Give Yourself a Raise

Recently I got a raise at work, and I was thrilled. You have to understand. For 14 years I worked in a non-union job, and we got a one dollar raise every 6 years, which, needless to say, did not keep pace with the cost of living. And we’d have to fight to get that. We also got 3000 dollars’ worth of health coverage a year, which barely covered prescriptions for most of us. Now I’m working the same job on the other side of the country and we have a union and I’m earning three times as much, with a benefit package that moves me to tears whenever I contemplate it.

Let’s face it, if employers actually cared about their workers, there’d be no need for unions. Assuming The Man is going to behave honorably without union oversight is pure fantasy. Without unions there would still be sweat shops, child labor, and 80 hour work weeks.

I realize I’m one of the lucky ones. I just kind of fell into this good fortune. I did nothing special to deserve it. I was just in the right place at the right time. I am no more worthy than you are. I wish I could sign up every single person on the planet, but that’s not within my power.

If you can unionize, do so. But as much as it breaks my heart to say this, most people reading this are probably going to be screwed at work. The only thing I can tell you is that there is more than one way to get a raise. If you wait for your employer to do it you may wait forever. Here are a few other ways to raise yourselves up:

  • Find something that you love doing outside of work and do it just for the pure joy of it. You might also consider thinking of ways to make money by doing it, but that’s definitely not required.

  • Volunteer. This will give you a great deal of satisfaction. Call it a karma raise. And though your efforts you may meet people and make contacts that will translate into a future job, or make like-minded friends. You can never have too many of those.

  • Be ever mindful that the best things in life don’t cost a penny. Love. Friendship. Learning. Beauty. Reach out for those things. Embrace them.

  • Vote! Make your opinion count! Be heard!

  • Whenever possible, do as much as you can to lift up the people around you. Acknowledge their efforts. Give compliments. Be generous. That abundance will come back to you. On the other hand, turf-guarding, selfishness and subjugation will drag you down as well.

  • No one can treat you as well as you can treat yourself. But are you doing that? Being kind to yourself, pampering yourself? Our culture may frown upon it, but it’s the greatest gift you can give yourself. Make it a habit.

  • Speak your truth. Embrace your uniqueness. Maintain your integrity. Do what feels right to you. All these things will make you a more authentic, happy individual, and when you live that happiness, good things will come your way. No one can take that away from you.

  • Explore your spirituality to it’s natural (for you) conclusion. Therein lies peace.

  • Exercise. Do yoga. Walk in the world. Actively play.

Do something to give yourself a raise every day. It’s every bit as important to you as food. Think of it as feeding your spirit. The Man isn’t in charge of your well-being. You are.

Alicia
This is my friend Alicia. Beautiful in mind, body and spirit. And also the best yoga instructor on the face of the earth! (Photo used with permission.)

Unplug

Recently a friend of mine posted some quotations by the author Anne Lamott on her Facebook page. One that really struck a chord with me was this one:

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

Wise words indeed. I thought of them last night when my wifi went dead at a critical moment. I was really feeling frustrated as I unplugged the modem and slowly counted off a minute. And I decided that rather than stand there gritting my teeth as the seconds clicked slowly by, I’d do some stretching exercises based on a vague memory of the last yoga class I attended.

Why did I stop doing yoga? I have never felt physically better than when I did it regularly. I have no idea. Time. Money. Habit. Pure laziness. I need to get back into it. I need to give myself that gift.

I also thought about how wonderful my recent day trip to the tulip festival was. I could feel my blood pressure drop. I could feel myself relax and breathe. These things are important.

I need to be more gentle with myself. Take more baths. Take more breaks. Take more naps. Soak up the sun.

I need to be kinder to myself. I need to remember that no one can be as kind to me as I can be to myself. Deep down I know what I need. I also know that while it is necessary to do those things that will allow me to live my life (Damned job! Damned housework!) it is also vital that I not forget to do those things that make life worthwhile.

