So, I have been retired from employment with the Federal Government after 28 years of service (not including military time) since October of 2018. Before my retirement I witnessed firsthand a plethora of atrocities against employees at the hands of less than honorable management staff in the South Florida area. Mainly during my employment with the Social Security Administration, hearing office in Miami, Florida from September of 2010 to my retirement last October.
Since my retirement I have been mulling over these incidents repeatedly in my head. Sort of like someone with PTSD will relive moment of trauma. I started and stopped and started again to write down my experiences in effort to purge myself of them. This time, unemployed, recently diagnosed with breast cancer and feeling as though I have nothing more to lose; here we are today.
I can honestly say the years I lived in South Florida were the worst I have experienced living anywhere. Not just because of the high cost of living and the overt racism and class-ism, but because the working conditions at the Miami hearing office were the worst out of the other five hearing offices around the Country I worked, that I had ever seen. What those employees, including myself endured daily, at the hands of onsite frequently hostile management and, with the approval of the regional office management was nothing short of deplorable. And now, I am going to tell my story. Uncut….
I’m not going to change any names. I won’t list last names to protect privacy but, these are MY experiences. And I have a right to speak on them. To tell my story. Which unfortunately mimics the stories of others who are still employed by that Agency and can not speak for fear of reprisal. Reprisal that runs rampant at the least offence.
If my introduction seems harsh and over dramatic, I ask for no forgiveness. These are REAL experiences. Documented experiences. And, none the less truthful experiences. I lived through these experiences with all their dramatic and traumatizing affects. Facing cancer and cancer treatment, I have to purge. As a private citizen, I can and I will.
This morning I find myself unable to sleep sipping cold water and listening to Ambrosia (The anthology) with the song “How Much I Feel” on inescapably on repeat. Inescapably….Like the song, that word is binding me. I can’t escape my Blood Moon Sunday 2019 experiences. Not the physical ones, the emotional ones and, their psychological effects.
Unlike everyone else, I had no desire to view the Blood Moon. I was back in South Florida visiting friends and really didn’t and don’t understand the excitement behind it. But, I felt it. Yes, I know I’m rambling. I’m getting there….wait for it.
One particular friend I was overly excited to spend time with. We dated while I lived in Florida. We argued and disagreed while I lived in Florida. And, I closed him out and added his headstone to the already overcrowded backyard in my memory (Short story; I’ll write about it on a later date. Just know my cutoff game is swift). Still there was something in the air it seemed, calling my soul to see him this weekend. And our schedules managed to sync on Blood Moon Sunday 2019.
Now, let me clarify something. I’m single, There are some men from my past I prefer not to entertain for any reason what so ever. But not this one. I can’t shake him from my Spirit. I need to see him each and every time I visit S. Florida. I can’t even try to explain why because there were so many discrepancies in our situation that I can’t even define it as a relationship. As far as I know, my friend is single. I haven’t asked. I don’t want to give him a reason to lie to me. Lies are the deal breaker with me. As the saying goes, “scratch a liar, catch a thief…”. Even the simplest lie will have me questioning everything you say to me from that point on. Trust ain’t an easy thang….
“I don’t know how This whole business started Of you thinkin’ that I had been untrue”
Late Sunday evening the air was cool and thick in Fort Lauderdale. From the moment he let me know he was on his way to see me it felt like I was inhaling and exhaling ice cold fresh milk. At the same time I was sweating. Not profusely. Just slightly, across the forehead. My body temperature was rising. Gone was my normally cool composure. I was excited. And like the Pointer Sisters so energetically put it “I’m about to lose control and I think I like it, I’m so excited . And I just can’t hide it.”. At this moment is the only way I could explain what I was feeling. But, as I write this, it’s Ambrosia and, “How Much I Feel”, supplying the fuel for my curren’t unorganized thoughts.
Me and my music. My music and me. It controls me, it consumes me, engulfs me…The Music in Me...
