Jobless – Part 10

This week it will officially be six months since I’ve been out of work. The frustration level is starting to grow. I feel like I have been diligent in looking and have been doing all of the right things, but with negative results.

You have to make decisions on an ongoing basis as to what your priorities are. I’ve been told that my biggest negative to potential employers is my location. Even though I have said I would be willing to commute, and to me the jobs are at a commutable distance (though granted, a life changing distance) employers make assumptions that you can’t do it. I commuted an hour each way for about eight years or so, so it’s not as though I don’t know my tolerance level. It’s frustrating that potential employers are making this decision for me without really knowing me, while I know if I agree to work certain hours I am responsible enough to be there barring an emergency. Shouldn’t all adults be?

I’ve spent a lot of time agonizing over what is most important, location or money. I love living in Statesville. My family is here, amazing friends are here, the culture is rich, the cost of living is reasonable….there is so much to love. For the first time in my life, though, I believe I have to choose money as the priority. Not crazy money…..just close to the level I have been making. I have goals that will be more difficult to reach if I take a major cut in salary. And while I love living here, I’m also usually up for an adventure. One of my friends who is a balloon pilot pointed out that through ballooning I am lucky enough to have friends scattered everywhere. I also have friends I have met along the way who live in places that could be interesting. I’ve always said I could live anywhere and be happy. This may be the time to prove that. Yes, it would bruise my heart, but it would not break it. It may even make it stronger.

I’m not motivated by money. Even now, as I say it is a priority. But this I have learned….many in the world are. Because of this, sometimes when you don’t make it a priority you get seen as the salary grade you settled for, instead of the quality you bring to the table.

There are times when I haven’t fought for my worth, because it seemed wrong to me. And not the priority. Looking back I have some regrets. Not that I haven’t accumulated more stuff or a fatter back account, but because I think in some ways I haven’t lived up to my potential. My business is employee benefits….and this impacts lives. If I had fought for a louder voice at the table, I believe I could have done more that would have positively impacted “the system”. Business decisions should often be made by people who understand what a budget is. Who have lived paycheck to paycheck and even been in debt. Granted I got my finances under control years ago, but I have never forgotten what that felt like and don’t think I ever will. I believe as many people make more money they do.

Some are wondering now where job satisfaction comes in. When it gets down to the work itself, I’ve been happy in every job I have had. I enjoyed working at McDonald’s. I really loved my summer job in Hunt’s shipping department when I was in college. I loved the work in radio stations. I loved impacting the lives of kids when I was a houseparent at the Grandfather Home for Children, my first year after college. And I have loved the work of every single job I have had in the insurance/benefits world. I always looked downstream and saw the lives impacted and that mattered to me. I cared about these people I didn’t know.

I look ahead to the years I have left in the workforce,and I want a voice. Not just for a person here and there (because I was always able to champion individuals in whatever role I had), but I want to be involved in actively making policy decisions that impact people.

I have a background that has put me in places where I see the struggles of everyone involved in benefits….the employee, the Human Resources staff, the insurance company, the providers, even the very government that drives me crazy. I have the ability to see the benefits world as both a business and a place where needs can be met for working people everywhere. These next years are important and I want to help make things better. Therefore I need to be willing to step up and fight for a voice at the table. While many see me as an extrovert, I am a strong introvert. Because of my strong bent for justice, however, I have always been able to be vocal in the workplace. Voices like mine are needed.

This 6-month anniversary of joblessness comes right at the time of my 59th birthday. I promise that I am not going to allow myself to be enveloped by stress. My friend circle has not let me forget to enjoy these days. Their suggestions often come just when I need them. I am heading to a balloon festival in Paris, Texas to hang out with my ballooning friends, staying with one of the strangers I have met along the way who has become a friend. I’ll tell that story soon, because I have never blogged about it, but for now just know that it is a strong reminder that things we deem disasters can turn into rainbows. It’s always good to remember that, but for me, especially now.

Next up in the unemployment world…..I have to file for unemployment, That’s sure to be… experience.


