Random equations in the mathematics of life

Posts tagged ‘guilt’

On a mobius strip

I kinda feel like the ant, walking on August and Johann’s famous toy.  There’s really no beginning or ending to my world, and I’m never really sure when I’m “done,” or even if there is such a thing as being “done.”  My job contributes to this, as even when we send one test cycle to print, we are already in the midst of processing the previous one’s data and starting to create the upcoming one.  Many moms feel like this as well, when faced with piles of neatly folded, clean laundry, only to turn and find a child with a stained shirt in hand.  Same goes for cabinets full of clean dishes, with a dirty plate slipped onto the counter.

I’ve felt what could almost be described as a sense of panic at this realization, the dawning of the idea that it might truly never end.  When you have kids, you sign on to care for them for 20ish years, and that’s totally cool with me.  No matter what mistakes I’ve made, or decisions I’ve regretted, that is one that I have never second-guessed.  If I had to do my life over again, I would change a lot of it.  But that?  No way.  If I knew that making certain choices would get me my kids again, I’d jump in with both feet.  It never bothered me to be in the midst of that chaos and stress, because I knew it was finite.  At first, they’re totally dependent on you; you do literally everything.  As they grow, the balance slowly shifts until they not only can care for themselves, but want to care for themselves.  So on the path to their independence, I find myself walking nearly parallel to them as I reach for my own.  As they leap into the adventures of their own desires, I will get that same chance.  After going from my parents’ house to college, to marriage, my life will finally be my own.

Or will it?  My mother’s health is declining, and there’s already enough guilt flying around to pave a highway.  Having been dragged kicking and screaming through parochial school and the shackles of Catholicism, being selfish was beaten out of me at an early age, to the point that I started to see my own health slip before dealing with my own needs.  I’ve gotten better at resolving that particular character flaw, but the guilt weighs heavily.  My mother’s increasing dependence on her children wavers between genuine need and carefully crafted manipulation.  (Interesting that while being selfish was a mortal sin for us, my parents were experts in the art of their own gratification.)  Unfortunately, my sister bears the brunt of this, as she is the favored child and the oldest, not to mention being a nurse.  My mother has little use for me unless there is a purpose for it, and then I’m her best buddy.  But my sister is the one called at all hours of the day and night for everything from  something bleeding to she can’t find her reading glasses.  I have scratched and clawed my way to where I can back away a little, and prioritize my own family first, but my sister hasn’t.  I feel for her, in that her stress level is sky high all the time, but it frustrates me to see her neglecting vital aspects of her life simply because she is ruled by my mother’s intricately woven, guilt-ridden remarks.

So now I wonder what will happen at the point when I reach my own familial finish line.  As I triumphantly reach to embrace my freedom, is it going to be yanked back like Charlie Brown’s football?  And to what extent will I allow that to happen?  No way to tell, of course.  Who knows what will transpire between now and then?  But it does weigh on my mind sometimes.  The idea that I would be trapped here, stuck indefinitely in a life I resent, makes it all the  harder to trudge through the days.  I know there are those, much better humans than I could ever aspire to be, who would relish the intrinsic spiritual value of fulfilling that familial duty.  I’m just not there, and after the way things have been in my past, I don’t myself ever even coming close.

I suppose, to a point, I also worry about the Scientist and me.  There are days when I’m pretty sure he will choose to remain here when I move to the islands.  His own father’s health is failing, and I’m not sure how self-sufficient his mom would be if he dies.  Plus, he is incredibly sensitive to the heat, much preferring the cooler temperatures that my islands don’t experience.  On the flip side, what if he does decide to fly the coop?  Do we sentence ourselves and each other to a life of celibacy, without romantic entanglements?  At this point in life, I am totally fine with it on my side, but I worry about what it does to him.  The last thing I want to do is deny him happiness, but sometimes I feel like he’s trapped in his own version of this never-ending conundrum.  He wants the happily-ever-after with me, and that isn’t going to happen. Not like it does in the fairy-tales.  I feel like I will wind up hurting him no matter what, whether we stay together or not.  Times like these, I wish I could see the future to know what path would be best.

