Tuesday, August 08, 2017
Enough is a difficult concept for humans. What we see is what we want . . . for now.
Much of our desire for more starts with our parents and what they modeled for us. We as children do not take the time or have the experience to understand that they did not get what they had overnight or as children unless they were born into wealth and privilege. Parents have to grow up and obtain what they have by the time they have children . . . at least in families where children arrived once the parents had found jobs, each other, and then had children. That situation is different for each family when many children are born to unmarried mothers and raised by their grandparents, aunts, or the system. Children of poor parents are raised with the reality that their needs are provided by the government through welfare or the generosity of their grandparents who may also be on government subsidies, social security they earned and put into every paycheck or continued on welfare from their childhood until they were old enough to sign up for social security when they reached the appropriate age. If social security followed welfare, there may be only the minimum rate since they either did not work or did not earn enough because they did not work enough.
Whether children grow up in middle class or lower class families, what their caregivers (parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or foster parents) have and what they teach the children is what the child carries into their adult life. Often the behavior is plenty at the beginning of the month petering out to little or nothing at the end of the month. Every month is feast and famine depending on the time of the month and the spending habits of the guardians.
In middle class families, children are brought up with their guardians' attitudes and behaviors about spending and that varies with their guardians' attitudes and behaviors and how they were brought up and what they achieved in their lifetimes.
In the USA where the prevailing attitude comes from the idea that the USA is all about profit, often at any cost and no matter who it helps or harms as long as there is profit. Once again, it is feast or famine. Movies do not help generally since movies are all about the rewards and benefits of the end result -- love, relationships, family, children, success. Success is measured in profit. No matter how one gets to the reward, everything, outside of religious beliefs, and often due to religious beliefs rooted in the system of reward and punishment, the bottom line is much like a version of Santa Claus's naughty and nice list. Naughty and nice sounds a great deal like reward and punishment where the end result is presents under the tree or in the stockings or a lump of coal, possibly even nothing if the child's parents are poor, have no credit cards, and live on the dole (government handouts).
No matter the situation, when you're a child there is never enough. Parents either lavish their children with presents or favor one child over the others, creating sibling rivalry and unhappiness. Enough for one or two is very little or low quality for the child who does not enjoy the parents' favor.
When I was a child, my younger siblings were favored more than I was because I was adopted from a mother who was less successful and less class-wise than my adoptive parents. When I learned I was adopted at the age of 10 and my mother was revealed the difference in what I received versus what my brother and sisters got finally made sense. Until the age of 10, the differences were not as obvious as they became after I was told I was chosen and hadn't been foisted on my parents by the luck of the draw -- or so the newspaper clippings about children who discovered they were adopted (chosen) demonstrated when the news was dropped in my lap. Not only did I not look like my younger siblings, but I was actually their cousin. My mother was my adoptive father's younger sister who gave me up so my adoptive parents, who were better off financially, could give me so much more than my birth mother could afford. My birth mother thought she was making certain I would have a good life full of the things she could not give me. Nothing was farther from the truth.
The fact is that I was the second one of my adoptive father's sisters who was pregnant and in difficult circumstances. The relationship -- or lack of a relationship -- between his wife and his older sister was not good and the sister reneged on her promise to give up her young daughter and newborn son to her sister-in-law even after the daughter and son had lived with my adoptive parents for a little while. Their mother demanded her children back and that was the end of children for her brother's wife who was unable to bear a living child after a couple of miscarriages during the first 5 years of their marriage.
Lo and behold, another sister turned up on their doorstep, newly divorced and riding the back of her oldest brother's motorcycle, having come all the way from Michigan to Columbus, Ohio pregnant and without sufficient education and resources to provide for the coming child. She, however, was willing to give up her unborn child when it was born in exchange for staying with her brother and sister-in-law who promised to pay for all of her medical bills when the child was born. She progressed from salad girl at a local restaurant to student at a secretarial school and eventually to an unwed divorcee with marketable skills and a future as a secretary. Her future prospects had changed, but she gave her word to her brother and was a woman of her word. After all, the couple had paid for her schooling, gave her room and board during her time in Columbus, and paid all of her medical bills while her pregnancy continued. Her word was her bond and, despite what her older sister said about her experiences and taking back her own children from her sister-in-law, she was going to follow through. What choice did she have?
