American Dreams

Corporate greed
clacking claws
against the protruding ribcages
of starving children
jostling them to see
if any stray coins come
tumbling out

The price of preventing
protections for people
is cheaper than
paying your fair share
putting a foot on the throat
of democracy
was easier than we thought

America's cruelty is compounded
by unending attempts to indoctrinate
the children into believing
they'll be given a fair chance
the stark contrast cuts deeper
when you realize the rug
as been pulled out from under you

The peasants of the past
were probably much happier
for not being promised
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
at least they were spared the pain
of feeling foolish for
looking forward to a lie

Unworthy

The fear of not being worthy of what my torn and bleeding heart so longed to do was the most frightening fear of all.

David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

Mental healthy is a slippery thing. One day I’ll feel like I’m doing great things, living a beautiful life, surrounded by love and opportunity. Then next I’m silently screaming in the shower as my body crumples convulsively in on itself in an attempt to disappear. The thought that grips me most violently in these moments is that I am alone. I am so alone. I’ve always been alone. I will always be alone.

My mind scrambles searching for the people that I love. Where are they? Where have they gone? They dissolve into floating masks, colorful fictions. A door slams in the face of my heart. It feels like these people never knew me, don’t like me, don’t care for me at all. Worst of all, I can’t convince myself that this is not true. Even on my good days this feeling is there, I just don’t look at it closely so it doesn’t hurt as much.

Depression and anxiety play tricks on you. Tag teaming tormentors of the soul. They twist and contort the world around you until it becomes unbearable and grotesque. They block out the light and tell you you’ve always been in darkness. Pinholes poked through a shrouded sky reveal only the most painful parts of your reality. Suffocating. All consuming. Looming large on a jet black horizon that seems to be closing in faster and faster.

When I find myself in this desperate state, my already poor social ability breaks down even further. A drowning man violently grasping and grabbing, trying to pull everyone around down with them in a blind attempt at salvation. When my clawing hand is pushed away, it is a confirmation that I’m not worthy of the oxygen I need. The world becomes a funhouse mirror. I can’t bear to look.

I’ve often heard people saying “it’s not you, it’s me” is just a line, a cop out. That no one really means this when they break up with someone. I’ve never felt so sure of that. I’ve felt the truth of these words in my own throat. It is because I love the people in my life that I feel compelled to sever all ties with them. I am nothing but a burden, a leaden weight pulling them underwater with me. I’m a chore, an annoyance, something they would be happier and better off without. When someone ends their own life, everyone gasps, “How could they do that to their family?” Not realizing they probably did it for their family.

I’ve felt unworthy since the moment I conceptualized that was something one could feel. I’m sure other people feel this way, but I wonder if they feel it in the same sense that I do. I wonder if they hold it up to the light of justice and feel these pangs with that additional intensity. The added weight of taking what is not yours, of doing something vile and criminal, something sickeningly selfish.

All the bonds in my life feel tinged with injustice. I don’t deserve to be loved. I couldn’t possibly be loved. I am doing a disservice to everyone I meet by allowing them to pretend for the sake of my own neediness, to dissuade my heavy sense of self pity. The melodrama is thick, but it’s genuine. This is how I feel. When I push someone away, there is never even a moment’s consideration of whether that has hurt them, whether they are sad, whether they might miss me or want me in their life. These questions seem ridiculous to me. I’m clearly not worthy of remembrance or tenderness. You don’t miss a rock that has finally tumbled out of your shoe when you shake it.

When I begin to feel better, when my agitated state of mind starts to settle, I still don’t believe these things to be any less true. I never feel worthy of love. I just feel less guilty about receiving it. I never lose that sense of being utterly alone. Being alone just doesn’t seem to hurt as badly. I’m left with only a sense of embarrassment and shame for showing the world my suffering. For being selfish and conceited enough to think that anyone else should or would care, for bothering everyone by asking them to, for being so ungrateful when I already have so much more than I’ve ever deserved.

I’m just left wondering: How can you move forward, how can you be happy, find love, love yourself, when you feel so certain that you are unworthy of all of it? When you feel guilty for even wanting to?

