My expertise at your service

There was this phrase I came across:

The world is in desperate need of that something only you can offer.

Sure it is, I thought. I have expertise in so many things and I can’t help anyone, least of all myself. Do I know the answer to the question “what do you specialize in?” I specialize in managing a household, making conversation, drawing, teaching… skills which were a woman’s some decades if not centuries ago. Worthy women have careers nowadays. That’s how success is measured. The little hidden bits don’t seem to count. What big deal to put dinner (plus two or three other meals or snacks) in your family bellies every day? And the more, the merrier, right? What big deal to spend – quite literally a third of – your time putting things back where they belong? Or all those activities and planning for every single bloody week, regardless of school- or holiday -time?

How many times have you heard someone praising mothers and homemakers lately? It’s not fashionable any more. It’s not egalitarian. It’s too boring, too right wing in a global society leaning dangerously low toward leftism.

I tried to have a career and everything. Of course I neglected my children for it (although for the longest time I genuinely tried to – and believed to – balance family, house, jobs… I still believe I can do it). Then another pregnancy happened out of the blue and shattered everything. I couldn’t get tenure in the academia at 41 with two teenagers and a baby in the household, being completely burnt out too as a bonus of battling immigration, money and property loss, extended family crises, my husband’s own insecurities… so I dropped everything before I’d kill myself. I watched all my efforts going down the drain to have that third child, and my husband – who wants tens of kids if possible – wasn’t even grateful for it. I guess not killing myself proved a rather good decision in the longer run, though how hard everything was at the time only God and I know fully (and maybe one or two dear people who continued to love me and pray for me in spite of me kicking them… tough).

I was so angry! I grew angry by the day when I was battling the depression which ensued. They fueled one another, depression and anger. I got depresed because of too much suppressed anger in the past, and I was angry because I had let myself getting to the depression phase. I did address both, you know. But then I discovered an even bitterer problem: my husband, the guy who was supposed to be my support in all this, refused to accompany me to therapy, or to the priest. I said I understood that he is a man and that he deals with this by wearing a mask and that people should not find out why I am upset or that we have problems – So I asked him to at least read some books. Nope was the reply. Maybe go away for a holiday, the two of us? No. Just two days? It would mean so much to me. No. Put yourself together, get some sleep, it’s nothing. I bit my lips and I tried resolve my issues. I cried, I screamed, I started to treat myself nicer, I allowed myself to feel all the feelings, I stopped bullying people, I asked for forgiveness, even from my children and my husband. It was very hard and not exactly noticeable. No praise, no encouragement. None whatsoever! Still the only time my actions get a reaction is when I get so fed up that I raise my voice. I am immediately told to calm down. I asked my husband why doesn’t he notice any of my progress, or the fact that I managed to get out of depression without exposing our “secrets” to counsellors, never mind compliment me or thank me in any way. He said: “What depression? You had no depression. You didn’t take any pills. You were not diagnosed.” Surprised that I felt like splitting his head open? Yet, I didn’t. And I didn’t get a divorce either. Why, that’s a story to tell some other time, maybe.

I specialize in anger management, I think. But I don’t have a degree – and degrees are everything these days. So many shrinks, right? Admittedly, lots of these shrinks read books instead of living through crises so they will listen to you and charge you without giving you any advice. Been there, done that. Not worth the money.

So you want counseling for free? Go ahead, say what your problem is, here. The rules of the game are such:

You give your issues a think – deep one, if you can.

Then you summarize stuff in a comment to this post. I edit the comments so if you don’t want it to appear, just say so and I won’t publish it but I’ll email you at the address you provide.

I read your comment and will reply with my thoughts on the matter. Disclaimer: sometimes I’m harsh, though I do my very best not to offend (this being said, please keep in mind that we are only offended by things we haven’t come to terms with – It’s something I’ve discovered in the healing process). So I won’t just listen like a typical shrink, I’ll think of solutions you could try to improve your situation. I believe in improvement and getting out of shit. All you gotta do is want it badly enough.

