch of nonsensical nonsense like you live in damn Whoville! I mean, isn’t the Grinch just plagued by SAD? I know. I know. I think what I’m saying is maybe this holiday season you should say, “Fuck it!” I dunno, it sometimes works. If that’s not your thing then maybe try gratitude? Nah, can’t do it? I get it, how about this. How about you ship your family members to Alberta, and you take your happy-ass down to Aruba? That’s always been a dream of mine, a tropical christmas. I mean, the sunshine might just do you good!

Whatever you do, wherever you are, just remember that you’re not alone. There are people out there struggling like you are. Most people in fact. We all might struggle in different ways, but this season brings struggles. So don’t feel all alone. And be kind to everyone you meet.

M.