Accessing Your Knowledge

Trying to write a book has thrown me for a loop. My idea is all about connecting the dots. You can call it “insight”, “knowledge”, or give it another name, but we are all dong it, or at least trying to do so.

What I believe is that we already have the knowledge that we seek. Have you ever noticed that when someone says something that is true, it is less new knowledge and more of a recognition? When someone tells you something that you need to do, the feeling is, “If I could do that, I would have done so. Tell me something I don’t already know.”

What stops us from knowing what we already know on some level? Trauma. Distraction. Socialization. We are taught to know things that are wrong or taught not to listen to ourselves. And then there are all the competing interests clamoring for our attention. Our culture is so ADD it is ridiculous. Let us always remember that there are corporations that greatly benefit from deliberately directing our attention to benefit their ends.

I have heard that physicists believe the universe has to have eleven dimensions in order to make the math come out right. What lives within those other seven dimensions (given height, width, depth, and time as our current dimensions)? I say demons, angels, ghosts, inter-dimensional spirits, “gods”, aliens, and anything the mind can conceive of. It’s all out there somewhere.

How to access our knowledge? Some ideas include psychoanalysis, intuition, shamanism, seances, and, oh yeah (the biggie), meditation. Anything that includes the archetypal, the pan-human, and I am not even sure what else. One common theme among differing religions and cultures is the idea of eliminating intoxicants. Anything that prevents access to obvious, current knowledge and common sense is not a good idea. Even the cultures that experiment with altered states of consciousness are very controlled in their use of intoxicants, like ayahuasca. They acknowledge the hazards of going on inter-dimensional trips without an experienced guide.

I can meditate day and night and might not access much. Rather, I should say, I can only access that which is mine to access in the first place. Everyone has their own gifts that can be developed. I can go deeper into myself, but your area is probably much different than mine. Thirty years of dedication and training would only make me an expert at my very narrow realm. I call it the “Nutty Professor Syndrome.” Have you ever met a real genius? I have. Arthur Helweg. He taught anthropology at Wester Michigan University. Wonderful human being who could not dress himself. He would come to class wearing plaid pants, a striped shirt, and one of those jackets with patches on the elbows. So funny. It takes a real genius to make something complicated look “duh” obvious. But if you use all your brain cells over here in some specific area, the remaining areas get starved for attention. No one can be good at everything.

Maybe I have been asking the wrong question. Perhaps a better question is, “What do I need to know now?” Or perhaps, “What is the bigger picture I can help others with?” I don’t even know what the question is yet.

Walking Paradox

I have needed a lot of reassurance lately.

Sometimes, I have a shockingly low level of self-confidence. I have an MBA. I took care of everything for my husband with Huntington’s Disease for years. I should have ample confidence.

What’s up? Now I am actually feeling my feelings. In my 20s, my most common thought was, “I don’t have the time or energy to deal with this. I just have to do it.” I particularly remember an incident within a few years of getting married. We were having financial problems and I panicked and told Barry how I was feeling. Then he started reacting to my emotions. My thought? “Crap. The last thing I can deal with is his reaction to my feelings. I need to not share what’s going on with me ever again.”

So I did things, regardless of my feelings. I got a lot done, but growing emotionally was not one of them. I was too busy surviving.

After Barry passed, all I had was time. Time to process. Time to heal. And I’ve been doing the best I can. But, superficially, I make no sense. People are mystified at someone who is so articulate and yet has no self-esteem.

My lack of family support has had far-reaching consequences. Now I have good friends. But I feel behind.

Anger, The Useful Emotion

Anger has been the theme of my life of late.

I was raised with the idea that anger is “inappropriate,” the word my mother used to batter me with. It was her favorite term to call me. It was abusive. Flat-out abusive. Normal emotions: not okay. Ever.

As I have learned about CPTSD (a la Pete Walker), I now understand that anger is really a protective emotion. It is the red flag that gets raised when you are mistreated. It is normal. It is the alarm bell that goes off when situations are unfair or need rectifying. It is like the check-engine light of your emotional world. Something is out-of-whack.

When things that are perfectly normal get disapproved of, it is like putting duct tape over your check-engine light. Your car is about to die. In the middle of the freeway. And you don’t know. It will be a shock.

