Life and Health

Many Hands Make Light Work

In a moment of social media weakness, I shared a post that said:

“You are totally replaceable at work. You’re not replaceable at home. Home is your real life. Keep that perspective. Always.”

Photo by Microsoft 365 on Unsplash

I tend to shy away from sharing things like that on social media because I almost always think “inspirational” or “though-provoking” memes need more context.

Like the one where people are pointing at the ground saying, “it’s a 6, no it’s a 9”, and then it’s supposedly some lesson about not understanding the point of view of the other person. I don’t know about you but any time I’ve seen numbers painted on the ground they are painted in a specific direction for a specific purpose (usually as a speed limit warning), but I digress.

After sharing the meme, I felt a little uneasy but so many people responded to it so I didn’t feel I could take it down. I firmly believe in the sentiment of the meme for MOST people. However, this meme doesn’t represent people who don’t have choices, paid vacation, or sick days, and people who own their own business. This meme doesn’t represent the hard work ethic that has been drilled into people and in some cases traumatized people. There are some, my partner included, who feel defined by how much work they do and contributing the bigger, better paycheck even at the expense of their home life (this is a point of much contention in our marriage).

We have been conditioned to “get a good job” and the job (or paycheck) determines how good of a member of society you are. One of the first questions usually asked when you are getting to know some one is “what do you do?” (Sidebar: as a mother this feels like a completely awkward question because it comes off incredibly judgmental and I have yet to find a comfortable way to phrase it when it comes to the SAHM vs. working mom debate……. Why is that still a debate? But that’s a topic for another post) as if we are defined by our jobs. It’s as if our jobs dictate how much value we bring to society. We are seeing this rhetoric play out in the minimum wage/fair living wage debates currently raging here in the United States. Nationwide value judgements are being placed on people based solely on what they do for a living. This rhetoric is harmful and plays into the “unskilled” labor myth.

We all have different skill sets and it is this diversity that allows us to create a fully functional society. I was a terrible tollbooth operator — I worked as a toll collector during a couple college summers and it was dreadful because there were many hours where I was alone with no one to talk to. There were cameras in the toll booths that the cops in the station could watch and I imagine they spent a good many hours laughing at this poor college kid who was talking to herself, dancing, doing anything possible to keep her energy contained in this tiny little box. Now someone who is an introvert might love that job but for me it was complete torture.

Anyone who’s ever worked in food service, retail, or other service industry jobs knows how hard they are but when we talk about those being “unskilled” jobs and they should “get a better job if they want more money” we are playing into the hands of the oligarchs. All our skills are valuable, all our skills are important, and we deserve to be treated as such.

If you have a screaming kid in the car because they’re hungry, the drive-thru workers will save your ears and your sanity — I think those workers are incredibly valuable in that moment.

We are all valuable because we are human beings contributing to the whole. My job is valuable, but it is not more valuable than that my friend who manages a restaurant (and teaches) or the one who is keeps lawyers and court reporters straight so legal proceedings can move forward. My job is different but I also value the landscapers who take care of our lawn — they are being paid to do a job I COULD do myself but frees me up to do other things (I’ll save the suburban lawn environmental disaster discussion for a later date). But so often we put ourselves in relationship to others in the hierarchy of “skilled” or “unskilled”, college educated or not and this plays into the hands of the puppet masters. Pitting us against each other instead of realizing that we need this diversity in order to thrive. The global supply chain issues have taught us that so many industries are interconnected and rely on the other puzzle pieces to work. We are all part of the puzzle that makes society work.

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

While we are all replaceable at work and should lean more into a true work-life balance we also need to remember that WORKERS are people who use their skills to keep society afloat regardless of the industry.

Life and Health

Across the Rainbow Bridge

On December 18, 2021, we received the news that our family dog had “weeks” to live. I wasn’t particularly surprised by the news considering that he had a mass on his jaw and he was approaching 16 years old (ancient in dog years) but the news still hit me like a ton of bricks. This past weekend, on February 19, 2022, I made the decision to humanely euthanize him because he wasn’t living his best life anymore.

photo by author

In the past two months however we didn’t hide this news from my 5-year-old. We didn’t sanitize the idea that his life was coming to an end, and he was dying. She has already lived through two pets passing on us during this pandemic but this one was the worst. He has been my constant companion since 2008 when he was adopted at supposedly 18 months old. I think he was younger based on his behavior, but shelters do the best they can with what they’ve got.

