This Post got me Thinking. Because I recognize a whole lot of what the letter-writing is talking about with regards to feeling guilt-ridden and undeserving of support while being an as-yet-unpublished writer.
I’m a work-at-home artist. I make my living (“living”) through modeling; occasional sales of essays, poems, and other stuff; being a craft show vendor; and doing a small, set number of local-outreach hours for a province-wide health organization. Sometimes I do temp work – which is a financial boost to be certain, but also tends to mess with my ability to get most of my other work done at the same time.
What I’m getting at is that I’m financially supported in a very real way by my partner, who makes something in the neighbourhood of ten times what I make every month, money-wise.
And I struggle with this.
I struggle with this because I love that I don’t need to work a time-consuming, frustrating, soul-eating day-job and can, instead, spend my days pursuing my various arts and doing things that actually make me happy… but feel like I shouldn’t love it, should, instead, be consumed with self-loathing for being a worthless freeloader and should be working my ass off at a paid job (that I hate) in order to not need that support even – maybe most of all – at the expense of living the life I want and doing the things I love and getting really good at all of my trades.
It’s messed up.
I am… probably dealing with a lot of 2nd-wave (and 3rd-wave) feminist indoctrination that I got from both (a) my mother, and (b) my peer group and (c) my mom’s peer group and/or cohort of white, middle-class feminists regarding both:
A) The middle-class and also Protestant idea that “working hard” = “making money”
B) The feminist idea that women can, and should, make the same kind of money for the same kind of work which, while true, has wound up having a shadow-side that says “women should (as opposed to just can) do the kind of work that is valued by The Patriarchy because that’s the kind of work that makes good money”… which is not good and continues the Patriarchal Pattern of devaluing that which is read as feminine/female/girly or otherwise socially situated in the realm of Women’s Work.
BOTH OF WHICH contribute to:
C) The idea that men, or people of whatever gender but who are working in “men’s fields”, work harder than women (or people of whatever gender who are working in “women’s fields”) do. See, well, everything.
See the male CEO of a small business being the CEO of “Urban Jungle Office Plant Care Services”, but the female CEO of a small business is “just a cleaning lady”.
See the assumption that a man working, or hustling for work, from home is Working From Home and doesn’t have time to do the laundry and prep dinner on top of that; but a woman working, or hustling for work, from home is expected to do all the domestic work while she’s at it.
See phrases like “My mom stays home and makes cookies” as a way of totally dismissing the endless, and typically thankless, unpaid work of putting food on the table, raising kids, caring for elderly relatives, managing multiple calendars, and all the other stuff that a stay-at-home mother does.
The list goes on.
So there’s that.
There’s also a lot of stuff tied into this that comes from my being my partner’s Owner, and the stuff that the kink community has inherited from the over-culture about how money = power. Specifically:
(A) I feel, sometimes, on some level, that I’m not being “dommely” enough if I’m not the one Making The Money.
(B) Because our Dynamic includes Ghost doing the vast majority of the domestic labour – AND we don’t (and won’t) have kids – which means I don’t get to say “but I do all the ____________, thus fulfilling my Duties as a Productive Stay-At-Home Wife/Mom” the way, say, Erica (North West Edible Life) can, or the way my own mother did when I was a kid.
Accepting Service is hard. It’s one of the reasons why there are so few (apparently) people who can do it for a sustained period of time. It’s hard to remember all the intangible stuff that you do every day to earn that Service.
It can be extremely difficult to fend off the social conditioning that leaves you – especially if you’re a chick – feeling like you’re being monumentally selfish to even want, let alone have, someone at your beck and call to just do what you tell them to do in order to make your life easier.
Being a working artist is like that, too.
We get fed all this stuff where either:
A) You’re Stephen King (or Angelina Jolie, or Feist, or whoever), and are therefore Successful and A Real Artist (or, potentially, a Total Sell-Out) because your work is valued-in-your-lifetime and you are making huge pots of money by Doing Your Thing
B) You’re a starving artist who is surviving on once-a-day Kraft Dinner and is probably emotionally broken and is living in an unheated bachelor apartment, but who is DAMMIT earning their right to call themselves an Artist
C) You’re a freeloading perpetual child who is Just Playing and needs to grow the fuck up and get a Real Job, already, instead of abusing the kindness, patience, and generosity of people who actually (for some reason) believe in you
See what I mean?
