The other day I was on the phone speaking with a lawyer. Gasp! I know, an actual real live phone conversation, not a text! What is the world coming to?
We came to the point in the discussion where I was asked some questions like these:
Lawyer: How old are you?
Me: Forty something. (hidden to protect the aging and innocent)
Lawyer: Married, Widowed, Divorced, Never Married?
Me: Single, Never Married.
Lawyer: How is that possible?
Enero sits at desk on the phone blinking several times without speaking.
[SFX: Blink Blink Blink with some Wind Rushing Through an Empty Street in a Ghost Town]
Me: (after a good long pause) It is possible because I was focused on my education and career.
My first reaction was to say WTF; however, I did not. Then, why is that his reaction? Why is being Single at my age so weird and not normal for the majority?
My answer is simple, “My priority was to be true to myself. I chose to pursue my dreams and goals, education and career first.”
When relationships came along that was awesome too; BUT, first priority was to be true to me and do what I wanted to do: Live my passions and make them real.
When we were children, we all wanted to be something when we grew up and even as adult children, we don’t stop dreaming of the future. For me, a girl from a small town in Missouri, I can remember wanting to be a rock star one summer, a movie star the next – sometimes a truck driver with a gold and black truck. (My handle was “Goldie”. I think I may have watched too many “B.J. and The Bear” episodes?)
Another great flash black took place during grade school. I was sitting outside at recess in a creepy, multi-level root system of this great ancient tree, brainstorming horror films with a few of my classmates.
My point? Not once at this time did my imagination weave a yarn including a married with children storyline – and this has stayed true for most of my adult life.
Adulting has included the full-time work and school combo, plus some internships and freelance gigs with an occasional relationship here and there. It was and is a beautiful yet sometimes exhausting balancing act of creative pursuit.
I am not anti-relationship or marriage; but, I am also ok with me, myself, and I. I adore my friends’ kids and family units – this was just not my focus. And so, I fall into the Hetero-Queer category and I am quite alright with that, as are many of my other single friends.
The only time it becomes NOT OK is when we are forced into a relationship with a chronic illness, a selfish partner that didn’t even bother to take us out to dinner and a movie first. How rude!
I have read many an article or blog entry about living with an illness like multiple sclerosis, and how the eventual need to stop working occurs, as it does for some of us. When that happens, where do we turn?
In most of these stories we hear the voices of the Married or Partnered, but the tale of the Singles is silent. The chronically ill with husbands, wives and partners at their side are able to step down to part or, less than part-time status, because that financial (and emotional) support is there. Not that it is easy, but it is something versus nothing at all.
The Singles – well – we do not have this option. Our families are often far away, and really, moving back in with the parent(s), while the offer is incredibly kind and unconditionally loving and awesome of them, can be suicide of the soul. Most likely they now live in a city that is foreign to us. Not to mention, every place and everyone we know as adults, the friends who have become our “framily” would now be across the country. This is very sad and very depressing.
Almost as sad and depressing as the frustration upon realizing we no longer can do the work we once did at the rate we did. It is a recipe for “roll up in a ball and cry for days” – Although, we do not do that very often. Because we can’t.
As warriors, single or partnered, we commonly swallow our tears and pride and bottle up the depression and keep on trudging.
I am not sure I know the solution, but I do know the support in this U.S. for the elderly and disabled is not sufficient:
“One in five Americans has a disability (the current population is around 320 million). Despite huge barriers to work – including for people with milder disabilities – the vast majority of people receive nothing in the way of disability benefits. For many who don’t qualify food stamps (a federally funded programme for the most impoverished people) is an essential, if meagre lifeline.”
“According to the OECD, SSDI payments average $1,140 per month (£777) and are much less than the benefits paid by most other advanced nations placing the US 30th out of 34 countries in international rankings.”
“Most claims (which call for strict medical assessments as well as meeting additional criteria) are denied. Only four in 10 people are eventually approved after all levels of appeals while a fifth of recipients live in poverty.”
We did not ask for these illnesses that caused the detour in our life path, and we definitely should NOT be penalized for taking the road less traveled with independence, passion and creative focus. We did it because it was what we were meant to do.
Ideally, in the world of “make-believe” we would live in a country where we could work the hours we are able, single or not, and receive the ‘difference’ in the form of a subsidy from the government.
We should not HAVE to:
•Move back in with the parents
•Stay in a relationship that is unhealthy
•Partner up to be financially stable
Live in poverty while on disability or while working less than full-time
“…We have a moral duty to remove the barriers to participation, and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of people with disabilities. Governments throughout the world can no longer overlook the hundreds of millions of people with disabilities who are denied access to health, rehabilitation, support, education and employment, and never get the chance to shine.” –Professor Stephen W Hawking
“Existing public services for people with disabilities are often inadequately funded, affecting the availability and quality of such services. Adequate and sustainable funding of publicly provided services is needed to ensure that they reach all targeted beneficiaries and that good quality services are provided. Contracting out service provision, fostering public-private partnerships, notably with not-for profit organizations, and devolving budgets to persons with disabilities for consumer-directed care can contribute to better service provision.” – World Health Organization 2011
Some facts and figures from some other countries who treat their people right:
“The Netherlands introduced a new disability-benefit system in 2006, with some similar features. Workers with assessed earnings incapacity of 35%-79% receive a wage supplement. They must be using at least half of their remaining work capacity. People who are not working, or working less than the minimum, receive a flat-rate benefit. Its value is considerably less than the former disability benefit.” –OCED 2010
“Luxembourg has shifted people with some work capacity from sickness benefits onto job-search support. This takes the form of a clearly-defined ‘redeployment’ procedure. If people cannot find a job, they receive a payment of the same value as disability benefit. But they are subject to the same test of 5 availability for work as other unemployed people. When they find a job, they can get a permanent payment to compensate for lower earnings…” -OECD 2010
“Compensation for sick leave in Norway is often described as the most generous in the world: employees receive 100% of salary from day one for up to a year…After a year claimants are assessed for disability benefits. This can be rapid, but it can also take a year or two while they go through a process of rehabilitation to try to get them into work. In contrast to many countries where disability benefits are only available for those in the labour market, here it is a universal right. Benefits are calculated at two-thirds of a person’s gross salary three to five years before the disability occurred…” – THEGUARDIAN.COM
Someday, maybe the world of “make-believe” will be real. Maybe countries around the world will fix their broken systems.Maybe all the chronically ill, singles and elderly will build ‘tiny home‘ communities in lands where fertile cannabis farms and organic produce sustains the economic and financial health of the group over time.
It is a nice thought to dream of, while lounging under the clear night skies of childhood as shooting stars phase far and wide across the universe.
Thanks for following my thought poem, my sort of tangential salad with some sprinkling of factual spices on top.
Enero is a digital media storyteller, living in Chicago where she works as a producer, shooter and editor. She was diagnosed in 2007 with Multiple Sclerosis and while it caused a detour in her path, she continues her focus, co-existing with the MonSter, and even allows it to have its voice now and again in her work. Her long term goals include a series based on living with the “creature”, and how we re-invent the roles in our lives and in many ways become stronger individuals with eyes and hearts that are much more open and wise.
THEGUARDIAN.COM, 15 April 2015. Web.
“Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers” | © OECD 2010
“World Report on Disability 2011” | © World Health Organization 2011