Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Sound of People Getting Drunk

Today is Phil Hartman’s birthday. I think a lot about the mental health issues that have taken beloved people from the mortal plane. To be honest, when that all happened I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the story. It’s possible I was limiting my exposure to news media at the time; I have known for a long time that I am an empath. In my first book, I wrote about my husband being a news junkie. I really do love the man to death, but a lot of the time the news is too much for me, and the pandemic kind of felt like “all news all the time.” I learned to appreciate him filtering the news for me during this time, since he likes to be on top of things. I mean, he’s extraordinarily on top of things, as are my kids. I learn a lot from them.

The Hartman story creeps me out. As an empath I see so many more layers to it than other people might. There are clues in the Wikipedia article to what happened. I think they were both on the spectrum and at least one or both of them was a workaholic. I think a lot of people are on the spectrum and don’t know it.

For the past few years I have found myself drawn to the work of Esther Perel, who is a marriage and sex therapist. I have noticed that her work is very humanist in nature; the sessions she gives couples encourage listening and empathy. It requires a certain amount of self awareness, however, to be able to know what one wants and needs from a relationship before one can express those needs or understand whether or not they are compatible with the needs of one’s partner. I am one of those people who likes to connect people, and yesterday I had this epiphany that it would be so great if Esther Perel had a chat with Jill Bolte Taylor about neurodiversity in relationships. I know this has affected my relationships greatly; I have a traumatic brain injury, and I can’t keep the pace of other people. I go on and off the spectrum depending on exposures to chemicals, stress, dark, and my hormone levels, so proper diagnosis has been elusive, and very much a burden. My husband is a bit like this, too. We are kind of like little twin stars in that way. It caused problems in our marriage sometimes, especially if we were too busy to check in with each other, and sometimes we have difficulty reading each others’ faces in our home.

I was having trouble with dementia from chemical exposures, which were like the kind of shutdowns that people with Autism have because they involved expressive and receptive aphasia - difficulty generating words and understanding (parsing) spoken language. I’ve actually been having these off and on for most of my life. Many times with dementia comes combativeness, and that’s because as the person with dementia, I can become desperate for someone to understand my perspective, and I can feel shut out when people don’t listen to me, especially if they are insistent on convincing me of something I know in my heart to be harmful to me, which is kind of what is going on with how I feel the US Government is handling the pandemic and the holidays and their failure to provide proper mask guidance while focusing on boosters which don’t have any population-based evidence of current effectiveness against omicron. It means that most people are misinformed. Recommendations to us are being based on lab tests which don’t involve humans and only measure antibody response to synthetic viruses. When I was a scientist, I was told that generalizing work from lab cultures to even an organism (let alone an entire population) was inappropriate, but for some reason the entire industry and its regulating bodies are giving the field of immunology a pass. This feels like bad science to me.

The way the government is encouraging people not to change their holiday plans, and how they are failing to educate people about proper mask use I think is an attempt to avoid irritating conservative voters, and also a lesson to them about natural consequences. However, in neglecting to provide guidance to help the vulnerable, they enabled an army of neoliberal vectors. Furthermore, downplaying the potential effects of omicron before it had been around long enough to know if it is as severe as delta (it can be), gave these misinformed people the idea that it might not have important cognitive sequelae.

Because of things that have happened in the past where I felt like I was being coerced or manipulated, my body and subconscious still remember those things and believe it will happen again. This happened a lot because of difficulties I had sticking up for myself when people put me on the spot. I’m just kind of slow. Therefore, if I start feeling grouchy or combative, I generally isolate myself and meditate. It takes a heck of a lot of self awareness to realize when my subconscious and body are going into that state before it is too late.

In any case, back to Phil Hartman and the issue of work/life balance. I’m so glad that the last episode of SNL was not in front of a live studio audience. I appreciate all the work our creatives have done to keep us sane during this isolation, and I hope they are getting the time they need to take care of themselves and their important relationships.

