Job, Profession And Calling

“Each honest calling, each walk of life has its own élite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance”

[James Bryant Conant]

When I started this blog, my intention was to find other motherless daughters. Women who could relate to me and my story. I hoped sharing our experiences would help me shed light on my past, it’s impact of my present and give me an outlook on my future.

I found Patrice. Finding her has been a blessing on so many levels. Most of all because she showed me that my search in the online world was not in vain.

Through our conversations I have started thinking about jobs, professions and callings.

As I have stated before I am keeping this blog anonymous in an attempt to protect the privacy of family, friends and myself. Divulging that my field is that of law however is non-classified information.

I love being a part of the legal guild for so many reasons. It is not so much a job, but more a profession. I am not sure, if it’s my calling though.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t question my ability. Even at the risk of sounding conceited, I think I am pretty darn good at what I do.

What I am questioning is, if this is what I was born to do.

The first “thing” I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a cowboy. Yes, a cowBOY, not a cowgirl. Seeing as I told you all about being a tomboy growing up this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

I think I was about 5 when I decided that my calling in life was to ride and tame wild mustangs, herd cows and sleep under the starry skies of the open prairie. I blame Karl May and his wild west stories for this. If you don’t know who Karl May is, don’t worry. It’s not general knowledge as far as I am concerned. He was a german author who wrote fiction stories about cowboys and indians (most of which he published from inside his prison cell).

Anyways, after spending many spring-, summer- and fall-vacations on horseback and discovering the lacking comfort of camping, I ditched the cowboy plan.

Next, I wanted to be a children’s book author. I was in LOVE with Enid Blyton. I wanted to be “George” from the fantastic five series, I wanted to live in a boarding school like Hanny and Nanny and most of all I wanted other kids to fall in love with my stories the way I had fallen for Enid’s. I gave up on the idea when at about 12 the concept of money entered my reality. I knew I wanted to do something that would be able to support me, give me financial security and buy me $ 100,- jeans when I wanted them without the approval of my father.

That’s when I decided to become a doctor instead. There were so many hospital shows on TV and I was addicted to all of them. I wanted to heroically save lives. I wanted the stressful lives of ER doctors. I wanted to restore limbs and bring people back from the dead. So why did that dream go sour? Well, I think I mentioned before that I was an A student for the most part. This did not apply to math. I don’t know why, but figures and I never matched well. It wasn’t that I didn’t try I just never understood them. I always like saying I have “mathematical dyslexia”, because that’s exactly what it feels like to me. The logic of numbers just simply isn’t mine. In any case the minute I found out that med school involved even the slightest hint of math that was it for me.

My next great calling was that of an investigative reporter. I wanted to be in the front lines of a war field reporting live with wounded soldiers, I wanted to uncover great political scandals, I wanted to reach, touch, and inform people. I wanted my articles to be the first thing that every living person read at breakfast. My father had a journalist friend working for a popular political magazine and I spent hours quizzing him on everything there was to know. When he got layed-off, when print-media started taking its first fall, I freaked. The security money offers has always had a strong pull on me. So I buried that dream along with the rest.

Psychologie was my next big interest. I wanted to work with children who had been wounded by life. I wanted to make them “all better”, bandage their little hearts. I interned at a children’s psychiatric ward for 3 months when I was 18 to make absolutely sure, that this was what I wanted. It turns out, I was not cut out for the job. I was on a train home one night when a lady came up to me and asked me, if I was okay and if there was anything she could do to for me. Up until then I hadn’t even realized that there were tears streaming down my face and every other passenger was looking at me. I had to close that door or it would have broken me.

I flirted with the idea of international politics. I imagined myself working in Brussels, changing the world with innovative ideas, being the voice of the people. This affair was only short-lived, because I couldn’t and wouldn’t handle the cut-throat politics of the game. No pun intended.

I worked at a marketing and marketing-research company affiliated with A.C. Nielsen next and went through their trainee program and I thought this was it. I would start of as a project assistant and slowly work my way to my own accounts. Speaking english, german and french would give me an edge in the european market and I would be able to work with new clients on new products every day. It wouldn’t just be a boring old desk job. I would travel, I would see the world. After about 6 months I had it. It wasn’t as glamorous as I thought it would be, I was underpayed, seeing as I was the only one there without a college degree and I was working long hours and most of all week-ends. I was over it.