Exploitation and Injustice

The injustices, the atrocities, the exploitation that surrounds me, that suffocates me, is inescapable. Everywhere I look I see the rich and powerful crushing someone under the iron boot of the system that props them up. It is made all the more unbearable in the face of the irresponsible lies we are fed all throughout our youth about the way the world is. Why teach us that the world is fair, that society is just, that the government protects us, that we are free, when it’s not true? Why are we set up to suffer not only the reality of how things really are, but also the friction in our heads created by the false image inevitably torn down by that reality?

It makes me think back to a few months ago when I was reading A Tale of Two Cities. I couldn’t help but resonate with the plight of the starving, wretched peasants in the streets of France just before the revolution. I see that same suffering mirrored in the faces of the masses all around me in this pitiful, destitute area. I was rooting for them when they began burning down the mansions and estates of the wealthy, when they made being rich a crime, when heads rolled one after another from the guillotine all day long. They say history repeats itself and I’ve finally lived long enough to understand.

Even though I know these revolutions and uprisings have happened many times throughout human history, until recently, it seemed rather unlikely to me. I just couldn’t imagine the poor, huddled masses rising up and risking their lives no matter how badly they are treated. Now I realize that it isn’t a question of whether or not they will, rather when. Eventually enough is enough. Eventually the outrage, the fury, the inhumanity of it all becomes too much for anyone to bear.

It may sound silly by comparison to the injustices of the past, but spending all morning fighting with Comcast really gave me a glimpse into the mindset of these people willing to risk everything for the mere chance of change. In just three years time, my internet bill, which is the cheapest, slowest option available, went from $30 a month to $100 a month. My income, however, has remained exactly the same. How on earth am I expected to manage this? I have no other internet options in my area, so Comcast knows they can get away with it. (Even though we learn in school that monopolies are illegal for this very reason.) They add expense after expense hoping you won’t notice. They charged me $15 for me to install my own device a few months ago. I’d laugh if it wasn’t so infuriating. In addition to all that, each time I call, I discover that they’ve made it harder and harder to reach an agent to speak to. It took me nearly an hour just to get to a human being.

It is unconscionable. It’s criminal. The thought that humans are so selfish, so greedy, so horrible that they would make hundreds of thousands of people suffer with massive bill increases, for what? For literally nothing. The CEO of Comcast isn’t affected by my bill increasing. The amount of income those at the top see doesn’t even matter to them. Their quality of life couldn’t possibly be improved through financial gain at this point. They already have more than they can consciously even make sense of. Yet all of the people paying for this service, which at this point is basically a necessity, are crippled by the ever-increasing bills. I can’t stand it. I cannot bear to know this and accept that it is true.

This is the frustration, the desperation that eventually builds until it reaches a tipping point. I felt myself reaching that edge today. I felt the passion, the rage well up inside of me. I felt the truth of the potential I had to burn it all down, to kill or be killed rather than submit to this injustice any further. At a certain point, logic goes out the window, you become so blinded with fury that you are capable of anything. This is what fuels revolutions. This is what topples governments and creates violent riots in the streets. I used to think I’d be too afraid to fight when the next revolution finally arrived. Now I know I’ll be ready.

Reframing Anger

You’ve probably noticed that my last few posts have been particularly pessimistic and angry in tone. I’ve been really struggling to accept a lot of the things that have been going on in the world as well as my personal life lately. Yesterday I was nearly incapacitated by my own rage when we received a call from the CPS supervisor saying “a worker” who had recently been at our office tested positive. Although I knew she probably had the virus, having it confirmed without a doubt brought my fury back to the forefront of my awareness.

I spent most of the day yesterday caught between frustration, despair, and white hot anger. Even though I was embarrassed of my behavior, I couldn’t stop myself. I was doing research on how I might possibly press legal charges, get the girl fired, or even dox her online somehow. My mind found not a moments rest yesterday. I could hardly concentrate on the words in front of my face while doing my evening reading. My thoughts just kept returning to all the ways that I simply cannot believe someone could be so selfish and awful.

