Monday, March 05, 2007

At what price.... ?

I got a late start blog-hopping today. Today is a day I'd planned to skip writing my own but read this entry at Hel's site, Truth Cycles, and decided I have something to say after all.

In the post, she describes how she feels about her day-to-day job and how she wants to escape. Other bloggers have written similar sentiments.

And, oh God Almighty, how I understand it!

I remember back to June 2004, the month I realized that continuing life on the hamster wheel would kill me. No metaphor. No hyperbole. I was dying. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually. Perhaps there are a few others who read here who know the physical sensation of the body beginning to eat itself.

I wouldn't have given you a dime for my life.

Day after day, I drove I-50 between Sacramento and Rancho Cordova in commute-time traffic. I remember praying that I would have a heart attack and die. As far as I knew, there was no other way out.

By some people's standards, I had a reasonably good job. I was an Information Technology professional. I wasn't getting rich but didn't have too much to complain about financially. My bills were getting paid.

And the weird thing is that I am not a lazy person. Just because I'm fat doesn't mean I'm lazy! :) Most of this glorious blubber comes from my body's effort to create a shield between me and those toxic environments that threatened to suck the soul out of me, day after dreary, endless day. Seriously. That's when I packed on the weight. It started around 1998 which in retrospect is probably the time when I began to get very sick.

I don't remember smiling much... or laughing much. My life was drudgery. Nothing more. Nothing less. There was no refuge because I didn't have the energy to create it.

I found it spiritually offensive to be participating in the cycle of consumerism, the worship of the Almighty Buck, regardless of how it harmed me or anyone else. There was something about being in an environment that encouraged deception, competition, trickery, oppression, market values and mindless conformity that made me heartsick.

By the time mid-2004 arrived, I was already well on my way downhill. My health was failing. I had blinding, bone-crushing depression and, seriously, the only thing I really wanted was the final peace of oblivion. If this was to be life, I didn't want it.

In this culture where human value is determined by economic and social status, making the final decision to file for federal disability benefits wasn't easy. It's not that I shared that value system but those around me did. It took six months to get approval. I was approved the first time. (Those who know the system are aware of how unusual that is... Most people battle the system for years. That is an indication of how seriously sick I was.. )

These days, my life isn't perfect. There are many things I'd like to do that I am no longer able to do. Looking at it, I realize that a large part of my aversion to being "out in the world" comes from the battering and abuse I took in those places. Meaningful work is important for all of us. Purpose. Meaning. And I don't mean contributing to the economy. I mean just what I said... meaning. Mine has to be created within the context of my current limitations. I might just decide to take up weaving... or maybe take my writing a bit more seriously. Maybe I'll make a "career" of just being the best person I can be and be of service to others on an individual-to-individual basis, on a smaller scale. My life is, by necessity rather than design, a fairly narrow one. I am no longer able to work outside the home. I am permanently shell-shocked.

This began as a long "comment" in response to Hel's post. I would encourage her to get out now while she can before becoming a 52-year old complete burnout. The stakes are a lot higher then. And the recovery is far more difficult. Listen to the call of your soul. It knows best.

I'd also be curious to know how others survive workplace culture. This is something perhaps all of us can find of value.




Anvilcloud said...

Fortunately I was able to retire early a few years ago. These are the best days.

jen said...

ahhh..when i read Hel's post I also thought of you.

I am in the midst of that burnout now - I have been trying to do something about it - but lost my steam last week. i'll get back on that bike - i am finally learning the place i am at isn't soothing my soul - not mission wise but agency's been so long i've forgotten a bit what the good is supposed to feel like.

Lucia said...

Honestly, I cannot imagine getting through days and feeling like this. I have been fortunate that I have never had a job that I've felt like this about. It makes me realize I've been blessed in this part of my life.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I totally share your values as described, and have had only a few jobs that seemed meaningful to me. When I managed a domestic violence shelter, I felt that my work was valuable.

It was also bizarre in that every day, I arranged Social Services for my clients and also got merchants to donate furniture, clothing, and food to the ones who actually set up their own households w/o their abusers, yet I was paid so little that I couldn't pay my own bills.

My original family turned its collective back on me early because I was different, and therefore disgraceful. I was divorced (with good cause, but in their view, still wrong) and worst of all, I was not a high-earning "professional." My sister in law, who has never worked a day in her life, was accorded a status in my own family that I was denied.

I retired myself early to escape the soul-deadening crush of jobs in which I worked my butt off to make someone else richer. I had no stomach for screwing the public, which most jobs in our society require.

It has been a struggle, but I feel that my life finally belongs to me. Every day offers new possibilities, and when my fibromyalgia hurts too much to go out, I usually don't have to. Life is good.

We have no savings and the future could be scary, but what's a misfit to do? Somehow, we'll manage. And so will you. We seem to be members of a strange tribe, but it's the only one that makes any sense.

Laurie said...

I'm lucky, my job is wonderful. I'm doing exactly what I feel I was meant to do. I know how incredibly fortunate I am.

However, the job I held for the 12 years prior to this job, left me a ruin physically and emotionally.

I'm so glad you got out when you did Chani.

Anonymous said...

I'm a nurse and five years ago found I couldn't cope with working on the units anymore. It was just too hard, too much work and not enough time to do a good job. I decided to quit nursing. That very day I was offered my present job. I'm still nursing but in a different capacity and still enjoying it. I'm thankful.

KateMV said...

