The Life and Times of Florence Knitingale

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

On Being Kept

It will come as no surprise to those who know me well that I do not believe I have much of a future as a "kept woman". For one thing, I don't own a pair of those fluffy, high-heeled, backless slippers that such women wear in movies and, if I did, I feel certain that falling down the stairs is probably not all that sexy. I also do not know how to make a martini (and the man keeping me, i.e. Mr. K, doesn't like them anyway), I get too cold to lounge around in a sheer peignor (and I feel that the cat snags that such a garment would inevitably collect in my house are probably also not so sexy), and I've never been able to figure out how to take a bubble bath while looking alluring (generally I just get bubbles up my nose and knock the candles over and terrify the cat so she falls in the water). Mostly, though, it's this whole dependence thing.

See, I worked full-time for most of my adult life. And, because I'm a caregiver, all of those jobs (teacher, medical assistant, childcare director) were of the sort where running around frantically from crisis to crisis and very occasionally actually having time to pee was the norm--even expected. I'm pretty sure that no one doing those jobs ever gets a raise if they haven't pulled out most of their own hair in desperation at some point. So, I kinda figured that going to school full-time and not working would adjustment. A bit of one. And it is--you know, like a 7.8 earthquake is a little adjustment of tectonic's that kind of adjustment.

Most days I'm able to remember that I'm working towards a goal for both my husband and myself, and it's an honorable one, and so on and so on and so on and today isn't one of those days. Can you tell? It might have something to do with the fact that, between the weather and the holiday I haven't had any classes for nearly a week. I've not only done my homework, I've read the entire textbook for both on-site classes. I've knitted Dulaan hats. I've laundered every piece of clothing in the house that I could get my hands on (Mr. K would really appreciate it, though, if I waited for him to take them off next time. Big baby.) I am frightened of the fact that the following things are starting to sound good to me:

Organizing my spices alphabetically
Cleaning the grout with a toothbrush
Knitting foot warmers for the outdoor cats
Lying in front of the fire with Ed just to see if it's as good as he claims.

I've become so excited to see the mailman that I think he's going to start delivering my mail by catapault so he doesn't have to talk to me. I think I heard him mutter something the other day about wishing this house had a vicious dog instead of a crazy lady.

All of which leads to this: I had absolutely no idea how deeply ingrained in me was the idea that my value as a person stems from what I do, from my career, from my ability to offer some sort of proof that I'm earning my way in the world. I'm sure this is a growth experience for me, and that I'll somehow come out of it a stronger, better person or some other such happy crappy that people say when they really don't have the faintest idea how it feels but really want you to stop whining about it. Hell, I want me to stop whining about it. But I'm 41 years old and I'm suddenly not entirely sure who I am. I mean, I'm not crazy--I know who I am in literal terms. But the ephemeral stuff....what I present to people, what I contribute, what value I give back to the world...well, all that stuff's a bit up in the air. And I really suck at "up in the air." Ask anyone who's ever met me.

I didn't mean to get so deep today...but I think it's these feelings that are currently holding my writing muse--and my wit--in a stranglehold. This feeling that I should be doing more--hell, should be more. Because, what am I if I'm not holding the pain or lessening the burden for another person? I'm amazed to find that I don't know.

I saw a bumper sticker recently that summed this up quite well. It said "Oh, no. Another growth opportunity." And so it is, in the end. I need to pull up my big girl panties and deal with it. My thanks to all of you for putting up with my outpouring of angst. It helps to write it down. In the end, I do realize how very lucky I am. I have a great husband, I have a great opportunity, and I have you guys. That's all good stuff.

Time to go alphabetize those spices.


  • At 1:05 PM, Anonymous MonicaPDX said…

    Ok, let's see if this survives, as there are two copies of the post. ;)

    I know exactly how you feel, Mrs. K; that's what I went through the first several years I was on disability. (Which is pretty much permanent, I think by's been 15 years since I worked. Burnout plus depression/panic attacks and etc.; I don't even have scars to show, dammit.) It actually took my doctor to make me realize that was a factor contributing even more to the depression! (A GP, btw; helluva lot better than the psych I saw for a couple of months.) He asked me one visit if not working made me feel like I was a failure. He put it more tactfully, but that was the gist. [g] I was stunned, because I'd never really thought of that with the forefront of my brain. I'd been too busy worrying. It was like a great light dawning, so to speak. ;)

    I was raised with the idea that you graduated from HS, moved the hell out of the house, and either earned your way to continue through school or just flat got a job, y'know? Getting married was certainly a nice possibility, and presumably would happen one day, but it wasn't the be-all and end-all of a girl's life. The point was that you were expected to take care of yourself. Successfully. Not get rich or anything, just not have to go running back to mommy and daddy, or get married so someone would take care of you. And I graduated from HS in '73, so this still wasn't an overwhelmingly majority attitude... especially from parents who'd been in their 20's during the 1940's.

    For whatever reasons one goes through this, I'd say the feelings are the same. And I don't really have any brilliant advice. (Good thing, you'd probably want to throw something in my general direction, and we know what that could entail. [g]) However, I can say this: Eventually, you do adjust. It's like learning to live with...well, a disability. It can take several years - god, can it! - but for me, at least, I finally stopped freaking about it. I think it's like all those other situations where you wince at hearing, "It just takes time." ::ducks hastily:: But it does. Took me about 6 years or so. Presumably, you'll be long out of school before that much time has passed, and you'll be back to working and feeling useful again.

