Archives for April 2019

Summer Series: Fight Despair Together

Summer Series 2019 is all about finally moving forward.

Tea By The Tub

I could use some self-care!

Last year I did my Tripping the Fright Craptastic series, where I told you all about my struggle dealing with my parents. I was attempting to show some of the crap that comes with being in the middle of life while supporting either end.

This year’s Summer Series is about all of us.

The Middle Class Never Existed

Reality is sinking in for the 90s kids. The reality that we may never own a house. That the endless ascension toward a blissful, shining future full of robots is not going according to plan.

We hear a lot about the Middle Class – That fabled land of mowed lawns and street lights. Most of us probably know someone we would consider Middle Class. But the Middle Class doesn’t exist.

It never did! In a strange twist, our parents and grandparents just happened to live in an historical vortex. A unique combination of events conspired to create a freakish period of prosperity.

Writing for Medium, Jonathan Peter Schwartz quotes economist Robert J Gordon on the different phases of the Industrial Revolution (IR):

“In particular, the period following IR#2 (1920 – 1970) saw incredible annual productivity growth (1.89%). Gordon argues that…. IR#2 impacted ‘virtually the entire span of human wants and needs. 

“‘Given how impoverished the human condition had been, and the vast array of technologies that intervened, it should come as no surprise that productivity skyrocketed and tremendous amounts of wealth, economic growth and improvements in living standards were observed during this period.'”

Haircut

So, I’m gonna be cutting my own hair for a while?

The Nothing is Spreading

Those of us who grew up listening to the stories about this great party are having to accept that we will never attend.

And on top of that, they trashed the place.

We are left with the same old story, a chosen few living high on the efforts of everyone else. The Middle Class was a technology-induced fever dream.

Fight Despair Together

As we slip into middle age it gets harder to talk about someday. That better job might not be coming. Prices just keep going up. All the rules have changed and many of us are floundering. Most of us know someone who OD’ed.

I covered the spreading despair in my last post. We are a big group and we are very diverse, but we can’t let stress cause us to focus on divisions.

We need one another. The antidote to despair is fellowship. Camaraderie. Talking about what’s going on is the first step to fixing it.

But First….

Each of us has to be in the right frame of mind to ensure our focus stays on unity. In order to listen, we have to calm the panicked voice telling us we’re drowning.

Before we can clean up the world, we have to clean house.

Originally, this was going to be a single post but I decided it needs more space than that.

This year’s Summer Series is about soothing the anger and beginning to heal from the journey so far. By Fall we will be centered and equipped with new tools to build a better future.

Part 1 coming soon: Self-Compassion Promotes Healing

The Nothing is Spreading: Millennials’ Company in Misery

 

By now, everyone has heard about the depressed blue-collar White Guy. His jobs have dried up, the mainstream is leaving him behind, and he’s paranoid about signs he’s becoming a minority.

Sad Cafe

I don’t even know if I’m depressed or just tired!

People have blamed this demographic for the Alt-Right, electing Trump, and for generally being a cesspool of simmering privilege. The consensus seems to be they are upset because they are entitled. The world doesn’t revolve around old white men anymore, and they need to adjust.

New data challenges this stereotype. The American Journal of Public Health released analysis of a longitudinal study they started in 1995. Visiting with the participants five times over 20 years, they interviewed them about things like drinking and drug use.

“We examined changes in measures of despair across the early adult life course from adolescence to adulthood from 1994 to 2017…. Whether increases in indicators of despair have been particularly acute among White, low-educated, rural members” like had been found 10 years earlier. “We documented racial/ethnic, educational, and geographic-specific trends in 4 indicators of despair among US adults.”

Their nationally-representative group didn’t show Poor Whites as being especially unhappy at all: ” By contrast to this narrative, our findings demonstrated a generalized increase in multiple indicators of despair among all White, Black, and Hispanic adults in their 30s.”

“[This group] is distinct from earlier cohorts reflected in the rising midlife mortality of low-educated Whites with more highly educated parents, different perceptions of racial and ethnic diversity, and labor market entry following globalization. Nonetheless, the generalized increases in despair indicators we documented are worrisome for forthcoming midlife mortality trends.”

So, these people aren’t entitled racists. They aren’t hicks afraid of modern life. They are everyone.

In The Jungle

It’s a jungle out there!

“Despite a lack of scientific consensus regarding the cause of elevated midlife mortality among Whites, There is some evidence that opioid disorders and declines in mental health are concentrated among low socioeconomic status Whites….”

This is a whole post unto itself!

“….This pattern of rising despair is not isolated to rural America but is heterogeneous across geographic locales…. [The] patterns of despair potentially underlying increased midlife mortality are not restricted to low-educated Whites and [we] caution against an overemphasis on this single demographic group.”

