Everything has a price.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
I watched as my mom went to work every day and give it her all. She was one of the hardest working women I knew. I truly feel she was the main bread winner in our household. My father worked, yes, but most of his earnings were squandered on gambling or helping his mistress, something else I really hated about him .
I have written before about the fact that my mom worked at Somesul, a textile factory. She started at a very young age, dropping out of school. Sometimes she would work double shifts, sometimes twenty four hour shifts. She would come home, sleep for a bit and afterwords manage everything in the household. Then she would go back to work eight hours later. She worked so hard. No matter how hard she worked, things couldn’t get better for us. And it seemed as though work just kept getting harder and harder as living standards kept getting worse and the cost of living was on the rise. As you read this I think you can begin to understand my disdain toward factory work and socialism.
Living under a very oppressive and savage dictator was not easy for anyone in our country. As citizens worked harder to meet the export demands he placed on us, life and living became almost impossible to manage. I did not like not having my mom at home. But everyone was forced to work. There was no other option. Citizens were forced to work in order to help meet the demands Ceausescu placed on all of us in order to pay off foreign debt.
I watched my parents try to survive, each in their own way. My mom worked hard in the factory and my father hustled the black market. He was good at this. He moved from job to job, and having the ability to adapt and integrate, he did pull his share in the house.
So many years later, I am really trying to understand it all. If I put a lens of compassion on and look at both my parents, it is hard not to see them for the wounded souls they were. Although my mom always had a spark of joy and the most beautiful smile, I know that behind that was a lot of pain. My father knew that there was no such thing as his being able to work hard and get ahead. I feel he did what he knew how to do: the streets and hustles in the black market. In his own way he knew he was providing for his family.
I did not understand why the people were not revolting. Why were they accepting these harsh conditions? People who dared to speak up against the government were disappearing, being beaten up, and threatened. Securitate was growing and its presence was becoming more and more intrusive. The secret police had the right to walk into our homes, schools, and places of employment. We had no rights.
What seemed, in the beginning, to be something wonderful and good for our country ended up becoming the worse thing ever. Romania was a great country to live in when the dictator Ceausescu first came to power. He gained the support of the people because he was for the people, or so it seemed. But then his own greed took over and the people became his servants and slaves used to meet his personal dreams.
While he lived in his luxurious palace, people were starving, homeless, getting asphyxiated by gas in their apartments, and freezing to death. They were getting asphyxiated because they used the gas stoves to heat their apartments. We did, too. But there were other circumstances where people accidentally forgot to shut off their gas. That happened because the government would randomly shut off gas and electricity. When the utilities would come back on and people had left their gas on by mistake, many would die. We would hear many stories of deaths. I remember fearing that a building might blow up. Funny where the mind will take you and the worries you end up having.
I was always thinking and planning ahead. To survive you had to. You had to think about what was coming next. This, of course, was not just in the outside structure of my everyday life, but in my home too, while my father was around. Fight or flight was an every day part of my life. Everything needed a narrative, I needed to understand everything and the more I tried to gain answers the less I had.
As I was studying in grad school, I realized the residual affects all of this could have had on my body. I highly recommend reading these books:
The Body Keeps The Score, by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, by Peter Levine