Humility vs Humiliation

This morning I noticed the power button on my desk lamp was dark. Touching the power button didn’t turn on the lamp. It must be broken. I thought, “Cheap piece of Chinese shit!” and hit the power button on my computer. It sounded like it began to power up, then changed it’s mind and everything went back to black and silent. I thought, “Oh great, the dumbass power company isn’t maintaining their equipment and the normal workings of my office is too much for them to handle.” I had other power, though, so I figured my husband had caused this calamity by plugging way too many things into cobbled-together power strips just because he’s too lazy to move furniture to plug shit in where it probably should go instead. Well, he got what he deserved. I woke him up 2 hours earlier than he had to get up so he could come fix his mess.

He checked out the battery back-up system he installed that keeps my computer running when we do temporarily lose power and that seemed fine. He took apart the computer to see what might be wrong and couldn’t find anything. While he had the case open, he went ahead and blew all the dust out of it. I figured that could have been the problem, the computer overheated because he never cleans it out, but that didn’t fix it, either.

He got down on the floor and crawled all around under my desk, checking that all the cords were plugged in. Cords to charge my phone and my bluetooth headset, speaker cords, cords for the monitor, for my electric pencil sharpener, the lamp, my webcam, the battery back-up, and some large square thing I actually still don’t know what it is or what it does. It all seemed fine.

We started looking at powerstrips plugged into power strips and where they all went to and I was just so put out by this dismantling of my office. I had to rush in to try to rescue things off my desk before my husband moved them out of his way and either misplaced or broke them, like I thought he was inclined to do, having to solve this problem so early in the morning. At some point, trying to get my treasured belongings out of his way, I accidentally dropped a little container of loose change on his head. He was instantly pissed and snapped at me, “Thanks!” I quickly defended myself saying, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that, sorry!” But I was still angry at him for snapping at me because if he would put shit together the way it’s supposed to be, we wouldn’t be having the problem at all, but I didn’t say that out loud. I only thought it.

So, back about powerstrips, there’s one under my desk, one beside my desk, and one on the other side of my bookshelves. He was looking at two of them and I looked at the third. The one whose red LED was not lit. “Oh shit!” I thought. “That powerstrip isn’t even on. It’s always on. Why would it be off?”

While I was still wondering that, he turned that one on and the white noise machine plugged into it instantly came on. As did the computer. And the lamp. Um, yeah. The powerstrip was off, that’s what was wrong with everything. I wonder how that got turned off. No I don’t. It was instantly apparent to me how that got turned off.

Every night when I leave the office, I turn off the white noise machine before I leave. No need to have that running all night. The white noise machine that came right on when he turned on the power strip. So, yeah. Last night, I turned off the power strip after the computer and lamp were already off and I walked out of the office. The white noise stopped and I never gave it another thought. That is until everything came back on.

Until that moment, I was ready to blame my husband, the five-thousand employees the SRP electric company, and the entire People’s Republic of China.

Not only was the computer failure my fault, but I also woke my husband up early for no reason, to work on systems he’s overbuilt so that they don’t ever actually fail completely, and, for good measure, I dropped something on his head while he was working.

Can you imagine what an ass I would have felt like if I had said all that crap that was in my head about cheap Chinese, dumb electric company, and lazy husband? Or, how angry and unappreciated my husband would have felt while he’s fixing something that is ultimately completely my fault? That is why it’s okay to think that shit, but not to say it.

Your brain thinks of all sorts of stupid things to say when it is scared, lonely, tired, hungry, embarrassed, angry, disappointed, rushed, panicked, confused, or otherwise not in it’s best state. That’s not your fault and it doesn’t define who you are. It’s just an alarm going off trying to get your attention and get you ready to fight off whatever threat you’re facing.

When my computer doesn’t work, I might not be able to get to my client notes and I might forget what some clients are working on and they might fire me and tell all their friends and all my clients might quit and then I’ll be unemployed and homeless living on the street, pushing a shopping cart. Our unreasonable brain makes minor inconveniences seem much more tragic than they actually are, especially if we have a history of trauma or abuse or neglect.

So, think all the crazy, awful things you want when you’re in a panic, but for the love of all that his holy, don’t SAY IT. Breathe, calm yourself, and solve the problem at hand. Once you are calm, you will be able to remember how incredibly hard working Chinese laborers are and that you’ve never even been to China and have no actual idea what the life of any Chinese national is even like. You’ll remember how thankful you are that you have a professional job and aren’t out laying electric lines in 115 degree heat and how blessed you are that there are people in this town willing to do that so you can watch Lizzo videos on YouTube. And, finally, you’ll remember that your husband isn’t the enemy and that he works very hard almost all the time to make your shared life more enjoyable and that, of course, people might have a bit of a tone in their voice when you drop shit on their head while they’re working on the floor, in pajamas, two hours before they’re even supposed to be up.