I am trying to surrender today. I am trying to stay curious as to why exactly I am so angry. Sure my mind has been repeating all the reasons I have a right to be nonstop, but when I broaden my perspective, it still seems strange to let this comparatively small injustice effect me so deeply. Certainly it can’t be that I’m surprised by this girl’s actions. I’ve known basically my whole life that humans are trash and only care about themselves. If I had any doubt of that, you’d think working where I do for the last two years would have erased it by now.

In a certain sense, I feel embarrassed and just as self-centered as everyone else for my reaction. I see more egregious acts and injustices each and every day. Why am I not whipped up into the same fury for the children I meet who come in to tell us about being raped by their father for 4 years? Is that not a much more soul crushing and unbelievable cruelty committed by a human being against another? A far more unacceptable betrayal by a person that is supposed to care for you? I cannot pretend to tell myself I am just upset about injustice, when I clearly care much more when it involves an injustice, however slight, performed against me.

I am so very fortunate in so many ways. I must remember that no matter what may come. Spewing venom, frightening my loved ones with my rage, and using my time and energy plotting revenge are not things that are serving me. What happened, happened. There is nothing I can do about it now. I am being unkind to myself by allowing myself to be consumed by my anger. I may very well be sick. My quality of life may be harmed for the foreseeable future. But what good will souring the few days I have before then do? I should be cherishing this waiting period. I should be holding space. I should be fortifying my body, mind, and soul for the battle that is most assuredly being waged inside me right now.

Rather than being annoyed at my work friend for not being as livid as I am at the situation, I should be admiring his ability to let go and to smile in the face of injustice and adversity. Part of my rage is a result of the perception that without it, I am allowing myself to be taken advantage of and trampled upon. But as I read my book last night, I began to think about the types of characters that I respect the most. It is not the vindictive, aggressive characters. It is the characters that are most passive, loving, forgiving, and humble. I do not view them as fools for not raging against the terrible people or circumstances they face. I see that they are wise and well-adjusted for being able to maintain their inner peace and their loving nature no matter what.

The things that anger me most are actually opportunities for me to cultivate that same peaceful, compassionate, inner soften that I so admire in others. It’s hard. I won’t pretend otherwise, but I know that our challenges are what spur growth. In my heart I know that what’s important is not being right or wrong or “teaching someone else a lesson.” I cannot control other people and that is something I need to accept and move on from. Life may not be fair, there are cruel, selfish, monstrous people, but it is my duty to distinguish myself from these people. It is a joy and an honor to have the chance to be a light unto myself and those I love. I will not allow my anger to tarnish the naturally loving and abundant nature of my soul. Instead that nature will only gain strength from the negative encounters we all must face. I will maintain a grateful heart and a calm mind despite it all. This is my life. This is my practice. And I refuse to waste it on hate. I have faith in myself and my body to protect me and always do what is right and kind. The rest I must simply learn to allow.

How to Create a Peaceful Mind

Your Income Does Not Reflect Your Worth

There are many forms of income inequality in America. Racism and sexism are evident in the compensation women and people of color receive in comparison to their white counterparts. I am baffled by the conservative push to indoctrinate children with the idea that we are all equal and that society is a fair game that, if played correctly, they can succeed in. For me, this was a bright and cheery message that made me happy and proud of humanity as a child, but it makes the painful truth of reality that much harder to swallow once you have to face it as an adult. I feel continuously confronted by the juxtaposition of the things I was raised for half my life to believe and what I experience as a woman.

I think there are a couple reasons why conservatives fight so vehemently for this picturesque worldview to be the only one our children are exposed to. Firstly, they truly believe it themselves. I’ve always thought of conservatives as primarily wealthy or well off people. They desperately want to believe that their good fortune is a direct reflection of their hard work and value to society. “I earned my place.” so on and so forth. It makes them feel badly about themselves to consider that they had a leg up compared to others. The poor conservatives that dominate my small area of the country are a bit more complicated to explain. I have to assume that despite their personal struggles, they want to believe that if they only work hard enough, they too can be wealthy and successful someday. On the other hand, perhaps its a subconscious form of self-hatred. Maybe they believe that they deserve the pitiful lot they’ve gotten in life through there own failings and flaws. It’s almost harder to accept that our society simply isn’t fair.