Even though she met a man who wanted to marry her and was determined to be a good father to her child if she would keep the child and go back on her promise, she was going to keep her promise and give her child up to her brother and sister-in-law so that they could finally have a child of their own. After 5 years of disappointment and miscarriages, things did not look good for her sister-in-law to have a child of her own. Maybe adopting her child and giving that child all they could provide would give her sister-in-law a child she could lavish her love on and make her brother and his wife happy at last. They could be a family at last.
The oldest brother who brought her to Columbus to live was also married and wanted to adopt her child when it was born. He and his wife did not have any children yet and wanted to offer her child family and love, but her brother was unreliable in her eyes. He was less stable than the brother to whom she had promised her child and with whom she lived. The oldest brother, Don, rode motorcycles and did hill climbing races on his motorcycle. He was reckless even though he usually won, but reckless could also mean dead one day. Her other brother, Jim, was in the Army and reliable, the kind of man who would not end up dead falling down a muddy hill off his motorcycle or from a knife or gunshot wound if one of his fights ended badly. She was glad for all that Jim had done and felt good about giving her child to Jim and his snooty wife. They would provide her child with everything a child could want and they had so much love to give. Why else would they have turned to adoption if there was any other choice.
Ginny's doctor said that often adopting a child would help the mother get pregnant with her own child because all the pressure was off while frantically trying to get pregnant. Ginny would gain a mother's love and might end up with a child of her own after her child was born and Ginny satisfied her need to be a mother by mothering the child she carried. Her fiance tried to convince her to keep her child, thank Jim and Ginny for their help, and he would help pay them back for all they had done for her when she arrived pregnant, insufficiently educated, and alone without a job or skills to support them both.
She felt she owed Jim and Ginny and she had promised. She could have more children with her fiance after they were married while Ginny could not have children at all. They had done so much for her, helped her to secure a better future, and had paid for her schooling and her medical bills. She would keep her word and Jim and Ginny would finally have a child to love and care for.
She went through with the plan, denied Don her girl child, married her fiance shortly after she landed a good secretarial job. The die was cast and she would still be a part of her daughter's life. Ginny and Jim promised as much.
Life continued. She eventually got pregnant and gave her new husband a son, saw her new daughter whenever Jim and Ginny were in town, either to see her family or when they were stationed in Columbus, and watched her daughter grow up among Ginny's own children, two girls and a boy (at last). Children followed her daughter's birth. Ginny got pregnant on her daughter's first birthday and delivered a daughter 9 months later. Five years later, Ginny delivered the son she always wanted and 10 years after her daughter's birth a second daughter was born a few days before her daughter's tenth birthday. That year, 1965, Ginny had to have a hysterectomy and could have no more children, throwing Ginny into menopause and ending the ability to get pregnant again. Ginny still wanted more children and fostered a few more children, mostly boys, but a brother and sister when her youngest daughter and son were teenagers. The brother and sister, two of a family of four siblings who went into the system and were fostered out, were nearly the same age as Ginny's two children. Everything seemed fine. Her daughter graduated high school, got pregnant, and married at 18, following her new husband from post to post as she had followed Jim and Ginny while growing up. Her daughter's husband was Air Force, but evidently the uniform was what caught her fancy and not the branch of military.
This narrative is about enough, but what leads up to what constitutes enough in my case is born of how I was raised.
I was born of a poor mother I didn't know until I was 10. By that time, my mother (who I was raised to believe was my aunt) had become a woman of means. Her husband was a butcher for Kroger's and a sheriff on the weekends while she was the secretary of the manger of an apartment complex. She handled all the administrative work in the rental office and managed the maintenance staff, a far cry from the Bliss Business College graduate who was engaged and recently gave birth to me.
My adoptive parents were successful. Dad was in Admin in the Army and had been an interpreter working in the JAG (judge advocate general's office) traveling all over Europe and had been stationed in Panama at Fort Gulick when I was in 2nd grade. Mom didn't work when we were stationed overseas, but did work when we lived in the USA. She was also the child of a very wealthy man who, through alcohol and infidelity, had lost all of his money. Grandpa went to work for the State of Ohio in mental health, working on the Hilltop in the men's ward on Broad Street. His wife went to work for the State and worked second shift at the women's facility in the secured ward at the same facility in the older building where the doors were always locked and the patients secured.
