Gratitude Sunday: My Medicare Birthday; or, Riding The Unicorn

Gratitude * Sunday

Quotes of the Week – “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” Betty Friedan

“Don’t underestimate the transition between farewell and new departure. Give yourself the time you need. Some thresholds are too wide to be taken in one stride.” Nina George in The Little Paris Bookshop

Sunday Haiku
Blue jay calls outside
my kitchen window. Squirrel
alert! Nut dispute.

Sunday Musings
I never wanted to be or to own a unicorn. I’m not a rainbows, sparkles, and fairy dust kind of girl, though I do believe in magic. I was never into horses either, they are too darn big. I like all those things, but as hard as I try to be up-beat and light-hearted, the struggles of my life and the world weigh heavily upon me and fairy dust doesn’t lift the weight. High school yearbooks have been in the news lately, and I dug mine out. From the comments made by other people I see I have been an opinionated, cranky, thought-provoking person for a long time.

It’s my Medicare birthday this week and I’m not sure what I expected. I often use my birthday for self-evaluation. I worked all my life. I learned how to save some of what I earned. I invested in a home I’m still paying for and the privilege of paying a property tax bill every year. I worked for the American dream even though I did not fit the stereotype of the breadwinner as male and middle-class. I’ve scratched my way forward each day as a female from a lower middle-class family. Only one person gets to be Oprah; she is an anomaly: the rags to riches myth doesn’t work for most of us lower income people in America, regardless of our skin color.

I wanted to support my family in comfort since I was the one who had to do the supporting. I wanted a secure home, an education for my child, and a comfortable and dignified retirement. I don’t need anything fancy, just decent, reliable, secure, you know, where the roof doesn’t leak, the car always runs, and the mortgage and bills are always paid on time. I don’t think that’s too much to ask after working for 50 years in the United States of America. For all those years of work all I earned and all I have to look forward to is the struggle of poverty, always being on the edge of collapse, of losing everything I worked for with one illness, injury, or faux pas. The American dream ends with my generation as so many of us are doing more poorly than our parents.

I used to amuse myself on my birthday by sending my mom a birth announcement that her baby girl had arrived. I created a different card every year with pretty, giggling, cooing babies on the front. I liked the ones with the lines on the inside for birth place and length and weight and I would make up weird or goofy answers to fill in the blanks. Weight:dis one fat baby. Length: two hands. Birthplace: between her mother’s legs. (Yes, I know. Weird.) I challenged myself to new answers every year and every year it would spark a phone call and a delightful conversation. Mom’s been gone five years now. If she heard me now I can hear her say, “Chin up, babe.”

I always feel a little blue, perhaps even morbid, around my birthday as I say goodbye to another year. It’s not like I’ve ever celebrated much as there have never been any funds to do so. In my life, fixing the car means canceling Christmas. Replacing an unrepairable washer means negotiating a bill payment with somebody else, not just payments to the washer vendor. I also feel like I get less done each year. I have to remind myself I am a human being, not a human doing. Tasks get done as they get done; I’m slow.

Some years it’s been difficult to even scrape up the money for a cake. I know that sounds pathetic when a box cake and a couple eggs, and some butter and confectioner’s sugar for the frosting can be had for under five dollars. Five dollars can also buy enough bathroom tissue (toilet paper) for the three people in my immediate family for a week, and since we use that stuff every day, I’m buying the TP. We don’t need to eat cake every day. Do you know what that’s like? To be conscious of every five dollars and how far it will stretch, of the value of every refundable can and bottle, of whether you can afford TP this week?

Visual and social media wants us to feel even worse about ourselves if we live in poverty, making vivid movies and TV shows and magazine articles that we can compare ourselves with both ways. We don’t want to look like the poverty they portray, and yet many of us won’t ever achieve the middle-class standard depicted. At least I have a TV, a computer, and a phone to see all the consumer marketing thrown at us.

I am the dichotomy. I have, but I also don’t have. I want to enjoy unicorn thinking, for everything in my life to be sweetness and light because I still have my home and my abundance of stuff, but being a person of generational poverty, it is not in my DNA. Instead I am riding the unicorn, on the back of the unknown, into a future unlikely to be sprinkled with fairy dust. Then again, you never know. That’s one of the issues with being Libra born, always trying to achieve balance and never quite sure if you’re there, change being the only constant. You never know, because weird stuff happens in life. I have a great abundance of stuff; I merely lack financial security in which to relax and enjoy my abundance. Of all the stuff I have, the good stuff, the cool stuff, the maybe-worth-something stuff, the definitely-worth-nothing stuff, selling all that stuff would not give me enough to get that security, because the stuff mostly isn’t worth anything; the stuff that is worth big dollars people don’t want to pay what it’s worth, they want a deal. It’s OK; I’m still enjoying my stuff as it slowly goes away.