“Oh no, I’d give it all and Then I’d, give some more If you would only love me Like you had before”
When he finally arrived I was able to pull myself together and feign a bit of composure. I didn’t immediately jump his bones (the thought was there intertwined with the sweat condensing on my forehead). I managed a well controlled hug. Then it happened. I felt the moon being overshadowed by the earth. The air was so thick. My friend, slowly, gently, almost innocently kissed my sweaty forehead then my lips before pulling from our embrace. Two days later the air is still thick. And, I am not in control of my emotions.
“Oh, take hold of my hand And all will be forgiven…”
Photo Credit Ruslan Grigoriev and 123rf.com
The kisses didn’t stop with the end of our embrace. My friend showered me with kisses in between conversation and ummm, congress and well after, until I felt myself falling asleep. Can you imagine the intensity of being softly kissed to sleep? Before Blood Moon Sunday 2019, I couldn’t. Now I can’t shake it and I am not used to not being in control. I can’t sleep. So, I listen to music and, I write….
“Oh no, there’s just something That I got to say Sometimes when we make love I still can see your face Ooh, just try to recall When we were as one, yeah”
He missed me. I missed him. We missed us. The Blood Moon and it magnetic forces were in control, consuming us. And now I am believer. Although, I still don’t know what to do about the plethora of intense emotions left in its wake.
I have a 6:30am flight in a few hours back to my grandchildren in Virginia. I’ll have plenty of time to think about what I will say to him during our next phone call. And, hopefully, the power of the Blood Moon will still have a strong hold over us when I come back to visit next month. Power strong enough to last until the next Blood Moon. Those moments had intensity I need to relive over and over again because, I never want to forget.
“That’s how much I feel Feel for you baby How much I need I need your touch How much I live I live for your lovin’ That’s how much That’s how much That’s how much
That’s how much…”
I woke up this morning to an ice cold apartment. The power was off! And, I was officially a part of the storm of the century that has taken over the awareness of the east coast in the past 36 hours. No power = no heat and ultimately, no fun. No lap top, no mp3 player, no stereo, no television. All I could do was read. So, I picked up a book and tried to entertain myself. Or should I say distract myself from the fact that there were limitations placed on what I could do verses what I wanted to do, and when I wanted to do it.
I didn’t realize how much I depended on electricity to escape constant boredom. In fact, I often criticized my children for not being able to entertain themselves during brief power outages in the past. “Read a book”, I would tell them.
Even as early as yesterday, after watching the local and regional news, I ridiculed the masses for behaving in what I thought was a ridiculous, panic stricken madness by mobbing grocery, and liquor stores; leaving shelves empty of basic food items that “I” thought should have already been stocked in a home.
Karma isn’t as complex as some would like it to seem…and I just had a dose of it disguised as a “reality check”. Hello, my name is The1Essence, and I am an electricity junkie.
My book reading lasted all of 30 minutes before hunger pains reminded me to eat. I had planned a nice warm breakfast of French toast this morning but, even though I have a gas stove and could bypass the electric pilot light with a simple match, the kitchen was dark.
With no windows in the kitchen to provide natural light, I was forced to light candles to see what I was doing. That didn’t last long. I abandoned the French toast idea out of sure frustration. Not because I couldn’t complete my task but, because I didn’t want to without any light from the overhead fixture. Panic began to set in as I wondered if the power company knew the electricity was out in this area.
I looked out of the window, scanning the apartment complex to see if it was just my power that was out (paranoia is one symptom of addiction). I was relieved when I saw that others had opened blinds and curtains to let some natural light in. But, I called the Dominion Power anyway. I had to know the “estimated” time of power restoration. The hotline said power should be restored in my area by 5pm; it was now 8:45am. What in the world I do until then? And, what “if” the power was not back on by then? And most importantly, the three pints of Ben & Jerry’s (pistachio and two pints of Berried Treasure) would definitely be reduced to a soupy mess by then! Panic was taking over…I need my “fix” of electricity and I had made up my mind! I was going to find a hotel.