It’s a mess.
I used to write recipes and blog posts for an online cooking magazine that paid me a couple of hundred dollars every month for my product. It was great. I was Making My Living as a Writer. When people asked me “So, what do you do…?” I could tell them “I’m a freelance writer. I write for a cooking magazine and have published a couple of poems!” and they would nod and go “that’s so cool” because I was a “real” (read: paid) writer for realz.
Now I write… blog posts (prolifically), poetry (sporadically), a novel-in-progress, and occasional essays or stories as they come into my head. Sometimes I get paid for this stuff. I’ll sell a poem to a publication and get paid to read at the launch party, or I’ll write an essay and manage to sell it to a magazine. But mostly my writing is unpaid and, well, labour-intensive. I’ve talked a bit about this over at The Bleedings of My Heart so I’m going to spare you the repetition here. The short version is:
It’s my job to create my art.
If I create my art, I’m doing my job.
If I’m getting paid to do my job, then so much the better.
And it’s getting easier to remember that.
I feel good – not just “better” but good – about myself when I put in my 1000 words/day. I can tell twitter that “Today I made peach chutney, a phone call to a figure-drawing class that was looking for models, and one thousand words. Booyah! I’m doin’ my job!”
But I still get twitchy – even knowing that Ghost has my back 100% of the time – when it comes to Needing Her Help. E.G.: “Due to it being The Intersession, there’s been a lack of modeling work over the past two months and, on top of that, my recipe-writing job just dried up with no notice. As such, I need you to cover all of the July Rent, and possibly August’s as well”. That happened in 2011, not that long after we’d set up house together, and it suuuuuuuuuuucked. Not because she was grudging or gloating or otherwise nasty about it (she very emphatically was anything but nasty about it) but because is really, REALLY felt like I was letting her down (even through situations beyond my control. Yeah, I know).
… And I’ve been rambling about this stuff for three solid pages at this point, so let me see if I can gather everything together into some kind of concluding point…
Being a service-receptive domme, and being a financially-supported adult, both involve dealing with a lot of cultural crap about “laziness” and “worthiness”, about “independence” and “bootstraps” and similar. Accepting either (or, in my case, both at the same time) requires a lot of grace.
When my Ghost talks about doing things with grace, she doesn’t mean “doing things elegantly” or “doing things in an aesthetically pleasing way”. She means, I think, what Captain Awkward says about “[Accepting support/care] with thanks and love [..] Rather than with an exhausting shame dance of unworthiness”.
That’s what I mean here.
There’s a lot of Cultural Indoctrination that says:
“People who need help aren’t worthy of receiving it”
“Adults who need help aren’t really adults”
“People whose work is neither lucrative nor familiar to [me] as work are… lazy people who have never done an ‘honest day’s work’ in their lives”.
Those are all big obstacles to receiving any support, as an adult, regardless of the context.
To receive something with grace is to say thank you (not “I’m not worthy” but “Thank you”), and to hold up your end of the bargain.
Put words on the page
State your desires
Shape your creation, shape your charge.
 Actually a word! (According to my spell-checker, at least).
 No really. Check out The Commerce of Everyday Life: Selections from The Tatler and The Spectator. It’s all about that stuff!
 See Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism for details.
 I do most of the cooking and frequently fold the clean laundry, but only do the laundry, or the cleaning, tidying, or washing up, once in a blue moon.
 Because I like cooking, and canning, and puttering in the kitchen… but also because I like to eat earlier in the evening than we would be able to if Ghost were also required to get dinner on the table after work.
 Oh, hey, tonight’s a Blue Moon…
 As opposed to lazy…
 I so bought this one, hardcore, for years. It’s still hanging around inside my brain, but it has marginally less of a hold on me, thank freaking goodness…
 Until it went belly-up. That’s online start-ups for you.
 Which I’m seriously in the muddy middle of, which is Not Helping.
 Because, like it or not, money is how we set the value of things in this society.
 E.G.: Pro Sports = [something a lot of people do for a hobby] + pots of money. Pro Art = [something a lot of people do for a hobby] + …uhm…
Guess which one is the one that gets valued in Ye Olde Mainstream Culture?