Secondly, I think that the data reflecting the income inequality can be confusing and misleading depending on what factors you choose to look at. For instance, not every job comes right out and pays women and people of color a lower wage for the same position. However, these populations are far less likely to be hired, promoted, receive raises, and move up in the hierarchy of their company. Whether this be through implicit or explicit bias is somewhat irrelevant. The fact is that people are suffering because of it. In addition to that, fields that are primarily women dominated are some of the lowest paying fields whereas male dominated fields tend to be the highest paid. Shockingly enough you can actually observe this trend. As the composition of gender within a field changes, so does the pay rate.

What fields women excel in and find meaningful are viewed more negatively and given less value by society, despite the actual necessity and importance of these careers. I don’t think anyone would argue that we don’t need social workers, child care, or teachers to be part of our society. In fact, I would say people would place these fields above things like CEOs, marketing executives, stock brokers, and lawyers in terms of importance. At least, I would. While these other, higher paying jobs are important, I don’t see them as the backbone of our society in the way a teacher is.

I think one of the saddest aspects of this dilemma is that it doesn’t seem to have any hope of correcting itself through the free market. If women (or people in general) began to avoid these jobs, perhaps they would begin to raise the pay and benefits in order to attract more people. They don’t have to, however, because for the most part, I think the people working these jobs do it because they see the inherent value in them. No one that’s a teacher or a social worker is doing it for the money. They are doing it for the children and disadvantaged populations that they serve. Compassion and self-sacrifice are the hallmarks of these careers.

Perhaps even more upsetting than that, I’m not sure things would get better for society overall if these jobs suddenly became the highest paying. I definitely would hate to see people in these fields doing it solely for the money. Imagine schools filled with teachers that didn’t even care about their students or the quality and value of their work. Not to say there aren’t any teacher like this even now, but I think there would be far more if it was a way to get rich. Although it still might be nice if they would at least pay these workers enough to live and to pay for the schooling required to obtain the job in the first place.

With that said, I really don’t have a solution to these egregious injustices that permeate our society and workforce. I just want anyone reading this to know that they shouldn’t feel badly about being paid so little for whatever work they might be doing. One of the important things we’ve learned from the pandemic is that “essential” workers are also some of the most underpaid. So while you might be internalizing the idea that what you do doesn’t matter or isn’t difficult due to the number staring back at you from your paycheck, don’t be fooled. What you do does matter. Don’t fall into the trap of believing we are fairly compensated for our time and labor. In the same vein, don’t assume you are better than anyone earning less than you either.

The judge that sits behind the desk in his ornate courtroom may hand down the sentences to the perpetrators kids disclose about, but the people I work with are the ones that have compiled the evidence used against them that was needed to reach that conviction. Who do you believe has helped the child more in the end, the prosecuting attorney or the criminally underpaid therapist that has helped them cope with and navigate their trauma for years after the fact? Even if you believe their contributions are equal, one makes the same amount in one year that the other makes in one week. Even so, take pride in all that you do to contribute to your community whether you work as a waitress or as a doctor. Neither person has more value or is more worthy of their place in society than the other.

Top 9 Reasons to Study a Social Work Degree in 2022 - MastersPortal.com

It’s Not Fair

One of the most common and recurring whines I’m sure we’ve all uttered in childhood is, “But it’s not fair!” Only once we’re older to we really realize that life isn’t fair. As children, though, we are told to “play fair” to “share” and things of this nature. We learn the moral value of justice and fairness, expecting the world that taught us these values to actually embody them. It’s no wonder that there is such friction and frustration when we go out into the world only to find that these lessons were all just talk.