Recently I read a comment in my little corner of the internet written by a Black woman. She said she wants to be called a Black woman because she finds the term Person of Color insulting; As if a Latina, a Black woman and an Indian woman are all in one giant category: Non-White.

Maybe some of the focus on White people is backlash from the way Europeans treated the rest of the world for so long. I have made my personal feelings on old white men clear elsewhere, but the Poor Whites are being screwed over by the same wealthy few as everyone else.

Aside from being exactly my age, this group was interesting because “[it] is nearing the age range of elevated midlife mortality (45–54 years) and is beyond the age range of highest opioid mortality risk from opioids (25–34 years).” In this group born between 1974 and 1983 they found that “suicidal ideation, depressive symptoms, marijuana use, and heavy drinking increased as the cohort aged into their late 30s.”

The older you get, the more you understand just how fucked you were from the beginning.Lbj Meme

“We found no evidence that increases in despair were limited to low-educated Whites. Furthermore, levels of despair increased across the 30s in all geographic locales.” Our generation grew up in the glow of the Boomers burning bright. We are left with smoke and ash. And thousands of great songs about how much fun it was.

“If rising despair was indeed responsible for the increases in mortality among earlier cohorts of low-educated Whites, then the generalized increases in despair we documented among a younger and more recent cohort could presage increases in midlife mortality in the coming decade for all population subgroups.”

There probably is something to the notion that working-class whites are mourning a cultural privilege. But, as Lyndon Johnson famously explained, that was an illusion anyway.

Sad Karen

I know the doctor betrayed you, Karen, but you’ve got to pull it together!

The whites may have been at the top of the working-class heap, and so felt the deprivation first. But as the middle class evaporates like a mirage, no amount of Affirmative Action or increasing numbers is going to make much difference.

The Boomers are just the latest hideous iteration of a story that’s been the same forever – A few live lives of comfort on the backs of many others who don’t. This is the story they told us was over. Modern technology was turning the world into a middle-class playscape. Fascist countries were called “backwards.” Castles that once housed despots became museums.

Today’s despots have a different style, they are more collegiate and behave like they are not members of the ruling class. But you will know them by how they are beholden to power, and follow it over principle.

It’s easy to shit on white people and make scapegoats of hillbillies, but the reality is sinking in everywhere that we’ve been duped. The twentieth century was one long con game. Now the wheels are coming off and we are left with the same old problems to solve. Piled on top is the mess made in maniacally skipping into the “Post-Modern” era as if Better Living Through Chemistry were Happily Ever After.

Millennials are more diverse and numerous than any group before us. It feels like an abdication of responsibility to blame the system for the struggle. Work hard, we are told. Get good grades, a good degree, and you will be rewarded. Personal responsibility is empowering except that it fails to support those who stumble. And everyone stumbles. The culture of every-man-for-himself is the ultimate divide and conquer strategy.Katie Porter

California Congresswoman Katie Porter handed it to Jamie Dimon the head of JP Morgan Bank, breaking down for him exactly how impossible his employees’ budgets are. 

After detailing his employee’s bottom rung budget and how it doesn’t add up, she asked him, “She’s short $567, what would you suggest she do?”

“I don’t know,” He replied. “I’d have to think about that.” 

Many of us find ourselves in positions that seem increasingly impossible. I don’t know how we’re going to fix it but we need to understand we are not alone.

 

 

Feminism In Action: Dr. Sam Collins Builds Women’s Leadership

Every once in a while I will get hopeful and apply for a few remote jobs, writing jobs, things that would just be interesting to do.

On Indeed, of all places, I found an ad wanting someone to write a woman-centered blog.Dr Collins 2

That’s me! I tightened up my resume and composed a real zinger of a cover letter after doing some research. The company and its founder amaze me, she is someone we should all know about.

Originally from England and based in Los Angeles, Dr. Sam Collins has been out there fighting the good fight for a long time. For 17 years she has been working to boost representation of women in business and government.

The organization she runs for this purpose is called Aspire. According to its website, Aspire was “founded in 2001 by Sam when she was just 30 years old and [is] now a globally sought-after organization that enables women leaders and men who are advocates for women to thrive through leadership development, coaching and events.”

The nonprofit arm of Aspire does pro-bono mentoring work in 80 countries and “has made a positive difference to the lives of over 15 million women and girls across the world” since 2010.Radio Heaven

Dr. Collins has written the story of how she came to this path in her book Radio Heaven. I haven’t had a chance to read it, I’ve added it to the ever-growing list. Amazon describes it as “about the power of doing business for social good and designing your own destiny rather than waiting for your parents, bosses, partners, or society to determine it for you.”

