Welcome to My Mid-Life Crisis

Who the hell am I?

True confession: I’ve always looked at mid-life crises with a bit of disdain. From the outside, they look like privileged temper tantrums at the prospect of growing old. That type of behavior gets little sympathy from me. Aging is inevitable.

The stereotypical midlife crisis is described as an aging man buying a sports car and a bad toupee, and leaving his wife for a ditzy 20 year old. And while that does sometimes happen, that’s really not the typical crisis. First of all, many of us can’t afford crisis-mobiles or trophy wives.

And while psychological crises can occur at any time in one’s life (or, in fact, not at all), these mid-stage ones seem to draw the most attention. According to Wikipedia, this time in life is a period of great transition. To quote the article directly:

The condition may occur from the ages of 45–64. Mid-life crises last about 3–10 years in men and 2–5 years in women. A mid-life crisis could be caused by aging itself, or aging in combination with changes, problems, or regrets over:

  • work or career (or lack thereof)   
  • spousal relationships (or lack of them)   
  • maturation of children (or lack of children)   
  • aging or death of parents (or lack of them)   
  • physical changes associated with aging (or lack of them)

   Individuals experiencing a mid-life crisis may feel:

  • humiliation among more successful colleagues   
  • longing to achieve a feeling of youthfulness   
  • need to spend more time alone or with certain peers   
  • a heightened sense of their sexuality or lack of it   
  • ennui, confusion, resentment or anger due to their discontent with their marital, work, health, economic, or social status   
  • ambition to right the missteps they feel they have taken early in life.

Without going into the specifics, let me describe what I’m going through at the moment. For the past 20 years, a huge amount of my ego has been wrapped up in being a bridgetender. I love my job, and I take great pride in doing it well. When someone asks me who I am, bridgetender is one of the first things I think to say.

But lately my reputation has been getting attacked at work. Viciously. Unjustifiably. And my efforts to defend myself have gone unheard and/or have not been validated. It’s hard to prove that you’re not a (insert horrible thing here). Especially when you mostly work alone. Although my work should speak for itself, in the form of well-functioning and clean machinery, and great customer feedback, it’s as though all of a sudden these things can only be seen by me. I feel like I’m at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and no attempts to exercise logic will be tolerated.

These attacks came totally out of the blue and therefore left me stunned for quite some time. Given the sources, though, I am no longer stunned. What I am is deeply and profoundly depressed and confused and disappointed, and, frankly, pissed off.

It’s hard to maintain pride in my work when my work is being discounted, overlooked, contradicted, and attacked. But since I’ve allowed all my ego to be wrapped up in that pride, the question becomes this: Without that pride, who the hell am I?

And when you add a heaping helping of pandemic isolation to the mix, all of this turns into a toxic stew, indeed. It’s affecting my health in a whole host of ways. It’s impacting many of my relationships. It is definitely causing me to lose sleep. I’ve been crying a lot. I can’t seem to focus on anything. I’m even more forgetful than I was previously, and believe me, that’s saying something.

In a nutshell, I’m struggling. I’m at the end of my rope. I’m exhausted. I tried to take a couple of days off to at least catch up on my sleep, seek counseling (which turns out to be an enormous challenge during this pandemic), and surround myself with those who actually value me, but my supervisor questioned the legitimacy of this need, and denied the request. Apparently one has to be bleeding out the eyeballs to be taken seriously around here, unless you can come up with a doctor’s note.

So this leaves me sitting here at work, feeling resentful and not optimally competent, while trying to pick up the pieces of my stress-riddled body, even as I struggle to retain at least a few of my traumatized marbles. And now I somehow have to work up the energy to try to figure out what’s left of me. Pardon my dust as I reconstruct myself from scratch. Easy peasy. Not.

This is a devastating development for one who used to love going to work. This video, which was done based on a StoryCorps interview I did years ago about being a bridgetender, demonstrates the love I had for it. I want that back, but it feels completely beyond my control.