I’ve always felt like most people make peace with this inconsistency more easily than I have ever been able to. I constantly feel victimized and cheated by small injustices we all face every day. I become especially exasperated when I think of the injustices of society as a whole. Even when I know that this period in history is a lot more just than it has been in the past, I can’t seem to let go of the idea that it should be better.

I constantly catch myself playing little mind games to even the score when I feel like I’ve been cheated out of money or have been treated unfairly in some way. The absolute madness of Comcast charging me $15 for a “self-installation” fills me with so much anger that I instead force myself to look at it as if the “free” product was what was $15. If something bad happens to me, I think of all the reasons why I must have deserved it. I’m always tallying up the score in strange ways like this in order to make myself feel a situation is more fair than it actually is.

For the longest time, I thought this was an excellent way to handle the injustices of the world. If I can play around with the facts in my head enough that I end up finding some sense of peace then all the better. However, just the other day I began to question this process of mine. Why must I make everything fair? After all, I know full well that life is not fair. Is it really doing myself any favors to pretend otherwise? Maybe instead I should be working on learning to sit with that unfairness.

It also occurred to me today just how hypocritical I have been in this regard, as we all tend to be honestly. We never scream “it’s not fair” when the scale is weighted in our favor. If I find myself on the beneficial side of an unfair arrangement, I feel rather pleased. I don’t feel any need to examine it or balance everything. Yet, if I’m the once short changed I am appalled and outraged. I feel helpless in the face of the big, bad, corrupt, unjust world. When I do something well, I expect to be rewarded in some way by the world. Yet when it comes to all the terrible, selfish things I do, I don’t expect punishment.

Most if not all of our suffering in this life is brought about by reality not living up to our expectations. By finding a way to make things always seem fair in my head, all I’m doing is subtly reinforcing my believe that the world should be fair. I think it’s time that I work towards accepting things even when they aren’t. Eventually there will come a time that no amount of mental effort will allow me to balance the scales of my life. It may sound depressing, but one of my new mantras is going to be “life isn’t fair.” I want to learn to accept this fact so that I am not crippled by my reaction to this part of reality when I inevitably encounter it in the world. Not only will practicing this new mindset of surrender and acceptance help me mitigate my anger at personal as well as societal injustices, it will also help me avoid internalizing a lot of the bad things that happen to me. Just because I experience some type of awful loss, doesn’t mean that I deserved it, nor does it have to be the end of the world, when things don’t go as I think they should.

How to respond to tantrums - Harvard Health

The History of Humans

I am easily frustrated by the many ways in which corporations and governments take advantage of average people. Advertisements sicken me. The stagnant low wages fill me with rage and resentment. The broken healthcare system in the United States is an abomination. Racism, sexism, and bigotry seem to be everywhere I look. Hypocrisy, idiocy, selfishness, etc. No matter what I shift my focus toward, I can find something unjust about the systems that support it. It can become overwhelming to be confronted by such obvious inequality and corruption every day.

While I’m not suggesting we merely accept these injustices, I am starting to realize that while things are not perfect by any means, they are a hell of a lot better than they have been in the majority of human history. I’ve been reading A Tale of Two Cities for the first time, and it is really highlighting this fact for me. Set in the 1700s the story is filled with tragic images of starving peasants and monstrous upper class tyrants. In one scene there is even a child that is run over in the street by a wealthy man’s carriage. While the father of the child is hysterical, no one seems surprised or even outraged. This is simply the treatment they’ve come to expect. The rich man feels no remorse and is actually irritated that he had to stop his carriage at all. He callously throws a coin at the dead boy’s father as if that is any type of compensation for the life of his son.

While I know this is a fictional story, I also know that it is an accurate reflection of the way things used to be. It’s a delicate line to walk between gratitude and the passionate urge to do better as a society. Of course, I’m not saying that the suffering of the lower and middle classes today don’t matter. There are real, egregious issues with our current system, but comparatively the most unfortunate among us still have it better than the majority of the population throughout history. And while that doesn’t erase our current problems, it is still something to reflect on and be grateful for.