Perhaps I’m more morbid than usual this year as I grow less able, and as I see my legacy with open eyes, the son raised in poverty, anxiety, depression, and insecurity, and facing his own struggles in the daily fight against despair. His whole generation is working against a system rigged against the poor, who no matter how hard they work, can barely earn enough to live on and will have little to show for their contributions as decent, honest, hardworking, accountable Americans.

It hasn’t helped my mindset this year to be in the middle of a horrifying nightmare of political destruction with all the policies and progress we’ve made over the last 50 years being undermined and reversed for the sake of lining the pockets of the already wealthy. There I am again oddly unbalanced as I have this daunting feeling it is so much worse than we all think and praying decent, honest, hardworking, accountable Americans will prevail until the course changes. Hopefully soon.

It may be my Medicare birthday, but I am going to have to fight for what I already paid. Next year is my retirement birthday, and it looks like I’m going to have to fight for the Social Security money I invested in the American system, or there is the possibility I may have to bite the bullet and take Social Security earlier than planned which means I get less (though I’ve always lived with less). I didn’t have a choice to opt out and save that money on my own. And if I want to opt out of mandatory Medicare, the law says my Social Security earned income retirement payments will be denied. Social Security is not a “benefit”; it’s a fund we paid our earned income into, and the administration over the last 40 years has abused that fund and spent it on other things (read: stolen without our permission).

Enough of morbidity and being disconcerted with society and the administration of American government. I’m old enough now to be tired of fighting. I’m way past tired of being poor. I’m tired of having a government who steals my money. I’ve been fighting all my life. I’ve been poor all my life. I’ve lived with less all my life. I want that retirement tax investment I earned back.

So, I’m 65, my Beatles birthday year is history. So what? It’s one more day, one more battle, one more opportunity to define justice and use my words for it, one more unicorn to learn to feed and care for.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – I love the creamy white fronds of pampas grass, and it comes in several varieties. A maroon seed pod of unusual shape. Here’s some yellow leaves showing off their light. And a tree of many colors. A row of many trees and many colors.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} The Ghost and Mr Chicken (1966, rated G) with Don Knotts, master of faces. Sometimes you just have to lighten up, even with scary movies. * Peter Rabbit (2018, PG) the semi-animated one. Sometimes you have to lighten up altogether. * The Beguiled (1971, rated R) the original with Clint Eastwood. I saw this movie many years ago on TV, in black and white, cut up by commercials, and remember being spooked by the decisions of the women in an isolated plantation when a wounded Union soldier appears on their property during the end of the American Civil War. Now in this re-viewing, the soldier is not blameless and works the jealousies of the women against each other. The women exact some revenge. There is something very frightening about the passions of isolated, lonely women. * The Portrait of a Lady (1996, rated PG – 13), a Jane Campion film from the novel by Henry James. I’m not sure what is more frightening, being manipulated into marrying an abusive and controlling husband, or having several men fall in love with you while you are still married to him. Ms Campion usually brings unusual twists to her film-work and this period piece did not fail to deliver.

Currently ReadingThe Little Paris Bookshop (2015, fiction) by Nina George. We pick up a couple passengers as we float down the Seine in search of lost love. * Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone in the Dust, Why That is a Problem, and What to do About It (2017, sociology, wealth) by Richard V. Reeves. The author defines opportunity hoarding, explains which opportunities the wealthy think belongs only to them, such as exclusive neighborhoods with more well-funded schools, legacy college placements, and nepotistic corporate internships, and why the hoarding of opportunities are detrimental to a fully functioning society at all economic levels.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Being able to research and think critically for myself.
  • Having my eyes wide open.
  • Being able to determine truth from lies.
  • Having a social media platform to help encourage people to vote.
  • Understanding how much misunderstanding and misinformation is out there.
  • Having words to understand my crankiness.
  • Finding a difference between happiness and contentment.
  • Friends who tell me I am too hard on myself. I understand.
  • Some mild early autumn days and neighborhoods so quiet you can hear the wind music the leaves make.
  • Remembering I have a Halloween tablecloth and getting it on the table before Halloween.
  • Days with nothing on the schedule when you get other stuff done.
  • The last of the season’s green beans.
  • Three more weeks of the local farmers market.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

This entry was posted in abundance, Aging, Education, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Housing, Nature, Parenting, Photography, Poetry, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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