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Imagine a young, growing country that had a crucial industry. The logistics of that industry required that every new town and city was built around an open cesspit. Now, these pits were god-awful health hazards that stank to high heaven. They often caught fire and sent toxic smoke through the towns that held them. But the industry was incredibly lucrative – the economic engine of the whole country relied on it.

So the town fathers built their own houses well away from the cesspits and convinced people that the toxic fumes and smoke weren't just a terrible, necessary evil but were actually a tonic that helped their children grow up strong. These wealthy leaders reasoned that poor people lived in filth anyhow and so lying to them about the cesspits wasn't really hurting anything. Besides, there were some scientists who claimed that the awful smoke might kill off other airborne diseases. These wealthy men clung to the idea that they were doing a good thing for their communities while they made themselves richer.

Millions of people died from diseases caused by the cesspits, but the deaths were usually attributed to something else. Anything else, really; nobody wanted to acknowledge that this industry they relied on was destroying so many lives. A very few towns either never had cesspits or got rid of theirs, but the stench from nearby towns tended to drift over and cover everything anyway. The smell was so pervasive that people mostly got used to it, and it was common fashion to either argue that the cesspits were a good and necessary thing or to pretend that they just weren't there.

Over time, the industrial process became less and less important to the country's economy, but the cesspits remained. They were deep and foul and entrenched and removing them entirely would be a whole lot of work and money and required engineering know-how that frankly a lot of places just didn't have. A few people argued loudly for removing them, but everybody else argued that the cesspits were fine. They'd grown up with the cesspits, and their health was just dandy, so why make a fuss?

Some towns, run by people who had a sense of how dangerous the cesspits were were but who lacked the political will and support to remove them, covered over the cesspits to keep people from falling in. They planted decorative bushes around the borders of the pits, planted lots of flowers, etc. Town leaders declared the problem was solved, and most new people grew up thinking that the cesspits had been filled in; some didn't realize that the cesspits even existed.

But the sealed-off cesspits still filled the towns with a low-grade stench, not nearly as bad as before, but it was there. And people still died; not as many as before, but the covered pits still were an ongoing source of sickness.

Some towns, though, remained proud of their cesspits. They yearned to return to the time when the cesspit industry was strong and their towns were flush with money and national importance. They ignored all the people who'd died, and in fact the modern inhabitants stubbornly insisted that the toxic smoke from the burning cesspits promoted good health. At worst it weeded out weak people who weren't strong enough to survive anyhow. The children in these towns were taught about what a brave and wonderful history the cesspits had.

People in these towns stank, and they were proud of their stink because to them it represented wealth and power and a proud community history.

Meanwhile, the people from the covered cesspit towns were aghast at the places that still had open, burning cesspits. How could people live with such flaming poison in the midst of their towns? It was awful, and the people in those towns were terrible and backward, clearly.

People in the covered towns prided themselves on their hygiene and became a little obsessed with smelling good. They had taken the old adage "cleanliness is next to godliness" to heart. Bad, backward people stank; they were good people and did not stink.

But the people in the covered towns did stink a little bit, because everybody was still fumigated with cesspit vapors every day. There was no way they could grow up there and not have the stink on them. It was just that nobody could smell the stink they'd grown up with.

And if anybody else pointed that out ... oh, no. The covered town people would pitch the worst fit. How dare these outsiders accuse them of stinking? How dare they?

It was more important to be thought of as good-smelling than to actually be good smelling. And so a whole lot of people refused to even acknowledge the problem the covered cesspits were causing, so they didn't do anything to help the vulnerable people in their communities who were still being sickened and dying from the toxic vapors.

Their deeply-held personal belief that they had to smell good to be a good person was completely getting in the way of their acknowledging that their own communities had a problem that needed to be fixed for the sake of everybody's health.

 

 

If someone accuses you of behaving in a racist way, or you haven't been accused but you're feeling defensive anyhow? Stop. Take a hard look at your own actions and inactions. We all grew up near those figurative cesspits in one way or another; the stink is on us. How could it not be? It's hard work to fix the problem, but we gotta try, and we can't do that if we're digging in our heels yelling a bunch of how-dare-yous.