Things are far from perfect, but I’m quite surprised and pleased by how far we’ve managed to come as a society. It really puts into perspective just how lucky I am that my biggest irritation from day to day is something as frivolous as advertisements on billboards along the highway. Oh, how the characters in that story would envy me, would quite literally kill to be in my shoes.

I’m working on finding that middle ground between gratitude and fighting for further social justice. Allowing my anger and indignation to obstruct my perspective isn’t serving anyone, least of all myself. Instead of coming from the hateful, entitled space I’m used to, I want to fight for what I believe in while also being thankful for what I do have. I want to make my voice heard, but within the context of hope and the belief that we truly can do better for ourselves and our community, rather than from a context of disgust and disappointment.

There are a lot of similarities between the elites of the past and the present, but as for the peasants and paupers (the group I would have found myself in) we have made monumental improvements. As with most things, I hold extremely high standards for my fellow humans. But placing today’s society in developed countries within the context of the societies of the past, shows that while humans are not what I hope for them to be, they could certainly be a hell of a lot worse.

What an absolute miracle it is that someone like me even has the opportunity to make a difference and have my voice heard. Some may have it better than I do, but to just imagine the luxuries I am able to take for granted is staggering. Glancing back at where we’ve come from, it’s honestly surprising we were ever able to improve things so much. There is a certain beauty and hope in that realization.

Despite my near constant complaining, at the end of the day, I am overwhelmingly grateful for the life that I have been given. Even with all the issues we are faced with today, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. I am so fortunate. And I’d like to spend more of my energy enjoying and appreciating that fact even as I advocate for us to do even better for the many, many people who are less fortunate.

Peasants in an Interior, 1661 - Adriaen van Ostade - WikiArt.org

My Values

I’ve never really taken the time to sit down and really think about what my values are in life. I have always been a very passionate, outspoken person when it comes to my opinions and beliefs though. Today I wanted to get more clear about what exactly it is that matters to me, so that I can better embody and serve those things every day. I’d like to come up with five values to always keep close to my heart as I move through this world.

1. Justice

When I think about values, justice is the first thing that comes to mind. I have always been unable to tolerate injustice. I guess I never really grew out of that phase of childhood where you constantly scream, “It’s not fair!” I’ve learned that life isn’t fair, but that never stopped me from wondering indignantly, why not? I used to be a very patriotic child as well. I was so proud to live in a country which I had been taught valued justice and freedom above all else. When I came to find that actually wasn’t quite an accurate portrayal of America, my patriotism faded, but I held fast to those ideals. Justice is even one of the reasons that I am a vegan. Not only is it horrendously cruel and idiotic to treat animals and the planet the way we do, it is also extremely unjust for us to place our species above all other beings.

1. Non-violence

My next value is one that comes from the Yamas in Yoga philosophy. Non-violence goes farther than simply not physically fighting people. Violence can exist even in small actions. Our words can be violent, the way we treat our bodies, buying animal products, etc. I’m still learning every day how I can better embody the essence of peace and compassion in everything I do.

3. Nature

I’m not quite sure what constitutes a “value,” but for my purposes, I’d also like to include nature among mine. The natural world is the most beautiful, precious thing that has ever or will ever exist. I was lucky enough to grow up with dense woods and a stream practically in my backyard. The happiest moments in my life have all been enjoyed outside among the lush green abundance of this living, breathing world. I believe this is also a dying world due to human interference, but nonetheless I hope to honor and protect it as much as I can while I’m here. I’d at least like to do as little harm as possible. I know I still have a long way to go in this regard. Perhaps one day I will proudly include myself as part of the zero waste community.

4. Creativity

Creativity has always been one of my greatest joys. I have loved to draw, write, and make things from the moment I learned how. There is something so miraculous in the act of making something from nothing. Our ability to imagine and create such a myriad of different things is maybe the only thing I do marvel at about humanity. It is possibly our one redeeming factor. Not only do I love to create, I love to watch others create as well. Few things get me more excited and interested than seeing what other people are able to come up with. It is like being able to see a glimpse of that person’s inner world. I love to be surprised at the fascinating things others make that I would never have thought of. It is such a shame to me to know that some people go their whole lives believing they “aren’t creative.” I believe that everyone is creative by default. Society has unfortunately led us to believe that we must be exceptional at things like drawing, painting, or writing in order to do those things at all. I love to encourage the kids I work with to keep creating even if they feel they aren’t “good at it.” Creativity is about self-expression and enjoyment, not talent.