It sounds Phil and his wife weren’t very happy and that they put on a good face to the public. They were clearly disconnected from each other. It can be really difficult to get one’s emotional needs met in a relationship with a workaholic, and it sounds from the Wikipedia article like Phil wasn’t around a lot and that he had a tendency to shut down emotionally. Even if you’re not the workaholic in a monogamous marriage, it can be difficult not to get sucked into the role of trying to hold the rest of the world up single-handedly, often doing so without recognition or compensation. I saw a lot of chronic fatigue and health issues in other stay at home moms which were similar to mine, though maybe not as severe. Many husbands had to travel and work a lot to make the arrangement work. I wonder if their employers ever understood the kind of pressure they were under trying to change the world in their homes and rarely getting to be a participant in that change. The resulting overwork can often result in pain issues, which may require a lot of treatment and medication. These are my observations from studying workaholism in the community around me. The workaholic isn’t always the person getting paid, which is important to understand, and the workaholic may love or hate their job, sometimes both. In America, we have a love affair with workaholism, and that has spread to the rest of the world. My husband and I worked closely with people in Asia, so we are aware of the concern about the difficulty with innovation there; what I have been wanting to convey about that phenomenon is that the lack of innovation has to do with authoritarianism, as well as the relationship between joy, desire and creativity, which is squelched when things become mandates and citizens have too much oversight and critique. We are living in a culture which encourages living to work, rather than working to live, and it is at odds with our mental health and creativity.

I have become less interested in seeing people socially. Some of it is anxiety, but it is anxiety that makes perfect sense. I actually worked to try to keep relationships alive as I could, even though I have been largely isolated since June 2019 from illness. Over the years it was easy for me to overdo things. I would figure out that I was doing too much only too late when I would have a major attack of depression. Over time I learned that they were predictable, and almost always coincident with some sort of major societal emotional crash. I saw the patterns in people around me, too. When we’re feeling well, we tend to believe we are invincible, and overdo things. I honestly can’t keep up with the schedules most people keep, and so I think I tend to fall off other people’s radar. In any case, I’ve been trying to dip my foot in the pool a bit, but it hasn’t been on my schedule.

I am one of those highly sensitive people who needs a lot of 5 minute warnings. Because our families tend to operate a bit more spontaneously, this is almost never possible. I am pretty sure, due to my inability to hop to it whenever the wind switched direction, they cut me out of negotiations, effectively removing most of the control I had over my own personal life on the weekends. I tried many ways to have conversations with them about this, but their responses were intolerant of my needs as a human being for rest. There was a lot of “Suck it up, Buttercup” in their interactions with us. It is unfair to expect others to arrange their lives around our spontaneous natures, but that is exactly what we were both hoping for from each other. What really needed to happen was to treat each other with the common courtesy we would have afforded our clients with respect to scheduling, but that’s why they say, “You always hurt the ones you love.” Furthermore, because my niblings were in school, there were runny noses brushed off as nothing that turned to actual illness in my home many times, ruining large swaths of our time for their own personal gain. Nobody was there to help us through so many bouts of diarrhea, vomit, and fevers. They supported each other through these things, but never supported us. When we had crises, they were gone. The pandemic only made it worse. And now I can’t trust anyone because the government is lying through error of omission about the importance of masks regardless of vaccination status (much like our mothers- and sisters-in-law did with us all those years).

On the other end of the spectrum, I inadvertently nurtured relationships with people who were probably never going to manage their time in such a way to have time to make things together, and that’s kind of what I need. I need some low effort casual creative connections who wear masks properly when they are out in public and do not kau tau to superficial snot swapping in order to ease their boredom. The right-brained activities are critical for my mental wellbeing, and I understand now because of Jill Bolte Taylor’s work that spending too much time talking about stressful things or in my left brain brings on not just depression and anxiety, but pain. It’s hard to tell people that the things we used to do together are painful, but this is the truth for me. Having to educate people about why I do things the way I do is frustrating. But I have to do things the way I do in order to function - In order to hear, and in order to speak. When I have people step on those boundaries, I pay a physical and mental price.