That’s when I realized how important college education really was. So I put my thinking cap back on and did a bit of soul-searching. My father is a lawyer, so I didn’t really have to dig that deep. I grew up around briefs, schedule hearings and inside court-rooms. I knew the reality of the job. So I applied to the school I wanted to go, was accepted and everything moved on from there.

I never really regretted my choice, but even after all this years I can’t say it’s my calling.

On the other side I couldn’t really tell you what my calling is. I am not passionate about anything else either. I enjoy numerous things, but there is nothing that holds my attention to the point of passion.

Lately I wonder, if the reason for that is, that I haven’t really figured out who I am yet.

I am an almost 30-year-old woman, but sometimes I fear, that I have never moved on past the 2 1/2-year-old girl.

All I really want to be “when I grow up” is my mother’s daughter.

 

“Conditio Sine Qua Non” Or The Difference Between “Fault” And “Causality”

“It is not the fall that kills you. It’s the sudden stop at the end.”

[Douglas Adams]

Conditio sine qua non” roughly translates to “Condition without which the outcome would be different”. It’s the fundamental instrument in law to distinguish between the factual responsibility of a person and his legal responsibility.

Example:

  • Giving birth to a murderer makes you factually responsible for the murders he committed, because if you hadn’t given him life he would not have been able to take the life of another human being.= Causality
  • However giving life to a murderer does not make you legally responsible for his actions in the same way you would be if you had dropped a loaded gun into his hands, turned him to face the victim and told him to pull the trigger. = Fault

To distinguish between these two parts in a chain of cause and effect is essential, not just in front of a judge and jury in a courtroom, but especially in life.

The example I used to illustrate the difference is easy. Everybody regardless of their academic training would immediately agree the mother of a murderer can not be held responsible for the deeds of her child merely on account of her giving birth to him. Tragically, in life, the situations we are faced with are not always that clear and the distinction is not always that easy.

My mother died from drowning, suffocating. The water filled her lungs preventing the oxygen to enter. Failure of oxygen to pass through her blood caused her heart to stop beating. When your heart stops beating you die. It’s very simple. Cause and effect.

Now the reason my mother drowned was because she hit her head whilst taking a bath and became unconscious causing her head to sink below the water mark. Again very logical.

The reason for her to hit her head was that she had an epileptic seizure. No questions or hesitations here either.

All of the above are facts.

Another fact is, that my mother should have taken the subscribed medication to avoid seizures. Yet she didn’t. Also she had been known to have seizures mostly when she was in contact with water and she knew that. Furthermore the autopsy report stated that when I found my mother in the bathtub, dead, at the age of 2 1/2 and the paramedics were alerted she had already been dead for several hours.

This last bit is a rather new piece of information I acquired only recently, since the subject of my mother is one not lightly breached in our household and especially with my father. It’s not that he refuses to talk about her, it is simply that he doesn’t volunteer any information on his own and freezes out the conversation until it is changed. My father, too, is a lawyer. We are both trained in the art of answering without divulging information. The difference is he is more experienced and excellent in his profession. I am unfairly matched.

All of this aside, just looking at the facts, makes it so hard to distinguish between “fault” and “causality“. So why try? Maybe because I feel safe labeling situations. I am highly organized (some people have called me “monkish”) and I like defining and sorting emotions and storing them away in little boxes to open separately. Looking at certain things with your head instead of with your heart is a strong measure of protection. It avoids having to deal with an avalanche of emotions. It avoids relenting control to an unknown.

So I decipher my mother’s fatal day, her 30th birthday, logically and analytically, as I have been trained to do. That’s what I have been doing all my life. It’s easy for me to do that.

It’s easy for me to ask: “Why was my mother in a bathtub unsupervised for several hours when it was common knowledge that she was prone to seizures in the proximity of water?” ,when I know that the answer is: “Because she would allow no one to interfere with her decisions. Because she was headstrong to a fault. Because she hated being reminded of her condition.” Causality, not fault. You see, I have just exonerated everybody still living from the (main) responsibility.