5. Knowledge

The fifth and final value I want to talk about today is knowledge. Learning and intelligence are two of the most important things in my life. I am always eager to gather more knowledge for myself. I truly believe that the more we know the better, as individuals and as a society. One of my favorite things to do is read. It’s amazing how much I am able to learn and discover from books whether they be fiction or nonfiction. It is also a delight to share any new information I happen to gain with others. It’s unbelievable that no matter how much knowledge I accumulate, there is still an unlimited supply of new things to learn.

——————

For now, these are the five values that I want to focus on. I am hopeful that know that I’ve written them down, I may be able to be more mindful of them as I go about my day. What are your values and why? Do you think you are living by those values? Why or why not? How might you better adhere to your own values in your every day life? Let me know! I would love to hear what kinds of things are most important to you.

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Biting Your Tongue

One high school memory that still haunts me to this day is from my junior year photography class. We were going on a field trip to the Andy Warhol museum. I never like Andy Warhol’s art. I still maintain that he’s not a good artist, he just became famous for being a weirdo that people were interested in. I kept professing these kind of sentiments and complaining that this was where we were going. Eventually my teacher cut me off. Irritated, he said, “Bite your tongue.” I felt so ashamed and honestly wished I would never have to speak again in that class. I wanted to disappear.

The reason this memory sticks with me is because it seems to mirror similar situations throughout my life. There have been many times when I’ve ended up embarrassing myself or making my own life more difficult because I seem to be unable to bite my tongue. It is usually when I am feeling angry or irritated about something. It is very hard for me to just let things go for some reason. I feel compelled to voice my displeasure. Loudly and whenever I get the chance.

For example, today I have to stay late a work for what seems like the thousandth time because of a particular CPS worker that likes to take advantage of my friend and coworker’s good nature. We will stay after hours to do emergency interviews. Sometimes a child is in immediate danger and it’s necessary that we talk to them as soon as possible so we can make sure they have somewhere safe to go. However, this CPS worker just uses the word “emergency” to manipulate and control us so that things work better for her schedule and deadlines.

The interviewer I work with is a very nice, easy-going man. To him it’s never a big deal and he takes pride in the fact that he never refuses to do an interview. He always says that I don’t have to stay and he can do it all himself, but it just wouldn’t feel right for me to let him do that. So here I am, stuck doing two interviews at 4:30-6 or 7 today when our office closes at 4. And surprise, surprise it couldn’t be further from an emergency. The children are completely safe.

My problem isn’t even that I have to stay late without pay (we are a very small non-profit that only gets paid for 40 hours each week no matter what), it’s that this horrible woman continues to take advantage of us for her own convenience. In my nearly two years with this organization, no other CPS worker has asked us to stay late. Not only that, but this specific worker does it practically every single time we get a call from her. It just makes me feel so furious that someone even has the nerve to do this continuously to such nice people like my coworkers.

On matters of injustice or unfairness, I have an especially difficult time biting my tongue. It’s one of the reasons I still struggle to do so when I hear idiotic comments about veganism. I get a familiar rumbling, hot sensation in my chest that causes viscous language to spew out of my mouth like a volcano. It never makes anything better though. The anger continues to build. Not only that but when I speak out I also start to pile on feelings of shame and self-hatred. I’m embarrassed by my uncontrollable outbursts, and by the way others look at me when they see me so angry.

I’ve always clung to the idea of operant conditioning and to the idea that staying quiet and complacent is the same as condoning a behavior. At least those are the reasons I give myself to rationalize my violent reactions to these types of situations. I feel it is my duty to do something, to protect myself and others from injustice or abuse. I feel very passionately about it. But I don’t want to feel this way when the result is that I become spiteful and vindictive. The outcome is never restoring justice, it simply ruins my day and possibly the image that others have of me as a person.

