Three Years and Counting

Sometimes three years can seem like an awfully long time.  Sometimes you’re not quite sure where those three years went.  Sometimes you just don’t know how you made it through those three years.

It’s been three years since everything went pear-shaped and you know what, I’m going to tell you a little about it.  I know that sometimes it seems like all I do is whinge but I need to get this off my chest.  Bear with me.

Here are some of the jolly little hiccups that have happened during those three years:

Husband lost his job.  Husband got very ill.  Nearly lost husband at one point.

Father died suddenly and prematurely.

In our immediate circle there’s been two marriage breakups (one especially nasty) with all the associated fallout plus various feuds and falling outs which have made life particularly difficult for everyone else.#

An assortment of rumbling family problems.

Lost two dear friends who were like parents to me.

Financial problems due to husband losing his job (naturally in very stressful circumstances) and having to live on benefits (don’t let anyone kid you that this is an easy, comfortable lifestyle).  The threat of losing our home has now been over our heads daily for two and a half years.

Applying for and living on benefits.  Don’t go there.

The boiler has died on at least three separate occasions.  I think in the last three years we’ve probably been without hot water for about half that time.

Unfinished DIY projects due to a painful combination of lack of  finance and motivation and our helper going AWOL.

Another relative, in their teens, dying suddenly and tragically.

I don’t do status symbols but our van was probably the closest thing to one.  Giving it up meant losing freedom, independence and being able to help other people.

My own ongoing health problems.

Hmm, what else.

Well, I think that comes to about 700 something on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale * so that really should do it.  But it’s not just the amount of stress that’s difficult to live with but it’s constancy.  It’s feels like that the carpet is about to pulled out from under your feet, again, the whole time.  You’re on edge.  You can’t plan ahead.  You dread tomorrow.

Stress sucks.

* I’m not a big fan of the stress scale, it’s a moderately useful tool but it does seem a little bit dated especially as there seems to be a very suburban, white, male, 1950s bias to it.  Divorce is a pretty big number two and I have a sneaking suspicion that some people might actually welcome that event in their lives.  Foreclosure is about halfway down a list, presumably because it just never happened back then in that world.  The fact that pregnancy only happens to the other spouse definitely suggests that male bias.  Or shock horror, your wife going out to work.  Other quirks include less arguments with spouse being as stressful as a lot more.  Oh and what happened to things like exams or other tests?   Much less racism, sexism or any other form of bullying.  How about being an immigrant or refugee?  The chart deals with nothing like that.  Besides which, stress like pain is a very subjective experience.  You can’t guarantee that two similar people are feeling the same pain or the same amount of pain due to the same experience.  I’m sure if you read through the list, you’d reorder the thing quite quickly and add a few of your own too.

Death of spouse or child
Marital Separation
Detention in jail or other institution
Death of a close family member (eg parent or sibling)
Major personal injury or illness
Being fired from work
Marital reconcilitation
Major change in health or behaviour of family member
Pregnancy of spouse/partner
Sexual difficulties
Gaining a new family member (e.g. through birth, adoption etc)
Major business readjustment (e.g. merger, reorganisation, etc)
Major change in financial state (e.g. a lot worse off or a lot better off)
Death of a close friend
Changing to a different type of work
Major change in the number of arguments with spouse (e.g. a lot more or less)
Taking on a significant (to you) mortgage
Foreclosure on a mortgage or loan
Major change in responsibility at work (e.g. promotion, transfer, demotion)
Son or daughter leaving home (marriage, college etc)
In-law troubles
Outstanding personal achievement
Partner beginning or ceasing work outside of the home
Beginning or ceasing formal schooling
Major change in living conditions (e.g. new house, renovating)
Revision of personal habits (dress, manners, association etc)
Troubles with the boss
Change in residence
Changing to a new school
Major change in usual type and/or amount of recreation
Major change in church or spiritual activities (e.g. a lot more or less than usual)
Major change in social activities (e.g. clubs, dancing, movies etc)
Taking on a small loan (e.g. purchasing car, TV, freezer etc)
Major change in sleeping habits (e.g. a lot more or less)
Major change in number of family get-togethers (e.g. a lot more or less)
Major change in eating habits (e.g. a lot more or less food intake)
Holiday or vacation
Minor violations of the law (e.g. traffic or parking infringement)

11 thoughts on “Three Years and Counting

Add yours

  1. So, I just found this from your DIY post. Dear god, woman, you have a lot on your plate- and you still make time to write and knit and live a life. Go, you. You are a very strong soul!

