The Ring Master, the Panic Elephant, the Doubt Lion, and the Rage Monkey

“In my age, as in my youth, night brings me many a deep remorse. I realize that from the cradle up I have been like the rest of the race–never quite sane in the night.” -Mark Twain, Mark Twain’s Autobiography

“Forgive me, Lisa. There’s a monster inside of me ” -Silent Hills Playable Trailer.

“Readers, friends, if you turn these pages
Put your prejudice aside,
For, really, there’s nothing here that’s outrageous,
Nothing sick, or bad — or contagious.
Not that I sit here glowing with pride
For my book: all you’ll find is laughter:
That’s all the glory my heart is after,
Seeing how sorrow eats you, defeats you.
I’d rather write about laughing than crying,
For laughter makes men human, and courageous.

BE HAPPY!” -Francois Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel

Imagine going to a circus.  No, I mean as an audience member… not as a circus member.  You see the ring master with his whip and chair.  He has his stereotypical top-hat, jacket, and striped pants.  Before him is a free lion, free elephant, and a caged monkey.  The master does look in control, doesn’t he?

But wait!  The lion, called the Doubt Lion, leaps at the master.  The master can sometimes hold the lion back with his whip and chair.  Sometimes, however, the lion succeeds in knocking the master down and pawing him around like a ball of yawn.  Always, the ring master gets back his chair and whip while regaining control over the lion.  The audience and ring master both breath a sigh of relief before cheering.

But wait again!  The elephant, called the Panic Elephant, has awoken and begins charging wildly about the arena.  The ring master does his best to get out of the way.  There’s no way to stop that elephant.  Sometimes, the master gets trampled.  He does get back up, but he is weary which gives the Doubt Lion an opportunity to pounce.  The ring master does regain his composure, yet it takes a good deal of time and energy to do so.

But wait yet again!  There’s a Rage Monkey in a cage (no rhyme intended) tearing at his bars.  That monkey has never escaped.  However, the ring master does fear, once in a while, that that monkey will escape and attack the audience should the ring master one day fail to keep the Panic Elephant and Doubt Lion at bay.

Are my metaphors effective and comprehensible?  I’ve tried many times to explain my anxiety problems in plain speech, yet it never comes out easily.  My logical, happy, and rational side is the ring master.  Doubt and panic are my constant opponents.  I can rationalize the doubt away many times, only for panic to set in.  For example, I doubt I will find a job that will make me happy and take care of my basic needs to live and thrive.  My rational self calmly explains that with time, patience, persistence, optimism, and networking, the job(s) will come.  Then, I panic and do something silly like applying for a job without checking my cover and resume properly or applying for a job I’m not really interested in or far outside my comfort zone.  We all have the Rage Monkey within us.  It depends from person-to-person whether he gets out easily or not.  Thankfully, I have the self-control to keep him caged, even with my struggles.

Years ago, I took anti-anxiety medication that helped.  However, I had problems with sleepiness and memory loss which, ironically, made it harder to relax.  It eventually started to lose it’s effects this year and I came off them under a doctor’s supervision.  No one wants to take medication, but I can honestly tell you it helped.  The doubt and panic have made a resurgence.  It will take some lifestyle changes, like cutting way back on caffeine, finding exercise time, socializing more with people, etc.  I may very well have to talk to the doctor again or see a counselor at some point.  Still, things are far better than the time before the medication.  I sincerely hope I’ve reached a manageable plateau.  When I’m out taking a class, working or volunteering, I feel so much better.  I feel worthwhile in learning new concepts, connecting with people, making people happy, and more.  If I can get out there more, I think those three animals will hibernate more.

However, it does bother me that I’m not “right” in my own mind.  I do enjoy solitude and working on my own, but then I’m overcome with panic and doubt even when I’m dedicated to putting something stressful out of my mind.  These struggles take time and energy away from me, and I need that energy to live and thrive.  How do I get my energy back?  How do I preserve it?  How do I get more?  These are important questions I’m trying to find out.  I’d honestly like to shoot that lion, elephant, and monkey, though I recognize that may not be possible.

It may seem like a weakness to admit having these mental issues.  It’s not.  Years ago, I read webcomic artist Mike “Gabe” Krahulik’s post regarding his anxiety battles.  It took about two years before I recalled that post and decided that a visit to the doctor was needed.  One of my relatives fought depression and supported my decision.  Just like Gabe, I was given anti-anxiety medication (though I was never given an official diagnosis).  Posts like Gabe’s and mine break down the stigma of mental illness and mental health problems.  We need more of these posts, not less.  I know Gabe has been a controversial figure, but I owe him one.