Mom had been brought up in a small northern Ohio town where Grandpa was the sheriff, the mayor, and the biggest property owner in town. He owned several businesses, one of which was a coal company where his brother, Homer, worked delivering coal for years until the business was sold to pay debts just as the residential use for coal dwindled. Mom had everything she wanted because her parents gave her everything, which was not surprising since her elder brother, Jack, died in 1950 from leukemia and her younger sister, Joan, was a ward of the State and lived in state institutions until the mid-1970s when state institutions dumped their residents into the population to either live in group homes or with their families. Aunt Joan ended up living with Grandpa and Grandma. Mom's other brother, Bob, had already married and made a life for himself as a machinist working for a big government contractor. Mom, however, continued to be spoiled by her parents as the "oldest" child and took full advantage of her parents' generosity, sometimes living with our family when we were stationed in the US and while Mom was pregnant with my brother, Jimmy, but not when we moved back to the US and were stationed in Virginia where Tracy, the boy who was born a girl before Mom's hysterectomy.
Until I was 10, the first of Mom's children, Carol Sue, and I got exactly the same gifts. Mom was convinced that she should make sure we each had the same no matter what our preferences were. Everything was duplicated, one for each of us. The dolls were either blonde like Carol or brunette like me, but otherwise were the same doll in every other detail.
Everything changed when I was told I was adopted. In spite of the sheaf of newspaper clippings about adopted children (then adults) were from the perspective that the adopted felt they had the best kind of life available. Many of them said the same things, they were chosen by their parents not the result of whatever was given by the pregnancy lottery as the luck of the draw. Mom had told me the same thing, "We chose you out of all the children because we wanted you." It wasn't until many years later that I found out they had almost adopted two other children, cousins like me, who had lived with them until my birth mother showed up pregnant and promised to give me up when I was born. When I found out, it finally made sense that those children were the favorites because for a time they had lived with my parents before Aunt Edith took them back. All of my life, Mom had favored them over me just as she favored her own biological children over me.
My sense of self and views about life were drawn from the feast and famine situation where the feast began when I was born and was replaced by famine after discovering I was adopted. I was taught a reward versus punishment system where I was punished for not being hers and only rewarded when her own children were rewarded and I was allowed whatever was left. I was the first punished when her children were bad because I was the oldest and should watch over and take care of her children. I was praised whenever I won awards and accolades at school, but was not paid for my grades as the others were because paying for my grades would bankrupt my parents. I was told I should understand because I was the oldest and always made good grades. I couldn't understand how 10 cents for an A and a nickel for a B would bankrupt my parents since the list of subjects being graded was seldom more than a dollar. Of course, my siblings were rewarded with money because their grades were Cs, Ds, and Fs and Fs were never paid. Punishment and grounding followed Fs and I was ordered to help them with their schoolwork (do their work when essays and writing were part of the assignment). I refused to do their work since I argued, "They will learn nothing and won't be able to pass tests if I do the work for them." I couldn't -- and wouldn't -- take their tests for them anyway. Mom relented at last.
Mom's plan for keeping things equal failed long before I was told I was adopted because she couldn't control what friends would buy for me when it was my birthday. Instead, Mom decreed that Carol Sue would get duplicate gifts and I would keep one of the duplicates for my own since it was my birthday. As we got older and there were fewer birthday parties, Mom denied my birth mom the right to buy anything for me unless she also bought gifts for my siblings so everything would be equal. The only gift I got from my birth mom, Aunt Anne, was Heidi by Johanna Spyri and the electric rollers she bought me on my 16th birthday. Luckily, I only got one set of electric rollers. She bought Carol Sue her own set of electric rollers the following week. Everything was supposed to be equal even though Carol Sue's birthday was until November and mine was in February.
The only time I got a Christmas gift that wasn't the same as Carol Sue's, or cost more than Jimmy and Tracy's gifts, was when I received an easel and paints when I was about 14. I had learned to draw and painted (watercolor and oils) and Mom decided I had some talent. I learned I could draw when I was in the 4th grade and saved the comics from the Sunday paper every week to draw the comics that interested me. I took art in high school and earned a scholarship to the Art Academy when I was in junior high school. I copied paintings at museums and those few hanging in our home and gave away a ship I painted to my junior high school vice-principal when I drew his name to be his Christmas Angel.