To do that I had to shovel my truck from under 20 inches of snow. I bundled up in my Packer coat, baseball cap and grabbed the shovel, being mindful to remember my cell phone so I could charge it in the car while I cleaned it.
The snow was wet and heavy, unlike the snow from a few weeks ago that was light and fluffy. I had a time moving it! I’m not exactly a “little” woman but, I am not the most athletic. Plus, underneath 19 inch of snow was an inch of ice. So, I had to remove the snow in layers then chop the ice underneath to clear a path around and behind the truck. Then it was time to clear the snow off of the truck! An hour and a half later I was an exhausted, overheated, sweaty mess! But, armed with a fully charged cell phone I was still completed motivated to find a hotel. Inside, the power was still off. But, I couldn’t just pack and run out of the house. My clothes were soaked from sweat so, I had to shower first.
I showered until the hot water ran out then jumped in a pair of sweats and my Wisconsin hooded sweat shirt, threw a few personal items in an overnight bag, packed my lap top and mp3 player, their respective chargers and a few DVDs and prepared to put my four wheel drive to use when the phone rang. It was the “Best Cousin in the World”, Lisa.
Lisa’s mom had a couple of questions for me regarding tax preparation. I informed Lisa of my circumstance and took a tongue lashing from her mom who felt the weather in Virginia was just as bad as in Wisconsin so I might as well just pack up and move back where if “something” happened I would have family near.
“I can’t”, I quipped, “the airports are closed as well as the highways”!
Before she could render me speechless for being a smart ass, the power popped on! All I did for the next five minutes was scream “Thank you Jesus”! Oh, and I accidentally hung up on Lisa.
Next, I ran to the fridge to check on my Ben & Jerry’s. It was fine! I grabbed a spoon and devoured the entire pint of pistachio! I even had the nerve to wrap myself in a blanket while eating it, with the heat blasting in the background, and I settled myself down to enjoy an afternoon of vampire movies! Geeezzzeee, the things we take for granted!
I watched Twilight and the first Underworld movie when I decided that it was time for that French toast. I had just dropped the toast into the skillet when as fate would have it the lights flickered and the power went out again! Luckily for me the stove is gas powered! I scrambled around for candles and saved the toast. Since it was still light outside, I grabbed the book I tried to read earlier and settled my nerves by thinking it wouldn’t be long until the power came back on. Five hours later it was still off and I was going through withdrawals! My cell battery was low, my lap top was battery was dead and I was starting to shiver! I pulled together some blankets and bedded down on the couch preparing for a restless sleep.
Just as I drifted off I heard the furnace click on and then fire up! After six long hours without electricity I was once again with power! Now, I’m turning everything off (except the heat) and going to bed. It’s been a long day for this self proclaimed “electricity junkie”!
When I was a small child, around 5 or 6 years of age, I had a good friend named Paula who lived next door to me. Every day I would rush through homework and chores so that I could get outside and play with her.
Paula liked to play house. Since I was a couple of years younger than her, I played what Paula wanted to play and always by her rules. She was the “momma” and I was the “daddy”. Paula always started off our game really nice. She would pretend to take care of the kids and I would pretend to be off at somewhere at work and, Paula would call me often on our pretend telephones to tell me what was going on with her day at home with the kids. Really, Paula called a lot! So much so, that later, in my adult life I would take pains not to call my husband at work with trivial things.
Our “house” game always ended the same way. After a day at “work”, I would come home to Paula nagging and complaining about how hard it had been on her while I was at work and she was at home taking care of our make believe children. Being a child myself and not being exposed to parents who constantly bickered, I had no idea how to respond to this part of the game so, I sat and listened to her for a while, then I would end the game by telling her I had to go. With my utterance of the word “leave”, Paula would beg and plead with me to stay outside and play, always promising to be play “nicer” and I would stay. Of course, to my frustration, it didn’t take long for Paula to be mean and nagging again.
