I have a dream of not being placed in a box


So it’s the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech. Well, the country has come a long way, but still has a very long way to go. Speaking as someone who grew up in the southern part of the US as a mixed-race/multi-ethnic person, I see it firsthand every day that we have a long way to go to reach acceptance and not see / judge people by their skin tone, hair type, perceived background, etc.

I grew up in one of the most liberal cities in the south. Contrary to popular belief, the liberal side can be just as hateful and harsh as the extreme conservative side. What I would like to know is what I personally have done to anyone to bring on stupid comments and judgments. Oh wait — I haven’t done anything. Absolutely nothing. I’m here — a human being who happens to have a family tree with branches in Native America, India, Africa, France, Spain, Norway, Romania, China, Ireland, Puerto Rico, and Quebec, Canada, eh? Yes.

People love placing people in boxes. I hate those stupid check boxes on employment and other forms. You know, the ones asking your racial and ethnic preference? I can literally check everything except Hawaiian and Pacific Islander! Sometimes I do check everything that applies to me. Other times I select multiracial/multiethnic or “more than one race” if those are options. I left it blank once when I applied for a job at a federal agency many years ago. The HR lady did not like that. She called me out in the middle of a room of applicants and told me I needed to fill it in. In front of God and everyone, I told her I wasn’t going to because I don’t fit neatly into any of the options. She was not happy with me raising my voice and calling her and the agency out on the absurdity of the check boxes. She pushed the paper toward me and I still refused. I told her my list of ancestral ingredients and said she could pick whichever one she thought I should fit in. She rolled her eyes and set my form aside. I have no idea what she put on the paper, if anything. I was hired and worked through the training session and quit when something much better and more enticing came along a couple of weeks later.

I also never filled out the check boxes when I went to college the first time around. It wasn’t until I graduated and saw my full transcript that I noticed the school listed me as Hispanic. Well, that’s part of the equation, but not the whole answer. I made an educated guess that they were going by my name and my mother’s name (they’re both Spanish names) and the fact that I was a member of the Spanish National Honor Society. Oh, my surname is a French name. Whatever.

As a young child in elementary school, I soooo did not fit in with any one group of kids. My mother has a fair complexion. My father is a shade or two darker than me. I have a medium brown tone—a nice natural tan! The Mexican, Central, and Native American classmates were the only ones who would ever really talk to me or hang out with me on the playground. I was fine with that. I still didn’t fully identify with either group. I just saw them as cool kids who wanted to actually hang out with me.

Well, there were the three really mean girls who just hated me. They were black and would have nothing to do with me. They often threatened to cut my hair, which was halfway down my back. I was called all sorts of names. To make matters worse, I slipped and fell in the cafeteria one day. They saw it and the teasing became much worse. It was around this time that my mother was in the hospital after having my brother. My dad was out of town. My mom’s sister was staying with me and my grandmother to help take care of things until my mom came home. Well, the evening I got home after the fall, I cried and cried and cried on my aunt’s lap about what had happened and what had been going on. She told me something that has remained with me to this day that helps me deal with racist, bigoted, non-colorblind people who try to place me in one box or the other. She told me that I have something that they are envious of—the best of multiple worlds. She told me that God used all the colors in the crayon box to make me who I am. I took it to heart and still think of that when I see a crayon box.

On a side note, I got even with those girls some time later by finally speaking up for myself—first time I did that at such a young age. I actually hit one of the girls on the playground one day. They never messed with me again. I’m sure they still talked about me behind my back, but never again to my face. A teacher called my parents and told them she was proud of me for finally standing up for myself! One of my first life tests. Go figure.

To those of you who like to place people in boxes because you judge books by their covers or because it just makes it easier for you to deal with the world, just stop it already. I, and others like me, do not fit into a box. Granted, there are a few of us who choose to identify culturally, racially, or ethnically with one part of our ancestral line, but many of us do not. There have been good and bad people in all of our families’ histories. This matters not to me. Every single person I’m genetically connected to on both sides of my family made me who I am today. One different person along the way and I would likely look completely different. They’re all a part of me and I’m not going to ignore or reject any of them just to make you more comfortable.