This relieves of having to confront anger and emotions towards my father to the sort of “Why didn’t you take better care of your wife, my mother? Why didn’t you check on her earlier? Why didn’t you force her to have someone present when she showered or bathed? Why couldn’t you stop this from happening?” Fault not causality.

Also, asking why my mother chose not to take her medication vital to her survival without consulting a neurologist is easy because there too I know the answer. She did it because at that point in time the medication prescribed to her drugged her to a point where she was not able to focus on an active toddler. She did it to be able to be a mother for me every moment of the day. Again causality not fault.

This answer allows me to stray from questions like “Why didn’t you find a different solution? Why wouldn’t you consult your doctor first? Why didn’t you take better care of yourself so I could have a mother for more than the first 2 1/2 years of my life? Why didn’t you do everything you could to prevent abandoning me?” Fault not causality.

This approach has worked for me for the last 20 something years to a great extent. It has kept me functioning. It has kept me focused. It has enabled me to put my emotions in labeled boxes to store away in the darker corners on my mind.

Unfortunately, this only works so far and I have come to end of my rope. I realize now, that I have to ask question that won’t heed answers easily boxed away.

I won’t be able to distinguish between “fault” and “causality” that easily anymore. It is time for me to stop calming the logical adult in me with pre-labeled answers and start comforting the 2 1/2-year-old in me who does not understand logical analysis.

I feel it’s time to come to another step in this approach: to the raw emotional one. It’s time to start acknowledging the lost little girl inside me who desperately misses her mother. Who is angry at everybody for losing her. Who feels deprived of the experience of unconditional motherly love. Who is sad and lonely and confused.

I am not entirely sure how well this approach will work for me. I know the greatest challenge will be to not fall back onto my safety blanket of logic and analysis but actually allow the full range of emotions. This thought to me isn’t scary, it’s terrifying.

The one thing I have to remind myself that it’s going to be okay, is that there isn’t just the difference between “fault” and “causality”, but also between “owning a fault” and “being legally responsible”.

Maybe my father is responsible for what happened to some extent (my mother’s death and the impact it had on my further life)? Maybe he did make mistakes? Maybe he could have and should have done better? Maybe my mother was irresponsible? Maybe she could have prevented all of this? Maybe having my mother there would have made my life easier?

Even if the answer to all of this is “Yes”, that does not mean that they have committed a crime against me. I don’t have to ask logical questions to protect them from an unfavourable judgement from the little girl inside of me. They might be responsible, but they are not at fault.

Maybe they just made mistakes. Mistakes that lead to tragic accidents. The greatest of which being my mother’s untimely end. We are all human and accidents happen.

But it still sucks!

Ghosts Of Blogger’s Past II

“If you would know the road ahead, ask someone who has traveled it.” [Chinese Proverb]

I have never been to Kuba. Well actually I have not been to a lot of places, but Kuba just happens to be a place I’d really like to go sometimes, but that’s besides the point. If I were ever to travel to Kuba, I would research it first, because that’s just the way I am. I like to know where I am going and I like being prepared. I love lists and plans and even more plans and sticky notes. It gives me a sense of direction and security knowing I have thought everything through.

Part of that planning for me involves internet research and best of all talking to people who have gone there already. Trying to get their scoop on things. You know, finding out where they had the best time, where to shop, where to eat or where not to go.

Obviously other people’s experiences don’t necessarily 100% always equal your own experiences, but I do feel it can give you a sense of where you are heading.

So today Thordora will be my tour-guide to the Kuba of being a motherless Daughter: How to become a woman. The funny thing was, reading her post I felt like going “Check!” “Yeah, that’s me!” all the time.

I was a tomboy growing up just like her. However, I realize that her mother was still around (unlike mine) and she had more of a choice than I did. She chose her father as a role model where as I had no choice. There was no female role model I could relate to.

Yes, my dad did the best he could with what he had, but let’s get real here for a second he didn’t have a lot when it came to becoming a woman. There were times (and they were not that far and in between) when my kindergarten teacher would spend the first 30 something minutes of class doing my hair, cleaning my face and trying to clean me up as best she could. My father seriously had no clue about raising a little girl and he couldn’t even comb my long hair for the life of him. It’s a wonder he didn’t just chop it off all together (actually I really don’t know why he didn’t).