Then I did one last luxurious stretch, plugged my modem back in, and sure enough, both my laptop and I were good to go again.

frogbillboard

Self-Care

For some reason it’s been my experience that most people are incapable of being kind to themselves. I’m no exception. I don’t know if it’s low self-worth or a time management issue, but we tend not to take care of ourselves the way we would others. Think about it. You’d hold a door open for a stranger before you’d hold a figurative door open for yourself, wouldn’t you? That’s a tragedy.

In this economy especially, it is a shame that we are not taking more opportunities to be kind to ourselves. It costs nothing or next to nothing to allow yourself to sleep in or take a bath instead of a shower. When’s the last time you put lotion on your feet or took a walk in a park? Go ahead, splurge on that higher-end ice cream that you love so much, just this once. The dishes can wait. Instead, indulge your desire to watch a few episodes of Star Trek. Or take your bike out of mothballs and go for a ride. What’s it going to hurt? Start taking yoga classes again. You know you loved it. Why did you ever stop?

When you’ve experienced trauma, loss, or illness it is especially important to treat yourself with decency and care. You are the one person you can count on to do that, so why deprive yourself of it? It is wonderful when others step up and are good to you, but you have identified the need and you are also capable of fulfilling it yourself. What’s holding you back?

So take an extra few minutes to dangle your feet in the pond or look up at the trees from a hammock or use that shower gel that you like so much. Light that candle. You love the smell. These are gifts you can only give yourself. And when you do, be sure and thank yourself, too. That’s another thing we often forget to do, but it’s common courtesy.

bubblebath

[Image credit: workingmommanifesto.com]

Baby Yoga

Okay, I just saw the most disturbing video I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I can’t even post a link to it, because Youtube keeps yanking it down. I had to stop watching after two minutes. It’s been viral on Facebook. In it, a Russian woman takes a baby who is too young to even support its own head, and swings it around by its arms, spinning it and twisting it. Then she does the same thing with its legs, often one leg. Then she flips it back and forth, its little head snapping on its tiny little neck. Then she tosses the kid through the air, catching it often at the last minute.

On Facebook it says the FBI is looking for this woman, but other sources say that this is not true. Apparently this is a trend called Baby Yoga, and its “practitioners” (for wont of a term that doesn’t make me sound like a drunken sailor) claim that these torturous acrobatics cause babies to walk and talk and, basically, develop faster than the normal child. Naturally, there’s no scientific evidence of this.

There’s another video going around that’s only slightly less disturbing, and that’s of a woman named Lena Fokina (pictured below) doing her version of this practice. The only reason it’s less disturbing is that she seems to really believe in what she’s doing, and isn’t getting off on the more torturous aspects of it like the other woman is. But just because you give child abuse a fancy name does not mean it stops being child abuse.

Here’s what disturbs me most (and there’s a great deal to be disturbed about) regarding this practice. First of all, there is plenty of scientific evidence for another phenomenon: shaken baby syndrome. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if while flipping a baby through the air it flies out of your hands or you drop it, the potential for injury is huge.

And Ms. Fokina’s practice often causes the children to scream and vomit. Yet she says it’s good for them. Give me strength.

Most of all, I’d like to know this. Even if baby yoga turns out to produce the master race, what parent in their right mind would be willing to take such an unbelievable, irreversible risk with their child?

I’m disgusted and horrified.

baby yoga

You’re so Easy to Dislike

My former yoga instructor is a very profound woman.  She has a fantastic blog of her own called “in·spi·ra·tion” which I highly recommend. If you can get past the colorful language which I find hilarious but others might find offensive, and the crunchy granola-isms, you’ll discover that she imparts a great deal of wisdom.

One of the things she used to say in class (and I’m totally paraphrasing here, so forgive me, Alicia, if I don’t get it completely right) is that the people who get on your nerves, the ones who piss you off or even scare you are the very ones who are put in your path so you can learn something about yourself and see yourself more clearly. She says that you should actually seek these people out if you want enlightenment.

Once you get into the habit of seeing annoying people as opportunities rather than irritants, it really alters your worldview. Sometimes I even find myself inwardly amused rather than inwardly screaming. Sometimes.

