I’ve been having intermittent bouts of vertigo (some severe), along with worsening tinnitus and resulting difficulty understanding what people are saying. My GP said I got poor results on the tympanogram, and is sending me to an ENT, whom I see next week. I’m no longer driving on the highway, and take extra care if I’m carrying my grandson.
Meanwhile, someone at school told the principal that I was “doing the wall thing”, meaning touching the wall to steady myself as I passed down a hallway. This resulted in being called up for a Official Meeting. By the time I left, I was feeling queasy and light-headed for entirely different reasons:
- Being a couple hours late to phone in my absences due to migraine and due to a Emergency Room visit for vertigo, had previously earned me a stern warning for procedural lapses.
- Going to or staying at work if feeling dizzy is prohibited because an educator with vertigo is a liability.
- Leaving work 30 minutes early for a doctor’s appointment must be taken as sick time.
- No “flex time” is allowed for appointments (i.e. leaving a bit early and making up that time by staying later another day).
- Thirty minutes, half a day or a whole day all count equally as an incident of using a sick day.
- Taking 19 sick-day events by October due to viruses, migraines, vertigo or doctor appointments is excessive, and any further such absences can result in termination of employment.
- Which specific number is unmentioned, but up to the Powers That Be in the Human Resources department.
- Any employee who is feverish with a virus must stay home.
Alas, this is all legal, and there seems to be a large limbo of being disabled by irregularly re-occuring conditions without actually being Disabled enough for some kind of accommodation.
Even if I somehow negotiated with H.R., the interpersonal climate with the school admin is too prickly to stay. This is a shame, because I have a great relationship with my classroom staff/faculty.
I’m looking for a different job, hopefully something full-time that also pays well enough so I can have just ONE job in my life. But everything I’ve seen pays fast-food wages, or else is so technically specific that my skills profile is a mis-match.
The free-floating anxiety is just HELL.
I still feel queasy when I remember the words.
Children have a certain disempowerment simply because they are young — they are naïve, less learned, and lack perspective. But this transcended childhood. It sank past the boundaries of adult to child, or parent to child, and trampled my self-identity and self-determination.
My mom had found a way to get past what some would have called the “fortress” that isolated me, that natural preoccupation with whatever I was doing and naïve self-centeredness, that self-ism or autism that was greater in me than most anyone else.
“Oh, you don’t want to get grilled cheese again!” she chided me, but her sharp glance to me denied the lightness in her tone. Her expression would then change, as it so often did when she spoke to other adults, with the swiftness of flipping a social light-switch, and she turned to pleasantly address the waitress “She wants the ham sandwich.”
Or: “You don’t either, have a headache. You’re just fine. Now go get your work done.”
And in 9th grade, in a dizzying double-bind: “You don’t want to be a park ranger; quit flapping that survey! You’re going to sign up for bookkeeping and typing, and you’re going to start getting good grades in math class, too.”
Increasingly, I was told how I “really” felt emotionally or physically, or told me that I could not possibly be feeling something, that indeed I actually was feeling. Invalidation is when an emotionally abusive person distorts someone’s perception of the world, or when the abuser undermines their factual processing by casting doubt upon the facts of the events. Denying what happened or the analysis of what happened, minimizing the importance of abusive statements or trivializing the recipient’s responses are also means of invalidation.
Over the years, my inertia increased. I could never tell when I was expected to have a preference, or rather, to just to express a preference, since apparently I wasn’t really allowed to have them. When it wasn’t convenient to others for me to express a preference (to speed up shopping, or to allow my mom to appear generous), I was soundly rebuked and told what I “really wanted”.
My stress and depression increased throughout my teen years. When I should have been learning independence and skills and decision-making, I was thwarted, and then paradoxically, received further insults because of my lack of independence. Never knowing when I was supposed to express an opinion, or what my opinion was “supposed” to be, I frequently gave up and just shrugged, unable to verbally express the “appropriate response”. I frequently did not know what that “appropriate response” was.
Worse, with my lack of being able to perceive all those subtle social cues that pervaded both my warped home environment, and even the subtle social cues that comprise such an overwhelming part of interactions in the “normal” world, I was becoming increasingly fatigued with the burden of shamefully lacking in whatever psychic means would have informed me. It was of course, all my fault, as so many people were quickly willing to inform me.
My mom had found a way to get past my natural self-centeredness, not by inviting me to understand others’ worlds, but by trampling my personal boundaries of selfhood. Although children have a certain disempowerment simply because they are young, they, like all self-conscious organisms, are entitled to — nay, required — that their selfhood be respected. Denying that someone else might have opinions worth considering, much less that they are even allowed to even have opinions, violates that central inalienable right.