After one particularly tedious game of “house”, I dismissed myself and went inside to ask my mother what I should do. Mom sat across from me at the kitchen table with her head resting on one hand and listened quietly while I finished blurting out my concerns. When she was sure I was finished talking she responded. This is how the conversation went:
Mom: “Do you want to play “house” with Paula anymore?”
Mom: “Why not?”
Me: “Because it’s not fun when she starts complaining and being mean.”
Mom: “Have you discussed this with Paula?”
Me: “Yes, Ma’am! And, she always promises to be nice but, doesn’t keep her promise.”
Mom: “Well, what do you think you should do?”
Me: “I don’t want to play “house” with her anymore?”
Mom: “Have you told Paula this?”
Me: “No! She might get mad and want to fight me. Then, we wouldn’t be friends anymore.”
Mom: “Well, are you really friends if the only games you can play together are one’s that she picks out, and where she gets to be mean to you?”
Me: No Answer. I was thinking. My mom had taught me to be a very rational young lady.
Mom: “Baby Girl. If you are not happy playing games the way Paula wants to play them and, she won’t listen to you when you tell her how you feel about it, I ask you again, is she really your friend? You don’t have to answer that right now. I know you will think about it and come to a decision that will be good for you.”
In the mind of a 5 or 6-year-old, you friends are everything. Needless to say, I didn’t take
me long to figure out what to do.
The next day, when Paula suggested we play house I flat out told her I wasn’t playing
house with her anymore. She protested and issued an ultimatum. If I didn’t play house
with her then I could just forget about us being friends!
Needless to say, I didn’t protest that one. I turned my little behind around and walked away. I didn’t play “house” or anything else with Paula after that. Something told my little mind that she really wasn’t my friend and that she played with me only because she could boss me around.
When I became an adult in a tumultuous relationship, I felt I loved this man but I was so
unhappy. One day I was staring out the window, trying to figure out what do when this
the memory of Paula and the way she “played house” came to mind.
The next time my boyfriend and I were together, I tried to talk to him about the way I felt about what was going on in our relationship. His responses were short and accusatory. It was my fault because I didn’t listen or, thought I knew everything. His opinion was, that I was a good catch and that, everything would be alright if I just did what he told me to do. And, you know what I did? I tried to do everything he asked me to when he asked and as fast as I could do it!
Only things didn’t get better. They got worse. His demands became greater and he was never satisfied with anything I did. There was always a problem with me. It got so bad for me in our relationship that I didn’t smile or laugh anymore. Everyone who knows me knows how much I loved to do both. But, I couldn’t when he was around. He would always make some negative comment that would soon turn my smile into a frown. And, I would go somewhere pouting, unhappy and feeling sorry for myself…and he would be happy.
No, really! He would be happy when he saw me unhappy! That’s when he wanted to talk about all these things that didn’t mean anything to me or have anything to do with us. As long as I was quiet and pouting, he was in his glory. I was playing “house” with Paula all over again! But, this time, I didn’t need my mother to push me in the right direction. I knew exactly what I had to do. And, that wasn’t talk. In the words of my Grandmother, “I can show you better than I can tell you”!
First, I stopped taking his calls. So, he began to send me emails and text messages constantly. You know the one that always start with “Baby” something, swim around “I need you”, and end with “I love you”? I didn’t answer any of them either.
I won’t tell you it was easy because, it was just the opposite. I threw myself into my writing to help ease the pain of loneliness. But, even with that, I perceived him as the victor. And, I couldn’t let him win. I had a God given right to happiness. And so, do you….
In learning to love this man from a distance, I began on the wonderful journey of not only learning to love myself but learning myself…Learning just who The1Essence is and cultivating a metamorphism into a beautiful butterfly. Still, it wasn’t easy. Accepting that you don’t truly love yourself is not an easy thing to do. It takes patience, tolerance, Faith and STRENGTH. And, I am still on that journey. But, ALWAYS better than I was yesterday.