At least one or two my past posts were influenced by the Panic Elephant and the Doubt Lion.  Should you come across such posts of mine in the future written that way, you can understand why.  Don’t be afraid to tell me I’m being too negative.  I can be off-putting or standoffish sometimes, yet I never forget a kindness or a promise.  The strange thing is that some of the greatest writers, artists, and actors have had mental health problems and were able to make the greatest works in the world.  I try to write when I’m anxious or depressed, and I have a tough time writing anything.  Going forward, I’d rather write about happy subjects or even weird subjects.

To everyone with their own inner circus problems, I’ll quote the immortal comic Red Green and say “Remember, I’m pullin’ for ya.  We’re all in this together!”

 

Meta note:  Good news!  I’m using tags now to get a wider audience.  I should have been using them from the beginning.  D’oh!

 

 

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The Customer is Always Right

“The primary rule of business success is loyalty to your employer. That’s all right–as a theory. What is the matter with loyalty to yourself?” -Mark Twain


Four years as an undergraduate, less than three as an undergraduate college tutor, three years as a library science graduate student, an internship, and, now, the end of a year of web design college work.  Where am I?  Where should I be?  The answer to the latter is, according to society, something akin to an entry-level managerial role.  Perhaps a full-time librarian job?  Not that?  Perhaps full-time museum work since History is my other love (please don’t call it my “subject”)?  Working in a web design firm or doing major freelance work as a successful web developer?  Well, society would be wrong.  The former question, “Where am I?,” has an unsatisfying answer.

Like many thousands (millions?) of U.S. citizens, I am applying for any job I can.  Volunteering can be rewarding, and I do volunteer, but volunteering does not provide the money.  Again, like many people, I’m going for the entry-level retail jobs that tend to populate around the holiday season.  I’ve never applied for retail jobs before.  Librarian jobs tend to be government and education affiliated.  I know I made a few mistakes on the first two applications I sent.  “When can you work?,” says the online application.  “Oh, I can work anytime, but I’d like Saturdays off,” says I.  Oh!  I wish I could take that back!  One does not do that when going for retail job, particularly during the holiday season.  They want people to work weekends as those are the best times for customer sales.  I keep kicking myself for that lapse of judgment.  I have been more studious with subsequent applications.  “Yes!  I will work for you whenever you wish within legal limits!  Just give me this job!  I need this!”  You can’t exactly say that as you come across as too needy.  I worry about being perceived as desperate, though I really do need a job even if it isn’t the American Dream job I thought I would get.  Whether it’s a temporary or permanent job, I would work my hardest at whatever job or task given to me.  I would not have applied if I wasn’t dedicated to the chosen job.  I wish hiring managers would understand that.

Librarian work involves a great deal of customer service.  Retail workers and librarians share similar environments, though the former focuses more on products while the latter focuses more on service.  They both involve working with patrons/customers.  I hammer on this fact every time I can in my job applications.  I never worked retail, but I’ve done a similar job.  People would come up to me and ask for help finding information.  I would work with them to find that information, whether it’s in the library catalog, the online databases, or in the stacks.  Does that not ring some familiarity with retail work?

The most nerve-wracking, with some exceptions of humor, has been the online “pre-screen assessment” tests every retail store seems to love.  There’s a lot of multiple choice questions and you have to choose the answer that is “most appropriate according to you.”  They want you to be honest and many of the questions would, to a reasonable person, have multiple correct answers.  Unfortunately, all the questions have the precise “right” answer.  Many of the questions are about how you view yourself or how you think others view you.  How on earth can you know the “right” answer to such questions?  Are they really looking for the most perfect Type A personalities in the known universe?  I passed one, think I passed two others (they didn’t tell me if I passed), and I failed one (at least, it told me I failed, but after it crashed at least twice during my session).  I would advise patience in doing online retail applications as you will experience crashes that may or may not erase everything.  If you fail, you have to wait 60 days to create completely from scratch another application and take the test again.

One assessment did impress me with a virtual simulation.  I had to listen to customers and a supervisor give me information and respond with choices.  In many cases, I had to input information in a mock website or inventory sheet while being interrupted by customers, managers, and co-workers.  Some activities required me to listen intently to key information in order to input the information and ensure the customer would not have to repeat his/her self or otherwise there would be dire consequences.  I had to prioritize and get stuff done while being respectful to everyone and trying to make everyone happy.  The virtual simulations, I think, should replace the multiple choice questions.  I knew I had to be completely engaged and it give me the feeling of actually being in those real-life situations.  I felt tense in the tense situations, and happy in the light-hearted situations.  It was as close the real thing as you could get!