I need to find other sources of esteem. I am more than just a bridgetender, after all. I’m also a blogger, an author, a little free library steward, a wife, a dog mom, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend, and a good person, dammit. Surely, amongst those things, I should be able to find the building blocks to repair my damaged psyche. And perhaps I need to spread my esteem more thinly, over a variety of things. With it currently being so densely focused on my job, I’ll have another identity crisis if and when I retire, and I’d much rather not go through this more than once. Once is already too much.

I can’t even seem to keep up with the blogging lately, and I don’t want to hit you with a steady stream of negativity. So, I’m at a bit of a loss, here. Don’t be surprised to see more fluff posts. I’m doing the best I can.

If Wikipedia is correct in stating that it’s going to take me a few years to get my groove back, I’m not sure how I’ll cope with that. Everything about this feels bad. Really bad. The thought of it makes me weep.

I’m luckier than a lot of people. I have a wonderful husband and fabulous dogs and a comfortable home and a lot of people who love me, even if they can only do so from a distance these days. I no longer struggle economically as much as I used to, and while sexism seems to press down more heavily now, I’ve never had to cope with racism, which must add a whole other level of awfulness to the mix. I’m terrified about climate change, but I’m better positioned to tolerate it than those who are on islands, or are plagued by floods, droughts, devastating storms and forest fires. Politically, I believe this country is circling the drain, and that’s painful to watch, but I’m learning to accept what has actually been the case all along: I have limited control in that arena.

Still, I feel like I’m lost in some otherworldly maze full of dead ends, and while I truly believe the door to positive selfhood is out there somewhere, I fear I won’t have the strength to reach it again. So, for the most part, I’m just trying to remember to breathe, trying to establish healthy boundaries, and trying to be gentle with myself. I cannot control how others treat me, but I can treat myself kindly, at least. I have to remind myself that it’s okay to leave those things that aren’t really necessary along the side of the road, because right now is a time to pare things down and focus on my mental health.

When I need a pep talk, I’ll listen to this song:

And when I am overwhelmed, I’ll listen to this one:

This is not my first visit to the land of depression. Experience tells me I’ll come out the other side eventually. I just need to be patient with myself. This, too, shall pass.

Encouragement is welcome. Telling me what I’m doing wrong, or should be doing instead, will only make me feel defeated. Rest assured that I’m making all the standard efforts (this ain’t my first rodeo) and I will get through this with time and help.

If you’re wandering this maze with me, here’s my hand, dear reader. Hold on tight, and pass the tissues.

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The Darker Side of Philanthropy

The rich have their reasons.

I tend to get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I think of philanthropy. It’s sometimes the only succor to society’s pain. For example, in this current political climate, absolutely no progress would be made toward a greener environment if it weren’t for charitable giving to worthy causes.

In addition, those of us who feel the pain the most are most likely to support social causes. It’s not hard to find articles like this one, which says, in part:

“In an article in The Atlantic this month, author Ken Stern details the charitable divide between the income classes. The author of “With Charity for All: Why Charities Are Failing and a Better Way to Give,” writes that in 2011, Americans with earnings in the top 20% of income levels contributed, on average, 1.3% of their income to charity. Those at the bottom 20% donated 3.2% of their cash to charity—more than double of what their more-wealthy counterparts donated.

What’s more, Stern says those at the bottom income levels often do not itemize their tax returns, so they aren’t taking advantage of the charitable tax deduction.”

I suspect that the lower classes give more generously because their motivations are more pure. They genuinely want to help various causes. They are less likely to have another agenda.

The rich, on the other hand, quite often do have their reasons. Here are some:

Public Relations. Often, the super-rich obtain their wealth in less than ethical ways, and making donations to charities is one way to whitewash their reputations.

Political motivations. The rich tend to be socially liberal but economically conservative. They’re all for supporting same sex marriage or reduced carbon emissions, but they definitely do not want their taxes raised. So rather than give the money to the government, which would allow we, the people (also known as the unwashed masses), to set the agenda (theoretically) as to how that money gets spent, they prefer to pick and choose their causes themselves with zero oversight and all the power to set the policy.