Dr. Collins was 21 when her mother died. Her grief threw her life into chaos. She was fired from her dream job. She was mistaken for a homeless person after passing out in a train station. After spiraling she pulled herself right and used her tenacity to build a business, win awards, and help women all over the world. 

This lady is definitely someone I should know about.

I was nervous about reaching out but compelled myself with the thought that she is acting out a logical, practical vision of many of the values I have been writing about. We’re working toward the same goal, although she has a much more impressive resume. It seemed natural that we should be aware of each other.Dr Collins 3

For a few days, I checked my email every couple hours hoping to hear back. I allowed myself to imagine what it might be like to have a conversation with her, weighed which questions I would ask.

I think it was the third day I heard back. I was at work when the notification came in and I left it until I got a break.

Until I looked at it, anything was still possible.

Dr. Collins said she didn’t think I was the “right fit” and she was “sorry for the disappointing news.” So polite, it’s hard to be mad. I had thought she might be too classy to be overly interested in what I do. I heaved a big sigh and checked the substitute teacher board again.

Most of the time, the results of our explorations are not what we hope they will be. The trick is to keep an open mind and make the most of reality as it presents itself. Not getting caught up in wishes or regrets and missing opportunities to learn.

I’m still glad I stumbled upon that ad. I got to learn about another inspiring woman showing the way for those of us at the beginning of our journey. We’re connected on LinkedIn, maybe one day we’ll meet at a conference and have a laugh.

Mainly it’s just nice to know there are people like her in the world.

Shaken, But Not Stirred

WARNING: Rant ahead!

I’m so frustrated lately with my job search! I keep applying for writing gigs, but I only apply to things that really seem like a good fit. And running into the same old problem of not really fitting in anywhere.

Wuthering Heights

Where is everyone?

This last one was a blog ghostwriting service. They literally wanted me to do what I do here, for money. On whatever topic was provided. I let myself get excited when they responded positively because it seemed like a natural step.

So today when I read they were “going another direction” (I’ll go whatever direction you want, that’s the whole idea!) I was unprepared. And embarrassed at being so upset.

But I really needed this right now. Hubs got laid off two months ago and has been focusing on school. At the end of it he’ll have a high-powered degree. I have been teaching and working at the restaurant, but Breadwinner just isn’t a position I am a good fit for at the moment.

The little guy is 21 months old, and is finally starting to get over the awful rash he’s had for two months. He’s been a delight to be around since he’s feeling better, playing toddler games and learning new words every day.

When I come home after a day (or night) of work, too often all the pacifiers are lost. He’s been laid down for the night in shorts, scratching his scabs open. I don’t know what he’s eaten. Clothes are misplaced. I missed something adorable and unrepeatable.

Hiding In The Lobby 1

Gotta keep it together!

When my 5th grader was little, I took advantage of living with family to stay home with him as much as I could. I worked sporadically, part-time, trying to get a foot in the door of my chosen field. But I hadn’t turned my whole life around to not raise my child.

When they’re bigger we pack them off to school, largely so they can find their own footing in the world outside home. It’s natural that they begin to build their own experiences and friendships.

Little ones, younger than 3 or 4, have a stronger need for a connection with one main caregiver. They are constantly changing and unable to communicate most of their needs. More than this, they need a near-constant guiding hand they can rely on.

Don’t get me wrong – My family does a good job taking care of him. They might let him stay up later than I would, but he always gets a nap and his meals. He gets played with and loved on.

Maybe part of it is my own selfish need as a mother to KNOW he’s okay. I understand that many women are not maternal in the least. Until I had my own, I wasn’t either. But when that switch flipped, it flipped hard. Most of the time, it’s actually easier for me to relax with him around.

And when he isn’t I am constantly distracted. I could work more hours and have more money, but I already feel like tearing my hair out.

So I try to use my real skills. I don’t have a journalism degree; sometimes I can’t escape the feeling of being punished for chasing my dreams instead of being practical. But I never appreciated how my capacity for wordsmithing could serve me.

Secretary

If only people would let me correct them!

Yesterday I read a HuffPost article with an entire paragraph from the beginning repeated at the end. An entire paragraph! Someone got paid good money to not proofread that!! 

I see this stuff all the time and it drives me insane –

Misspellings.

Poor word choices.

Sentences so badly put together I have to reorder them in my head to understand them.

On Huffington Post.

On MSNBC.

On Medium.

The New York Times still holds a pretty high standard, but New York Magazine is better.

While attempting to keep up with news and culture I am bombarded with reminders that I am good enough. Either someone will give me a gig or I will piece it together until I can raise my head above the fray and shout, “I am Brazen!

None of my switches can be unflipped, it seems – Not Motherhood, and not my newfound sense of agency. I have slain my dragons and a strange, unexpected feeling of deep calm has come over me as the dust settles. My fury only fuels me. My time is coming.