Deal with it, people! Don’t make me punch you in the face!

Oh so angry!

The day started out ok despite only getting three hours of sleep. I woke up for no apparent reason in the middle of the night and was unable to go back to sleep. This is a very, very rare occurrence for me. I’m the head-hits-pillow-and-I-pass-out-instantly-for-hours person. Whatever. I made it out to work today not feeling too horrible. With the exception of my throat muscles, all other muscles fared ok…until near the end of the day when I became EXTREMELY angry at a coworker’s insensitivity and apparent need to be in control and have all eyes on her during her presentation. I seriously just wanted to punch her in the face! Thank God it was near the end of the day and I could just walk away and not be escorted away.

This person felt the need to call me out during this presentation because I’m sure she thought I wasn’t paying attention even though I had contributed a few answers to questions posed during her presentation. She called out another coworker for looking at his phone during her presentation. Just because I’m not making eye contact or maintaining constant eye contact with a person doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention.

With myasthenia gravis (MG) affecting my eyes more on some days, it becomes a challenge to look up for more than a few seconds without my eyes becoming fatigued. Even a 5- to 10-degree angle is challenging. My eyes begin hurting, vision becomes blurry, and lids start drooping. Sometimes double vision kicks in. Lord knows I don’t want to see two of certain people! I have to look away or down to allow my eyes to rest. If you’re not dealing with this problem, it’s impossible to grasp what this is like. My eyes and eyesight are way more valuable to me than any presentation—or the ego in front of the presentation. Period! Perhaps I’ll skip future presentations.

I hate becoming this angry. It affects all of my muscles. I left the office a few minutes after the meeting ended because I knew if I stayed around: 1) My muscles would continue to deteriorate and 2) I was going to go medieval on someone. I tend to throw things when I’m really angry. I probably had just enough strength in my arms to pick up a heavy book and toss it at her. I’m a pretty good aim!

This person has asked me many questions about this disease. I’ve answered all questions and even gave her a couple of links to web pages for more technical info. Despite this, I often feel as if she thinks I’m not “trying hard enough” to feel better and heal, that I’m really just lazy or slow or whatever. It’s just a certain look I get from her at times. Pisses me off!

Tomorrow is a state holiday and I’m going to celebrate it by staying at home and avoiding the outside world. I need to continue working on my “idea seeds” that I spoke of a few days ago. Those babies are the only things that are going to keep me out of jail and alive. I must make my way out of that place or it’ll be the death of me. 😦

For the record, the last few days have been some of my better days since all the treatments began more than a year ago. I’m nowhere near remission. I still have sudden, unexpected weakness episodes, plus the chemo makes me feel very tired at times. I can only hope I have more decent/good days.

 I must go now to allow my precious bed and pillows to comfort me and soothe my poor nerves.



Redirecting the Ship

I’ve faced many challenges throughout my 40 years of life. Some of them have been self-imposed while most others have come from the great beyond. I like a good challenge, but I’ve been seriously questioning the ones I’ve been facing over the last few years. I mean, I’ve not had one single break. I can’t even say I’ve been able to actually stand up to most of the challenges.

There are people who say to me that they’re amazed at how I’ve dealt with things. I laugh because I think they’re joking. I sure as hell do not feel I’ve been dealing with things in the best way. In general, I’ve swayed back and forth between being optimistic and being the worst pessimist. I sometimes hide the pessimist from some of the people who see me every day just because I know that’s how they prefer things. They don’t want to hear the negative, pissy side of my thoughts. So, I smile and give off a things-are-kinda-ok-today vibe. Deep down I’m angry, upset, and keep questioning why I’m having to deal with what I consider an unfair amount of crap on my plate!

Sometimes I’m able to look at the world around me and see that there are people who are in worse shape than me. Other days, I don’t see them. I just see the chaotic world I’m living in.  Not all of this is based on myasthenia gravis (MG). I have other health issues I’ve been dealing with for many years, plus I’ve battled PTSD from various life incidents. I’ve been working my way through those things—thank God for therapists and EMDR (google EMDR if you don’t know what it is).