“No wonder so many prefer philanthropy over taxation. In philanthropy, you can do whatever you want, no matter how misguided you are, no matter what other people think. Taxation, unfortunately for certain rich people, is a collective enterprise in which we make decisions together.” –Anand Giridharadas, American writer, former columnist for the New York Times

“We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” -Leona Helmsley

Talk about setting policy. According to this podcast from the Religion and Ethics Report, Charles Koch, of Koch brothers fame, donated 1 ½ million dollars to Florida State University, but it came with strings attached. He wanted some control over their hiring and firing, and he wanted them to teach his free market libertarian agenda and downplay climate change.

Hiding Your Agenda. Unfortunately, there are a lot of anonymous donations floating around. This is often played off as a humble donor trying to avoid praise, which might be the case sometimes, but there are also a lot of nefarious nonprofit organizations that rely on philanthropy. This article discusses three different foundations that the Southern Poverty Law Center deems to be white supremacist hate groups. Who donates to them? It’s hard to say.

We Know Best. Rich people also have an annoying tendency to be dismissive of the grass roots community. They want to throw money at causes without knowing what works or does not in certain places. According to this article, in the aftermath of a hurricane, one philanthropist wanted to give money for solar panels, when the people still did not have roofs on which to put them. That’s a problem.

I can understand the instinct to give to causes that you’re personally interested in, but this means that the opera tends to receive funding long before the local soup kitchen does. This desire to avoid estate taxes by delving into philanthropy allows rich people to shape society in any way that they see fit. They want to be in control of what we learn, what laws are made, how our environment is looked after, and how our criminal justice system is managed. These are realms that all members of a democratic society should have some influence over. But that’s not how we roll.

Just something to think about the next time you’re praising the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Philanthropy

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What Is a Typical American?

Please know that we are not our politicians.

During a recent commute, I was thinking about the fact that people from all over the world read this blog. I’m rather proud of that. I’d like to think that my random musings give people some insight into the fact that not all Americans fit into the current stereotype.

If you’ve never been to the United States, and formed your opinion about this country based on presidential tweets or the news cycle on any given day in the past several years, I’d be rather ashamed at the conclusions you might be drawing about us as people.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that all our news is fake. In fact, I think that most of it is not. But like news everywhere, it tends to focus on the extreme, the lunatic fringe, the dramatic, negative, headline-grabbing insanity that sells subscriptions and gains followers.

The first thing I’d like you to know is that we are not our politicians, just as you probably don’t always agree with your own political figures much of the time. The insanity that comes out of our capitol these days is not reflective of the vast majority of us.

Most of us actually believe that our current gun situation is insane and needs some form of regulation. Most of us believe that we incarcerate way, way, way too many people. Most of us really do know that global warming exists, and we desperately want to do something about it. Most of us think that our health care system is cruel and unjust. Most of us do not agree with the way we currently treat immigrants, the homeless, and the mentally ill in this country.

This nation’s political stance on all of the above is a source of shame and outrage. I wish I could say that our system was actually democratic and reflective of we, the people, but it is, in fact, rigged for the rich and powerful, and they have no one’s best interests at heart but their own. That’s a source of shame, too.

I wish there were some way you could get to know an individual American. Most of us would never think to chant, “lock her up” or “send her back”. The average American doesn’t have a violent bone in his or her body. 99.9999 percent of us would never use an automatic weapon in a school. While we are not perfect (who is?) we are, I truly believe, mostly very compassionate, and willing to help people in need, rather than hurt them or separate them from their families.

While we do have quite a bit of work to do in terms of racial bias, I sincerely believe that people who lead with hate do not represent the vast majority of us. We feel that selfishness is an ugly trait, as is greed. Just about everyone I know is entirely too busy trying to live his or her own life to interfere in the lives of others.

It’s true that there’s no such thing as a typical American, just as there’s no such thing as a typical Italian or a typical Nigerian or a typical Korean. We may come in all shapes and sizes and colors, but I think that most human beings have this in common: we struggle to take good care of our loved ones, and do the best that we can to be the best people that we can be.