Years later as an adult, I was still running into much the same problem of “reality shifting” (being told by others what my personal reality and preferences were “supposed” to be), even if it wasn’t expressed as blatantly or as frequently. One such event became (in retrospect) a tipping point — not in events, but in perceptual clarity. I finally realized that such events were equally disrespectful, even if they lacked the overt denial and double-binds.
My (now ex-) husband was telling me that I shouldn’t want to do jury duty because it might interfere with my vacation schedule or my work schedule. I shouldn’t want to do jury duty because it didn’t pay as much as my job did.
But I realised in confusion, that this wasn’t about what I wanted to do, to participate as a citizen, to help make a positive difference in justice, and to be able to observe another facet of social functioning.
Ostensibly, it was about what he wanted from me, in terms of convenience in the family schedule, and what he wanted from me in terms of my earnings. (Unbeknownst to me at the time, we were horribly, deeply in debt.) I wasn’t denying that it could make these differences in scheduling and earnings — but really, that wasn’t the issue here. Those “reasons” were just distractors.
Rather, he was trying to enforce my actions based upon his wants, and dismissing my wants as being unimportant. He was trying to convince me that his wants were my wants. We all have wants, but I didn’t think that mine should have been dismissed as being unimportant.
The solutions he proposed were ones compromises between the requirements of the law, and what he said I wanted. But effectively, I was the one being compromised, because his announcement denied my interests and enabled him to get what he wanted, rather than what would have enabled both of us.
I got tired of being told what I should want. I got tired of being told how I should feel. I was suffering from a chronic case of spiritual fatigue. Constantly negotiating to be taken seriously was an exhausting way to live.
I don’t miss those aspects of my life; my whole system twitches when I perceive someone telling me what I “should be feeling” or “really want to do”.
Now if only I could get out of some of these other double binds that infest my work life …
your bee is asleep:
She still hasn’t groomed off the morning dew.
“Testing, 1, 2, 3 …”
Hooray, I got my MacBook back from the shop! It would completely lose the wireless signal two meters from the router, and kept getting hot. Due to teaching commitments, I wasn’t able to take it in until now, just a couple weeks before the AppleCare programme expired. Lessee … they replaced the main logic board, battery, top case, heatsink, fan, and airport (wireless) card. Essentially, I have a nearly-new computer inside my old case. (Yes, it’s my old case, with the spider sticker on top.) So even though the warranty will expire soon, my computer ought to hang in there for quite a while longer.
Now I can finally get blogging again.
But meanwhile, let’s do a sound check to see if there’s anyone out there still … roll call!
Q.: What’s your least favorite Ohrwurm? (song that gets stuck in your head)
Sugar, Sugar … Billy don’t be a hero … Who let the dogs out … It’s a small world after all … that WHOOMP thing they play at ball games …
I’ve role-played in various capacities over the years, from the “acting-out student” in a staff safety seminar, to the novice thief in a D&D game. But the other week I was asked to try out a far different rôle:
“If you were Melba Toast, where would you be hiding?”
Melba Toast … gee, were I a small box of cardboardy toast slivers, where would I be hiding? Hmn …
Such queries fill chunks of my life now, as I am working two and three jobs for 65-70 hours a week, which should explain the general lack of bloggery. It’s not a lack of interest, nor a lack of subjects worthy of blathering about. (The sad part is that I still have plants sitting around in pots that I bought back in June. That, and another goal is to finish my grandson’s quilt before winter sets in; he’s nearly three months old already!)
These oddball encounters always hit me out of the blue, when I’m otherwise preoccupied with squinting at the shelf tag UPCs to figure out which peg the -48699 fancy chandelier light bulbs should hang upon, or am trying to line up a stack of shiny toothpaste boxes without knocking over its companion rows. (Why do we have to stack all those wobbly boxes three tiers high? Because the boss like them that way, that’s why. But hell if I’m going to try stacking up some of those styles of maxipads, because even single packs don’t want to stand upright.)
Melba Toast … The problem of course, is that every store has a set of random products that are difficult for customers to find. So there we are, grocery stocker blinking and trying to remember to smile and make eye contact and parse the unexpected conversation from the background noise, and customer trying to find the right person for help.
“Do you work here?”
[No,] says the tired-and-cranky part of my brain, [I just like standing around the local market wearing a dress shirt with the corporate logo, knee pads, compression gloves for my arthritis & Raynaud’s, and a box knife holstered to my waistband. I sure as hell better work here, because I’m getting so nearly OCD about “facing” groceries that I’m starting to pull forward and straighten out merchandise even when I’m just shopping for my own groceries.] Working two shifts a day doesn’t make me as cranky as going two weeks at a stretch without a full day off. Damnit, I want a life.
