Owww! Stop Squeezing So Hard! (How Much More Will/Can We Take?)
By Wendy Ford
While finishing my paperwork the other night it occurred to me there was only one little bit of space on my kitchen table to put the paper I was writing on. The rest of the table had disappeared under mounds and piles of paperwork, blank forms, file folders, copies of completed forms awaiting filing, reference books, a calendar was under there somewhere, stray paper clips that had somehow escaped the pages they had been holding together for me were scattered here and there, an empty ink pen cartridge had rolled under one of the folders, my calculator was leaning precariously against one of the piles, little itty bitty post notes were sticking their flaps out of records while strategically keeping a place that was important and needed attention, a crossed off checklist of telephone calls and e- mails sent and those awaiting a response was in jeopardy of being sucked under one of the file folders. Oh, it was income tax time, right? No. Just some of the tools of the trade of a home health care provider.
It had somehow gotten to be eleven o’clock at night. Hadn’t it been just eight when I looked at the clock a moment ago? Having gotten home about six and already put in a load of laundry and started the dishwasher before sitting down with the paperwork and made countless phone calls to patients and sent a multitude of e-mails to nurses, supervisors and co-workers I couldn’t figure out how it could have gotten to be that late. As I surveyed the apparent chaos, apparent I say because I do know where everything is, well, at least what pile it is in, all I could do was shake my head, yawn and head off to bed. But first I needed to fill my tea bottles to take with me the next day, pack my lunch items, gather the paperwork and forms I would need, lay out my clothes, check my personnel e-mail and take a shower. Had I eaten dinner? Oh, well, too late for that now. Making sure the alarm had been set my head blissfully hit my pillow and sleep was upon me. Fortunately I am blessed with only a rare night of tossing and turning.
What needs to be noted at this point is my husband was out of town; we have no children, no pets and only one plant that needs an occasional watering. How in the world do people even begin to cope and handle things when our society is demanding more and more and more of people’s time and resources? How does a single parent do it? Not only the parent part but also the combination of parenting and holding a job, often more than one job? Or how do people hold a full time job, go to school and raise a family?
Arizona’s Governor Janet Napolitano is a regular monthly guest on our local National Public Radio station. The subject of all day kindergarten came up. This has been a fiscal issue for a while now and the Governor is pressing for funding “All Day K”. Arizona is not very high in the ranking for education and this is a hot topic right now. A female caller expressed her opinion that young children belong with their mothers in the loving and nurturing environment of the home where they can learn through love and support, not be in school all day. She wasn’t aware of any studies that showed any advantage to All Day K versus the current half day. I expressed some colorful opinions of my own to the caller by directing my responses at my car radio. The Governor was much kinder in her response that not all children have the advantage of that kind of environment and family life. She pointed out a recent study showed 85% of families in Arizona are in economic situations such that the parent(s) must work outside the home. She added that if the caller would leave her address with the radio station she would be glad to see to it that the caller received more than enough material on the topic.
Upon further reflection, in the part of the caller’s statement where she revealed her ignorance regarding studies Truth was spoken: she “wasn’t aware”. Yet she had a very strong opinion on a matter where ignorance was her only fact.
It is this kind of arrogant opinion born out of ignorance yet pronounced with such certainty that just lights my jets. This caller was vomiting up some talking point she had been fed. Don’t ask me my opinion about the source. Without any supporting facts, never mind knowledge, about the situation she had accepted as truth what she had be told without any question. She had melded that opinion into her self so smoothly and seamlessly that she genuinely thought of it as “her” belief. Yet she admittedly has no knowledge base for “her” belief.
Now, bear in mind I am NOT arguing that having a stay at home Mom is the invalid belief. My point relates to her lack of knowledge and awareness of studies showing the efficacy of full day kindergarten and the apparent refusal to acknowledge or consider the socioeconomic situations of any who may be in very different circumstances from her and the social circles she operates within. Her apparent lack of awareness was glaring. Her apparent inability to make the connection between Arizona’s rank at the bottom in education and the issue of full day kindergarten was even more alarming. Not that All Day K is the single answer to Arizona’s miserable performance when it comes to the education of our children. But that is a whole different topic.
Her point about the benefits afforded children who are raised in a loving and nurturing environment is absolutely accurate. Unfortunately increasingly fewer and fewer families are able to pull that off. So how has it come to be that the stay-at-home Mom should be put on the Endangered Species list? Stay-at-home Moms have been the foundation of family and our society (stay-at-home Dads need to be included here, too).
Just what are we doing? Why are we allowing employers to demand more and more of our time? Why are we giving them that time? Why are people willingly giving up vacation time? Why are people willingly sacrificing family time for an employer? Why do we permit them to shape our beliefs and opinions? Just when did we start to swallow everything poured down our gullet like baby birds? Just when did we all start to worship employment? Just when was the employer handed all the power and control of our lives?
Bigger and more important questions loom like pink elephants in the corner: Has anyone even taken a moment to pause, look around and notice that a problem exists? Has anyone taken a deep look and asked, “Wait a minute, just what in the hell is going on here? What do we think we are doing?”