And, when you don’t say all the crazy shit in your head and you totally own your mistake when you discover it, like I did, apologizing profusely for having turned off the power strip and caused all the unnecessary work for my partner at an ungodly hour of the day, you might also be pleasantly surprised when your husband spontaneously apologizes later for having been harsh when you dropped the thing on his head.

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I was taught one should never yell, “Fire!” in a crowded theater or loudly greet a friend named Jack with a hearty “Hi!” at an airport as those actions cause unnecessary panic which will almost certainly result in a multitude of serious injuries as the frenzied masses try to run screaming from the building.

I have also embraced the notions of “If you see something, say something,” and “all evil needs to prosper is that good folks do nothing,” such that when I see things that alarm me, I more often than not, choose to report it to someone, even if it means I might be embarrassed to find out it was nothing and that I wasted someone’s time and frightened people unnecessarily.

It can be so difficult to determine when you should say something when something doesn’t look or feel right. We can wage internal war between the parts that want to run screaming from the building and the parts that want to sit obediently quiet and wait for the authorities to work things out. That war can paralyze us, demoralize us, and leave us exhausted, hostile, and depressed.

When you find yourself caught between two courses of action, each of which seem problematic, please do yourself the giant favor of taking 5 minutes to yourself, sitting comfortably, breathing in and out deeply and slowly, and connect with your inner wisdom. It always knows the next right thing to do.

You may experience this as the wise voice of your long-deceased grandmother, your soul or spirit, your rational self, God, an angel, the culmination of years of experience, or even a calm and serene voice you don’t recognize at all. In any case, it knows. It knows if it’s time to yell, “Fire!” sit quietly and wait, or get 3-4 other calm helpers and usher everyone safely out of the building under the pretext of performing a fire drill.

Take five minutes today and listen to your inner voice, and then take the next reasonable action.

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Natural Remedies

I don’t have time to run to my doctor today. Quick, Internet, “What’s a natural remedy for my menopause symptoms?” Kale & Spinach. “Ugh! What else you got?” Lose weight. “Pass. What else?” Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. “Uh, yeah, we covered kale & spinach already, and now you’re adding bananas and cherries after you just told me to lose weight. Please try again.” Exercise regularly. “Damnit! We have already covered this – kale, spinach, lose weight. I want relief now” Drink water. “Whew! There’s one I can do.” Pardon me now while I take a long drink of water. Please join me in doing the same.

This, of course, reminds me of the natural remedy for depression I offer to every potential counseling patient who claims not having enough time or money to start therapy and doesn’t want any sort of medication: 1) Water, 2) Sleep, 3) Nutrition, 4) Movement, and 5) Socializing. I am typically met with arguments that they’re too depressed to socialize or get out and move, they only want to eat crap, and they can’t sleep or are already sleeping too much. So, I tell them, “Tthen drink water.” Pardon me now while I take another drink of water. I invite you to please do the same.

After a sip of water, less depressed individuals will launch into how it’s really their job or their spouse or their kids or their parents that’s the problem. As we explore the job and the kids and the spouse and the parents, it becomes clear that they hustle all day from one thing to the next, grabbing fast food here, eating half their kid’s discarded sandwich there, rushing off to meetings and work sessions, and sitting on chairs or in drivers’ seats for 8, 10, 15, or more hours a day. They typically reveal they’re getting an average of 4-6 hours of sleep, generally beginning after 10 or 11pm. I go back to my five recommendations and encourage them to get 6-8 hours of sleep and begin that sleep before 10pm. I am generally met with explanations of how they must keep that schedule to keep up with all the engagements they have, which tends to include some socializing and maybe even some exercise, so I remind them of the importance of nutrition and they pull a healthy bar out of their purse to prove to me that they attend to nutrition, so I’m back again to water. I suggest they drink more water. You now know the drill. Take another drink with me now.

If you’re four paragraphs into this and your water is empty, go fill it now. If you’re this far and you don’t even have any water within reach, go get some. I’ll wait. We’ll all wait. It’s that important. Not energy drink. Not coffee. Not tea. Not scotch and water. Not athletic replenishment drink. Just water.

And although Eddie Money suggests that some cool, cool, water can fix damn near anything, I wouldn’t go quite that far. I’ll need to squelch my peri-menopausal irritability in some other way. Turns out you don’t even have to limit yourself to drinking the water to experience it’s benefits. You can soak your body or feet in it. You can swim in or float on it, or run through a sprinkler. That all helps. In fact, I think I’ll go splash some on my face now to calm my soul. And, while I’m in there, I’ll go ahead and make room for more!

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