And….my cut-off game is swift…
You have it in you too…I know you do because I was once you and, I believe in YOU….
“The hardest thing about life is learning how to live”! – The1Essence
I thought I would write. But, I didn’t. I just knew all the words I have been holding in would gush out through my fingers. But, they didn’t.
I sat around the house, made a few phone calls, sent a few text, made a few Facebook posts. Nothing of substance beyond a much needed well deserved vegetative trance.
Then, a song popped into my head. I stopped breathing for just a moment. The rush of feelings accompanied by an overwhelming urge to breathe overcame me. I didn’t breathe. I didn’t exhale. I wanted to hold all those memories in and not share with anyone. I wanted to bathe in them with hopes they would send me back to those memories. Back to those good and bad times. Back to when life still smelled like fresh cut grass and sweet clover. Back to when the headlights of my mother’s car made the snow look like an endless a field of diamonds. I held my breath to hold in the sweetness. To hold in the love.
The song and the woman’s voice transfixed me. The sound of an angel bypassing my ears and speaking to my heart. I stared out the window, pinning myself to the window frame so no air could escape past me into the wind making my love disappear back to the past, never to be smelled, never to be felt again.
I needed to hear the song coming through the speakers on my laptop. So, I allowed myself to take and release sips of air while I searched. My mind was in overdrive trying to hold on to the memories and find the song. I found it on youtube. I took a few more sips of air and let a few more out.
I found a video taped performance not just the song with the words scrolling up the screen, to bore me, clicked the play button and inhaled like I was smoking a freshly lit Newport.
I glanced at the performers hair and clothing. Their attire adding to the aroma. I filled my lungs with the 70’s closed my eyes and exhaled a field of sweet clover.
Summertime in the 70’s as a child flowed out my nostrils. Long car rides at night with my mom. Pringles with my cousin on the porch of my Grandmother’s 7th and Greenbay Ave., home in Milwaukee, I-43 not more than 50 feet away, humming with happy adults coming and going. Living……
I was a child again, still innocent. Bouncing to Antioch Missionary Baptist Church on 20th and Atkinson to fellowship with my entire family. Back to when my biggest worry was if Grandmother would buy me a cheeseburger and fries from McDonalds. Yeast from the bread factory filled the air around the Hillside Projects where my Great Grandmother lived. Grass was green without sod and people loved each other. The song proved this. Nothing so perfect could come from a negative era in history.
I exhaled then inhaled a songbird. I was engulfed with a simpler way of life. I was so innocent. I didn’t know anything about racism. In my world Christian’s didn’t hate. Jim Jones was pure evil still, people eventually found a way to forgive him. Terror was my Mom picking me up from Grandmother’s house before I could inhale more fun. This melody, now playing in my head, heart and mind filled me with love and once again I was innocent. And Alive….And happy.
The song was coming to an end. I wanted to hit repeat but I didn’t. I inhaled deeply once more then let the memories flow into the cool breeze, with complete understanding that all I had to do was push play again and I could go back….
I exhaled “Close To You”, by The Carpenters then sat down and wrote a blog about music….
My goodness. I’m so close….But, my South Florida PTSD has kicked and i’m nauseated. When I lived in South Florida, everything that could go wrong did. Mostly stemming from my job. So, i’m just trying to stay low key and deal with the anxiety until 3pm Friday afternoon. Retirement will be grand!
I honestly can’t wait to put down my 10 years of experience in South Florida on the blog. There truly need to be some changes made. I hope the right person wins the Governor’s race because the anxiety level so high there. It’s a tense situation. It’s beautiful there but most families struggle to make ends meet. And the racism….SMH
Well, my lunch break is over. Let me get back to work before I get a screenshot of something i’m not doing…I think I can take time tonight to blog about South Florida’s housing crisis.