Defying expectations

I’ve learned a great deal about human behavior this week. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with the trial I am hearing. If it were, I couldn’t talk about it. The good thing about the trial is that we were told it will probably end much sooner than originally expected. Then, I will have my knitting and kitten life back!

So, yes, the human behavior. I’ve learned that many people have preconceived notions that they cannot let go of very easily. It’s not that they are trying to be judgmental or anything, it’s just that they have been told or have seen that the world is one way, and if they see something outside of that, people freak out a little. There are two particular preconceived notions that affected me this week.

Remember the knitter/juror? Well, she falls into the typical age range that people expect knitters to conform to. She has grandchildren and she loves to knit for them. Many of the other people we have met in the last week and some change have come up to her and said, “Oh, it’s nice that you are knitting. You must have been doing it a long time.” Because of my world experience, I never tell people what they must have been doing – I know that my lifestyle is not typical of a person my age, so why on earth would I make assumptions about others? The knitter/juror kindly replies to those who ask, “Oh, no, I only started knitting after my mother died. It was very recently.” The other people seem surprised, but it still fits their worldview that she knits. When the other people approach me, they ask, “Oh, did you just learn to knit?” They do not notice that I have a very complex project in my lap, or that I knit without looking. I very kindly explain to them, “Oh no, I have more than 20 years of yarncraft experience under my belt. Why, I’ve even started spinning my own yarn.” This does not fit into the worldview that the others expect. They still seem confused when they walk away. The knitter/juror and I don’t mind – she asks me for knitting advice when we have breaks from our duties. She is so kind – she said to me that “thank-you” is not a big enough word for what she feels I have helped her with. The knitter/juror says that I am truly an expert. Still, the others aren’t so sure. They continue to ask me questions when they see me working. I have answered these questions in great detail, and I think some of them now believe that what I say is true. While I don’t fit into the mold they expect, the others are learning to accept the truth.

This leads me to the next preconceived notion that people have. A juror asked me, “You seem to have a lot of time on your hands to make such lovely projects. Do you work?” I told her that, yes, I do work with the kittens. I work very hard in fact, especially when one of them is sick or scared. “No,” she says, “Do you have a real job?” I tell her again “Yes, I do have a real job. I volunteer at the shelter and take care of kittens when I get home.”  “But you don’t get paid, right?” She asks. “No.” “So you don’t work.” “I do.” We are at an impasse here. The woman who exchanged these ideas with me was not saying what she did in a manner that felt particularly judgemental. It’s just that her worldview is like many people’s – if you are not at home raising children, then you must be working at a paid job. Well, I do not fit into either category.

Just to be fair, I held that worldview until I moved to San Francisco only 4 years ago. If you would have asked me 10 years ago where I expected to be today, I would have told you that I would be finishing vet school. Of course, sometimes life throws things at you that you didn’t expect. While I was in college I noticed a very peculiar inability in myself to keep up with the others. I needed so much sleep. As time passed, I learned I had several endocrine disorders and gluten intolerance. I am miserable with a regular job. Even part-time jobs wipe me out – I have trouble keeping a regular schedule. Despite this inconvenience, I kept myself gainfully employed until my husband finished his schooling and found a job here. Since his job kept a roof over our heads and food on the table, I was free to pull my weight in other ways. I needed something I could do on my own schedule, one that I could do at home when I wasn’t well enough to leave the house. I now tell people, “My husband earns the cash, I earn the karma.” The job I do is one that many people do not want to do, but no one is willing to pay to have it done either. The job still needs to be done. It took me a long time to accept my situation. I still keep trying to devise ways of at least making myself neutral to my husband’s income. I’d like to make a great deal of money so I can buy a house. If I am honest with myself, I know that going back to work will wreck me. Shoot, I have to nap every day after jury duty. Is that what I really want out of life? Work, then sleep, then work the next morning with no enjoyment of life in between? As hard as it was to do this, I’ve come to accept that just because I am not paid, it does not mean that I am not valuable. Maybe it means I am priceless. 🙂 Still, it is tough on the old self-esteem to be informed that I do not have a real job and that I have more time on my hands than I ought. Even when the other person doesn’t mean to hurt me.

But, anyway, I do have some successes to report. I’ve finished a washcloth that I have given to the kind knitter/juror. It was going to be for me, but she had never used a handmade washcloth before and I couldn’t let her miss out. She’s going to make a million of them when she sees how great they are. Also, Milkshake made weight this week! All we have to do is get rid of the ringworm spots and he is going out for adoption! I have to take a really nice photo and write a description for the website. None of the pictures I have taken so far have done him justice.

Well, I’m off to knit some more before I go to bed. Goodnight.

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3 thoughts on “Defying expectations

  1. Barbara – I came across your blog when I googled the word “ringworm” and must let you know you have brought many needed smiles to my life this past month. On June 6, 2008 I “adopted” two kittens (Dolly and Molly). Their mother showed up at a friend’s door and soon gave birth to four kittens. At their initial vet visit, it was discovered that they had “ringworm” and later that they had other intestinal parasites. So for the past 3 weeks I have been battling “ringworm” and Molly and Dolly have been in quarantine in the downstairs bathroom. I was a bit dismayed to learn of the ringworm, but your blog has helped be put things in perspective.

    Things are looking well for us now. Initially they each weighted 1.5lbs and now are up to 2.0lbs. Appetites are extremely good and all systems other wise are in working order.

    Please keep up the good WORK!!! The pay might not be so much, but you are touching many lives and have certainly given me the hope I needed.

    Thanks a bunch!
    Vicki

    P.S. I am also a knitter and have really enjoyed seeing your projects.

  2. Vicki,

    I’m glad that my blog has helped you. Sometimes it’s nice to know that other people are going through the same things that you are. Have you had much success with the ringworm treatment? There are a lot of differing views about how to treat it, and I get a lot of power to make my own decisions in the foster program I am currently working with. What I do works, but it annoys me that it takes so long. That, and the kittens have to stay away from my adult cats while they are infected. 😦

    Thank you so much for saying all the nice things about me. It helps me soldier on, for certain.

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