Saturday, November 23, 2013

Privilege & Poverty

If you read certain ladyblogs like I do, you will hear the word privilege a lot. I always knew that I'd probably qualify as privileged but I never realized what the opposite of economic privilege -- poverty -- is truly like. Although I make a hobby studying both ends of the economic spectrum, poverty and what it must be like was never so clear to me as when I read this recent blog post that is getting a lot of attention called "This is What It's Like to be Poor"

I thought about the contrast between being poor/unprivileged and my rather privileged existence through the lens of something that happened to me this week. I went running in my hood last weekend 2x (also a privilege to have a safe space to run outside) and I somehow ended up inflaming a joint in my lower back. By Monday morning, walking, sitting and standing were all painful. By Tuesday, my colleague told me "call my chiropractor right now!" at about 2:30 in the afternoon. Just having access to that knowledge -- who to call for help, is a privilege. And then the even bigger privilege -- my private health insurance for which I pay $200 a month in premiums and i'm sure my job pays at least 2x that, covers every visit I need with not even a co-pay. My fancy insurance also reimburses me 1/2 of my weekly $200 therapist bill, for a therapist who is out of network (in network therapy is $30 a visit). And I've been going to my therapist for about 4 years now. Weekly. And insurance has never said anything. But back to my back issue. Because I have a white collar office job, I was able to just shoot off an email saying I'm leaving at 4:00 to go get my back fixed. If needed, I could even have worked from home for several days that week (except when I had business meetings). That flexibility is a privilege. My boss' only response was feel better. Plus, if something crazy were wrong and I had to be out of work for months and months, I have private long term disability insurance that I purchased on my own and I have another LTD policy through my job. I could get paid for not working for years. Finally, if I were permanently disabled, I could live for free with my mom forever probably. And she would help me navigate and advocate for me to ensure I got all the benefits a disabled person is entitled to.

When you open your eyes, it is easy to see the privilege around you. For example, I woke up this morning thinking how wonderful to have a quiet, safe and serene place to sleep and live.  I don't have to have roommates. I get to live in the exact neighborhood that I want to. Crime is not an issue (knock wood). I have easy access to everything I need -- from fantastic food to health care, and I don't even need a car to access it. But if I did, I could afford to buy and maintain one.

I think it's important to keep our eyes and ears open to be aware of our own privileges and ry hard to understand those who may not have them and figure out wayswe can help them overcome challenges that arise from their situation.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Smothering Power of Stuff

Yesterday I went with my mother, aunt and cousin to my grandmother's house to clean out any food that was left.  My grandmother's house is packed with stuff. My grandfather was a "collector" and hobbyist who left behind tons and tons of stuff. Not hoarder level or anything. But just every space is packed, from the basement to the garage to the shed. Being there is overwhelming.

Besides feeling like I was drowning in stuff, the stuff brings out an ugly attitude in my mother. She accuses the caregivers that lived there of stealing what I think are pretty worthless valuables. She rants and raves about them. Meanwhile, she has inherited what most people would consider a sizeable sum, but yet is obsessed over the loss or theft of this $500 or less trinket. It blows my mind.

We also had a huge fight because my grandmother had always wanted me to take her china when she passed. There are 8 place settings. I declared that I only wanted 4 because I did not have room and would never use 8. My mother insisted that I take all or none.

Today with the benefit of a little space and time, I realize that I never want to go back to my grandmother's house again, at least not when my mother is there and probably not ever. The stuff is literally toxic in my mind now. There's no room to breathe and I personally feel there is nothing of value there and it should all be thrown out. My mother has declared that everyone in the family will come on one day in a few weeks and take what they want, but the few things that I would want are not worth going back for. I think my mother will be surprised because I think most of my cousins also won't even bother coming. What would they want out of a 95 year old woman's house?

It's a good lesson learned as I simplify my own living space. A good reminder for why it really is much healthier to live with less. I want to make room in my house for love, for light, for my soul to breathe. You can't do that when you are buried under mounds of stuff.