I do know people who were able to do this, and they just don’t live nearby or take the same air quality precautions I do in their creative work or lives (I know a lot of people who are under the impression that acrylic paint is a safe medium, but who also struggle with health issues that keep them on medications). I think a lot of the people I know have had some sort of safety training through the workplace, but for some reason they don’t extend that knowledge to the home or their artwork. I have seen some crazy stuff over the years with respect to the sorts of exposures people risk without using personal protective equipment, and that has made me wary of sharing Maker Space with others. I told everyone close to me that I may have porphyria, and it took a long time to get anyone to take it seriously. I even had my genetic test result validated for erythropoetic protoporphyria through Invitae Genetics, and discovered the red fluorescence indicative of the disease on my face, and in the faces of my genetic relatives. My sister is failing to recognize the importance of this disease on our health. Or any of the other things we carry. I didn’t take the family and friends I had for social darwinists, but that's the actual thought process underlying the belief that only the weak can’t handle someone else’s toxic lifestyle, while simultaneously turning a blind eye to one’s own weaknesses.

Unfortunately, there are just too many hazards associated with even leaving my house, especially on the weekends when the ants are out of the hill! We read an article yesterday that said that 7 million people die every year due to problems with air quality. That’s more than have died from COVID. From my house I can see a mountain peak, and we can kind of tell what the PM2.5 is from how clearly we can see the mountain. Several months ago, I wrote a piece about the ways that air pollution affects the nervous system and predicted there would be more accidents and mental health incidents, and I just found out from my insurance agent that there have been a lot more accidents! I have been following the news on Colorado’s Air Quality - it is now bad enough that the World Health Organization is going to step in, apparently. Colorado has been applying for waivers from the EPA for several years, and so I am surprised to hear how much time some people are willing to voluntarily commit to driving to things that could be accomplished closer to their homes or even in their own neighborhoods while getting to know their neighbors and strengthening their local friendships. Old habits die hard, I guess, but we really need them to do exactly that. Maybe junior’s soccer won’t cost so much if he plays with the neighbor kid instead of driving across town to play with the other wealthy kids, and the rest of us can have some fresh air. Before the wave, it was nice to see kids playing in our neighborhood; when my kids grew up we weren’t aware of any nearby, so we drove a lot. We didn’t drive as much as many of the other homeschoolers, though, because I noticed the need for down time early on.

There was definitely a relationship between my mood and how many activities we had going on. None of this had anything to do with my husband. While clutter is not something he is troubled by or motivated to do much about, there are A LOT of other things he does around here. Plus, he lost vision in one of his eyes so that affects how he processes his environment. I try to be sensitive to that. He has a lot of trouble finding things, but I have a photographic memory, so I can often help him find things if I have seen them (which I don’t necesssarily, either, if they are put away). Sometimes I get a little tired of it, but then I just pick up a bit and feel better. I usually remember where I put things. Usually. I was very Type A with respect to my environment, even as a child, but he made sure to tell me in many ways that he is not that way, starting very early in the relationship. That actually took a lot of pressure off me, although he does like the house to be neater than I do when people come over because of how his stepfather conditioned him. I recognize now that I have a reflexive anxious cleaning habit from being worried that he will get angry, because that is what his stepfather did to him when he was a teen. I wonder if he was never able to see the mess, but only remember feeling chastised for it. I see that my own neurological reality can be a major factor in whether or not we are getting along. If I’m feeling fussy about organization, it’s usually a sign that I need to rest. When I am doing well, I can handle a lot of chaos. Being pestered about that stuff increases anyone’s level of stress and anxiety unnecessarily. Even me! I think cleanliness is only important insofar as it keeps a the environment safe. We don’t tend to fight about money but of course weird things crop up here and there when it’s not an unlimited font, and people in the medical system are trying to gouge us for services we don’t need. Otherwise, our arguments are often triggered by overdoing things and chemical exposure, so I figure if I take it upon myself to be a conscientious objector, at least I’m less of a factor and able to fill in when everyone else is crashing. They do, but at least they can still come up with words.

