Friday, 20 January 2012

Confessions of a 20th Century Superwoman

I admit it - I was one of those superwomen of the last century.

You know the type of woman I mean. I gave birth halfway through the first semester of my Grad Dip./Masters program (yes, of course I had to do both simultaneously) and didn't miss a lecture or hand an assignment in late. After having my appendix out a year later, and was still back at college within a week - and bushwalking,climbing up and down waterfalls etc, within a fortnight. I never failed a subject, and rarely got as low as a pass in all my tertiary studies.

Like so many women, I worked my fat rear off to "have it all", which most of us now realise meant to "do it all" - be the supermother, super career woman, super wife, super educated.  I was climbing up the ladder, aiming to join the crowd pounding on the "glass ceiling." When my (then) husband decided he didn't want to go back to work once the kids were old enough for school, I just gritted my teeth and continued to work, as hard as humanly possible, to support the family.

Now it's the 21st Century, and we have a female Prime Minister. There are businesswomen making news. The Uniting Church has had female leaders at state and national levels.  The "glass ceiling" doesn't seem all that tough any more - but I never even got close enough to throw a high-heeled shoe at it anyway.

Around the end of the 20th Century, some strange things happened. Some of it was good.

I began my "new career" in ministry (previously I'd been a journalist). "Career" is in inverted commas here, because ministry isn't like any regular career.  It's something people do because we feel God calls us to it - the hours are odd, the pay's not as good as most of us could make in the fields we left for it, and often we don't see any results for what we do. And most of us would not consider trading ministry for any other profession. This was one of the "good" changes in my life.

Another good thing was taekwondo.  You wouldn't think it to look at me now, but I was quite dedicated to my sport, and in 2002, competed in state and national championships, and in the Asia-Pacific Masters Games.

The next, very good, change in my life was my divorce.  It left me broke, and alone with two school-aged kids, but it also left me in control of my life in a way I hadn't been for years.  At last I could actually set a budget and stick to it. I could go on holidays (because I'd been able to set a budget and stick to it.) I could be free and not worry about always having to please a very intimidating man.

Then, everything went wrong. A horrible unexplained set of symptoms led to me having a hysterectomy.  Then there was arthritis in my thumb. (Yes, my thumb of all things!) It rapidly spread throughout my hand and wrist - which is when I saw the rheumatologist who diagnosed lupus.

Within weeks I was in the midst of a full-blown flare. From my reading, and from now knowing that these symptoms were lupus, I realised I'd had flares before throughout my life, but not necessarily as bad as this one.

Suddenly, I didn't care about the glass ceiling or whether I could continue my beloved sport, or my ministry or anything. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was sleep and just have the pain stop.

I got so sick I ended up taking a couple of years off work.

I'm not a superwoman any more.

I'm barely even a pretty-functional-woman.

Now, I work part-time, because I just don't possess the energy it takes to work more than that.  I write and blog, because those are things that engage my brain and my hands, but nothing else. I can write when I can't do anything else - as long as I don't have a serious headache and I can stay awake.

Is the glass ceiling still there? If it is, there's been some pretty serious assaults on it, and there can't be much of it left. Either way, it will stand or fall without me. I'm not climbing any more ladders.

1 comment:

  1. I felt like I was reading about my own life. Except this part was missing...
    I married at 18. Did the college thing while breast feeding my babies. All seven of them. Was a pastor's wife for 22 years, worked a more than full time career, ran at least 2 marathons every year and had a career in running that lasted 31 years. I would get up at 4am to telecommute from home, take my kids to school, drive over an hour into the city, work until lunch, take a seven mile run over my lunch, work until 5:30pm, drive home, fix supper, clean the house, paint (I am a painter) or possibly help my husband with the canoes we build. Go to bed at 11-12 and get up and do it again. I ran the best marathon of my life in 2009 - 3:30. Pretty amazing for a 43 year old women. I never recovered from that marathon. Came down with what I thought was the flu, spent almost all of 2009 and half of 2010 in the hospital. Almost lost my life twice before they figured out I had Lupus, Sjogrens and RA. For the past four years now I have been completely disabled. Yes, I write a blog. For exactly the same reason. To keep my mind working and give me some connection to the outside world. Weeks can go by and I cannot get out of my house.
    Is the glass ceiling still there? I really don't think so. If I magically got well, would I find myself doing it again. I surely hope not. Was it worth it? Nope. And I would not trade what I have learned for anything in the world. But do I wish every day with all that I am that I could just FEEL for one second what it feels like to be healthy again - you bet.
    My seven children are all women. And I can only hope to pass on the lesson I have learned.
    Thank you for your post. It resonated with me more than anything I have ever read. So thank you, thank you.


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