Life is a Motherfucker, But I’m a Bitch (aka Reinventing Myself)

I went to the library looking for a textbook on CSS, HTML, and creating web sites. There were many books on the shelves that were For Dummies and The Idiot’s Guide. The first time I saw a For Dummies textbook, I laughed. A friend, who’s no dummy at all, had Unix For Dummies. He’s a techie geek with a sense of humor. The title amused us. We laughed. We cracked up. We busted up. We rolled. We slapped our knees and fell over, kicking our feet up in the air. That was twenty years ago.

At this point in my life, I am sensitive about it. I don’t want to read a book For Dummies, or an Idiot’s Guide. I’ve been a dummy too often in my life. I’ve been a fucking idiot one too many times. My ego is bruised and tender. However, I don’t mind if the subject (or a process) is simplified to make it fast and easy to learn. I picked up a book called Creating Web Pages: Simplified. It says, “Simply the Easiest Way to Learn.” It’s a visual book–includes lots of graphics along with the text. Yup. That’ll do just fine.

I love books. So many books, so little time. I also love learning, expanding my knowledge and understanding. I looked around at other subjects, other categories, other books in the area near the tech books I was looking at. There were some I wanted to read, but I had to resist. Stick to priorities, I thought to myself. Then this one caught my eye: Women Reinvented: True Stories of Empowerment and Change. I picked it up. I looked at it. Quotes on the back cover:

“I had an inner yearning that craved to be satisfied. I thirsted for dignity, for independence, for the right to live without fear.”


“I began to feel a dizzying sense of freedom: the freedom to transform myself. To be the person I wanted to be.”

I put the book back on the shelf, picked it back up, put it back, picked it up, put it back. No. No time, I tell myself. No time. I returned to the task at hand: looking for a tech book on CSS, HTML, and/or creating web sites. After deciding on the tech book I want, I again pick up Women Reinvented. I really want to read this, I think to myself. I look at the table of contents. It’s divided into four parts:

  • Part One: Reclaiming Myself
  • Part Two: Finding My Calling
  • Part Three: Of Marriage and Motherhood
  • Part Four: My Spirit Renewed

I decide I need to read this book; I gotta read this book.

Some of the narratives in Women Reinvented are powerfully written. The first story is titled A Letter of Thanks to My Rapist. The narrative is as powerful as the title. So far, the stories in the section Finding My Calling are written by women with privileged lives changing career paths. But I’ve only read the first four, and there are five more to go.

Stories of privileged women are of less interest to me than stories about rising out of poverty, or worse, abuse. Like Dorothy Allison, the author of Bastard Out of Carolina. I have no fucking idea what it’s like to be fucking privileged. I have no fucking idea what’s it’s like to live with never a worry about whether or not tomorrow you will be able to eat, or how you will keep a roof over your head. Literally, not figuratively. Reading about a very privileged woman with a childhood that included “alpine and cross-country skiing and ice skating in winter, horseback riding and tennis lessons in summer”, who later in life, with her husband, “…spent an inordinate amount of time leaving New York for weekend escapes to Vermont, vacations with friends on cruises, even an impulsive weekend trip to Rome,” (impulsive, she says!) whining, “I found myself, midwinter, ruining my shoes on slushy sidewalks [in New York] and missing the bucolic settings I’d lived in before” (her Vermont childhood), makes me wanna say,”Oh, wait, lemme get my fucking violin.” (-.-)

I know, I know. That’s unfair. Life is life, and people are people. Even the stories in this book of privileged women are important because they are women who took risks. And, bottom line, that’s the point. It’s all relative.

My bitter asshole reaction 👿 comes from my having poverty hanging around since the day I was born. It’s like having a jackass lover I can’t kick to the curb. Sometimes things have been solid, then, bam! back to square one. Motherfucking Poverty returns and says, “Baby, I can’t let you go.”

Being born into poverty is not my fault. Having a narcissistic mother who wanted to be taken care of and raising us on Welfare instead of making a living with her incredible seamstress skills isn’t my fault either. (The bitch could’ve been a contender on Project Runway! She’s that good. I was always in awe of her skill and talent. But it never occurred to her to make a living from it. She sewed for chump change so she could play the slot machines in Reno. :()

But not kicking poverty to the curb (yet) is my fault too. I know. I just couldn’t keep those mundane jobs working with idiots and often abusive supervisors, so I’d quit. I got into debt with school loans. I managed to get 33 graduate units, but, goddamnit, I couldn’t write that fucking thesis, so no Master’s. I still have this big, fat debt to pay back. A student loan that is double what I actually borrowed. 😦 But I want to pay it back. I borrowed fully intending to pay it back. But, fuck, right now I’m renting a room in my son’s apartment. I’m grateful I can be here, but this is not the way I want to live.

