Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Life Part

This is the "life" part (such as it is) so those of you who are feeling positive about yours right now might want to skip right over today's post. This one's a bummer, truly, so best quit reading now.

Last night I watched It Was a Wonderful Life (1993) directed by Michele Ohayon and narrated by Jodie Foster. The film documents the lives of six homeless women in California who are, for the most part, invisible to society. Three of the women struggle to raise children without financial support from the father. And they actually fare pretty well at turning their circumstances around. They live in vans, hotel rooms or temporarily with friends and manage to derive strength and a sense of "home" through the bond they have with their daughters and their sons.

It's the older women without dependents who fare surprisingly worse. Their age and their isolated loneliness present much tougher obstacles. They find it harder to secure employment and are vulnerable to robbery and physical attack living unprotected in their vehicles. They are harassed by the authorities and find no support in government programs (many of which are restricted to women with dependent children). Even their pets are taken away. One woman's life ended tragically in suicide a year after production of the film.

I identify very strongly with the older women. I am amazed by their courage and humbled by their ability to present a positive attitude in the face of such oppressive adversity. I admire them for their strength in retaining their self-esteem and overcoming their anger. I don't cry very often but I was in tears throughout this film. I came away with feelings of fear, of despair, and of rage.

At the end of the film I immediately asked myself one question: How much worse is the situation right now? This film was made over 15 years ago. One might hate to imagine what's happening in today's economy. But I can imagine it. . . because it's happening to me.

Back when I was a girl scout we were shown a film called "You're a Young Woman Now" which taught us about sex under the guise of explaining menstruation. Later we were taught about birth control and were warned about venereal disease. But no-one warned us about another danger inherent with making an unfortunate match: that of financial ruin.

I went into my second marriage at age 45 with a house and a business and a certain amount of trust and good faith. And I have become the victim of a vindictive ex-husband and a backwards state county court system. I had financial penalties imposed upon me by the court which forced me to re-finance my home. I now have quadrupled monthly mortgage payments (at an elevated interest rate because I am self-employed and have a unverifiable income) and I must manage to make these payments until age 84. Loss of my house will also be the death of my business which has survived for 13 years.

Homelessness for me is about two months away from being a reality. I doubt if I will fare as well as most of the women shown in the movie. I think today's world is generally a lot less safe and kind than it was fifteen years ago. Wakefield, New Hampshire is not L.A. We don't have a Y.W.C.A. where you can go and shower for a few bucks. Plus it gets really, really cold here so you can't count on sleeping in your car. Anyway, I don't own a car. . .can no longer afford one!

And so it happens. I have personally witnessed two self-employed women in neighboring towns lose their homes and business because of divorce. This was before the recent collapse of the economy as we knew it. I'm sure it's happening more and more today. I don't get out much or expose myself to the news. I just can't keep up with it any more.

OK, now here, finally, is the collage part. If you have read this far you might enjoy: How Humpty Hoodwinked Miss Massachusetts; Divorce Diptych; "I" Before "E"; and Avaricious Transgressor (Feng Shui Mishap No. 666).


self taught artist said...

anita, there is not one thing i can say that will help anything other than i'm sorry you have had and are having this experience. i often wonder how obama being in office is really going to make a difference for people like you and those women...myself as well. one day at a time i guess. my thoughts are with you.

AnitaNH said...

Hey, thanks Paula for being out there and for responding. This film really effected me strongly. Got to keep 'one day at a time' firmly in mind!

bulletholes said...

Man thats some story! I'm going to have to buy some beads. I like that Feng-Shui collage. When I look at it the room seems to spinn. I like that a lot!
Hi nita!

AnitaNH said...

Hi Steve!