So please don’t judge us too harshly. We have limited control over our country’s reputation, and that hurts us as much as it probably horrifies you. Just try to remember that on an individual basis, kindness and love still exist here. They really do.

They just rarely get tweeted about.

Diversity

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An Apology Goes a Long Way

It pays to put your reputation ahead of your pride.

Someone I know quite well recently screwed up to an epic degree. She erred to the point of angering many people and shocking me speechless. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.

I tried to talk to her about it, but she couldn’t or wouldn’t hear me. She had to know that she had made a massive mistake. She was painted into a corner and she couldn’t see how to get out of it.

The way out was simple. All she had to do was sincerely apologize, admit her foolish blunder, and say she’d do her best not to let it happen again. I mean, we’re all human, after all. Nobody’s perfect.

But no. She’d rather have her pride than our respect. She’d rather be the woman on the dragon, burning down the city full of innocent people, than take the high road and step back and treat people with decency and human kindness.

No, I’m not talking about Daenerys from Game of Thrones here. As of this most recent episode, it seems she’s too far gone. But the parallels with my former friend are distressing. Sometimes it just pays to put your reputation ahead of your pride. That’s a tale as old as time.

https _img00.deviantart.net_1d2c_i_2016_285_8_1_mother_of_dragons_by_offbeatworlds-daktytt

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Crossing Paths with a Con Woman

I hope that someday her chickens come home to roost.

Every once in a while, I’ll do a Google search of my former boss from decades ago. It’s not that I miss her. It’s not that I ever even liked her. It’s just that she owes me 500 bucks that I’ll never see again.

I did freelance work writing articles for a magazine she started. It was advice for parents, which is ironic when you consider my childfree state. Still, it seemed like a lucrative business, until the day she stopped answering my phone calls.

And then her phone got disconnected. So I stopped by her house, looked in the windows, and discovered it was completely empty of furniture. I also found out that there were so many liens on the house that adding my humble little grievance to the massive pile would have only had me standing in line behind a long list of other outraged marks. She was a con woman extraordinaire.

Still, I used to drive by the abandoned house sometimes, when I found myself in the neighborhood. The driveway formed cracks and trees started to grow there. In Florida, nature quickly reclaims neglected buildings. The rotting roof reflected my diminishing hopes of ever getting justice.

Here’s the thing about Googling her, though. She has a very successful name twin in the same area of the country where she most likely resides. I’ve talked to the woman. She’s really nice. She’s a property owner, a keynote speaker, the head of her own self-named company. She dines with mayors. Her name is often associated with major financial corporations. It’s because she has such a wonderful reputation that I won’t taint her by mentioning any names. She is everything her name twin, my loser ex-boss, is not. When I told her about the many crimes of the other woman who shares her name, she was horrified.

My ex-boss, on the other hand, seems to have stepped into some internet black hole. She is nowhere, absolutely nowhere, in cyberspace. Of course, she doesn’t want to be found. I’m sure she’s changed her name more than once. It must be awfully stressful, living an anonymous, fraud-filled life like that. One wonders where she’d be if she had used her powers for good.

But all the speculation in the world isn’t going to get me my money back. I can only hope that someday her chickens will come home to roost.

Police Line Up
Fun fact: When I tried to find an image of a female police line up, I came up empty. Go figure.

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DO Be Silly

I was treating myself to a Chinese buffet the other day, because I had managed to make it through the holidays with my sanity intact. Any excuse will do. Any excuse at all.

I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between a mother and her son. He looked to be about fourteen, and he was talking about the kind of things that 14-year-olds talk about. Drama at school, I think.

The mother was trying to talk sense into the kid, and at one point she said, “Don’t be silly.”

My first thought was, “Ah, that’s how it all starts…”

It’s true. At some point in life most of us seem to lose our ability to be silly. We stop jumping on the bed, making snow angels, and having water fights while washing the family car. We start worrying more and more about what other people will think. We place too high a price on our own dignity and reputation. We stop playing.

I think this is tragic. How can one feed one’s spirit without clowning around? How many years do we trim off our lives by depriving ourselves of laughter and joy?

