The Women That Strength Built

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Can Marriage Lead to Poverty? March 19, 2010

45% of all women who have gone through divorce are now living at the poverty level in this country.

– Statistic provided by H&R Block 

I learned this amazing fact when I went through my divorce.  And it was easy to believe.  All I had to do was look at what my life had become.  I went from being a successful business owner with a home, a husband, two cars, and several pets to having absolutely nothing.  Suddenly, I was living in an apartment, driving a 10-year-old car and making $6.25 an hour working retail.  Do I need to mention that $6.25 an hour didn’t even cover my bills?  In time, I found a somewhat better retail job.  But things are still tight.  I still struggle to make ends meet.  And I never go on the trips, have the possessions, or do the things other people seem to do.  And it’s hard struggling day after day.

 At least I’m not trying to support any children.  Many of the women who fall into the above statistic are single mothers whose husbands don’t pay child support.  They are in a far worse situation than I am, and their lives are much more difficult.  I believe it’s this fact that scares many women into staying in unhappy marriages.  Without their husband’s paycheck and insurance, how would they survive?  If he skipped out on child support, how would they and their children live?  These are very valid questions.

 It is easy to convince yourself to stay in an unhappy marriage.  It is much harder to find the courage to leave, especially if doing so would put you at a disadvantage.  But too many women think the decision is up to them.  What do you do when he comes home one night and says he wants a divorce?  What then?

Don’t wait until you find yourself faced with this situation.  There are ways to prepare yourself.  If you never need them, that’s fine.  But it’s better to be prepared.  Find the time and money to go back to school.  Work part-time, even volunteer, so you will have some skills for a resume.  Start your own savings account.  Have at least one credit card in your own name.  Have contingency plans.  Where will you go?  Who will help you?  What resources can you take with you?

 Listed on the blogroll are some sites that provide assistance to women in need.  They are there if you need them.  All you have to do is reach out.  And even if you are in a happy marriage, you may still need contingency plans.  Don’t be like my best friend whose husband had a heart attack in his 40s.  Even with life insurance, etc., she had three children to raise and had never worked a day in her life.  Planning ahead makes you strong.  It keeps you safe.  It gives you options.  And options give you freedom.  Believe me; you would rather have the freedom to choose your own life than to let someone else choose it for you.

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Did You Want to Join the Circus? March 1, 2010

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”

–       Rachel Carson

 I went to see Cirque de Soleil today.  And I marveled at all they accomplished in only two hours.  They created a small universe of exquisite beauty and talent.  The sets, costumes, and lighting were unparalleled.  Their performers’ talent was truly amazing and unique.  And the show’s ability to transport the audience back to childhood wonderment was truly worth the price of admission.  But more than that, I marveled at how there’s a place for everyone in the show, and if you extrapolate, a place for everyone in this world no matter how different they are.

For example, on one stage I saw contortionists, fire dancers, acrobats, singers, musicians, and clowns.  Where else in the world do you see some of these people?  And do you wonder if when they were little they worried where they might fit into the big picture?  Most children who go to their parents and say “I want to be a fire dancer” will be steered in another direction.  They will be gently, and then more firmly, encouraged to pursue another career.  But ultimately there will always be children who don’t fit into the norms of society.  It’s nice to know that whatever interest they have, there is ultimately a place in this huge world for them – if they only have the courage to search that place out.

And that courage is key – to discover who you are and to find your place in the world takes great determination.  When I was little, I had many interests.  And when I would take them to my parents, I was gently discouraged from pursuing them.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I wanted to be a writer, a film maker, an ice skater.  Even more practical pursuits were discouraged for practical reasons – we just didn’t have the money to send me to law school or medical school.  The result is that I’m still looking.  I still haven’t found a place in this world to call my own.  At middle age, that’s rather discouraging.

So I would ask two things of you.  As a woman, and possibly a parent, you have great influence over the children in your lives.  Encourage them in their dreams and pursuits.  Help them discover their place in the world – even if that place is on a high wire for Cirque de Soleil!  Let them start early to define themselves.  This gives them so much more time to shine and to positively influence the world around them.

And secondly, if you never found your own  place, start looking.  Our talents are uniquely matched to where we belong.  And it’s only through giving our talents to the world that we fulfill our destiny in this life.  So this afternoon, I sat in a paper snow storm watching a clown cry onstage.  Tomorrow, I go into the storm of life to discover what I’ve missed and where I belong.  Won’t you come with me?