One of the things that I find most annoying is when I’m not being taken seriously. That is exactly the way to make me see blood red, in case you ever feel the need. For example, the other day I wrote a blog about acupuncture and someone actually said that I wasn’t being cured by these treatments, I was in fact being ripped off. As if I weren’t there. As if I weren’t capable of noticing that when I went into the office I had a certain set of chronic symptoms, and when I left they were gone, never to return. As if I were some stupid, gullible, highly suggestible person who couldn’t possibly be trusted to make my own decisions about my health. As if I needed to be saved from myself and this guy was the one to do it.

So now it falls to me to ask myself exactly why this doofus rubbed me the wrong way. What am I supposed to be learning from him? Am I really that insecure? One of the things I’m most confident about in life is my own intelligence. Is it a throwback from my childhood? I definitely was not taken seriously back then. No doubt about it. But then most children aren’t. Maybe it triggers my post traumatic stress from my childhood abuse at the hands of my stepfather. I definitely don’t respond well when people in positions of authority do not have my best interests at heart. But this fool is in no way an authority figure over me. Was I just over tired? Perpetually.

Maybe he was just one more reminder that I need to, and in fact have every right to, define my boundaries. (A psychologist friend of mine once told me I needed to work on that.)  I had been putting up with this particular person’s disdainful comments for a long time. Probably a lot longer than the average person would have. I was participating in my own victimization. I pride myself in entertaining opposing viewpoints, but it was getting to the point where I no longer enjoyed this blog. My blog.

There comes a time when one has to say enough is enough. There comes a time when saying “this far and no farther” is entirely appropriate. I arrived at that point, and I did what I had to do, which was to eject him from my personal corner of the blogosphere. I feel good about raising my drawbridge, so to speak, and leaving him on the far side of the moat.

Is this the same as saying “End of Discussion” as I wrote about earlier, and as he so artfully threw in my face as his parting shot? No. End of Discussion is a tool that weak minded people use to try to shut down and control the people in their lives whom they claim to care about. I don’t care about this person and never did. No. Closing this guy out was more akin to using bug spray on a poisonous spider. You can love nature without wanting to risk your life over it. I have every right to repel poison when it is directed at me.

So thank you, annoying person, for that lesson! Now, kindly get out and stay out.

go away

Image credit: http://society6.com/product/go-away-tWS_Print?tag=typography

Don’t Underestimate the Elderly

My landlady is 72 years old, and only 4 months out from heart surgery, and yet the first time I saw her, she was wearing short shorts, a tank top, and a half ton of jewelry. I’m convinced she’s in better shape than I am.  I think she’s delightful.

Back in the 80’s, I used to work in this mom and pop video rental store. (This was before Blockbuster came along and wiped them off the map.) Every week this little old lady would come in and rent 10 porn videos.  I used to think, “You give me hope for the future.”

I recently graduated from college with an 80 year old man who was getting his 10th degree.

The pastor of my church, in his late 60’s, rode his bicycle across America this summer to raise money for charity.

My next door neighbor, may she rest in peace, lived alone until she was 95, and loved it. She rode her bike 30 miles a day until she was 80. She only stopped because she was afraid she’d fall and break a hip. So after that, she walked her dogs several miles a day.

I was talking to an 83 year old woman about her new boyfriend. She said, “But no sex, honey. He has prostate issues.” I just love her!

I know a man in his 80’s who makes stained glass, takes math classes just for the heck of it, is the world’s greatest cook and can touch his toes before I even start to bend over.

I work full time with 5 people in their 70’s.

Before I moved recently, I attended a yoga class with 50 people. The average age in there must have been 75, and they could all “downward dog” me under the table. It was kind of embarrassing, to tell the truth.

After being faced with so many examples of amazing elderly people, I have to ask myself, “Why do I continue to be amazed?” Why can’t I get that stereotypical image of the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” woman out of my head? Clearly that stereotype does them a disservice. Yes, there are plenty of elderly people out there with health problems or dementia or an inability to care for themselves. But can you imagine how frustrating it must be for the ones I’ve described above to be discounted, ignored, or otherwise treated like a three year old child? I resolve, from this day forward, to approach every elderly person as if they were amazing, because more often than not, they are. Who’s with me?