As I can’t, I suppose for now, I will try to keep my balance as best I can, as I walk the never ending spiral.

Tax-free, but not guilt-free deductions

The university where I work does an annual charity program in which you pledge your desired amount, and if it’s over $10, you get to choose which charity from their book gets your money.  There is a huge ramp-up to it, with emails announcing the impending excitement, reminding us how easy it is to complete the forms, so conveniently pre-filled with our personal information.  For those of you who are truly generous, you can have it deducted pre-tax from your paycheck!

Are you excited yet?


But there’s MORE!

For participants who return their forms by a certain date, there is a drawing for some amazingly wonderful prize like a package of novelty paper clips!  Emails would come every other day or so, reminding those of us who are oh-so-forgetful, to return our forms by the deadline.  (As soon as I figured out the “Team Leader’s” email, I routed it to my junk mail.)

Then the deadline hit.  Ahhh.  Relief.  No more harassing emails, right?  Wrong!  The absolute, set-in-stone deadline was extended just this once so that we could have the time to fill out our forms, since it had so obviously slipped our feeble minds!  We even got an email on Monday telling us that the Vice Chancellor was coming to our very own office to bring us, the lowly employees, coffee and donuts!  Yes, yes, it was true.  Our ecstasy overflowed, but we tried to contain the anticipation.  Anyone who was here at 7:45 this morning was summoned by our department head to “come have a cup of coffee.”  No, it doesn’t matter if you don’t like coffee.  Or aren’t hungry.  Or have a deadline.  The honor of being in the presence of the Vice Chancellor should sustain us, even if it doesn’t help get our work done.  So he thanks us, tells us that the whole University knows of our department (a lie), and that everyone knows of the important work we do (another lie), and that we are vital to the University team (lie number three).  Then he swan dives right into the spiel about the campaign.  He told us how touched he was by a few of the programs, and how much of a privilege it is to “give back” and be a part of this amazing University achievement, and how privileged we can be too.  It’s not about money, folks.  It’s about participation.  Our goal isn’t a dollar amount, but 50 percent of the staff’s participation.  Every little bit helps, and even $1 makes you a participant!  Don’t you want to be a participant?  Be part of something great?

Let me get something straight here, ’cause ya know, I’m just a lowly state worker.  You make upwards of $300,000 a year, roughly six times my salary, and more than that for a lot of the other people who work in my office.  You drive a Lexus, are a member of the exclusive country club, dress in your Armani suit and Italian leather shoes, and you dare to come in here where people live paycheck to paycheck and lay a guilt trip on them for money?  You charge your employees for the privilege of coming to work (the University charges exorbitant parking fees of its employees!), and yet you demand that they “give back” in a manner in which you see fit?  Seriously?

We are forbidden from any kind of “solicitation” on campus property.  How exactly is this different?  Here’s a hint: It isn’t.  It just proves the point that the privileged, upper echelon can do whatever it wants, while the people who actually work for a living have to toe the imaginary line.  I, for example, really like the Cup of Joe For a Joe program.  It only costs $2 to participate, and I do it periodically.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am no huge fan of the military action in the Middle East, but I absolutely support the troops who have been sent there.  This allows me to do something small, but meaningful, pretty much any time I want.  But if I started sending mass emails to my coworkers, pushing hard for them to join me in participating, my tail would be fired faster than it takes to delete the email.  It would be absolutely unacceptable for me to do something like that, but apparently it’s allowed if your tax bracket is high enough!

The added incentive of a $100 gift card drawing if you join today, (even a just $1!!) wasn’t enough for me.  I smiled politely, thanked him for the grocery store doughnut, and then went quietly back to my desk and sent another C.O.J.  I know it pisses off my department head when her people rebel against what she wants, and she is most displeased with those of us who opted not join the elite club of people who donated to the campaign, but I’m still able to sleep at night.  She’s pissed off at me a lot, whether or not she has reason, so I’ve pretty well given up caring.

Yet again, I was labeled a derelict today.  But this derelict made a soldier smile today, and that’s enough for me.

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