My ex was an abusive asshole. He always “joked” that he bought me for five dollars. That’s how much a marriage license cost in 1967. It was no joke. He owned me. My lord and master. He told me what I could and couldn’t do. When I was twenty-one, I said I wanted to work. But I was a high school dropout. He laughed at me. “Humph! What can you do?” he sneered. I told him I could work at the all-night diner up the street. “NO!” he screamed. I didn’t understand what the big deal was. “I don’t want you working there and having men grabbing your ass,” he screamed at me. I didn’t know enough about the world to even understand what the fuck he was talking about. (Lord have mercy, I most certainly understand now.) I needed a job training program, so I said I wanted to study computer programming at a business school. He said I was going to be a keypunch operator. (The Director allowed me to enroll on the promise that I would also get my high school diploma.) I was the only student in the keypunch program they ever had to finish with an A+. I went to work as a keypunch operator. My ex knew damn well if I learned computer programming I could leave him, because I would make enough moola to live on my own. Surely, he could guess it was in the back of my mind. Oh, hell no. He wasn’t gonna have that.

I left my ex after virtually fourteen (long) years of marriage. I was thirty. By then I had enrolled in a community college. My ex didn’t like that. He kicked the books out of my hands and ordered me to sit down and watch TV with him and the kids. One day I went to the counseling center on campus. I said I needed help to get away from my husband. “Don’t you have any family?” the counselor asked me. I had a mother, a father, three siblings, lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. “They’re no help,” I said. He helped me get in touch with a shelter for battered women.

At first my mother cried. “You can’t get a divorce. Think about the kids,” she said.

“I am,” I told her, “That’s why I filed for divorce.” I worked part-time on campus, and I was happy with hope. My mother said, “Why don’t you remarry? Then you don’t have to go to school.”

“I want to go to school,” I told her. “I like it.”

“You do?” she said, incredulously. INCREDULOUSLY! You hear me? IN CRED U LOUS LY!!!! Eventually, grief and rage took over and kicked me to the curb. That was ten years ago. As I write this, I dawns on me why. Of course, menopause kicked my ass too. It just layered itself on top of everything else. Oh, man, I am grateful that I feel better, lighter, and hopeful again. But I’m back to square one. Goddamnit.

For me, reading these stories in Women Reinvented, the most compelling and inspiring are the drug addict who gets clean, rejects the label “mentally ill”, and becomes a successful writer and writing teacher; the woman who loves and stands by an alcoholic asshole, putting his life and needs before hers, only to have him leave her after he finally gets sober; the professor who in her early fifties starts having flashes of her father molesting her, while her mother turned a blind eye. These narratives were in the first section: Reclaiming Myself. Stories of healing and personal growth.

All the stories in this book are of women who tap into inner strengths, find the courage to make drastic changes in their lives, and manage to live with purpose and meaning. It doesn’t matter if she comes from poverty or privilege, has a supportive family or an abusive one. What matters is empowerment and change. I got on Amazon looking for Women Reinvented. There was one copy. I ordered it. These are stories I want to reread again and again.

A few days ago I finished reading Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers. It’s the fourth book on narcissism I have read, the second one that focuses specifically on daughters of narcissists. I’m good enough, I tell myself. I’m good enough. I don’t have to be perfect. I’m good enough. I want to believe I will still make it. I will succeed at something. I will do what my mother never did. And I will pay back the big fat student loan! Life ain’t over till it’s over. I’m only 62. 😛 

I want to teach myself HTML and CSS. I know there are web editors, but I find it more interesting to hand-code. It’s analogous to baking a cake from scratch vs opening a box of cake mix, add eggs, oil, and water. I don’t like using cake mix either. I prefer to bake from scratch.

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About Poet Dressed In Black

Poet living in San Francisco. I like telling stories too. I'm an introvert, and I like, need, solitude. I find that depth is a rare quality. Someone once said to me, "You're a very deep person. It must be really hard living like that. Most people aren't that deep." I said, "Yeah. It is hard. It really is."
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