The Rich Version of My Life

15 Feb

”Why didn’t I marry someone with money?” I sobbed into the phone. There was a moment of silence, in which I imagine my mom was collecting herself to keep from bursting out laughing. Or maybe she was just overwhelmed with the plethora of reasons why. She didn’t choose the obvious route, which would’ve been to ask me if that was really what I valued. She didn’t even choose the snarky route (Mama, are you losing your touch?), which would’ve been something like, “Gee, Julia, perhaps because you’ve spent your entire life professing yourself to be a non-materialistic anarchist, which makes it pretty hard to get in with the rich crowd.” She also didn’t ask me if that was a rhetorical question, which, really, we both knew it was. Instead she said, “Well, did you ever even date anybody rich?”

It threw me off just enough to take a breath and think about it. “Yes!” I told her triumphantly. “Ben! I dated that guy Ben for at least a couple weeks when I was about 13. He went to that rich boy catholic high school and his parents totally had money. He lived way out in the East End. Remember? So there! I totally dated a rich kid.” I’m not really sure what I was trying to prove. Maybe that I had given someone with money a chance- albeit a short-lived chance. My mom dismissed it, though. “I don’t think it counts if their parents have money. I mean, I don’t know what Ben is up to these days, but we don’t know if he has money or not.”

Of course, it wasn’t really that I wanted to marry someone rich. I wasn’t looking to switch out Conan with anybody else, and I don’t think I would even love Conan more if he were rich. “I just want to know what it would be like to not worry about money all the time,” I whined, trying to stem my uber-hormonal-emotional, 9-months-pregnant crying fit I was having. I was feeling envious and cheated, two super ugly emotions that I normally avoid successfully. I didn’t really want to change Conan or change lives, I just wanted the rich version of my life. Switch the channel, change the soap opera, please and thank you.

For one, I had put myself into total meltdown panic over my neighbor’s gossip about our electricity. The gossip was basically that they were postponing putting in our electricity even longer than they already had, which to me sounded as far off as “in a few more years,” even though that was way more exaggerated than the rumor.

See, back in December we’d gotten the wonderful news that our neighborhood was going to get electricity. It was part of a project that was already paid for by the city, and it was going to happen ASAP. (This was much better news than the news just before that, which was that we were going to get electricity eventually, if everyone who owned a lot contributed several thousand pesos.) There was some talk that it would happen in time to put up the Christmas tree. And indeed, almost immediately they came and dug holes for the posts. It all seemed very promising. But then nearly the rest of December went by and nothing else happened. By New Year’s Eve we had posts put in, and then nothing happened the whole month of January. A couple weeks ago some guys had come by and were taking measurements because there were some posts that needed to be moved slightly. They were here on a Saturday and said they’d be back on Monday, and that they’d be working here until electricity was installed.

I was ecstatic. I figured by the end of February at the latest, just in time for this baby, we’d finally, finally have electricity. We’d already taken out a giant loan to pay for the private clinic where we’re going to give birth, getting all the things set up in the house for electricity, and taking care of some other stuff with the house and the car that we haven’t had enough extra cash to do. The loan didn’t have me too worried, because I knew that once we got electricity we’d be saving a ton of money by not having to buy ice for the cooler, not paying part of the electric bill where we charge our lamps, saving gas by running less errands because we have electricity, etc.

But if we weren’t going to have electricity for a long while still, then a) we wouldn’t be saving any money and wouldn’t be able to pay off our loan; b) we wouldn’t have a fan to keep the baby cool in the raging heat of March in Puerto; c) we wouldn’t have a washing machine, which meant more paying for laundry and having to buy disposable diapers (because I am not washing diapers by hand at this point, or even clothes, for that matter); we wouldn’t have a refrigerator with a steady temperature to store breast milk when I go back to work and have to pump; and d) I was going to lose my fucking mind from my total impotence in the matter, the frustration of not having electricity for so long, and being lied to about when it would happen, and not being able to find out any definite information. It was all just too much. 

Plus I’d had some twinges of envy over choices that people around me were able to make due to their having money. They were making choices that I’d like to make, if only I had the money. It was like they were living the financially-endowed version of my life. Their lives were looking pretty sweet and cushy from my sweaty, grumpy position, and I wasn’t handling it the way I’d like.

For instance, my new friend at work, the philosophy teacher with a three year old whose husband was staying home with the kid while she worked, had just told me that she quit the job. The schedule was too demanding; there wasn’t enough time to be with her son. I totally agree; I loathe our schedule, the only thing I hate about my job. I have been working really hard to just not think about how hard it’s going to be when I have to go back to work and barely see two kids. It was already bad enough barely spending time with Lucia. When she told me that, I couldn’t help but think, “well, it must be nice to just be able to quit.” Of course I’m pleased for her. And it’s not even that I want to be a full-time mom, at least not long-term. But oh how I would love to feel like I had options. To feel like I could quit. To be able to maybe take more than my six weeks off after the baby’s born. To get a different schedule.

And then there’s D, from Mexico City, who obviously has zero concerns about money. She came down here because she wanted to give birth by the ocean. She’s renting a super nice room (rooms, really, that’s probably about the size of my house if you include the kitchen and the outside area she’s renting) right by the beach. She’s been here since Christmas and is staying till her 6 week postpartum date. Her husband is commuting on weekends from Mexico City, so apparently they can afford the plane fare, too. She’s got her dog and a new-looking SUV with her. She’s seeing the same doctor I am, but she’s having a home birth, and the doctor’s midwife mother is going to help so that someone can stay with D the whole labor (aside from the doula, her best friend who’s staying with her now, and her husband). She bought a huge birthing tub, too. It’s an ideal set up for a birth, in my mind. It’s a lot like what I would have if money were no obstacle. She’s living the rich version of my life! (Plus she’s already given birth at 39 weeks, while I’m sitting around praying and begging this baby to not make me wait till 42 weeks like Lucia did. But my “lateness” trauma is a whole different issue.)