When I first got my air quality meters, I took them in the car with me. I learned that my cars’ interiors outgassed - with the newer car being worse than the older ones. Additionally, I discovered that the volatile tailpipe emissions from the vehicles in front of me were drawn right into the cabin of my vehicle unless I put the vent on inside air. For years I have noticed that I can leave the house about twice a week without feeling unwell; I think the road pollution was a big factor. My family had several diesel vehicles when I was growing up, and I now wonder if that had a larger effect on some of our family trips than we were aware of. I have not owned any as an adult, partially for this reason. We had several breakdowns because of engine problems, but we were always able to find help. One of my family members had a VW that was affected by the Dieselgate recall. It just dawned on me recently that American-made diesel vehicles may be affected by the same problems, and that we may have just let them slide because we didn’t want to devastate our own industry. It turns out that may be the case. One thing I noticed when I went to Barcelona was that I started feeling funny when our cab driver was following closely behind a diesel truck. That was the only time I ever noticed that feeling before recently, but it was very pronounced. It is possible that my reactions are due to an unlikely number of exposures to diesel trucks which have bypassed their emissions. I suppose it’s time to take the meter out again and see.

I’ve noticed I can smell the emissions from my gas vehicles if I have the windows down when I back up, and some people I know can smell it, too. I can’t believe other people can’t smell these things. I used to think there was something wrong with me, but I think it’s actually an asset. I’m not sure I know anyone who hasn’t struggled with some major health issue anymore and I think some of that is because we don’t sense or pay attention to these kinds of hazards. Consciousness seems to be the first thing impacted; perhaps that is why we have so much difficulty identifying the roots of chronic illness, or even being aware of when we need to slow down.

One of my favorite movies growing up was The Great Race with Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood. Her death is such a tragic story, and I wonder about the role of mind altering substances (alcohol and whatever else she may have been exposed to) in it. The Great Race is a movie I watched a lot as a kid, about the race between the internal combustion Ford and Stanley steam engine around the world, and is supposed to be based on the life of Nellie Bly. I have many reasons to like this movie (Peter Falk as a mad inventor is a major one!!). We happen to live near where the Stanley Brothers lived and worked, and were recently reminded of that story. They were inventors. Apparently at least one of them had tuberculosis and decided that the air on the front range in Colorado was of poor quality and so they moved up to Estes Park and started a sanatorium there which became the famous Stanley Hotel, which was the inspiration for Stephen King’s book The Shining..

The Shining! That’s right. I have The Shining. If you have it, you know what it is. There are a lot of movies about having a sixth sense and what a terror that can be. I prefer The Secret of Roan Inish and Vibes with Cyndi Lauper and Jeff Goldblum, which I just saw for the first time last weekend. It’s a little campy, but I like campy. I may *be* a little campy, and I kind of wish we all were. But it does a good job at capturing the strange elements of mentalism I have experienced in a way that would be easy for others to connect with. The Secret of Roan Inish is a bit more disparaging of psychic ability (The Fey), but in the end the truth comes out. I kind of wonder if my cousins have The Fey, too. My two female cousins (one on my mom’s side and one on my dad’s) have mentioned mentalism and psychic phenomenon, but not in the context of experiencing it themselves.

This is all related to my ancestral past. I also had family members with TB in the Denver area at the time the Stanley brothers left for Estes Park. My family was not wealthy. What happened because they had to remain in a poor polluted area and couldn’t flee to the mountains affected my family significantly. Because of the experiences we had with poor air quality from sources inside and outside our home, I have an entirely different view of equity.

My maternal great-grandfather contracted TB sometime before 1929. He worked as a house painter. There are some professions that run in my family - on that side it was house painting. In fact, his father in law, my 2nd great-grandfather, fell from scaffolding in 1934 while painting the interior of the historic Paramount Theater in Denver and died of his injuries. That same year, my great-grandfather committed suicide after being ill with TB and unable to secure employment for many years. I started a watercolor painting several years ago of the front of the Theater after seeing Radiolab there on the Day of the Dead and making the realization. It is a technically difficult watercolor due to the grid of lightbulbs underneath the marquis, and I think it has remained incomplete because I couldn’t focus due to the water heater backdrafting, and the other health threats I have experienced due to government and scientific malfeasance.