I suppose it’s better that that mother said, “Don’t be silly,” as opposed to “Don’t be an idiot,” but still… I hope she takes a little time to be silly with her son. Because it shouldn’t be such a dying art.

silly

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Andy Johnson, Take Heed

I have a lien on the home of Andy Johnson, former member of the Florida House of Representatives. He stole $3,500.00 from me, and despite the fact that I won the court case, he refuses to pay me back. Due to his stubbornness on this issue, and the fact that liens rack up a nice bit of interest every year, he now owes me what I consider to be ever so slightly south of a bloody fortune.

This made me wonder how that lien is impacting his credit. According to the Nest, a website dedicated to all things financial, the answer is, basically, a heck of a lot. (And my petty little self can’t resist saying that it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.)

Apparently the credit bureaus calculate liens in with your negative payment history, so “having a lien on your credit history would fall between making several late payments on a credit card and declaring bankruptcy.” In addition, the Nest says that “You could also be restricted from obtaining a home equity loan or a mortgage in the future.”

So Andy may think he’s proving some twisted point by not doing the right thing and paying me what he owes me, but actually he’s only harming himself, and the negative ripple effect of that is that he’s costing himself a lot more. According to Credit.com, a low credit score will influence the auto loan interest rate that you get, the amount of a down payment you have to pay for a cell phone plan, your ability to rent property for your home or business, and your ability to obtain credit cards. It can also impact your home and auto insurance rate, and the rates of any private student loans you attempt to obtain for your children.

Andy Johnson does have kids, and by leaving such a sickly financial legacy behind him, he also is doing nothing to help them get ahead. I do feel sorry for them, but it could so easily be rectified if he paid up. He is his own worst nightmare, to be honest.

And then there’s his reputation to consider. I will continue to maintain my blog entries about this man and what he did to me as long as he lives, or until he does the right thing, whichever comes first. If you google him, my blog entries come up. As of this writing, 41,400 people have viewed my blog, and his is one of the more popular topics that people check out. The internet never goes away. Future generations will know the kind of man he is.

Face it, Andy, you’ve lost. For the sake of your family, do the right thing. My credit score is 772. What’s yours?

You can read the full and sordid details about Andy Johnson’s underhanded dealings here. Or you can get an abridged version of events here. You can get details on how he blatantly lied about the situation to a reporter and my documented evidence of it here. If you’d like to confront him about this situation, read my suggestion about that here. And if you’d like to buy my judgment at a discount and make a nice profit from collecting the money, read about my offer here. If you would like to talk about other nefarious deeds of his, do so here.

LoserLogo-950x734

[image credit: hellofromhei.com]

“I’ll have your job!”

The other day I walked into a pharmacy at the tail end of what sounded like a stormy customer service incident. The customer shouted “I’ll have your job!” to the clerk as she made her exit. The clerk looked down sadly and shook her head.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard someone make a threat of that type, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. People seem to like to make that broad sweeping statement when they feel they’ve been wronged.

And should I go there? Yes, I should. It’s been my experience that the type of person who is prone to this diatribe is generally the type of person who isn’t desperate for income themselves. People who have been close to losing everything generally don’t make such threats.

Granted, some people deserve to be fired. But I’d like to think that the vast majority of customer service issues can and should be resolved without destroying a person’s livelihood and/or reputation, especially in this economy.

You really have no idea what a person’s life is like. This may be their only income source to care for a disabled child or an elderly parent. Is it worth it to jeopardize that simply because you’ve been irritated?

Speak to the manager, yes. Suggest training or discipline, yes. But don’t go straight for the jugular. Don’t be the author of someone’s potential homelessness. Some day the tables could be turned and it might be your livelihood that’s on the line.

angry

[Image credit: zisno.com]

Speaking Ill of the Dead

I was chatting with a coworker when he received a text message. “Whoa. My cousin just died.” I told him I was sorry for his loss, as you do. “Don’t be,” he said. “She was mean as a snake and hated my guts.”