Savvy customers ask me, “Do you work for the store?” because they’ve learned that the burly guy stocking cola works for the cola-distribution company, or the little old lady giving out food samples works for a food conglomerate or a temp agency, and neither of these people knows where our market stocks the sun-dried tomatoes, oat bran, or tiki-torch oil. Actually, we don’t stock tiki-torch oil, which is why that customer couldn’t find it. You’re shocked, I’m sure. Or maybe not; we get all kinds of crazy-ass seasonal shit to sell. Maybe we did have tiki-torch oil once-upon-a-time. By my 13th work-hour of the day, tiki-torch oil sounds perfectly reasonable, and I can just about hallucinate bottles of sunset-gold tiki-torch oil by the tins of cigarette-lighter butane or the blister packs of Tropical Paradise air freshener candles. Blarrrg.
Sometimes the senseless placements are simply accidents of history, like the display of snack cakes that migrated inward from and aisle “end cap” and are now juxtaposed to the tinned soups for no particular reason other than some space existed there once, and no one’s since bothered to move them over to the sweets aisle.
Sometimes the senseless placements are just that, like the forlorn bags of barley that are slumped against the soup powders, instead of with the rest of the dry grains and beans. (Well yeah, people put barley in soup, but people put damn near everything else in soups, too; so what?)
Customers are usually so apologetic when they can’t find something; they don’t want to “be a bother”.
“Oh, now I’m messing up your nice display,” frets the gentleman as he fumbles to remove two packs of liquorices.
“No, no, that’s okay! If you don’t buy it, then I can’t re-stock it, and what would I do for a job? You’re keeping the economy running!” Seriously.
They worry that I’m going to think less of them because they can’t find something that’s staring right back at both of us, which is also silly, because sometimes we’re both staring at the shelf, leaving me mumbling,
“I know I saw it right around here the other day, unless it got moved the day I was off …”
“Oh, here it is!” exclaims the customer, who actually has a “search image” for a product, unlike this store employee who neither stocks the item nor buys it.
“Ayup, I remembered seeing it around here … is there anything else for which you are looking?”
Of course, there’s the person stalking up and down an aisle because they too have that feeling of it’s-right-in-front-of-me, and they finally break down to ask me as I’m passing by with a trolley artfully crammed full of cartons of chocolate bars and thirteen flavors and sizes of toothpaste, or a handtruck heaped high with bags of charcoal. (Nothing says, “Working Hard” like having coal schmutz on your cheek.)
“Um, have you seen the — Oh! Here it is. Sorry,”
“No worries — we do that at home all the time: ‘Hey Mom, where’s-the-nevermind’.”
My canned joke, with its carefully-honed wee bit of wry camaraderie, usually prompts a reciprocating expression of familiarity. Small talk is hard for me, so after I’ve had the same type of experience a few times, I make myself up some scripts to add to my standard lists of “Grocery Stocker Small Talk” or “Grocery Cashier Small Talk”.
But of course, there’s the inevitable ad-libbing.
“Melba Toast … you know, I don’t think I’ve ever role-played bread before,” I replied. Fortunately, my off-beat attempt at levity worked, which bought me some time as I stood there, staring up into space to access my mental store map. “Well, let’s go check Aisle 5,”
We get there, cruising past the peanut butter and jelly selections, in our grocery manager’s dual homage to cheap sandwiches and suggestive product placement. “I already looked in the bread aisle,” volunteers the customer, but we’re both familiar with scenario of missing something right in front of us, so we give it a look-through just to be sure.
“Okay, another likely place would be in the cracker aisle,” I offer, as we pass the end-cap display for the other brand of snack cakes (located in another part of the store, naturally) and make a U-turn to cruise fruitlessly past the chips and crackers. Before my customer gets too dispirited (or embarrassed), I offer an explanation, “The problem is, there are some things for which there are several perfectly logical places to keep them … and every store has its quirks. Well, if it’s not down here, we’ll look in the Import Foods section by the Dutch rusks,”
“I already checked there,” says the unusually diligent shopper.
“Wow, most people usually miss — ah-HA! Here they are, next to cereal and the toaster pastries.” Hooray, this mystery is solved, and I can go back to fighting with the Halloween bags of Twizzlers candies, which are refusing to stack neatly and have taken to suddenly slumping off the shelf and slithering onto the floor as I get halfway down the aisle. It would take no less than five episodes of this before I finally got the heaps stabilised. Such repeated incidents of fruit-carting would be funny later, but there are only so many ways you can stack and re-stack and re-stack and re-stack and re-stack bags of individually-wrapped cherry-flavored twists before getting utterly twisted, too.