I could’ve had a home birth, too, with this doctor, except my home is not really the most comfortable place to be for labor and delivery. The lack of lights, fans, and other such electricity-related comfort measures/ necessities puts a real damper on it. Not that it couldn’t be done. People give birth in all kinds of circumstances. But we decided the clinic would be more comfortable, so for the second time around I’m cheating myself out of the home birth I wanted (the first go round I had a great opportunity, but once again decided against it because it was free to give birth in the hospital).

Normally I’m not the jealous type, thank goodness. Mostly I feel pretty secure about myself and my life and don’t try to compare or wish anyone else’s life upon myself. Unfortunately, all this sitting around feeling like a beached whale is not helping me feel good about myself and my life. A week’s worth of pain that’s not “the good kind of pain” (aka contractions, which will do their job to bring this baby out into the light) is making me prone to whining and scowling. Trying to keep our family on a tight budget when it’s like I’m on vacation and we want to go out and play is stressing me out. I’ve been watching things improve with Lucia and I because of all this time I get to spend with her, and then worrying what will happen with that when I disappear from view again. And then there’s the whole electricity thing, which has me feeling maniacally desperate at this point. And all of these problems could be solved if I had just married into money. (Or if I had been born into it, maybe. I forgot to lament that with my mom.)

Okay, maybe I couldn’t make my baby come out any faster, at least not the natural way. But I could quit my job. I could set up the perfect birth. I would definitely have electricity.

Probably if the hormones and the heat weren’t conspiring against me I could think rationally. I might be able to admit that I don’t actually want D’s situation. I don’t want my partner to have to commute to the birth. I don’t want to be far away from all of my family and support people for the time before and after birth. While I’d like a newer car, I don’t want an SUV. I don’t want a dog.  And I might or might not want anything else that’s part of her life. I have no idea what else her life is about. I barely know her. I don’t know what it means to her to be having this baby. I don’t know where she really comes from. I don’t know if she really even has money; maybe they took out a giant loan like we did, just for different things. I don’t know what she’s been through before this, nor what obstacles she faces every day. Some are sure to be harder than mine. I know (theoretically, not so much from experience) that money can’t buy everything.

Of course money can make you comfortable. It can help you fulfill some dreams. Of course most of us would like to have more money than what we have. But pining after what others have, wishing myself into someone else’s life situation, telling myself that other people are having a better version of my life isn’t making me comfortable nor fulfilling my dreams. I’m pretty sure it’s only making me frustrated, unhappy and empty-feeling. It’s even able to cause uncontrollable sobbing over something I previously would have scoffed at if given the opportunity to have it (like a rich husband). It’s a bit out of hand, this uncharacteristic jealousy thing I’ve had this week.

Meanwhile, it’s not like we’re destitute, by any stretch. We have so much more money and opportunity and help from family than soooo many people on this planet, even so much more than many people in our neighborhood. Does that make me feel better about barely seeing my daughter Monday through Friday because of my crappy work schedule? No, not really. Does it keep me patient about getting electricity some day, eventually? Nope, my patience on the electricity boat sailed a good while back already. It’s not making me smile to think about other people’s problems. Comparisons are not the solution to this envy maddness, apparently.

I can choose to be grateful, though, in a way that’s neither gloating about what we do have nor feeling cheated in the face of other people’s gifts. It’s not too hard with the birth situation, because even though I’ve dreamed of a home birth, I am pretty sure that my birth is going to be wonderful and miraculous and perfect in it’s own way, right there at the clinic.

I can choose to be grateful for the fact that I really like my job in all respects except the schedule. I can try to remember that a year ago I was bitching and moaning and worrying because I didn’t have a job, so we didn’t have income, and I was sick of being a stay-at-home mom. I can be grateful for this paid maternity leave that I do have, limited though it may be.

I am indeed grateful for our lovely, evolving house, the fact that we own it, all the struggles Conan went through to get it built, all the struggles we’ve gone through as a family to make it work for us. I am, truly. But my gratitude has limits. Knowing that this electricity project has been paid for for who-knows-how-long and there’s no accountability and nobody cares if we have electricity or not and I’m so freaking pregnant that I might kill for a fan… well, it puts a bit of a damper on my gratitude. But someday, eventually, when we do have electricity, well, then I’ll feel grateful again, I’m sure. When I can put on a yoga video on Saturday morning, listen to a CD while I do the dishes, and finish my blog without having to go out and recharge the battery, well, it will be just one of the many miracles made possible with electricity. Until that moment I’ll just have to focus on these other gratitudes.

I’m gonna keep this version of my life, because, well, I don’t think I get to magically switch it out anyway, even if I really did want to. So today I can celebrate our first wedding anniversary with gusto and enthusiasm, although it’s on a budget. I certainly won’t be out looking for a man with money, and I won’t be wishing myself into someone else’s shoes. I’ll just try to share more riches with the lovely man I’ve got. And maybe we’ll start buying lottery tickets. 

2 Responses to “The Rich Version of My Life”

  1. blueskywoman February 15, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

    Julia, your struggles are spoken of so eloquently. 😀 I can’t help but admire your fortitude…you are a strong and capable young woman. Wishing you joy and peace at your anniversary–and with the upcoming birth of your baby!


    • exiletomexico February 16, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

      Thank you!!! Our anniversary was lovely!!! Waiting impatiently for this new little creature now….

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