    1. I’m not sure if I’m ‘living’ speccy, ‘surviving’ comes closer. And the writing and knitting is for my soul because it needs all the help it can get. Thank you. :)

  2. Yeah, a scale created in the 1960s needs some reordering. Mostly, I think it’s possible to account for a person’s response to various stressors these days. Hope hope HOPE you can hang onto that house. That kind of stress would be horrible.

  3. If whinging is the British spelling of what we call whining where I live, then I’m in total support of it, as one of the four major food groups of emotional health. Working, as I do, with women in transition (read: women in crisis), I am continually amazed at what we can endure and still keep moving. (I’m remembering your post about walking that I read the other day.) I take issue with John Lennon: love is most definitely NOT all you need–that’s a nice phrase that rolls easily off the tongue when you have the luxury to wax philosophical that money provides.

    I find that, unenlightened as it is, fantasizing about things like winning the lottery or the HGTV Dream Home helps. Because after all, such things ARE possible, so it’s not technically an impossible dream. :-) I think the thing is to nurture some kind of dream, no matter how ridiculous, while you’re living a nightmare. It’s a weird way of taking back at least some control. I think recording the nightmare, as you have done here, is another way of gaining the upper hand–it’s the kind of victory art has always had over the often miserable life that it can render, powerfully, on the page.

    P.S. And yes to your comments on the stress scale! Maybe you should reinvent it according to your own perspective and sell the story to some women’s magazine. Unlike most writers, I had the strange experience of selling the first thing I ever sent out–it was a piece about how different people stake up their tomatoes, and some gardening magazine bought it, even though it really had nothing to do with gardening, or for that matter, growing tomatoes. It was just a kind of funny human interest thing. Something tells me that you can write in the rare genre that I call “hilarious pain.” I think of Anne Lamott’s essay “Thirst” as an example. Or your Worst Bed in the World post.

    I think there’s a market for that kind of writing, because it’s rare and because people in pain (a growing population these days) are desperate for laughter. It’s been a very long time since I had any experience with the magazine market, and I know publishing in general is collapsing, but still…it might be worth the cost of a manila envelope and a stamp. You could look at it like buying a lottery ticket.

    1. I knew that they were kind of synonymous but with subtle shade of difference so I looked them up. Whinge is ‘complain persistently and in a peevish or irritating way’ and whine is ‘give or make a long, high-pitched complaining cry or sound’. I was surprised by your comment and the dictionaries marking whinge as ‘chiefly British’.

      I think that love is important too otherwise you definitely wouldn’t make it through.

      Please though, what are the other major food groups of emotional health?

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write such positive, encouraging and thoughtful comments. I really appreciate it. I don’t think I yet have the emotional strength to risk sending anything out yet. I’ll just stick to blogging for now!


      1. Well now you make me admit that I just made that up about the major food groups, but I’m pretty sure they all have something to do with being real. :-)

        P.S. About love–yes, agreed!

        P.P.S. Blogging is a perfect way of sending things out. It’s kind of magic, to me–like children’s stories I have loved, where a window turns out to open on another world. When we send a piece out in a bottle on the Internet sea, I want to believe (and actually DO believe) that it will eventually land on some shore where it belongs, where it will be recognized, where it will be treasured.

        If you ever feel ready to do the more conventional thing, however, do it on a whim and forget about it. That doesn’t require so much emotional strength. Of course there are famous stories of best-selling writers who have a whole room wallpapered with rejections slips, because that’s what happens. Occasionally, though, you get surprised.

I'd love to know what you think, concrit is especially welcomed on fiction pieces. Thank you.

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