Life is full of constructs that enable each of us to survive. In the case of the picture above, the long abandoned farm house (photo by Mike Williams of Missoula, MT) represents someone’s hopes and dreams, and the life they built while they were passing through this world.
Standing on its last legs between the prairie and the open sky, it whispers of the hopes and sweat of the family that once prospered on the land and now lives there no more. I think of the constructs that each of us makes over the years to have a life the way we want it, juggling the emotions and involvement of others, until we can cobble together a life worth living.
In my case, the construct is my own body. Betrayed by nature at birth, the defects became apparent and my first surgery occurred at 6 months old. Additional surgeries occurred at 3 years and 6 years and 9 years old. These surgeries were hard, and the financial difficulties they imposed on my parents ultimately broke up their marriage (in my humble opinion).
When I was about 11, it became clear that we could no longer afford the luxury of ongoing repairs, as the entire family was disintegrating before my eyes. In my case, I embraced the hard truth – that we were sacrificing the health of the family by my Mother’s insistence that I undergo repairs – and that I was as good as I was going to get. I couldn’t get a job. I couldn’t make my expenses go away, but I could grow up and accept that I was as good as I was going to get, and do what I could to alleviate the stress from things that I could not change.
I cut way back and mostly stopped taking my medicines. I started reading and I started looking for alternative health solutions. My Mom said to me one night, when we were doing the dishes and discussing the “whys” of the world, “You have it within you to change your mindset. People lived for millions of years without medications and without solutions, and they got by.” If I thought I could will myself better, she wasn’t going to stop me. Even if she did caution me that medicine kept me alive, and that the family couldn’t afford a hospital bill.
Yes, I still got sick. Mind-over-matter doesn’t help when one is dealing with birth defects and the changes of the season on those weaknesses. But, I also survived. I didn’t die at a young age as it was anticipated would happen. (Think of “Beth” in the book, “Little Women”). My impression is that situation was pretty much how they expected me to die at some point.
While my parents had differing agendas for my life, beyond getting married and having kids, if asked to expand on where they saw me in the world, there wasn’t anything that they dreamed of for me. You lived, you got married. You had kids. Your kids would take care of you in your old age, if necessary, and then you died. You married to have a traveling companion (someone you could legally suck the life out of, under the rules of “til death do us part”), and your life was joined to that partner and those combined experiences. Whatever happened, you’d survive if you were part of a pair.
But, I’d already seen the havoc the breakup of my parent’s marriage caused. I saw that having a companion didn’t work for them, and actually added to the problems for trying to get through life without a lot of drama and stress.
I’d also been on the receiving end of recriminations for surviving. For costing too much money. Was I going to be vulnerable and do that to another person? No.
Nobody had the answers, so I was going to wing in on my own. It’s worked out pretty well so far, until America lost its mind and became the land of the haves and the have nots. I even covered all of my expenses until my health could no longer keep up.
So, now I’m back to where I was as a kid. I get an “allowance” from disability based on benefits that I paid into for 42 years. However, the benefits come with a caveat subtext, “We can’t afford you. Could you please hurry up and die already?”
Believe me, if it comes to being homeless or choosing euthanasia, I’ll choose euthanasia every time. It would be helpful, though, if our government would admit that it just wants anyone not working, and not independently wealthy, to hurry up and die. It would be helpful if they would provide a program whereby I could pick my final date and afford to live until I reached that point.
I really dislike having to buy a home in order to survive financially short term, and knowing that it will be an echo of my life that someone else will have to deal with once I’m gone. Sad.