Unfortunately, in one scenario, an irate customer wanted me to hurry up and get his product that he had ordered for pickup.  I, of course, went to the store database to find it and he pointed out the item in question from my screen.  His pickup item, however, was unavailable and I asked him to wait while I figured out from the database what was going on.  He was getting hopping mad when another customer came running up to me wanting to ask a quick question.  This brought up a menu with choices I had to rate by an effectiveness score while also choosing the best answer to solve the dilemma.  I politely asked the second customer to wait while I flagged down a co-worker who could help her while I helped the first customer.  Well, the second customer interjected “But it’s a just a quick question!” which resulted in the first customer yelling at the second customer to wait her turn.  The second customer responded with a tense “But it’s just a quick question!”  Mentally, if this were a real situation, I would be thinking “S–t just got real!” and “Do I need find a place to hide and avoid being nailed and/or shot?”  New choices came up with an effectiveness scale and I chose the “Please, I am working to help both of you!” or something to that effect.  That eventually resulted in the simulation calling in the manager.  I’m thinking it was a Kobayashi Maru scenario with no answer, though I could be wrong.  No answer I could give to the second customer could have pleased the first customer since he demanded my full, undivided attention or he would “cancel his order” and, I assume, never shop there again.  I couldn’t be rude to the second customer or she would never shop there again.  Maybe it was a test of my personality in a tense situation?  Given the Black Friday madness, I’m not surprised they would have such virtual scenarios.

Anyway, back I go.  I wonder when the recruiters will call me in the next 6o days?  Will they call at all?

Basset Hound Christianity (Part 3): The Old Man, The Cabin, and The Bear

Basset Hound Christianity is a series of sometimes random, sometimes coherent personal views of mine on Christianity.


“No one is without Christianity, if we agree on what we mean by that word. It is every individual’s individual code of behavior by means of which he makes himself a better human being than his nature wants to be, if he followed his nature only. Whatever its symbol – cross or crescent or whatever – that symbol is man’s reminder of his duty inside the human race.”  -William Faulkner, Paris Review (1956).


Years ago, one of my relatives gave me a quiz he learned from his college religion class.  I can’t recall the entire quiz, though the parts on religion stuck out for me.  I’m sure that someone out there has taken this quiz before.  I may be missing exact details, so feel free to correct me if I err.  I err often.

You come to a cabin in the woods.  A person is sitting on the porch.  Describe the person and your encounter.

The person is a very old man sitting in a rocking chair.  I stare at him.  He stares at me, but makes no movement.  I speak and he says nothing.  He is indifferent to me.

Step into the cabin.  Describe the cabin.

It is a very simple, warm, and cozy log cabin.  It has all the necessary comforts for one or two people to live in.

You leave the cabin and come down a path.  [I’m fairly certain I was asked to describe the path, but I can’t recall anything about it.]  A bear appears.  Describe the bear and its actions.

The grizzly bear stands up menacingly on its hind legs.  He makes one roar, but then looks at me silently.  He gets back on all fours, shrugs his shoulders, and returns to the woods.  The whole time I just stare calmly at the bear.

 

Now, according to my relative, I actually just described my relationship with Christianity.  The Old Man is God, the cabin is Heaven, and the bear is Jesus Christ.  I suppose I visualize God as a Condescending Wonka  (Not really “condescending,” just indifferent.)  The cabin as Heaven sounds acceptable.  I took this quiz in eighth grade, and I am impressed how I thought of a simple cabin as akin to Heaven.  The bear as Jesus Christ seems like the Condescending Wonka Dog (again, not really “condescending,” just indifferent.).  It wasn’t meant to be a completely accurate test, but, looking back years later, I’m amazed how it would eventually reflect my view on Christianity.  God as Old Man I can understand as Christian Deists might view God and the cozy cabin as Heaven is something many could relate.  But the 7-ft tall grizzly bear with sharp claws pretending to be mighty, but quickly deciding to just go back into woods to rethink his life is Jesus Christ, the Christian Messiah?  I got nothing.  I’m not a Catholic nor do I know much of its imagery, but apparently the bear could either be Persia or St. Euphemia… which makes things far more complicated.

I can’t do anything about the Old Man or the bear, but I think I can build that cabin.