Once upon a time I might have been shocked by that response. You’re taught that you should never speak ill of the dead. When I was little I used to think that was some magical rule, like they’d come back and get you or haunt you if you said mean things about them. Like some afterlife boogey man was out there, just waiting to pounce.

In retrospect I can see where it might be wise not to shoot your mouth off, but only out of respect for the living. There’s no point in hurting the complex feelings of the people who might actually genuinely mourn someone’s passing.

But frankly, I think it can be somewhat cleansing to be able to speak the truth about someone who has made your life a living hell, too. For instance, I jumped for joy when my abusive stepfather died, although the damage had already been done, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it. If the man wanted to be lauded in death, he should have behaved decently in life.

Even if you don’t believe in some form of afterlife, something, even if it is just your legacy or reputation, will, as Charles Dickens so aptly said, wear the chains you forge in life. And what one chooses to forge is the responsibility of each individual.

I’m not going to revise history just because you’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. Dying isn’t some sort of get out of jail free card, or some special pass. Everyone dies sooner or later. It’s the great equalizer. It’s how you treat people while you’re alive that sets you apart.

So if you feel the need to vent about someone who has died and need someone to listen who won’t be shocked or offended, pat pat, come sit by me.

thatcher

George Zimmerman Goes Free: It’s a Florida Thing. You Wouldn’t Understand.

George Zimmerman was found not guilty on Saturday. To be honest I was expecting riots in the streets. I wouldn’t blame them. I was outraged, too. As a Floridian I am embarrassed for my state. Yet again. It happens with annoying frequency.

  • I was also mortified when Florida helped “elect” George Bush. We are the land of the hanging chad and the 5 hour voting lines, where no one can be certain that his vote actually counts.
  • I was appalled when Elian Gonzalez was taken from Cuba without his father’s consent, and we were actually harboring the child instead of returning him to his only surviving parent, simply because we disagree with Cuba’s politics and didn’t want to ruffle the feathers of every Cuban exile in Miami.
  • I was disgusted when our state legislature got involved in a husband’s right to pull the plug on Terri Schiavo, his wife, who had been, effectively, a vegetable for quite some time.
  •  We also allow “Choose Life” license plates, but will not allow “Pro Choice” ones, even though that is the law of the land.
  • And teachers cannot legally mention the word “condom” in our public schools, but that couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact only 11 other states in the nation have a higher teen pregnancy rate, now could it? We also have the second highest AIDS rate in the nation.

I weep for this state.

But back to Zimmerman for a moment. People are assuming that all whites are on Zimmerman’s side. On the contrary, I think the side you’re on is more a matter of where you stand on gun control. Make no mistake: Zimmerman claimed self-defense, even though he started the incident by being on the offense. And for some reason the jury bought it, which means that Zimmerman was allowed to hunt Trayvon Martin down and shoot him like a dog. All he had to do was claim that he feared for his life.

Well, knowing that maverick cop-wannabes are allowed to roam the streets makes me fear for my life, too, Mr. Zimmerman. But don’t worry. I’m not going to assassinate you in spite of the fact that the law would apparently be on my side.

We will never know exactly what happened that night, but here’s what I will never be able to get past: When Zimmerman called 911 they told him to stop following the kid. Twice. They told him twice and he ignored them twice. If he had listened to the professionals as he should have, things would not have gotten out of control. Twice.

If I were the 911 Operator, maybe I’d have been a little more succinct. “You did your good deed, Mr. Zimmerman. You were a good little neighborhood watch person and called in the suspicious black guy to the police. Now kindly stop being a vigilante hunter who is out for blood and a reputation, and get your putrid butt back home.”  But no. He continued to follow that young man and got the beat down he deserved for doing so, and THAT is when he felt threatened. THAT is when he shot him. He brought it on himself.

And kindly stop talking about how Trayvon was no angel, will you please? That’s immaterial. I don’t care if he was Idi Amin. He was somebody’s kid. He was minding his own business, trying to go home, and didn’t deserve to be slaughtered for his trouble.

Zimmerman stood his ground, all right. Only it never should have been his ground to stand on in the first place.

Trayvon