Thordora in her post talks about her father trying to pair he up with motherly figures. So did mine. She said it made her despise being a woman because it scared and saddened her. Reading that hit home, because it echoed so strongly in me. I remember those pair-off’s being so unnatural and awkward. I wanted to go “la-la-la” and plug my ears the entire time. Also it made me feel ashamed and like a charity case. So I rebelled against it, strongly.

My paternal aunt is a Jehovah’s witness. Her way of connecting with me was always through her church and believes, but I was never to interested in it. Mostly I think because I had to wear a dress to her church, whereas I could get away wearing a niece pair of slacks to our church when we went (that might have been just because my father couldn’t be bothered though – looking back I don’t remember any other girls in slacks).

But it’s not so much about the dress or the church or a girly touch, it was more that I had decided that women were fo- reign, frightening creatures that I couldn’t understand. I felt by not having a mother to guide me through their scary world I had no right venturing in it. I felt like the clumsy girl in ballet class (wait, actually that was me!). Overall, I was terrified at the thought of not knowing a metaphorical secret handshake and standing out in the crowd as the girl that doesn’t belong. So I didn’t go near it.

I owned one Barbie doll growing up, but except for cutting her hair with my paper scissors I never paid attention to it. I loved my roller skates, soccer balls, basket balls and basically anything that would make you sweaty, grubby and muddy. I played with the boys mostly because their rules seemed easier to understand and if I didn’t understand something I could ask my father. Whenever I did play with girls, I always wanted to play house and be the dad. I knew dad stuff. All I ever saw was dad stuff. There was nothing gentle and girly in our appartement, nothing sweet and fluffy. Everything was practical, had a sense and a purpose that went far and beyond looking cute.

Thordora said: “Having a vagina doesn’t make you a woman.” True, but it does force you to admit that you are not a man at some point. When I started my period I was furious, shocked, outraged, ashamed and mostly confused. I didn’t want this to be true. It felt like a personal insult. So I ignored it as best I could thinking it would just go away, if I didn’t pay attention to it. I felt too humiliated to buy pads, so I put clean-ex wads in my underwear and walked like a waddling duck.

After a while I realized it wasn’t going away. Telling my father was one of the most humiliating conversations in my life (only seconded by going bra shopping with my father for the first tim). I couldn’t even look at him. Like I said he tried the best, but the pads he bought for me were huge and felt like diapers sticking out everywhere. Poor Dad he wasn’t ready for this! Neither was I though.

The funny thing is, once I accepted that yes, I was becoming a woman and no, there was no way of getting out of it, I really got into it. I always liked learning (I’m a dork, I admit it!). So to me, this was like studying a foreign culture. My first make-up sessions made me look like a $ 3,- hooker. I had no clue what fit my body shape and nobody ever taught me about shaving my legs. I also bruised my ankles a couple of times learning to walk on heels. I was a hot mess! But I was determined to make this work on my own. I hated other women or girls interfering. Now I know they were just trying to be helpful but back then it felt like they were belittling me. It’s like when you are learning a foreign language and somebody constantly corrects your pronunciation or grammar. You know they are just trying to help, but gosh it’s annoying!

For the longest time it was learning by doing or better learning by copying for me. The role mo- dels I picked were the one’s easily available, me- aning literal cover girl models. I tried to do my hair like Cindy Crawford, dress like Kate Moss and smile the way this one shampoo model smiled over her shoulder. Did it work? No, of course not. The only thing it did was frustrate me, because no matter how hard I tried I didn’t look like the models I was trying to copy. I was like a little girl walking in her mother’s high heels: They didn’t quite fit. I didn’t quite get, that most to all women don’t look like models and actually most models don’t look like they look all photo- shopped on a magazine cover. Basically it just took me a while to figure out that there wasn’t ONE way and one way only of being a woman, but that I had to find the woman I wanted to be or better the woman I already was in- side.

All well that ends well, I guess. Today I love being a woman and I think I am very confident about it for the most part. Do I think I should be skinnier, prettier, better dressed, with whiter teeth and all in all a lot more grace full? Sure I do! But than again, show me one woman who doesn’t? Being insecure seems to be part of being a woman, motherless or not.