In general, I’ve always performed well at any and all jobs I’ve had. I pick things up quickly and charge forward. That hasn’t been the case with my current place of employment thanks to the health challenges and an environment of extreme favoritism, cliques, thin skins, and endless roadblocks.

Overcoming challenges, according to some, makes us stronger and well equipped to survive. I have another theory and that is when one challenge after another after another and another hit you, perhaps it’s the universe’s way of trying to get your attention and tell you that you need to steer your ship in a different direction…you’re on the wrong course. Hmmm…

I changed courses career-wise a few years ago when I decided to trade in my life of journalism/editing/proofreading to fully focus on the world of emergency management. I had been volunteering in that realm for a few years and thought I’d make it official and work on a Master’s degree in the field. What lead up to that sudden change in course was a series of roadblocks and challenges that were coming at me from many directions at the time. I had experienced my first and only layoff, I was being hit by major financial challenges, things were going south—again—with my health, etc. etc. There really wasn’t anything I could do to fix any of those things so I had to change course.

I’m now finding myself in that same position today. I love the field in which I work, but where I work isn’t working for me. I can’t change one single thing about the place or my position in it. My health is not cutting me any slack to even make more attempts to change things on the work front. I have zero desire to work for anyone else except for myself.

I’ve worked for myself before and enjoyed it. I was very young and had a lot more energy, but I did not have the discipline to pace myself so I started burning out and had to bow out and take orders from someone else. I can’t say I have that level of energy these days, but I do have the discipline to pace myself. With that said, I’m no longer looking for another employer. I’m looking at these “idea seeds” the universe has been planting in my head for a while now. If I nurture them and allow them to grow, I’ll be able to be my own boss again and be able to do the things I enjoy doing the most—helping others. I’ll also be helping myself for a change. I’m not going into detail on what these idea seeds are, but I’ll say one of them is related to my current career, the other is completely out in left field, while another one, which was planted a few days ago, ties together my past with my present.

Now, if I can stop getting in my own way, this looks to be a very interesting journey ahead. My life has never been boring and I’m not about to let it become boring now. Take that MG!

A Blanket of Optimism

Earlier this week I was sitting in my living room when all of a sudden a most delightful blanket of optimism and the feeling that something fabulously awesome was about to happen draped itself over me. I have no idea what this fabulously awesome thing is or when I’ll see it, but I’m ready for it!

Nothing like this has ever hit me before. I’ve had a challenging week health wise since then but I’m still trying to keep holding on to the gift of feeling optimistic for a change. We’ll see where this goes.

Just say no!

Something that dealing with myasthenia gravis (MG) is teaching me is how to say no to people. In my 40 years of life, I’ve always been the “yes girl.” No matter the situation I could always be counted on to step up and help whenever/wherever I’m needed at home, at work, and out in the community. These days, that’s not the case. I step up when I’m mentally and physically able to. I can’t say that I thought I’d be feeling/thinking like this at age 40. I expected this way of life to come on around age 80…if ever. No one in my family really retires. They work hard and play hard until their very last breath, unless they’re stuck in intensive care on life support until the end.

Saying no definitely comes with its challenges. The main challenge is guilt. I feel guilty at the drop of a hat. Why? I still feel I should be able to do EVERYTHING. Plus, with so many people commenting that I look great or I don’t look sick, it makes it even more challenging for me emotionally to say no. I try talking to myself (not out loud for the world to hear) that it’s really ok and that I have nothing to worry about. If a person I’ve recently denied a helping hand to suddenly thinks less of me because of it, it’s their problem and their loss because I have no time to deal with them and their spoiled, childish ways. I need to focus on me and the people who do understand and who now help me in my time of need (when I ask). I still help people when I can; it’s just not so very often anymore. And for the record, I’m not lazy, depressed, or just sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. I’m focusing on me and what I need (mostly quiet time) and making life adjustments for an easier-to-manage future.

Even though I’ve not enjoyed my job much lately (for many reasons I will not go into here), I feel guilty when I’m out because of my health. I know I shouldn’t. I should take care of me, but it’s hard to completely change a way of thinking overnight or even over a few months. I guess I’ll get over it some day.

In the meantime, I must continue punching MG in the face along with guilt and their sibling “yes.” You guys are causing me way too much grief!