I got out of Goodwill because of their unfair treatment of me and the other good workers in order to defend the poor workers. The situation is bad. But, a few years ago, I might have stayed indefinitely. I would have blamed my feelings instead of listening to them. I am not big on obeying every whim, but I am now at a place in life where I know that emotions are information. Something is trying to get through to me.

Thank you, Gabor Mate. He is the one that showed how auto-immune problems are directly related to suppressed emotions a lot of the time and that that emotional repression is about 80% female. It is more okay for guys to be angry. For women, it is “inappropriate.” And we pay the price physically, emotionally, and in every other conceivable way.

Anger is about having boundaries. It is a key to grieving. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. To not deal with anger is to end all emotional growth and recovery.

It is also a key ingredient of addiction. I wonder now how angry my brothers are, especially my oldest one. When I was a teenager and he was drunkenly slamming doors and basically being an idiot at his own daughter’s birthday party, he was clearly angry at something. My level of understanding at the time was non-existent. It was a dysfunction-orama, one that my mom got mad at me about. As if I was in charge of anything. Perhaps that is the point: in dysfunctional families, no one is in charge. All those emotions and no one is dealing with any of them.

Now it is 2022. My brothers have cirrhosis. The emotions never got dealt with. I am out of the family and my health is better off because of it. I wonder how angry they are now. Now that it is too late to make any meaningful changes, I wonder if anyone is angry about that. I doubt any learning will occur. All I seem to feel anymore is grief.

Gen X Shock

My mind is still reeling from how weirdly easy it was to find a job. I was hired 58 hours after I applied online. To say, “This is new,” would be a severe understatement.

I am part of Generation X. Before we were Gen X, we were referred to as “Baby Busters.” When I was growing up, school districts were shrinking because our parents didn’t have enough of us to keep things up and running at full capacity.

My generation is one of economic cynicism. I watched my brothers, the tail end of the Baby Boomers, get one good job after another, only to watch those companies go belly-up. They would not get laid off; the companies they worked for stopped existing. It was awful. In the balance of workers and work needing to get done, competition was tough and there was seldom enough work to keep everyone busy and so down-sizing was common, if a company was lucky enough to make it at all.

Even in 2018, looking for a job was hard because there were so many temp jobs that paid $15/hour but only offered 10 hours/week. I felt lucky to get a real permanent job at Goodwill.

Then the pandemic hit. I do not believe that the pandemic created anything new, but it hastened trends and processes that were already underway. The Baby Boomers were retiring for a couple decades slowly. Imagine you are 60 years old and a public school teacher. Maybe you are not in the greatest health. You have some pre-existing conditions, perhaps diabetes or COPD. The kids come in without masks because their non-science-believing parents won’t let them wear them. You are not willing to risk your health for these moron parents. It is called “early retirement.” No debate. You don’t want to get sick and die. Maybe you lost a parent to COVID. There is no willingness to risk illness and death for Trumpers. Let natural selection do its thing.

My brothers, the last of the Boomers are all retiring or dead. Is it “retiring” when you have a zero percent chance of ever passing another company physical?

The Boomers were the largest American generation ever until the Millennials came along. They are retiring and taking all their experience and skills with them.

We’ve all heard of the “Great Resignation of 2021.” However, it continues. People of all ages are quitting their jobs. The young people are looking for better jobs. The older workers are out of the labor pool completely. I am in the middle generation, stunned at all the changes.

I am watching businesses close their doors because they don’t have enough workers to stay open. They may have a great product or service and a fabulous customer base, but it matters not. The only thing that does matter is that there are no workers to provide the product or service. The minimum wage is not the issue. Wages have been going up.

I don’t see the Goodwill store surviving another year. They pay minimum wage, offer no raises, reward the poor employees, and punish the hard workers. They will continue to hemorrhage good workers. Nobody is lining up to do the work for peanuts. There will always be donors. There will always be customers. But without workers, so what? The street-side sign will be taken down and people will wonder what happened.

I am overwhelmed at Burlington already. There is so much more work than workers to do it that I cannot fathom the situation. I am approaching it with a simple willingness to do whatever they ask. I am not perfect, but I will work hard. And the job pays more than minimum wage. The store is huge. It is an old K-Mart. There is a lot of empty space. To fill the space would require twice or thrice the employees. I look at the store and say, “Holy crap.”