This past weekend I did a lot of things that were outside of my comfort zone. When a friend of mine invited me to Greek Fest, my first impulse was to refuse. Then I thought, this is the kind of thing that would get me out of the house for a while. My friend is a man, he invited me to go with his girlfriend, and another friend of mine. I didn't know how to broach the subject initially, finally I just told him that if it was a date type situation, I would completely understand and drive separately. He insisted that it would be okay, sometimes one half of the couple says one thing while the other party is thinking something else. I had reservations, but then I thought to myself, if their relationship can't handle him offering a ride to a friend who is going the same way, maybe they aren't going to last as a couple anyways. I accidentally drove past the exit I needed, but then I made myself circle back.

We stayed longer than I would have liked. I would have left after the first loop through, but they wanted to stay and listen to a band that they said I had to hear. I have never really been a fan of live music, it's loud, a lot of people were smoking, I stood there feeling awkward and uncomfortable, my throat was incredibly sore for some reason, that wasn't helping matters any, and they were both drinking while I was the lone sober member of the crowd. We stood there watching the couples that were dancing, I admired them, how they kept time to the music, how they had an easy harmony, one zigged while the other zagged, maybe dancing is the fountain of youth I thought to myself as I saw much older people moving in a way that I doubted I could. One man had purple shoes to match his partner's dress, some of the clothes there was wild, but probably not anything better or worse than what anyone else was wearing and I started thinking, why does it matter what other people wear?

Eventually my friend's date got me out on the dance floor. She loves to dance and had an instinctive way of moving that I envied. I felt ridiculous, but it was so much fun to cut loose and be free. There was an eighteen month old boy standing near the stage, he loved the music and tried bouncing in time to it. He resisted his mother's efforts to put earplugs in his ears, if I thought that the music was loud from across the tent, I can't imagine what it must have sounded like inside of toddler ears. People would have stayed longer, but I needed to get home. I laid down for a while, a guy I had been chatting with was online so we traded some messages. He was glad I had fun, and I felt bad that he was tired. I don't really remember what we talked about, I remember thinking that he was more into me than I was into him, but it was still nice to hear from him, and I was tired so I tried to keep that in mind.

Yesterday a friend invited me out to go kayaking at her place. I've long been intimidated by her, but I had intended on renting a kayak that afternoon anyways, and thought that the timing was perfect so I accepted her offer. When I was a kid I wanted to be rich. I felt like people who had money didn't have problems, or at least not to the extent that others do. This is untrue, but a part of me was still envious of my friend's house and her lifestyle. We were out on the lake and I was annoyed when she stopped to chat with her new neighbors even while I acknowledged that this was small of me. We had a good talk as we paddled around the lake. Suddenly I was so tired I felt like I couldn't stand it anymore. She told me to just rest so that's what we did. Out beneath the sun, the waves lifting us up as if they meant to tip us over, she even asked about it, but I told her we would ride them rather than capsize, and fortunately that happened to be true.

We got really deep into conversation sitting out on her pier. Once the wind picked up we moved up to her deck and sat in the sun. She told me about the problem she had with rining in her ears. I understand that because it's happened to me before, thankfully on a temporary basis. She shared things from her past and I told her things about mine. This past weekend I tried to stop thinking so much and just let things be. There were times of distress and discomfort, but they passed and I learned that I could cope with these relatively minor incidents. I drove home the long way, thoughts of every nature running through my mind as I drove. My aunt called and sounded very anxious. She mentioned the kayaks going over and I thought, yes, that can and does happen, but it didn't. As a matter of fact, and I told her this, I have never gone over in a kayak.

After my conversation with her I started talking to the guy I had been talking to earlier. I thought he had a very interesting take and insight when I was telling him about my friend. Something is off and I'm not sure what it is, but I trust my intuition. He said that honesty is very important to him, really it shouldn't even be a subject that needs to be discussed. We should be able to expect honesty from everyone we meet. I've been burned in the past, but rather than distrust people immediately, I give them the benefit of the doubt, and rather than search for inconsistencies, or incongruencies, I go by how I feel about the interactions. If they make me feel good, I don't particularly care if someone is feeding me a string of lies because I have learned that they have a way of revealing themselves if you are the patient type. 

One way to lie to someone is to tell them an untruth, another way is to present yourself as something you are not online, catfish is the term used for this type of behavior, I can't figure out what is bothering me, I try to just go with the flow, he's saying a lot of the right things, but I refuse to ignore my intuition. I've told him a lot of what he wanted to know about me and my past as well as my current situation, mainly because I have nothing to hide, and I want to see what he does with what I'm telling him. If he's so cool with honesty, he's going to get it in spades. It's actually helped me because I am getting better at just saying what I am thinking and feeling rather than trying to dance around it. He knows about my past, but I don't know nearly as much about his. I could ask, but if he isn't going to come forward after I have, I'm not going to push it either.