Sometimes genealogy can be a little stressful. As I have hinted at before, I have uncovered some things that happened in my family that were related to poverty. Apparently my great-grandfather’s suicide was witnessed by my grandmother as a child, as well as my great-grandmother and her mother (whose husband was the Paramount painter). When I learned this, a lot of things started making sense about my own childhood and how my mother raised me. My great-grandmother had remarried another house painter whose family were original settlers in Arvada in 1936. I spent the first few years of my life calling this man my grandfather, and I still consider him my grandfather because he is the only one I had. His grandfather was the mayor and their old home is on the National Register of Historic Places. He adopted my grandmother and later my mother and took flack for it from his family. My grandmother had my mother out of wedlock when she was almost 20. The word was he was disowned by his mother for being associated with bastards. Bastards arise from sin. Who knows if the sin was the suicide, or the out of wedlock birth, or the inability to resist TB or poverty. This maternal grandfather was not just a politician, but also a minister. Because of this my mother was watched very closely in her childhood, and because she didn’t know that was dysfunctional, I was, too.

My mom wanted me to have all the things and opportunities she didn’t. I had so many classes outside of school - I took gymnastics, ballet, tap dancing, choir, piano, flute, clarinet, trumpet and private art lessons. I spent a lot of time at church, volunteered a lot, and was even elected to be the first Youth Elder. I was also a Girl Scout for many years and was a Job's Daughter. In school I participated in many clubs and activities, and was president of several including the National Honor Society, the Math Engineering and Science Association, and the Octagon Club (a division of the Optimist Club). I was a member of Model United Nations, and got to participate in the National Youth Leadership Conference in Washington, DC. I had a lot of opportunities to connect with adults when I was volunteering, and I think that was an important reason I became the adult I did. I wanted to have these same sorts of adults around for my kids, but it was difficult to have time to volunteer outside the house because of our health issues.

Volunteering was really important to me, and it probably always will be, even though I have learned the hard way that expecting any sort of karmic tangible return in terms of food or shelter on that sort of investment seems to be pretty foolish, unless you are super wealthy or super poor. Volunteering does now just seem to be a way to further imprison women, especially unpaid caregivers like myself, while simultaneously subjecting oneself to the constant scrutiny of Lilliputian demands even Johnathan Swift could not imagine. Talk about a hole to dig oneself trying to be kind. Furthermore, doing things for people out of good will, if it does work, yields a situation where the person offering free services or information ends up exploited by those who know how to monetize or polish that person's efforts as their own without ever giving any sort of credit to the originator, or person who connected the dots. I did a lot of volunteer work for other families and even did huge personal favors for other artists and often was not given credit for my work, like it was too much work to say, "Thank you to Amy Lewark for the free photography she did for my website so that I could look professional." It really made me not trust the other artists in my community, because it seemed like there was some level of psychological torture that had to be endured to get "in" with others and get your art promoted. What really bothered me about that is that these other people were marketing themselves as independent, and not part of a collective system of give and take.

I had many "professionals" try to exploit my knowledge and skills over the years, and it came at a great cost to me and my kids.

So yes, unfortunately my mom really did try to raise me to be the “perfect” muse or girl next door, or… I don’t know. Slave, I guess. Really I was kind of a B student at all those things, because it was impossible to focus. I essentially had a helicopter parent before it was a thing. I had a difficult time with free play, and I still have difficulty feeling playful. Because of this, I felt like I could follow directions really well and please my teachers, but I didn’t know how to have fun with what I did in the context of my own interest. I suppose the last few years have been an exercise in that. I don’t have any problem with feeling creative now; I just have trouble getting my ideas to mesh with my chemically sensitive reality.