Father’s Day

I’m relatively confident my dad never knew when Father’s Day was. He probably figured it out when he was forced to open presents, but it wasn’t something he enjoyed. He only liked the fact that it brought the family together. He enjoyed sitting back and watching the loud chaos that we all bring to any room (he was more of a watcher than a participator.)

Dad wasn’t a good father so he could receive accolades and never expected attention for it. In his mind that was just what fathers did….they looked after their kids. There are a lot of things I can think of as examples of how he was a good dad, but there is one memory in particular that I always recall. We were somewhere in the mountains and I had climbed on some rocks. I got up, but was way too terrified to climb down and certainly too scared to jump. I was paralyzed with fear. I may have been blubbering. Dad appeared and held out his arms. I jumped into them. At no time did I think I would fall….and I didn’t. That was who he was in my life. The quiet rescuer I could always trust. The strength when I was weak. Probably the reason I found it easy to trust a Father God.

As I got older, he taught me to rescue myself because in his mind it was beyond silly to think that I couldn’t. When I was not confident, he forced me to be. There were things he never made me learn….the reason my kitchen ceiling still needs to be drywalled without him being around. Daddy fixed it with perfection the one other time it was needed. He knew me and using my hands for projects will never be my gift. But for most things he encouraged me to be self sufficient. He and my mom raised capable adults. (And I am capable of finding someone to fix it….but I am a bit more of a procrastinator than either of my parents.)

I guess Father’s Day was more for us than him. It’s good to be reminded that you got a really great gift. Not everyone did. It breaks my heart that many did not get a good father. Those of us who did so often take them for granted….because we never knew anything else.

Any time I do anything hard for me, I owe it to my Dad. He gave me the gift of courage. I miss his hugs and his conversation…..even the infuriatingly logical take on things when I wanted to just wallow in my emotions. It’s no wonder I kept going to him for advice… he was so often right and it surprised me how well he knew me.

I try to celebrate my dad’s life instead of focusing on his death. He would not have been flattered by excessive grieving. It was not his way. He would like seeing me live well, enjoy the simple pleasures in the day, and exercise that courage muscle. That is how he lives.

To those dads that did the job well, or at least made a brave attempt, Happy Father’s Day. You are a gift of gold to your children, a wealth they will carry with them forever. I miss my dad’s hugs and kisses, but he engrained himself in my soul. He lives through me…..and I can’t imagine tackling life without the underpinning of the part of me that is him.

I Ask

I’ve had to stop myself from becoming jaded to the allegations of sexual misconduct that pop up everywhere. And I mean everywhere. It’s almost too much to take in and it can make your mind weary. The court of public opinion (which seems like the only one that matters) has been loud and from what I can tell it’s a hung jury. But one thing I know……this behavior is nothing new….and we as a country have too often condoned it and silenced voices.

Thinking about this lately has taken me back to high school, when I was a state officer for the Future Business Leaders of America. We had to undergo all kinds of training on manners, and dealing with people in positions of authority, and how to handle ourselves in social situations. One session seemed to come out of the blue. At least to this naive girl. We were about to go to a large reception full of corporate people and politicians and our advisor gave the girls instruction on how to deal with hands-y men. Looking back I suspect that this came up because she was a bold woman who kept her eyes open and didn’t think that because someone wore a nice suit and gave money to high school programs, it meant they had pure motives. If one of these “gentlemen” came up to us and put his arm around us and didn’t immediately drop it, we were supposed to drop our hands down and step back….pushing off his back a bit if necessary.  A simple move that showed me I had power in these situations….and that if things made me uncomfortable it was not OK. Yes, possibly we were taught to be a bit too polite in handling it. But it was the first time it was confronted in my life. I found it worked, and for me it reinforced that I was in charge of my body and was not a powerless girl. (Most who know me realize that I would not have remained polite had the uncomfortable behavior continued. I wouldn’t have minded causing a scene.)