I'm confused... I posted a comment this morning but it seems to have mysteriously disappeared. I believe it was the second one, after "anvilcloud's". Anyway, I'll try to recreate it..

What I said earlier was that there are many jobs in America that do not have a culture of greed, deception, and the other things you mentioned. I have found working in schools to be fulfilling, as most teachers are people who serve a higher purpose, as evidenced by their willingness to work long difficult hours for a low salary. The non-profit world is another example. There are many fantastic organizations out there staffed by people who care more about helping others than about making a buck.

And even in the for-profit world, there are plenty of businesses and companies that do good work and go out of their way to provide some sort of service to the larger community. It sounds like you were unfortunate in that you weren't at one of these... but I'd hate to think that means you see all for-profits as greedy, etc. Making a profit does not necessarily equal malicious intent.

I also wanted to note for general educational purposes that clinical depression is not caused by working at a certain place. A person who is going to suffer from this type of depression is almost surely going to experience it regardless of external circumstances, though external circumstances may certainly trigger episodes of it. I have had close experience with this and I don't want people who don't know much about it to get the wrong idea.

Finally, I did not say this this morning, but I did want to point out that everyone in the world has something to share with others, you included. I think you write amazingly well; you have excellent literary skill and flawless grammar. You could certainly use this talent that you've been given to find meaningful "work," if that was something that appealed to you, I think. Just a thought!

Susanne said...

While there might be people able to work in the corporate world and in hierarchical institutions I'm not one of them. I had a couple of office jobs while going to college and if I had had to stay there I'd be ill and depressed for sure. Every day there I felt like dying a little inside.

I'm very happy and fortunate to have work that I love, that I can do from home and on my own terms. This also means that I'm not making the money I'd have made otherwise and that it takes two of us working to make what I could have made in IT.

Like Jen put it soothing one's soul is definitely worth it. Work is such a big part of life that one should try to find something meaningful.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe I'll make a "career" of just being the best person I can be and be of service to others on an individual-to-individual basis, on a smaller scale."

This is one of my long-term goals. I need to be reminded on a daily basis, because the demands of being a full-time parent is very hard on me.

And I want to be careful and mindful of what I do next, when the kids are in school full time so I don't just keep on that same unfulfilling track I was on before.

Ginnie said...

I wish I had known sooner that I would be happier with less of life's material "things". Now I know that if I have the things I need, and forget the ones I thought I wanted, life becomes easier and much more pleasant. I would recommend anyone to get out of a job that saps their energy and to find something that satisfies their soul, rather than their pocketbook.

Bob said...

I'll make a "career" of just being the best person I can be and be of service to others

I thought you already had. Your blog is a service to me. You challenge me to think, to evaluate who I am and what I could be.

Thailand Gal said...

Anvil, it was definitely one of the best things that happened in my life ~ and I'm so grateful I didn't have to die to get free.


Jen, I know that is a horribly demoralizing process. I hope you will be able to find something you can do independently. Get free of those vultures, once and for all.


Lucia, yes.. you definitely created something good there. :)


Susan, we can't take it with us, you know? There's absolutely no sense in living a miserable life because maybe someday we'll be able to retire and be comfortable. Some of us, the most sensitive of spirits, are removed from that cycle for one reason or another. You with fibro and me with chronic PTSD. It happens in all sorts of ways. I honestly believe that if we hadn't been taken out, we'd just die young.


Laurie, glad you have escaped it in your own way, too. I actually considered going back to college at one point, get an MA in something and create some kind of life. The problem basically was one of energy. There's no way I could stay in the survival struggle and also have the energy to create something new. It was hellish. No doubt.

I'd go back for an MA now, if I could. Unfortunately,the disability rules are pretty strict.


Deb, glad you found something worthwhile that you could do with already-acquired skills. You're not the first nurse I know who finally decided floor nursing was a soul sucker.


Kate, thank you for your encouraging words. Writing will probably be the way I go. There's a book in me ~ but I think I need a bit more maturity before I can really do it justice. That is one of my plans for Khon Kaen.

I wish I knew what happened to your comment. The idea that comments do not show up is a bit disturbing.

I'm sure there are plenty of companies that are not like the hellholes I've mentioned. Unfortunately, some of us aren't as resilient as we could be. For me, the very idea of going near any of them is like asking me to go back to an abusive husband who beats me. I can never trust that the same environment wouldn't be there.

You're right of course about depression. I can't honestly say that the workplaces caused me to have clinical depression. That's probably genetic. However, the PTSD... that I lay directly at the feet of those abusive workplace cultures.

You do an awesome job at representing the American point of view. I appreciate you very much! :) It's good to know you are keeping me on my toes.


Susanne, nor can I. I can not be in those environments in any capacity. If for some ungodly reason I had to return to that, I would quite honestly rather be dead. As I've told my doctor, if he ever decides to disapprove me or not back up my disability claim, just make it easier on both of us, take out a gun and shoot me in the head.

And that's no joke! :)

Glad you were able to find something to do at home. I'm considering ramping up my eBay business a bit. As long as it doesn't become stressful, it's a nice way to supplement my income.


SB, amen. Just amen! Going back to what you had before would hurt you, your kids, your husband... It wouldn't be worth it to do that.


Ginnie, I've been fortunate that way. I never got caught up in the materialism trap and have traveled light since the 60s. It's the one thing I did right. :)


Bob, thank you for saying something so kind. :)


Peace all,