But there are still times when I feel insecure about “female stuff” as my father would call it. Something will feel off with my period, my hor- mones will be off and I’ll freak. Those are the times when I feel 13 again and motherless. Sometimes I call my aunt (maternal), but at times it feels weird. Sometimes my boyfriend is tortured with weird stuff he’d rather live without (I know I’m sorry!). My gynecologist has had to answer many strange questions throughout the years, too. But then again that’s her job, right?!

The scary thing is, I know I have not come to the hard part yet: becoming a mother… . Becoming a woman was scary enough when the only person I could mess up was myself, but a baby? I want it so bad, but it also literally scares me to death. Sometime soon I know I will have to face that fear and dig deep for some maternal instincts because I sure as hell can’t rely on passed down experience.

But than again maybe I can. It will have to be book smarts again and substitute knowledge, but I survived my teens, right? I think that gives me a pretty good chance a surviving motherhood. I think I’ll plan for a psychologist fund for my kids though too, just in case.

So how was it for you? Was your mother there long enough to show you the ropes? Were you just a natural-born woman? Are you a girly girl now or more of a practical no-nonsense woman? Do you think not having a mother impacted on the woman, not person, you are today? Comment below and let me know!

Ghosts of Blogger’s Past I

“You cannot help but learn more as you take this world into your hands. Take it up reverently, for it’s an old piece of clay with millions of thumbprints on it.”

[John Updike]

When I started blogging here, less than a week ago, I read through the “Are you new here?” instructions on the top right corner of my screen. I don’t know about you, but I am not a computer whizz. Yes, I get a hang of computer programs rather sooner than later and once halfway adept I can work my way around them, but I have to read instructions and I have to play around with it first.

So obviously, except for the general ABC on posting I was really interested in getting blog traffic (shocking isn’t it). The funny thing is, not so much because I want people to indulge in my fine and eloquent writing (yeah right), but rather because I knew I had to get out there and be seen to meet the other motherless daughters I am looking for.

One of the first things the instructions tell you (and if you are a blogger yourself you obviously already know this) is to use their search engine and read up on other blogs.

Unfortunately, I think I am running a little late. Most to all the blogs I found keying in “mother”, “motherless”, “motherless daughter”, “dead mother” seem to have been abandoned somewhere between 2007 – 2009. Reading through the comments from a couple of years ago almost feels like wandering through one of those old western ghost towns (I’m actually not to sure those really exist, but that’s how they were portrayed in the old western movies I watched as a child).

However, just because their creators (for whatever reason) have given up on them doesn’t mean they are worthless. Well yes, granted, I can’t really get in touch with these women because the phone line has been disconnected so to speak, but I can still pick up on some of their thoughts and feelings: It’s really kind of like listening to ghosts of blogger’s past.

Two of those have really hit home for very different reasons and I feel it’s only right for me to cite them here.

The first of them (and the one I want to talk about in this post) is Jen. In her post: “Happy Birthday, Kate” she shared her thoughts on selling her childhood house. She said: “Yet the ghosts have never moved on.”

Sometimes it can be eery to see your own thoughts in writing. That’s especially true, when it wasn’t you who spelled them out. When I read Jen’s post, I thought about my father’s move about 7 years ago (maybe 6, maybe 8 – I am not good a keeping track of time). I felt that she had somehow read my mind or tapped onto my feelings in a strange way.

Up until then he had still lived in the same appartement that he had lived in with my mother when she died. The bathroom she died in was my bathroom. This must sound creepy to anybody else, but to me it was comforting. Her ghost, to me, had never moved on.

Moving day was rough. Jen said in her post that it felt like she was losing her mother all over again. I couldn’t agree more. I wasn’t able to partake in the general buzz and excitement of that day. I remember sitting on the dirty floor in the empty kitchen while everybody was outside trying to find words to say goodbye. I didn’t have any.

I walked outside and saw that my mother’s coffee mug (blue with cream “Mama” logo) that had always been stored away in the depths of the kitchen cabinet had been thrown out with every thing else. The mug was chipped and a long crack ran through “Mama”. My father was leaving everything behind. For him separating from the past was vital to face a fresh future and I don’t begrudge him that.

The only problem was that I was trying to keep the past alive, because that is all I had to connect with her. A shared bathroom, some old clothes and a Mama-coffee-mug.

Even though Jen may be long gone it is comforting to know, that her ghost also is still here – Thank you!