What do you think? Moms, failed academics, former career women, architects of little fame, disillusioned teachers, exasperated wives… can I lend you a shoulder?


Some Middle Class

I don’t know why that Schubert piece made me think of Hanoch. That was a piano piece on the radio. He used to play the violin. I never heard him playing – I just saw the room where he played with his friends. It was in an addition he had designed for his 1950s bungalow. Hanoch was an architect, trained in Bucharest and immigrant to Canada via Israel. If I remember well, he had arrived in Montreal, like many other architects at the time of Expo 67, that phenomenal summer-long event which put Canada on the map. For some reason, he moved to Ottawa shortly after and then found employment with the young Carleton University, which sent him across the country. To collect ideas about architectural training at other schools, he explained. It was a marvelous time. They experimented a lot. There was money for travel, for studying, for free healthcare, for quite everything really. You’d think moving forward was the only natural thing to do, he added. It was disappointing to see that reformers were not exactly the gods they appeared to be, not even those architects. I’m speaking about Central Mortgage, of course – he clarifies – the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation. They had involved architects in designing houses, good move. Still, the official discourse had been a bit more pompous than the follow up. The houses were well-designed indeed, but once the progressive leadership was gone and their protégés scattered in the wind, the middle bureaucrats switched back from building standards to finance business. They weren’t interested in ideas, Hanoch remembered. I would sketch layers upon layers of façades or try tweaking some corner of a housing ensemble, and they would give my drawings a puzzled look – they’re beautiful, but why do you try so hard? It really is the same thing.


Hanoch laughed. We were sitting at his dining table, with our backs to the small kitchen and the cozy living room. He made a casual gesture towards the sunk-in music room across. Small minds, he said, or maybe scared, you know the builder wouldn’t make these stairs? They’re not to safety standards, he told me, you can’t have an open banister. It doesn’t matter, I said to him, it’s only us and my music friends. We know how to use stairs – and the children will learn too, don’t worry. He asked me to sign a paper stating that, so there would be no liability issues. My signature against his peace of mind. No big deal.


The room was beautiful. Simple. One wall to the end had bookshelves on, rows and rows of music sheets. The wall next to it was mostly glass, with a door leading to a stepped terrace. (Shadows, north exposure, cheap lot when they’d bought it. A few tall trees at the back gave the illusion of a forest. Peaceful, lovely part of the city. Rather expensive nowadays.) Four chairs were clustered in the middle of the music room, with old-fashioned staff-holders in front of each. Who do you play with? Oh, friends. Sometimes my granddaughters, when they’re in town. They study in Vancouver now. When they come to Ottawa in the summer, they go to the market, downtown – one plays the flute, the youngster plays the violin, and the eldest the cello. Does she bring her cello? Yes, she does. It’s fun. They sometimes make money. Not the kind that covers fees, of course. For clothes at the Rideau. It’s close-by – he laughs.


It must be nice to play with your granddaughters. It is, he says.

This is a beautiful room. Yes. Yes, it turned out well, he agrees. Not safe, but hey. He laughs again.


The only other thing that I remember about Hanoch was his way with compliments. He approached me after the lecture I’d given one Wednesday night at the National Archives. He had an amused look on his face. Well, you drew a real crowd tonight, impressive. Congratulations. It was the CBC radio interview earlier today, I explained – really, media does the trick. Ha-ha, our dear leftist force, his eyes twinkled. Publicity worked against them, then – I liked it when you told that guy that socialism is bad; I looked around the room and they were quite puzzled. I laughed – oh well, some of them will stay so. Indeed, he said. Great talk. Thank you.


That was four years ago. I spoke to his wife last month and she told me Hanoch had died sometime earlier. Very lovely lady, tried hard not to sound lost. She hasn’t sold the house yet, would I like to come for tea one day. Of course.


I wish I were a bit like Hanoch.

Schubert helps, to some extent.