I planned to study art in college, but was told that wasn't allowed because artists don't make enough to support a family and I should set my sights on getting married to someone who could afford to support a family because otherwise I would never make it. Good thing I already had a job in data processing when I was informed I wasn't going to college since Mom's first priority was making sure there was enough money so my brother, 6 years behind me in school, could go to college as he would have a family to support.
I had also planned to be writer until Mom searched my room and found my journal, punishing me for everything in the journal she didn't approve of and she didn't approve of much, especially the days I ranted about how she treated me and punished me for my siblings' mistakes which I had not caught and stopped before they were discovered and my parents had to pay for whatever they stole or damaged.
Maybe it was a good thing I got pregnant the first time I had sex and got married soon after being discovered because I had at least managed to find someone to support me even if Mom took my hard earned life savings to pay for the wedding even as she vetoed the white dress I picked out. Since I was not a virgin, I had no right to wear white, but white was all J.C. Penney had and I bought it. She rectified the white dress by sewing purple ribbon on the cuffs and around the neck so everyone in church who thought I was a virgin would know I was already a fallen woman. Mom swore up and down every time the subject came up that she did not sew purple ribbon on the dress until I dug out the dress and handed it to her. The purple ribbons were faded, but quite obviously still purple. "I don't remember doing that," she said. "You must have done it later."
I got Mom's plain gold class ring from when she graduated from high school as my big gift. Carol Sue, Jimmy, and Tracy all got cars and diamond rings for wedding presents. Carol Sue also got a bedroom set to help Carol Sue and her new husband furnish their brand new house. But at least I had Mom's prize possession, her class ring.
When my husband and I asked my parents to help us with the down payment for our first house, Mom said no. Carol Sue, Jimmy, and Tracy were all helped when they went to buy their first homes. Mom even gave Grandma's house to Jimmy and his wife even though Grandma had given it to me. When they sold the house, the money they earned they used as a down payment on their next house. Meanwhile, I never bought a house and we lived from paycheck to paycheck with our three children, except for the time we lived in base housing.
The point of all this is that I never believed I had enough. I always wanted more. I wanted what my parents had. I wanted my own home and we could never afford the down payment on a house. My husband's parents nearly lost their house when his mother failed to make the mortgage payments because she spent the money on herself. His dad had to work extra hard to pay the back payments and get back on track; they couldn't afford to help us when they had to protect what they already had with three young daughters still in school and living at home.
Growing up with a feast/famine attitude, I never had enough. With 2 divorces behind me, I kept the feast/famine attitude long after the kids were grown and gone. I never had enough when I could finally afford it, going into debt to get everything I wanted since all I had was what I could earn. Since my career went into the toilet with what I could earn because no one was paying much for trained and educated workers since much of the work could now be done with minimal human input, it's a good thing I don't need much.
I have finally reached the point where I do not need much, outside of unprocessed food and well water. I make enough to get by, but I have more than enough from my accumulation phase. Instead, my needs are simple, good, clean, organic food which I grow myself when the weather is good, and clean well water without fluoridation or additives. Since I have my own well, I also don't get the insufficiently processed city water full of anti-depressants, mood elevators, and narcotics that are part of the city water that is full of such Big Pharma drugs that have gone undigested through people's digestive systems and have been excreted in urine. The reclamation of gray water is not fine enough to eradicate these drugs from the water and is not part of every city's water system, continuing to treat those who do not drink bottled water that still contains water from such contaminated sources and marked as coming from springs and soft drink bottling companies that are not regulated or tested frequently and accurately enough. After all, the point is profit and not truthful marketing and advertising.
Good thing I have enough. Bad thing that the average consumer is still a slave to the easy credit and highly processed (or inadequately monitored and tested) food and drink where the bottom line is still profit at all costs. Forget about people who own stock in food and drink companies/corporations. It's not like it is in the movies, like Solid Gold Cadillac, where some nice person is involved in shareholder relations and cares about them and what the company does with its money and how much it pays the board. We long ago reached the point where shareholders and board members cared about consumers -- the average consumer -- and what their products do as long as they make a profit in a world where there is never enough. Ask Donald Trump, Obama, and Bill Gates who much of their wealth they put back into circulation and give to the poor, ill, and destitute. There is never enough.
That is all. Disperse.