There is no one answer to any of these questions. It has all happened so slowly over the past twenty-five to thirty years that we have barely noticed. It continues little by little, day by day. We can all feel the pressure but few of us can step back, take a good hard and honest look and see what has happened. Remember the experiment about the frog and the hot water? Place a frog in hot water and it will jump out. Place a frog in cool water and slowly turn up the heat and it will stay until the water becomes so hot the frog dies. The pressures and compression of time in our lives is acting in precisely the same way. It is happening so smoothly and quietly most of us aren’t aware of what is happening.
Many feel it is a reflection of their individual inadequacies that they can’t deal and cope. Imagine that. Employers and business have actually managed to brainwash us into believing it is our fault that their ever-increasing demands are becoming too much for many to bear.
One neat trick has been used masterfully: Isolation. Individuals who are isolated are less likely to realize they aren’t alone with these responses to ever increasing pressure. They think they alone are the ones who can’t cope. Individuals who are isolated are less likely to ask probative questions or seek answers when things don’t add up or look or sound right. They don’t dare ask meaningful questions. We have been taught from early on not to sass or question authority. Since critical thinking is no longer taught in our public schools who would even think it was within their rights to ask a question?
Family Values? Right. When Corporate America is so enamored with this phrase, when political agendas are based on these two words, when an entire religious sect has cocooned itself around these words, then why in the hell is it being tolerated, no not just tolerated, but accepted, that businesses and employers are continuing to keep sucking up worker’s time and squeezing the very lives out of them drop by drop? If “Family Values”, and Dr. Strickler has allowed me to use this term for the sake of point, were a genuine concern to business there would be an enthusiastic and open armed embracement by employers of paid maternity/paternity leaves, paid family leaves, job sharing, flex time, on site day care and kindergarten, sick child programs (where an employee can bring a child too sick to go to school so the parent can come to work) and the like. One of the only reasons many employers have any of these is because of union demands or legislative decrees.
Not all employers fall under the dark umbrella described. There are many companies who are really trying to do the right thing while at the same time making a profit. The company I have chosen to work for has accepted me on my own terms and is family friendly and supportive. However, we serve our clients under federal, state and insurance guidelines. None of these are particularly “worker/family” friendly and my company strives continuously to find ways to make sure its employees feel appreciated and supported. The owners are constantly looking for ways to make the mountains and volumes of documentation required easier to follow and less time consuming to complete. This is probably the best employer of my career. Nevertheless, many a night is spent dictating and completing forms late into the night.
Why do I do it? It’s a selfish reason. The perks can’t be beat: the smile, the hug, the light that can spark anew in the dimming days of life, the “thank you for coming, I feel so much better even though I still hurt”. That’s why I do what I do, where I can. No longer am I tied to an unrealistic productivity standard set by some administrator who would faint if faced with the day-to-day realities we in the field of home health service are faced with. No longer am I pushed to the point of physical and mental exhaustion only to be told it’s not good enough or fast enough or not enough revenue was generated that day. No longer do I toss and turn wondering how in the world I’ll make it through another day or week. But I have been blessed to be in a profession that provides me with flexibility and wide choices of employment.
Others are not as fortunate. For any number of reasons people are locked into jobs or careers due to limitations in education, lack of freedom of mobility, and/or monetary and fiscal policies created by corporate and government hierarchies that box in people’s possibilities toward growth. For many there are few options for change or options to explore. These are the people who are functioning as a human harvest to Corporate America and business.
Pressure. OK, we all have it to one degree or another in our lives no matter what its cause. What is one of the major consequences of these insidiously increasing pressures? Stress. What are the leading causes of medical and psychological problems? Stress and sleep deprivation. What do stress and sleep deprivation contribute to? Anxiety and Depression. What are the biggest sellers for pharmaceuticals? Medications for sleep aids, anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal problems, musculoskeletal problems, high blood pressure, and obesity. Are you starting to get a picture?
The pharmaceutical industry, imagine that, they even call it an “industry”, is one of the largest in the nation. Behavioral pediatrician Lawrence H. Diller, MD, author of Running on Ritalin (Bantam, 1999), unveils a statistical poignancy in what I am referring to, “America uses 80 percent of the world’s Ritalin…" and that is just ONE drug! Could it be that there is some quiet agenda being orchestrated? “Get them so stressed out and medicated that they can no longer think for themselves, question anything and will be and do exactly what we want. Then we will have complete and utter control and no one will even know it.” And that, my friends is mighty scary.
But even more horrifying is the question that now begs answer and discovery: Who are “They”? Clues might be found by looking into and discovering who it is that is doing the squeezing and pressuring. Who is reaping the benefits? What is the ultimate agenda? Until enough people ask the right questions nothing can or will change. Until enough people are willing to speak with clear voices and act from genuine knowledge no answers will be found or changes accomplished.
So, who or what policy are you being squeezed by? How much longer will you allow the pressure to build? What is it going to take to cause you to stop, dig your heels in, take a deep breath and yell, “Owww! Stop squeezing so hard!” Those of you out there who are old enough will remember the classic rant from the movie The Network, “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
May the Lord of Life grant you the courage to open your eyes, ears and the breath with which to yell. Use your mouth to yell loudly and with great sincerity from the depth of your very being.