Last weekend I was at a writing workshop – this time as a participant, though I am oftentimes a leader at the same venue. One of the other women who I met last month asked me, “So, what is it you do?”
I responded like I often do: with a comma laden stream of consciousness “I do this and that and those and them and these other things…” followed up in my next breath… “oh, yeah, and that too.”
I wasn’t always this way.
Once upon a time in my first and last job as a Mommy I was a Deputy Conservator. My first day on that job was October 24, 1994. Yes. I remember because the entire time I was there it felt like a place I was sentenced.
I did it for all the right reasons: I was supporting my husband who wanted to start his own law practice. I had the job of being the “Good Wifey” and providing health insurance and meals on the table for my family.
On paper, the Sentence/Job looked perfect. I would be working with folks with severe mental illness as what is often called a Public Guardian. I was to make decisions much like a parent would for her child except this is the one position outside the criminal system that will insist people live in a specific place and take specific medicine and have a specific budget which I manage for them, as measly as most of their money was – primarily a cap for SSI and sometimes Social Security kicked in as well.
The only people I served were people the court decided had so much interference from the symptoms of their mental illness they were neither able to provide themselves with food, clothing and shelter, they also couldn’t accept third party assistance.
Most of my clients loved me. I loved nearly all of my clients.
Even the ones who threatened to kill me.
The whole death threat story has become legendary. When I had worked for the county for four and a half years, two of my mentally ill clients threatened to kill me. They had very specific threats with very specific ways to implement them.
I was scared. Beyond scared. I had been going to therapy for the first incident – I had broken out in hives, I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t enjoy myself – and then the second threat happened. It got worse. I would pace and talk too quickly and not be able to sleep. I still had hives.
My co-workers and boss were reasonably helpful, but my boss was more condescending than I can put into words. He is one of the few people in this world I don’t care for at all. I’m over detesting him, that doesn’t serve anyone but mostly I just don’t want to ever encounter him again.
In fact, it wasn’t the death threats that made me leave my job, it was the way I was treated by the bureaucracy where I worked that felt even more hazardous to my health and safety. Taking time off and going through the process of a mental health leave gave me a lot of courage and a lot of insight.
I was finally a self advocate.
I was finally breaking through other people’s expectations of me into the me I was always meant to be.
I have had jobs in the past. I have had many first jobs. The job I had first as a Mom is also the last I will have as a Mom.
Now I am many things, some of which I have put in a non-list list.
I am a quirky personified comma lover. I don’t have a job, I have a wardrobe labeled, “clothes for the things I love to do which sustain my life work and my family.” Attire: a writing dress, a poet performer beret, an advocate suit, a professional expert back pack, blogger pencil eraser, a Mommy nurses hat/life crossing guard stop sign and of course the requisite compact suv to drive around far too endlessly, an artist’s smock adorned with paint, mod podge and spray adhesive because I often get these on my hands which I then wipe on my smock.
I am blessed.
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This post was inspired by the folks at Scintilla13 - Here's what they have to tell us:
We believe that who we are is informed by our stories. Here, we want to offer you a space to introduce yourself, and a guide to share your history and make some connections along the way. We’ll be offering daily prompts for two weeks beginning on March 13th.