My story did sort of parallel that of Vincent Van Gogh. I so desperately wanted to contribute to creating community, and it just never seemed to work out in a way where everyone could be included, which I now know was likely due to people’s classist mentalities. That really drove me nuts. Over the years, I would hear commonalities between people, and think, “Oh, they might really enjoy each other’s company” and try to hook people up, but the connection would be stale. Eventually it felt like a losing battle. Why meddle?

I saw a meme about “spilling the t in therapy” and I see the pluses and minuses of this. On one level, it allows people to work through anger issues in a safe environment. But on another, it has allowed our societal trauma to go largely driven underground. It means rather than talk things out or even write things out in ways that help build community and solve common problems, people ghost each other and slap on masks of stoicism, allowing systemic injustice to continue unaddressed. We get to write ourselves off as victims rather than participating in the solution. Meanwhile, our therapists are still individuals who may not have the time to notice patterns that need to be addressed by the system. I know people for whom humility is seen as a vulnerability and as a bad thing. That’s mostly because people don’t know how to use discernment in their connections. Also, modern people are so separated from their bodies from their busyness and chemical exposure that they are unaware when they are in a state of autonomic nervous system overactivation, so they often misjudge when it is safe to be vulnerable. That’s what happens when people are forced to be in their heads all the time due to the way we are conditioned by our helicopter mothers and status-driven society. My mom and I have been through this. She knows that I parent the way I do because of this experience. I had choices in most of this, but it was highly seductive.

I post ridiculous things on here and take them away because there is always karma associated with words, and I am constantly growing and changing. This is my grief space, and sometimes where I share some of my most intimate thoughts. I try to learn from my grief. I learned recently that some people have a policy of not writing down what they think because they don’t want to be held accountable for it. That is rough; I won’t lie. I put a lot of effort into deciding how much and when to share. At the same time, it’s so easy for people to shoot their mouths off unnecessarily in conversation and damage relationships due to feeling an immediate need for response and then claim that the other person was too sensitive, because since there is no proof, it’s one person’s word against another’s. In my experience, these people who like to talk so much but not be held accountable for what they say, would probably never have said the things they said in the first place if they had read those things about themselves in print. This is part of the reason I have social anxiety. I see and hear things that other people have either deafened themselves to, or have self medicated as to not feel. Admittedly, this is a perception that sometimes I’d rather do without. But in any case, while stressful on a number of levels, this writing outlet helps me feel like I am thinking about and addressing things that may be too hard for most people because they don’t take the time to work out their ideas before expressing them. And since I’m stuck at home, why not?

So, I’ll make a fool out of myself for you. Memento mori and all that.

They say all is forgiven in the end.

So I’ve been wondering, what would the world be like if we had collectively gone with the steam engine? Would we even see the need for electric?

I’ve also wondered what the world would be like if we had given as much attention to the work of Beauchamp as we did to Pasteur. Beauchamp espoused the idea that the internal milieu was an important factor in the pathogenicity of microbes. Modern medicine is clearly failing in this regard for the weakest among us. Many of my experiences with doctors have been runaround in nature, and I think it is because of an incomplete understanding of prevention matters as they relate to us as a species in an environment, rather than a standard in a clean controlled environment. Or, in the vaccine industry, antibodies and synthetic virion in a petri dish. I feel like alternative health care has done a better job of this, but unfortunately medical insurance still doesn’t cover many effective approaches.

I know people who have been able to throw a lot of money at alternative health treatments. I, however, have not had an unlimited budget for this, so I have had to rely on the community health system, which my doctor admitted to me was slow. That being said, she is part of a health organization that does work to improve communication, which has been a great help for me.

I don’t have a lot of extra energy to deal with poor communication, and I can’t imagine they do either, but it’s still part of the local “system.” Just trying to communicate one’s situation to a doctor can mean exposure to a lot of unnecessary stress and chemicals (I wonder if the ubiquitous use of isopropyl alcohol is a problem for more people than just me). I understand that it is necessary to triage a person’s health needs, but in limiting a patient to discuss the “top 3 things that are bothering them” the doctor is not getting a complete view of the patient’s health for accurate diagnosis. They say “do no harm” but because of the way the system works, I think many care providers unwittingly end up doing harm by treating individuals as conglomerations of common ailments, rather than individuals with lifestyle- and genetically-predictable constellations of symptoms. Ultimately, our care providers should be good mentors, which means they should be showing us the importance of listening, patience and mindfulness.