I’ve never been the overly sensitive type, and have usually been seen as someone who can hold her own, so truly I have not suffered much over the years with those handsy types and unwanted advances. Yes, they happened. Normally I dealt with it with humor and physically putting up distance and a loud and commanding voice. It has been more of a gnat on life for me than anything else. I know that just makes me lucky.

But I have way too many girlfriends who have suffered abuse. The number who have been molested and raped is staggering. In my sheltered world, these things just didn’t happen….until someone confided in me for the first time in college and I knew it was true. And then another did. And another. I have now lost count on the number of stories I have heard. I am sure that with as many who have shared their story with me, most have not. Many will never tell.

Of those who have told me their stories, some were naive, others simply duped. Some were highly intoxicated. Some downright attacked. Most of the stories would bring tears to your eyes if you heard them tell them. Most….yes most…..never prosecuted. There were various reasons why. Fear is a big one. Not just fear of the perpetrator ….though that sometimes existed….but fear of our legal system. Fear that they would be judged by a jury of their peers. Yeah I recognize they are not on trial, but we put them there, don’t we?And how do we not? We have to judge them as credible. So they are judged due to their wardrobe, their lifestyle, their behavior, the reputation of the perpetrator (because nice guys don’t do these things, do they?), their attractiveness (or lack thereof), the attractiveness of their perpetrator (because handsome guys don’t rape ugly girls, now, do they?), whether they drank that night and if so, how much. Read through the comments in almost any internet post about any person these days. Would you be comfortable having your lives judged by them?

I’ve told the story before of working in a children’s home as a housemother at age 21…..the girls I worked with were 14-18. About 90% of the girls had been sexually abused. Usually by their fathers, but sometimes by another family member or a neighbor. I remember a 15-year old, who had been abused by her much older neighbor, crying in my arms after the verdict in her trial was announced. He was pronounced guilty…..and his sentence was three years in jail. She said “He’s going to find me and do it again.” And this is another fear. You go against him, he comes back after you. When you know the violent side, how can you not fear? I tried to reassure her he would never hurt her again, but how could I know? How could I really promise her safety?

Another story from the chikdren’s home. A 15-year old boy walked in on his father molesting his 14-year old sister. Kudos to the kid….he beat the father up and called 911. His mother said it never happened and took the side of her husband. The daughter? Her feelings were complicated and confused. Yes, she agreed her father did it. But she thought it was wrong that he was in jail and she didn’t get to see him. Sometimes she resented her brother for breaking up the family. He was left pretty confused himself. It was heartbreaking.

Yes people are sometimes wrongly accused. I have known these people, too. It infuriates he, but I won’t say much about it now other than this… who falsely accuse people not only hurt your victim (sometimes for life because of that jury of public opinion), but you impact every person who comes forward to tell their truth. You put more doubt into the ears of those who hear the truth of others, because you lied. You are a match to kindling.

The thing about my friends who have been sexually abused….they are normal people. They are our friends. They are our family. Yes they carry scars, but many hide them well. But they are all around you. Some have done a lot of work to heal…..others still walk around in constant pain. Be kind. Be aware that you may not know everyone’s story and it may be the reason you don’t understand.

Today marks the start of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year’s theme is I Ask (for consent.) Seems like something that would be natural, doesn’t it? But so often it isn’t. Let’s encourage open discussions instead of assumptions, encourage people to know the judgment of their partner is not impaired when they make sexual decisions and that they understand the concept of age of consent. Let’s reinforce that both sexes have the right to say “No” or “Not now” and have that respected. Be someone who asks….someone who respects….and someone who understands when someone is not able to give consent.

Some statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center:

  • One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives
  • In eight out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knew the perpetrator
  • Eight percent of rapes occur while the victim is at work
  • One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old 
  • 12.3% of women were age 10 or younger at the time of their first completed rape victimization
  • 27.8% of men were age 10 or younger at the time of their first completed rape victimization
  • 20% – 25% of college women and 15% of college men are victims of forced sex during their time in college
  • More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault

See why we need to pay attention? Don’t let yourself stay in the dark.

Victims, know that people do care. Know there are people to help you if you are suffering. Tell your stories, when you are able.