The old rules do not apply. I’m not sure anyone knows what the new rules are.

Not 2018 Anymore

I found a new job. Guess how long it took me from when I applied to when I was offered the position? Fifty-eight hours. Not even three days.

When I started at Goodwill in 2018, I could not find anything resembling a permanent position anywhere. There were a ton of jobs, all temporary and offering less than 20 hours a week. Most were not worth the time it took to fill out the application. So that was my last memory of job hunting.

Goodwill’s philosophy is that we are all easily replaceable. They were correct in 2018. They could not be more wrong now. Same assumption, different reality, now false.

If I had known that it would be so ridiculously easy to find another job, I might have done this months ago. But I did not want to start another job with restrictions. I still have one more PT appointment and the six-week follow-up this upcoming work week, which should release me from all restrictions.

I am looking forward to more training, meeting new people, making more money, and being treated better.

This is the new phase of my life. Then again, perhaps everyone is dealing with a new phase. It is such a different world now that it makes my head spin. I can’t believe how different things are.

Responsive Energy Universe

I’ve had a bizarre day. And that is an understatement.

I got sent home from work and they might fire me, but they didn’t do so today. It’s the whole favoritism thing. They claimed to do an investigation and found that the lazy employee did not have a problem. I spoke out and got accused of “creating a hostile work environment.” But they didn’t have the balls to fire me. They know they are in the wrong. They are carefully contemplating their options. I do not care what they choose because I am quitting anyhow. They told me they would call me before I could come back.

I think it was Sunday night that I applied for a job at Burlington, where another Goodwill employee found better employment. I felt like I had to. At 1:00 am. After today’s fiasco at work, I moved up my interview time from a couple weeks from now to Wednesday (tomorrow).

One of my shame-based sticking points has been my inability to call my alma mater, Davenport University, to find out the name of the website that teaches Microsoft Office skills for free. I had been too ashamed to call them. This afternoon I called them. While the librarian was on the phone looking up possible websites, someone left a voicemail. I assumed it was work telling me not to come back. No. It was Burlington wanting to do the interview a day early, as in today! This happened while on the phone doing the thing I haven’t been able to do in four years!

I’m not saying I got the job. Apparently there are multiple openings and she needed to finish her other calls, but she seemed enthusiastic and impressed.

But still. How weird is it that they call while I am doing the very thing I haven’t been able to face in almost half a decade? I have thought for years that I would know I was making good progress with the crippling shame when I could call DU. Burlington was not expected to call today at all!

I am stunned.

Work is trying to humiliate me by basically sending me to a time-out chair while they sort out what they want to do. Treating me like a 4-year-old is not a great way of restoring my respect for management. Given that this is a minimum wage job, literally everywhere else pays more. Also, I have gotten contact information from some of my co-workers so I can use them as references. They respect me and how hard I work. When I am no longer there, and someone they respect has clearly been pushed out by management, their respect for management is not exactly going to increase. The dominoes have only begun to fall. The karma management is creating right now is not pretty. They don’t want to lose me as a worker because I am one of the few people left that seriously works hard. But they coddle the poor workers. This is all on them.

I feel good about how I have handled everything. I have been very deliberate in trying to do things in a way that I could feel good about in six months. I truly believe that I am now too healthy to work there.

I am simply flabbergasted that Burlington called while I was on the phone with DU. Energy shifted somehow. Instantaneously. I do not understand any of it.

Nothing to Lose

I didn’t get fired. And the store manager is at least pretending to offer me additional training. Will it actually materialize? His track record is poor; he is standing on a record of broken promises. But I have made my opinions known.

I have been determined to do things differently. Anyone can get pissed off and quit. I want to do some good before I go. And employers are desperate for workers. I can literally work anywhere else, still maybe get treated badly, and make more money. My focus has been on handling things in a way I can feel good about six months from now.

I think I may have crossed some kind of threshold. My confidence level feels higher.

I can only deal with so many crises at a time. When everything is falling apart, you can look beyond the crisis of this nanosecond through to the possible resolution of a different crisis, changing the focus.

