I know I need to write about this because it’s keeping me up at night, but I’m not sure how to begin. I’ve had a very hard week with some difficult news. (I’ll get to that in a moment.) But what happened when I heard the news was that I felt something inside me crack, the way I imagine my foot originally broke, or ice breaks when there is too much weight on it. First a thin line appeared, and then the sound of things breaking apart. Emotionally, that’s how I felt.
What happened is this: I have been trying to get a house. I did everything the way you’re supposed to: I was preapproved for a mortgage because I didn’t want to get my heart set on something and then be told it wasn’t possible. So I got preapproved. Gold star approved. Then I found the house. A perfect house in the perfect location, a place I could call home and provide some stability for me and my kids. I’ve been looking for a place to rest my entire life it seems. And not rest as in die, I mean, a place where I feel safe. A place to call my own. A place that’s also a respite from the outside world. The house inspection went great. The owners accepted my offer. We set a closing date.
Then two days ago I received a call from the mortgage company: “See, Tanya, the underwriter is having a problem with the word Temporary. It says you’re a Temporary Full-Time Professor, and that makes them nervous.”
Only Kendall can’t call me anything else, because to call me full-time means that they’d actually have to get approved to create a position first and then follow all the university’s rules in filling that position. “What does this mean?” I asked the guy.
“Well, we need to see your W2’s from 2008. They want to make sure you can afford the payments.”
Should be easy, yes? Only I was a stay-at-home mom in 2008 and had no income. Of course, I had income, I had my husband’s income. We shared everything. But mortgage companies don’t look at it like that. What they see is that I was unemployed for 5 ½ years, not that I was taking care of my children. They won’t count my husband’s income as mine because it was his. You see? That’s when I cracked.
To leave a bad marriage, one in which I was pretty much invisible as a person, I had to leave every comfort and security. I’d chosen to be a stay-at-home mom for the interest of our kids and because of finances. But when I left the marriage, I left with nothing. NOTHING. I’m not exaggerating. Pierre ‘let’ me take about $500 from our joint account. Everything else was up to me. I had no home. No furniture except for a couple of pieces I asked him for. I had no full-time job. Now that the divorce is final, I also have no health insurance, no dental insurance, no retirement. I have a car in which I now take over the insurance payments for. And then, on top of it, I can’t get a house because I’m a security risk.
And my ex? He has insurance, he has 5 ½ years of employment, he is searching for a house with his fiancée and will have no trouble, he has ten plus years of retirement saved up. He has a new car. He’s moved seamlessly from being married to me into a new relationship with a new woman who will be his new wife and he will have his new home.
I’m not mad at him specifically. I’m mad at the system. I’m mad that a woman (or man) who chooses to stay with their children then has no security, no credit, and is viewed as someone untrustworthy. I’m mad that everything I’ve provided for my kids has been from sheer tenacity. I’m mad that I have no guarantees. No insurance. No one to help me bear the weight of it. And I’m mad that the perfect house I found may not be mine after all, and I will have to explain to them why Daddy is getting a new house but Mommy can’t, after all.
I’ve often wondered how women stay in bad relationships where they’re abused or misused or mistreated or simply unhappy. Now I know. You stay because you have to. You stay because what is in front of you is poverty if you are not lucky enough to get a job. You stay because you may not be not lucky enough to find a landlord who will trust you enough to rent to you. You stay because you are terrified of getting injured or sick or hurt and you won’t have the insurance or the money to help yourself. You stay in a marriage because even though you are strong and independent, you know you cannot fight the system on your own.
Yesterday I really felt “What is the point?” What is the point of my trying to get ahead, of trying to produce creative work, of trying to get a house for the kids. But deeper than that I felt “What is the point of me?” “Why do I matter?” No one else seems to think I do, most of all the system.
So I put a call out on Facebook of all things asking for support. And all day my phone chimed with friends telling me they care about me, they’re thinking of me, and I felt…I don’t know…loved.
What I’ve done is hard and lonely and terrible at times, and there are so many obstacles in my way, and so many people saying “No”.
But there are also a few whispering words of strength from my friends and family, words of encouragement, of support…so even though I feel so alone in this System, I know, essentially, that I’m not actually bearing this weight on my own. And for that small thing, I am intensely grateful.