This Gallery theme came at another trough-point for me, but it’s funny how, just at the right moment, something can spark something which is able to pick me up and set me back on the right track, restore a bit of self-confidence … and give me the ‘fire up me bum’ to motivate myself back into the ‘right kind’ of action. Thank you Tara … you had no idea, but I really needed this.
But first I need to take a couple of steps back; this entry isn’t just a picture … there is an infinite pile of baggage behind it, which is why I am taking the terrifying step of submitting it. But please, do me a favour, if you see that the blurb is too much and you have no time, then don’t look at the picture – the photo is nothing without the background. So here I go again … blah blah blah ..
In an ideal world, the self-employed person squirrels away some cash to tide them through the summer, as the flow of work is renowned for virtually drying up during the vacation period unless you are lucky and have a crazily good network of customers. I don’t and it’s tough.
Kids at home for such a long vacation is an ordeal in itself for parents and I have found it particularly hard again this year, being a sole earner, with a negligible customer base and still literally floundering at rock bottom financially. There was no stash as a buffer and a total income of 1100 Euros since June has near on crippled us. Having L at home all day has been amazing, but I am lucky if I can snatch 30 consequetive minutes at my desk between 9am and 9pm. No work = no income and no income = no money for child-minder, no child-minder = no work. Catch 22 and a increasingly irate bank-manager. I think I have written something like that before – ah yes, about this time last year, when I was just as down on myself as I am now. Cue violins. And enough of me.
Two days before the beginning of the holiday, my son’s father was made redundant, exactly two full weeks prior to the end of his probation period with the company that employed him almost 6 months ago. It was a calculated, strategic move by the firm in question. It wasn’t about personalities, or even the quality of anyone’s work. They had needed a job doing, had cashed in on state funding by signing up an employee to contract (part of a completely defective governmental ‘let’s get people back in work’ initiative) and were well within their rights to release said employee within the first 6 months without having to justify their actions. Fabulous! – they got the job done, sidled off whistling with the money and put a qualified but more broke than already broke person out on the street without so much as a by your leave.
Our relationship-split, almost 3 years ago, had hit M hard financially as well as emotionally as, still scratching a living on an Eastern European wage, he suddenly found himself with everything to pay plus child support. We never took our differences to court as, despite all the mud slung between the two of us in the latter stages, we realised that the law could and would never be able to put things right, nor get back what we had lost; our child would simply have taken the brunt of any legal proceedings. The one thing we were able to agree upon and which was a no-brainer for us both, was that our son should never be negatively impacted by what we had messed up. I agreed to the minimal child support and M struggled to keep his nose above water. If he ever defaulted by a month or so, he worked his butt off overtime to pay it back – with no pressure from me. I have developed a new respect for him based on that alone, aside from the fact that he has remained the best father that a son could ever wish for. It has taken me nearly three years to be able to accept the fact that he is in my house every second day, but somehow, we have managed to get over ‘us’ i.e. him and me, and, with L as the primary and focal point in our disjointed triangle, we have found a completely new plane upon which we can function peacefully – without intruding on each other’s lives but where L can feel the unity of the two people who love him the most in the world.
More background: M is an extremely talented photographer. He has always dabbled and experimented (within the limits of the technology available to him on a budget) and I have always been impressed with both his enthusiasm and the results of his work. He often tried to ‘snap’ me while we were together but I loathed it and usually fled from the camera – I am ultra sensitive to flash and to this day, have not outgrown the reflex of looking perfectly horrific on most indoor shots. I hate being photographed. End of.
A week or so after he had been laid off, M told me he wanted to set up a home studio to try and earn some money while he looked for a new job. I knew he had some good contacts and had seen some of his more recent work on the website he had set up last year. I said I thought it was a great idea. He asked me if I’d help. I said Sure – if I can… tell me more. But when he asked me if I would model for him so he could set up background and lighting, I said no way. And felt horrible… but self-conscious 40something with flabby bits and a flash complex … not a chance in hell.
The long and short, as you’ve probably guessed, is that he managed to talk me around – on the pretext of ‘it would only be between us and let’s face it, we have a child, remember?!!’. I had major trust issues at first, particularly given some of the monstrous results – The ‘what if’s’ plagued me and occasionally still do! Thoughts of ‘How could I ever live something like that down if it got out’ torment … but then every now and again, he’d come up with a shot like this and we’d just sit and shake our heads at each other as if to say ‘Well buggar me, life has some pretty damned awesome milliseconds in it !!’ … and doesn’t it just.
So ultimately, although I did not take this picture, I am ridiculously proud of it for a lot of reasons:
I am proud that I’m in a place where I could bite the bullet and do this given a shed load of history and some tough current issues;
I am proud that my son’s father has come this far after struggling so horrendously for the last decade of being in the west;
I am proud that he and I managed to keep our heads 3 years ago, and kept our relationship issues out of court for the sake of our son;
I am insanely proud of our 3yo son for being ‘man’ enough at his young age to deal so incredibly well with the lot life threw at him … to the extent that he has subconsciously held his parents together.
I am proud that M and I have persisted and have struggled to win over our differences to the point where we can not only parent the same child together-but-separately, but we can even work together … and maybe one day perhaps even be friends!
I am proud that M has finally binned the safety net and is getting out there to fulfil his very, very tough dream of making it as a professional photographer
and finally, goddammit, this face-pulling disaster of a woman is just blinkin proud of this out-of the-cam shot!! :-)