If you want to maintain a dysfunctional status quo, you must never put people in a position where they have nothing to lose. People with nothing to lose are dangerous. There is sometimes zero difference between courage and simply not caring.

Always Bigger Fish to Fry

I am not sure I have ever had so many things go wrong at once.

I might get fired; things have gotten bad at work and I tried to resolve some issues with the district manager, but may have made things worse. Going over the store manager’s head to resolve these issues may not go well. Part of me stopped caring. I didn’t want to quit until I was done with PT, which has a few more weeks to go. And then, last Wednesday, my check engine light came on. So my car has been dropped off. It may be nothing because the light did not come on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. So maybe it is a sensor. And it is supposed to be raining tomorrow morning when I go to work, so I have ordered a cab. I hope it comes. And today, I got an email from my credit card saying I was overdue. Huh? I haven’t received a bill in a while. Turns out, my address was wrong. My Consumer Cellular bill was on that card and so did not get paid. Also, my birthdate and phone number were wrong. So I spent about an hour on the phone with the credit card people.

So when I go back to work tomorrow, who knows? I may not get fired. Regardless, things may not go well. Things have been pretty toxic at work. When a job pays poverty wages, like Goodwill, the only way to keep the good people is to treat them well. When the bad employees are treated like royalty and the good employees are taken for granted, they will get exactly what they deserve, a building full of bad employees expecting to be treated like management and no good employees left. It will serve them right.

Work may not even be my primary concern tomorrow. I am waiting for the garage to tell me what’s going on. I hope it gets fixed quickly, but I may have to cancel PT due to lack of transportation.

How much chaos can one person juggle at a time?

Another PT Metaphor

Since I broke my wrist and had surgery to put it back correctly, I have had physical therapy (PT).

I want to bear weight with my right hand. The PT lady explained that that is not a great idea yet. She made a fist and moved it back and forth a little bit and said that there was a world of difference between bearing weight with that tiny range of motion versus, and, she showed a normal range of motion, being able to bear weight with a full range of motion. First, you need that range of motion, and then you can start bearing weight, such as pushing yourself off the floor with your hands.

I can see that is true emotionally as well. First, you get the tools to label emotions and build a support network. Then, with the pieces in place, you can start to excavate the emotional toxic stuff from within. It is not a great idea to plumb the depths without the requisite resources at your disposal. I have always thought that meditation was not a great idea for people with vast quantities of unknown issues that will instantly rise to the surface demanding resolution. That is re-traumatization. Been there, done that. Without the pieces in place for recovery, healing is impossible.

This is why intellect is not necessarily useful for healing. The intellect has to be in support of the emotions, not a substitute for them. Sometimes. people with lower IQs do better emotionally because they have less intellectual interference in their heads justifying the dysfunctional garbage they have been subjected to. The more intellect one has, the greater the cognitive dissonance may be. You know that what you are doing is self-destructive, but still have no emotional self-control to prevent it. It is like watching a one-man train wreck. Once again, been there, done that.

Fingers of Intellect, Bones of Emotions

Weird title, right? Everything somehow becomes a metaphor to me.

I broke my wrist on February 2, but thought I only sprained it. My wrist was very broken, but my fingers still worked perfectly. I still had coordination. What I had lost was my weight-bearing ability. I couldn’t hold a coffee mug. But I could almost braid my hair. I would come so close that I would get really frustrated, but I just could not bend my arm that way. I felt like if I simply tried harder, it would not be a problem. Now that I am getting that range of motion back, braiding my hair is a no-brainer.

Shame is like my broken wrist. Trying harder has never helped. My intellect is just fine, probably better than most people’s, but I feel like I am living a “loser life.” I work a minimum-wage job where unreliable employees are treated much better than I am. It is not that I think I am unappreciated; I actually am. It is not a mis-perception on my part.

Understanding things intellectually accomplishes little. There are plenty of brilliant alcoholics in this world. Some of them live on the street. You would be shocked at the intelligence level of some street people. Intelligence alone accomplishes nothing.

This is the arena of Gabor Mate, the Hungarian/Canadian physician specializing in addiction and childhood trauma. He gets it, both personally and professionally.