Additionally, my physicians never asked about hobbies which might have exposed me to unsafe levels of chemicals, but I had several. It seems that physicians simply don’t know much about toxicology or how to recognize poisoning. I think this was the reason my physicians were never able to help me. I think many physicians may be afraid to actually admit that the practice of medicine is suffering because of the government’s refusal to acknowledge these important factors in illness.

On my father’s side of the family, his father and grandfather had both been orphaned. This story is a little more convoluted. My great-grandfather was orphaned as a young child when his father was killed while working on the railroad in the 1890s. His mother was widowed with three children and one on the way. She did end up remarrying after a time and had two more daughters with an older man from Wales in Upstate NY. When my great-grandfather became a young adult he ended up becoming a chauffeur for wealthy families in Rochester, NY. He then started working in the automobile industry and after meeting my great-grandmother who was the daughter of immigrants from Germany/Poland, they moved to Detroit, MI. At some point living in Detroit their marriage fell apart. My great-grandmother disappeared and my grandfather’s sister ended up in an orphanage in New York City. My uncle said he heard she left because my great-grandfather was too authoritarian, but then I also heard that she may have had TB. I haven’t been able to find her death record, but I did find her in the 1930 Census not far from where my grandfather was recorded in the merchant marine. He ended up taking an alias as a child to avoid being used as child labor by farmers who would take in orphans from Social Services; it was my uncle who informed me of the alias. I wonder how much his father’s involvement with the automobile industry played a role in their fate. His WWI draft card mentioned that he also worked for Studebaker in Kansas City, and he also received a patent for an early windshield clearing device later in life.

I think occupations play a bigger role in the supported family’s destiny than is understood. There are certain occupations that are more of a drain and impact a person’s ability to live in harmony with their family. I think responsible employers would care about how they affect their employees’ families, because that in turn affects employee performance. Yet, that is not something I have seen practiced in general by the companies my husband or I have worked for. Even when I was pregnant and working with chemicals in a place that gave me OSHA training, the onus seemed to be on me to protect myself, and I was working under conditions where we weren’t even certain we were going to be paid for our work. I wrote down a list of the chemicals I worked with and called the teratogen registry where I was living at the time, and I now know I was using things that would not be considered safe to work with without a respirator.

I think I grew up in a time when a lot of people were probably impacted by our collective lack of knowledge regarding the effect of chemicals on the nervous system. The wheels of the government move extremely slow, it seems, and due to a lack of understanding of science, I think politicians are prone to some pretty serious missteps when industry presents them with a carefully crafted version of the truth which serves the end of marketing whatever they are trying to sell as a solution to societal problems. It is really unfortunate. Luckily I had enough brains to request a respirator when I was working with volatile chemicals while pregnant, but it was a purchase that had to be approved and took a while. I don’t know what the effects on my child were, but I do know that my coworker who was handling similar things and who was a month ahead of me in her pregnancy also had to be put on bedrest for a condition which could easily be tied to chemical exposure (as mine could) and had a child with terrible colic. This was a burden for our employer and colleagues who had to pick up our slack, as well. It was fortunate that the state I was living in provided pregnancy benefits, because the Family Medical Leave Act never applied at places we were working because they were so small. Many government policies help larger employers, but leave out the small employers and their employees. I think that was a big part of the problems surrounding work and the pandemic, too.

It is almost like the powers that be are all saying, “You must breathe the chemicals we give you.” And now, it’s “You must breathe the viruses we are absentmindedly cultivating.” Who wants to work or do much of anything else under those dogmatic conditions? I know the world isn’t what it was (they got the lead out!), but I still hear things, like certain American car companies hedging their bets against electric by simultaneously releasing diesel versions of smaller trucks. Lovely.

What kind of world is this?

Drunk. It’s drunk. No wonder people increasingly cannot find the words.

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