We told the Munchkin at dinner Friday night that we were going to take Ajax to the vet to peacefully and comfortably pass away. She immediately got up from the table and ran to “get his love” and the somber mood started. Saturday was spent with some yelling and a lot of tears as we spent our last day together and I second guessed my decision — did I wait too long? Have I not waited long enough?

There’s never a right answer for the question “is it time?”; just the one you stick with.

As a scientist, I’ve always been the one to tell her exactly as it as the best way I can. Whenever she asks me a question, whether it was about my period, where babies come from, where the food in the grocery store came from, or whatever I’ve always tried to answer her as honestly as possible. I believe in the power of facts and the fact is that living things die. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, doesn’t mean we can’t be sad or upset, but it’s the truth. And this is a truth I didn’t keep from her.

When we had to put our first dog down in May 2020, she did not go to a farm or run away. While it may have been easier in the short term, I think these euphemisms for death make it harder in the long run. Yes, we have learned to cheat death — we can outwit it with medicine and technology but we can’t get away from it forever. The pandemic has shone a light on death and the limits of the human ability to outrun death.

Death used to be a much more matter of fact part of life. People used to have their (un-embalmed) family members sitting in their houses for a few days while family and friends came to pay their respects. Some of the only photographs families had of their loved ones were death portraits. Death used to be a part of life, because in the “ciiiiiirrrrcle of life” (cue dramatic Disney music) it’s supposed to be:

When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life. — Mufasa, “The Lion King” (Disney, 1994)

For the cycle to keep turning, death needs to happen. Death makes way for the mold and the fungus, the bacteria and the worms to do their job and return the organic material back to the cycle.

Knowing and recognizing death is an essential part of the cycle doesn’t make it any easier though. It does make me wish I was the type of parent that could come up with flowery stories to explain away the hard stuff but ultimately, I am left with my facts.

And the facts are that living things die and when we love them it sucks.

But what is grief, if not love persevering? ~Vision, from “WandaVision” (Marvel/Disney, 2021)

photo by author

Life and Health

Feeling Unmotivated and Stagnant

I am feeling very Gretchen Rubin “rebel-like” lately. I don’t want to do anything and I’ve given myself the blanket excuse of if I can’t do it all perfectly then I might as well not do anything. I’m not sure why these feelings have washed over me in the past month. I was looking forward to 2022 because, even if it’s not over yet, the pandemic should be waning, my daughter is turning 6 and becoming more self-sufficient so I have time to do the things I want to do more and more but here I sit wanting to do absolutely nothing; productive, fun, or otherwise.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I’m not sure if this is just simply a case of “obliger rebellion” as Rubin puts it when obligers decide they’re done meeting expectations. Usually, according to Rubin, the obliger is tired of meeting expectations but generally the rebellion is focused on habits or behaviors that only affect the obliger so it often looks like self-sabotage. Even if the rebellion is caused by external forces (say work, pandemic, other commitments) it seems the obliger can’t kick their butt into gear and that feels like where I’m at.

I can’t find the motivation to do the things I want to do that makes doing the things I have to do easier. I am in a funk of going through the motions. When I get any down or alone time it is often spent watching TV or mindlessly scrolling. I’m not sure why and I’m at a loss of words and ideas.

Over the past two years I’ve really narrowed in on my “needs” when it comes to feeling like a full and happy human being but the past month it has been really hard to accomplish any of it. It feels like whatever January was it was NOT the “new year” energy I was hoping for. I haven’t subscribed to new year’s resolutions for many, many years but there still is a hope that comes on January 1 for some reason. Even though I can make different choices in the next moment, day, week, month, etc.. January 1 still feels like a powerful restart but this restart seems to have sputtered and died out.

By the end of December I had reached a rhythm and routine that felt manageable and easing the mental burden of the chaotic school year so far and then that rhythm was disrupted in January by the omicron surge (as was everything else). January was another rough month of “what ifs” with pandemic parenting and teaching. There is a palpable stress in the world, like we’re all teetering on the knife’s edge ready to fall at any moment. January felt like a month stuck in hyperarousal waiting for the next shoe to drop and trying to plan for when it did.

Now that January has passed, trying to recover from the stressed state has turned me into an absolute slug regarding any and all things other than the bare minimums (doing my job and making sure everyone is fed). I’ve been trying to work on identifying the steps right beyond the bare minimums that pull me out of these funks but so far I haven’t climbed out yet.

Hopefully I will find a ladder to climb, stay tuned.