During the second night of my new job in the warehouse, I crossed the threshold of being a dedicated company employee and passed deep into the territory of being a foolish steward of my own sacred temple (body). I was now suffering from heat exhaustion. When I left the warehouse last Tuesday at midnight, I remember thinking I would be okay, everything would be okay, I just need to get home and get a good night’s sleep. Well, it didn’t turn out that way. When I crawled into bed after a cool shower, I was so disoriented, nauseous and dehydrated that I never really had a chance at getting even a few hours of sound and restful sleep. Instead, I just kept rolling around, trying to find the magic position that would ease the throbbing in my overheated head and body. I barely slept that night. On Wednesday I tried to recuperate some energy and hydration by drinking as much water and electrolyte sports drinks as I could stomach. Having cut way back on my sugar intake during the past few years, I needed to seek out something other than Gatorade or any of its overly sweet sports drink lookalikes. I’ve learned quite a bit recently about how to take care of my physical health, and that makes last week’s unhealthy decisions even more upsetting. I should not have gone in on Wednesday night, but again, I did.
When I arrived at work on Wednesday, I was well prepared with lots of water and energy drinks, pain medications, and the types of food that my intuition told me I could handle without feeling nauseous. But the one thing that really made a difference was that my outlook and attitude had changed between the moment I fell into bed the previous night and 3:30 PM the following day. Somewhere during those hours, I saw through the conditioned insanity of my wage worker mindset. I had been trying to prove myself to the company and all of my new coworkers, and I’d even been trying to prove to myself that I still possessed the physical prowess I once had, and meanwhile I had somehow forgotten to take care of the physical body that I had been using like a machine to try to prove myself. I am so grateful to be able to recognize the madness in some of my behaviors these days. It took me many years to see with any kind of clarity, the dysfunctional and self-defeating qualities of my own actions and intentions. For me, it has always been extremely helpful to write through the issues I’m up against, so once they are laid out before me, I can pour over them, looking for the moment where my thoughts began to lead me astray. I have almost entirely recovered as I’m writing this today. I’m still feeling some lingering adverse effects from the partially self-inflicted illness which came on a week ago. It looks as though I’ll be continuing on down the winding pathway in this wonderful journey, we call life!
To finish off this exploration into the irrationalities of my own self-defeating behaviors, I would like to make an attempt to move to a higher level of self-care. I’ll do this by touching on the other situation that happened toward the end of last week (the one involving family). Here’s the gist of it. A member of my family, someone that I’ve grown to love and respect, made a series of unhealthy choices and ended up in the hospital. It was a motor vehicle accident. As you would expect, there were attempts at denial and the shifting of blame by this family member, even from the hospital bed, but it was obvious to everyone around this person, that the bulk of the responsibility for what happened was on their shoulders alone. How does this relate to my story about suffering from heat exhaustion? Because we both knew in our hearts that we were making these unhealthy choices, and yet we made them anyway. We can offer ourselves as much self-worth as we want. We can tell ourselves that we are as worthy as anyone else. We can even fool ourselves into believing that we are more worthy than others. But at the end of each moment, we can only accept the amount of self-worth that we’re feeling we deserve.
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!