    And if nothing else, your blogging is a joy and many giggles and helps me a lot, so there ya go - you've accomplished something! I'm sure your other readers will agree. ::hugs::

  • At 1:34 PM, Blogger Marianne said…

    Yep, I know, I understand your feelings, you know I do....that said, kept woman? how many 'kept' women do you know who knit their sweeties socks? invent,and bake incredible goodies? not to mention that thing you do with the spiders, oh yeah, dance.....dancing with the spiders... You know what you're doing, it's all good.
    Bending the bars and making good time.

  • At 1:35 PM, Blogger Marianne said…

    Oh yeah, this post published twice, go in and delete one...

  • At 2:05 PM, Blogger Jo said…

    And when you've finished with the spices you can start on your lines! I've put you in detention for remarks about purple sheep!
    I do know how you feel though, at least you are working towards a goal, my goal is to stay home and make stuff for aslong as I can get away with it.

  • At 3:38 PM, Blogger Ms. Knitingale said…

    I've no idea how I managed to post two of this....but I dumped one of them. In any case, you guys just don't know how much it helps to have your kind words. Monica, you rock. I can't imagine what a hard road that's been for you...but I think you're quite awesome. Sorry about the purple sheep, Jo...but do you happen to have any turquoise ones? = ) Marianne, I do know you get it. And I know you're there....and here.

  • At 4:14 PM, Anonymous Jill said…

    I enjoy reading angsty posts. Its just one of those things that make me feel a little less alone. FSF Jo said something to me once about how all of us knitbloggers should be able to get together and actually lean on each other in person. Hugs for everyone.

    Cuddle your cats and keep on knitting!

  • At 5:43 PM, Blogger Faren said…

    Yeah, I hate the waiting game too. This post and monicapdx's comment really touched a chord in me. See, I'm trying to get disablity for the headache I've had for 2+ years now. Yes, I said headache. It has never gone away, just one long neverending headache. Anyway, I had to quit working as a rehab. aide in a nursing home. I loved that job. I can sometimes work part time for 2 -3 hrs at a time. Not many jobs will let you do that.
    Beyond that I try to get dinner on the table and keep up with the house, which can be difficult.
    I spend the majority of my time with a frozen bag of peas on my head, there isn't much you can do in that position. Which is why I started knitting, at least I'm doing something kinda productive.

    So yeah, I understand the feeling of being kept, of being driftless.
    I finally realized I would feel less guilty if I made my husband's life as easy as possible at home, so I try to take over everything I can.

    You might think about volunteering at a nursing home. That might help, even if you just talk with them. Or anything else to make you feel productive, surely(oh, sorry you asked us not to call you that didn't you?)you have some odd jobs or projects you could do?
    Hope you start feeling better!

  • At 11:17 PM, Anonymous angie Cox said…

    Kinda know what you mean here Florence.I only gave up work at 35 when I had Holly.For the first two years I was bonkers with depression.Then the little possums start talking non-stop ,learning etc and it was bearable. At 8 Hols had to be taken out of school cos of bullying so we got stuck together but it got better as she talks like an adult ( well is an adult) .We do stuff together and I am happy knitting for hours.I missed my work-friends but they drifted off anyhow. I wonder now if when Holly leaves home I should do something like work but I could not stand anyone telling me what to do now. If you were home more you'd say "hang spring cleaning" and knit more maybe .I love home so wonder if I should have a go at painting when Hols leaves or Open University maybe . I might do volunteer work but extra cash would be lovely not feeling guilty about buying wool and paying for it myself. I am not sure what I'll do yet but I know that at least you will get out again weather permitting .

  • At 11:32 PM, Blogger Pat said…

    When you've sorted those spices, could you come over and sort mine!

    You'll be fine - once you get back into your classes you'll remember than you have a goal, and a worthy one at that. Sometimes it just takes the brain a little while to process major lifestyle changes but it always catches up in the end.

    Plus, apparently you can dance with spiders! You dance with spiders????? Now I'm in awe (I think).

  • At 3:18 AM, Blogger Jo said…

    I'll get right on and try some turquoise sheep next just for you!

  • At 9:37 AM, Blogger Charity said…

    I so hear you, Ms. K. What kind of madness is it to have these same feelings when you're at home with your 3 kids all day, and working at night (at the dreaded W-M, no less)? I would love to find whoever or whatever it was that taught us all that our value came from what we accomplished and produced, and put him/her/it through the shredder. In the meantime, you're doing great! You, and your goal, are of value. Feel free to go angst-ing whenever needed - you are loved here! :0)

    BTW - am I crazy, cause I don't see your email? Mine is charitygillett AT yahoo DOT ca if you want to drop me a line there!

  • At 1:33 PM, Anonymous marti said…

    I wish that I could come up with a magical answer for you. But I can't. Let us know what your summation of lying in front of the fire with Ed it... I don't think that it wall be all that comfy, but you never know. Has to be more comfortable than the chairs on Monday night though.


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