Practicing the Art of Self-Worth (Part One)
If you are one who has never wrestled with low self-esteem, and if you’ve never felt unworthy or even felt a little less worthy than others, the topic of discussion in the following blog entry may seem trivial, and quite possibly, utterly meaningless. As such, it may be frustrating to read this in its tediousness. If it annoys you or you simply cannot relate to it, then it must mean that it isn’t time for you to read it, or at least not in this moment it isn’t. You are always free to surf away to another site, as I’m sure you are aware. The freedom of expression that I enjoy as being the sole author on this site is, in my own estimation, earned by being honest with myself and you all. So, this journal entry is where I intend to earn some of that freedom.
There were two separate occurrences that arose during the past week and each of them pointed directly to my continuing struggles with self-worth. I’ll only be discussing one of the two situations in detail on this blog, because the other one involves personal family matters, and therefore, private relationships. The peculiar thing is, that the family issue that happened later in the week, pointed to how far I’ve come on the journey toward healthy self-esteem and the other one, at the beginning of the week, showed me how far I have yet to go. Due, in part, to my history of painful experiences in dealing with self-worth issues, I’ve apparently adopted the automatic expectation that the events should have transpired the other way around. In other words, first would come the uplifting circumstance, and after that would come a lesson in humility to knock me down a couple of notches. Put me in my rightful place, so to speak. I’m beginning to understand that humility and self-esteem are not mutually exclusive, though. A person can have a high and healthy self-esteem, while also being humble in spirit, thus feeling no better and no worse than anyone else.
Let’s back up to early last week. I started a new job last Monday as a second shift employee in a local warehouse. I arrived on time at 3:30 PM, because I’ve been conditioned to believe that promptness demonstrates overall integrity and an upstanding work ethic. Being prompt is also a courtesy that I asked for from the people that I employed at Moore Art Expressions. More often than not, I didn’t have to say anything about being on time though, because we had so much fun being there and being creative, that most employees preferred to come in early and leave late. At least, that’s the way I remember it. And yes, I am allowing myself that short digression. Now, back to last Monday. I was having some serious misgivings about accepting the warehouse job during the hours and days before I walked into the building, but I chalked that up to dreading the actual labor and fearing that I was too old to handle such a strenuous job. I am about to be fifty-nine years young, after all. In the past several months, I’ve remained focused on eating well and stretching and exercising daily, and as a result I’ve been feeling better physically than I have in the last decade. As I am writing this down tonight, I can see where my dread and fear were not only well founded, but more precisely they were intuitively realistic. The job description online didn’t attempt to gloss over any of the gory details of the work, so I knew reasonably well what to expect. I would be unloading boxes by hand from overseas containers, some in excess of 50-75 lbs., and loading them on to a conveyor belt in a non-climate-controlled environment. Many of you may be wondering whether I’ve lost my mind. Wondering why I would accept a menial labor job like this, especially considering the expertise I’ve attained in the molding and sculpture casting industry. As it often seems to be, the answer to that question is complicated, so I’ll come back around to it after describing what happened next.
Monday, my first night working at the warehouse, went fairly well, all things considered. The air inside the shipping containers was much hotter and more humid than I expected. The hot sun of the Savannah daytime hours had really settled in on the interior of the steel box, and the seawater that had seeped its way inside and saturated many of the cardboard boxes had no place to evaporate to, so as soon as I started moving, I started sweating. I kept moving. I was trying to pace myself, but I was also trying to prove myself. The conveyor belt was demanding to be fed and I kept feeding it. I unloaded 1,400 boxes to empty the first 40-foot container in about three hours. There were many times during the first load that I needed to cool my body and hydrate, so I walked outside the box and just inside the warehouse to take 30 second breathers. It was still very hot inside the warehouse, but rather than 110 degrees Fahrenheit it was more like 90. I finished off the shift on Monday moving from one container to the next, sometimes with help from coworkers when the boxes were oversized or heavy, and sometimes moving them on my own, until at last, the midnight hour arrived. I drove home for some highly anticipated sleep.
I returned on Tuesday afternoon, a little bit tired but still determined to prove my physical abilities to the team. As I got busy moving boxes, I had to keep reminding myself of the lessons I’ve learned over the course of thirty years in the blue-collar workforce. Lessons learned about keeping a reasonable pace no matter how fast others appear to be moving; about not comparing myself to others around me, they have their strengths and shortcomings just as I do; about not needing to prove myself to anyone other than myself; and most important of all, about taking breaks as often as you need to when you’re performing strenuous work in extreme temperatures. All of these thoughts were running through my mind, but my body seemed to have a different strategy it was running with regardless of my mind’s considerations. My body continued to lift and release boxes onto the conveyor belt. As many of you may have already surmised, I was soon overcome by heat exhaustion. My head was spinning, and I nearly passed out a number of times before they rang the bell for lunch break. I ate a little bit of food, but it tasted like poison, so I stopped eating and lay down on the picnic table bench for the remainder of the break. When my thirty minutes were up, I went right back to unloading the container where I had left off. Looking back on this it seems like complete foolishness. I was already having all of the symptoms of heat exhaustion and the potential of dying from heatstroke was growing more likely by the moment. I would like to report that I informed the warehouse managers of my condition and then I went home for the rest of the evening, but I did not. I would also like to tell you that I didn’t understand what was happening to me; that I did not know about heat exhaustion or the type of symptoms one might experience when they’re suffering from it. I would be lying to you all, if I made those false claims. Having worked in southwest Florida in extreme heat conditions for over a decade, I am fully aware of the symptoms and potential health risks that come along with heat exhaustion. Even having all this first-hand knowledge, I continued working hard until midnight and went home to get some rest.
I suppose this is a good place to end the narrative for today. Tomorrow, I’ll finish the story and explain why this incident and the other one involving my family were not only interrelated, but they seemed to be fully entwined, and together they rang out a resounding wakeup call to my body, mind and spirit.
My current feelings about the top two images – The top one was taken during the peak of our successful times at Moore Art Expressions. I had nine team members working with me to help raise us to that level, so I always felt a bit uneasy about being the public spokesperson when the media asked for an interview. As for the second photo – I swear to you, it was the photographer’s idea! I would have never agreed to it if he didn’t suggest that I might become endowed with superpowers following the shoot! In all seriousness though, I look back on those times with sincere gratitude and appreciation for all the good times we experienced together in the MAE studio!