When days like today happen, I have been trying very hard to use them as an opportunity for personal growth. These are the moments that I’ll need to utilize in order to begin to create new, more healthy, productive, socially acceptable pathways in my brain. It’s never easy. I still get caught up in brooding over all the reasons that I shouldn’t be put in this situation, finding fault, blaming others, and coming up with ways to make these things stop happening, or at the very least to get revenge. I feel a great resistance bubbling up inside when I try to transition away from these thoughts to more positive ones. Something inside of me is always dragging its feet, insisting that if I allow myself to be okay with this, it will happen even more, and the injustice will continue to expand and grow larger. Part of me still tends to believe that’s true, but even so, I’m missing the point. Does it even matter if these things happen to me more if they no longer produce such toxic emotions?

I am trying to stay curious. Rather than getting wrapped up in the spiral of self-justifications, I ask myself, “Why is this so hard for me? What is it that keeps me from letting this go? Wouldn’t I rather be happy than right?” That’s really what it comes down to, that last question. Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that being happy is better than being the smartest person in the room or being right or even having control. When I start feeling like I am helpless and powerless in a situation that is out of my control, I just need to remind myself that I am always in control. Maybe not when it comes to what happens to me, but I get to decide how I react to those things. That is what is truly important.

As I continue on with this unbearably long day, I am going to choose to focus on all of the things I have to be grateful for instead of the few small irritations that I have to put up with occasionally. I love my job. I love the people I work with. I love (most) of the people in the other organizations we work with. I can get away with coming in 15 minutes late everyday. I can leave early another day since I’ll be staying over tonight. I got to work from home for nearly a year. My job is usually easy and not stressful. Yesterday I got to spend the whole day at the office chatting with my lovely work friends. We even got lunch delivered to us from Panera thanks to one of the board members. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to be a part of this place, even if that means learning how to bite my tongue sometimes. This is a valuable skill, one I genuinely want to learn. So I should also be grateful for these opportunities to practice it.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Injustice

Recently I have been contemplating the awful, unjust inconsistencies in our judicial system. Yesterday I got coffee with a friend who spent 15 years of his life in prison. When people hear this there is an emotional recoil, a silent fear and judgment. Even I wondered if it was dangerous for a young girl to be around that type of person. I knew it was a drug related offense, but I had for some reason assumed it was heroin or something along those lines. (Not that that would make 15 years a fair sentence.) Yesterday I discovered, to my shock and outrage, that it was just weed.

This wonderful man who is kind and smart and funny AND a yoga teacher spent his entire youth locked in a cage for possessing a fucking plant that never hurt anyone and does in fact help people. He even spent years of his time there in solitary confinement. Now that he’s out he has a medical marijuana card ironically. And why? For the PTSD he now has from being stabbed eight times in prison.

Every time I think about this, a swelling rage blooms inside my chest. How on earth could this be called justice? As a child I truly believed this was a just world. It’s what we’re taught to believe. It was a long fall from innocence as I slowly lost faith in the courts, the law, the police, this country, and this world. At first I lashed out at these injustices with indignation and fury. I desperately tried to make a difference. But now I am so tired. All I can do is be a witness to these atrocities.

Black men are shot in the streets every single day by police. Non-violent drug offenders are given longer sentences than the men who have sexually abused the children I work with. The most innocent among us, the animals, are systematically abused and killed by the billions behind tall factory walls in the darkness. Never knowing a kind touch in their whole short lives.

I still grieve over that innocence and faith I’ve lost. There is no justice in this world of ours. It’s more amazing to me now that I ever could have believed there was. But even though I know it’s hopeless, I have no choice but to keep fighting. Even though I’m tired and jaded by the futility of it all, there is nothing else for me to do. I’ll keep trying to protect the innocent with everything I’ve got. I’ll lend my voice to the voiceless. Even if I’m doomed to fail, there is nothing else so worthy of my time.