In a way dating is like being a detective. You stumble on facts, you get bits and pieces of how people say they are feeling, any or none of it might be true. While truth is important to me, the way I feel about something is even more important. When I run into the same lesson, it's probably because I haven't internalized it yet. In the past I would have gotten angry, aggressive, hurt, or reacted in some other unhealthy reactionary manner. This time I am playing it much cooler because people are who they are and I am who I am. Being lied to does not change who I am. If there is a lesson to be learned here, and there may not be, then I might as well try and figure out what it is, my new strategy is curious compassion, I will be interested and give whatever feels good to me without expecting anything in return. He's said some very profound things that give me hope, but I can't shake that uneasy feeling that lingers.

Tomorrow I am going to therapy and I am overjoyed by this possibility. I have a mental list of things I want to discuss. I've taken a lot of steps in the right direction, I try to make her proud of me because I know I can count on affirmation and validation. I'm so tired I would dearly love to be able to call in and sleep for the rest of the day, but I will do the right thing and go to work today. I still haven't heard from the guy who offered me a job and said he would call when he arrived at the office on Saturday. I'm not sure what to make of that either, the offer is on the table, but for some reason I haven't done what I said I would do, and neither has he. That's a warning sign and I'm heeding it. I drove there, I sent him a text, he replied with an action he was going to take, that wasn't performed, so now the ball is in his court and it's my turn to wait.

I could apply for a job at the shoe store, and maybe I will. More and more I am realizing that where I am at is not right for me. But since I am there I must do this job to the best of my ability unless I am ready to walk away from it for good since the stress and poor treatment are inexcusable. The tension and pressure are building, sooner or later something is going to give and it will be interesting to see what happens when that moment arrives. The way that they do business does not make sense to me and I don't think that I make sense to them. I'm prettty used to this by now, but that doesn't really make it any easier. The anxiety, the lack of support and training, the chill in the air, the cold wars, the blame I take for things that are not my fault, this is wearing me down and I'm going to get to a point where I say, I refuse to let anyone treat me like this any longer.

Part of me wonders what will happen if I walk in there today and tell them how dreadfully unhappy I am. I work hard, but my heart isn't in it and on some level it feels as if I am cheating them just as they are depriving me of things that I have a right to expect as an employee. It's my marriage all over again, someone makes a mistake and I'm the fall guy rather than them taking ownership of a problem. Last week there was a package that needed to be shipped. A UPS label was created in error, my note said that it needed to go FedEx, the woman who had failed to read my note carefully told me that I needed to write larger, as if I had done something wrong when in reality, I hadn't. My note was very clear, this is the account number, please send this out using FedEx instead of UPS. When that kind of thing happens, it rankles. I readily and willingly accept my mistakes and work hard to avoid making the same ones twice.

This is not okay and I need to say something. I need to be brave enough and bold enough to walk into an office of someone who kind of scares me and be honest about where I'm at mentally. There is a cruelty factor at work. Someone has a rotten home life and Jessica should turn the other cheek because of that. The truth is we are all dealing with things outside of work that interfere with our ability to perform at peak capacity. Perhaps it is how I felt at my friend's house. How is her life so much better than mine? Am I a bad person because I am not tan, thin, rich, and living on the lake? There are no comparisons to be made. She is where she is at, I have my life, and envy is pointless. I am just as deserving as she, I see how hard she works and what she has sacrificed, I don't have some of the things she does because I have settled and not put in the work she has. So if work is the divide, and I am willing to start working harder, maybe more of what she has will come my way.

Sometime what I call procrastination is actually a lack of clarity, I feel as if I don't know what the next step is so I hesitate, but he who hesitates is lost. I need to take action, speak up, and let the chips fall where they may. Few people like the unvarnished truth. There is a time to speak up, perhaps that day is today. All I know is this is not what I want to be doing and I guess I'm at a point where I would rather walk than spend another day putting up with this passive aggressive crap that got me fired from a job at the start of the year. If that's where this is going, I would rather be the one to walk first. Taking control of my life is a bit scary, but I have been unemployed before, and it was not only okay, I learned and profited from the jobs that came after that period of time. Maybe I need to take some time to rest and heal. I feel as if I have done some of that, but perhaps I need even more time than I ever realized. Taking care of myself isn't easy, but I'm learning.

All my best,

Jess

P.S. This was not easy to write, but I feel immeasurably better having gotten it off of my chest.

j

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