The Dealer

picture of a hand holding a pen, hovering over a form (paperwork) and the words "and what do you do?" overlaid.

“And… what do you do?”  The Financial Planner was filling in the forms. We have been thinking it is time to get serious about our finances for years and now we finally are. The guy had already discussed my husband’s occupation.  Much head nodding and respect. And now it was my turn. The field for my occupation was empty, his pen hovering over the space.  I hesitated, and he filled the awkward pause with a mumble about how being a full time housewife is job in itself. I hadn’t said anything yet. I never use that term to explain what I do. Never have. I’ve always put my profession in the box.  Wife is my marital moniker.  Not my profession.

My profession has just slipped out of my grasp.
Teaching. Being sick, I haven’t been able to do the required number of hours in the classroom to maintain my teacher registration. So now, I can’t even say “I’m a teacher”.  I know I am bleating, but it is one of those owies that still stings.  I have the qualifications, the experience, the boxes of treasured thank you notes from my students, a cupboard in the garage that holds the last vestiges of my classroom souvenirs.  According to our registration board, it is not possible to teach well if you have been out of the classroom for as long as I have.  Except that I never really left it. I’ve been relieving and doing part time roles wherever I can during that time.  It’s just not ‘enough’.  I would need to do spend thousands of dollars I don’t have to re-train; if I want to use that degree of mine ever again. Relief teaching was a flexible and chronic-illness-friendly way, for me to contribute to to our income and to society. I worked when I could. It is such a shame that this is now out of my reach.  I miss it.

I looked at that financial planner and searched my brain for something he could put in his box. I explained that I can’t teach at present, but I do write.  That my income is small, and comes from bits of writing I do for various places and the board from our two home-stay students. I didn’t tell him that I am a full time housewife because I am not. If I were, I might not have needed to brush the crumbs away from the table before he sat down with his folders, papers and questions.

He wrote ‘housewife’.  I imagined he thought ‘…and not a very good one’.

I wondered why that question and his answer made me feel so bristly; why I feel shame about not being able to list my profession. I thought about all the lofty housewifely achievements I don’t manage and felt guilty about the state of my home.  I felt that sinkish feeling you get, watching the well world go about it’s business and wishing you had the words to explain just how much hard work it is, dealing with being sick. Dealing with being sick and all the expectations from self and others. Dealing with being sick and losing your sense of purpose, your profession, your image, your income, the defining characteristics of your well self.

The things that make you feel good about yourself.  It can leave you feeling a bit shit.

What do I do?

I deal.
Put Dealer in that box, Mister.

The Dealer, dealer, deal, deal with, make a deal, deal with it.  Dealer.  The Dealer.

Stella Young

This morning, waking among the mental soup of Dysautonomia, I wondered if I would find any words today.  I’ve been wondering this a lot lately and coming up with none.  It gives me equal parts panic and paralysis.  It’s actually been an exciting year as far as words go.  But here I am perched on the edge of school holidays, wondering if I have accidentally used up all the words early, before getting all the way to the end of the year.  I assume I’ll get some new ones next year(!)  But that is a bit of a daring assumption.  As those of you who like to write will know, sometimes, the words just aren’t there.  And then, like magic, they’re back. Except for if they disappear altogether.  But that is a ridiculous fear.  We just have to actually do it.  Sit down and get some words out.  There are important things to get said.  But unless you take a risk and type those things onto paper, they never will.

You may have heard the terrible news that Stella Young, one of Australia’s brightest comedic talents, a writer and passionate campaigner for disability rights; died suddenly today at the age of 32.


Stella Young.   Source: Sydney Morning Herald
Stella Young.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Her community, her family, her friends are reeling. If you are someone who knew Stella, please accept my heart’s empathy.  It is never easy to lose someone you are strongly connected to. I know your hearts will be aching and I wish she was still here with you. I know our world is a poorer place for losing her.  Yet we are a better place for having her at all.  See, Stella was a world-changer.
She was in-your-face, straight up; a pull no punches kind of girl.  I first came across her when I watched her TED talk earlier this year about ‘inspiration porn’.  It challenged my thinking.  She was good at doing that.   Then tonight I read something my friend Carly posted on her page.  It was a link from Australia’s ABC.  Seventeen things Stella wanted us to know.  This was among them.

“I promise to grab every opportunity with both hands, to say yes as often as I can, to take risks, to scare myself stupid, and to have a shitload of fun.”
-Stella Young

What a manifesto!  It challenged my thinking tonight.  Pulled me out of my wallowing and I-can’t-find-my-words-wailing and punched me square in my mind’s eye. Thanks Stella.

I’m still surrounded by the detritus of Dysautonomia as I lie here at the opposite end of this difficult day. My words might still be waiting somewhere out there. But I’m sure as hell not going to find them by sitting here snivelling about them.  I never met Stella.  But my world was changed because of her words, her way, and the controversial things she would say.  Not just my world.  I am sure I am not the only one contemplating all of that tonight, the insightful gifts that she brought us.  I’m sure I am not the only one thinking about how important it is to keep grabbing every opportunity, to keep saying yes; to keep taking risks.  So, with or without the magic words, Stella.  I am writing tonight.

Sleep well.  You will be missed, lady.  I’d call you inspirational, but only with a wink 😉    And my truth is; you have inspired me.  Not because of all the ordinary things you did, but because you kept saying yes to doing extraordinary things.  I’m glad you had shitloads of fun.  I hope that somewhere, you are still ramping it up.