Disappointments


Yesterday, after 12 weeks of being on strike, I went back to work. Actually, I went in on Sunday for half a day. HR had called on Saturday informing me that I was going to act as the head of my department until the new guy comes towards the end of November, and that I was invited to attend a managers/supervisors meeting on Sunday that gave direction on what the priorities are and how to prepare for opening to the public.

The meeting was professionally conducted, but the tone with which management spoke was subdued, quiet, even contrite, if I may say so. A few people returning to work presented themselves neutrally or with some excitement to get back to work, but most others wore grim, black expressions on their faces, smouldering silently. The room was thick with tension and distrust.

I suppose this state of things is only natural given how long the strike went on for and all the negative effects that came out from that. There is a lot of healing needed for employer-employee relations, and even among union members. Last Friday, when I learned that my union ratified the 2nd deal, I burst into tears, feeling absolutely conflicted about going back to work and letting the full impact of feeling helpless hit me in a way that I had managed to avoid the past three months.

Here are some things I learned while being on a lengthy strike:

  • it is undignifying NOT to be able to work. After two weeks into it, my sense of worth and purpose became threatened in a way I had not expected. While I like my job a lot, I thought I had a pretty good handle on not letting my life revolve around my work. But the strike revealed to me that a good part of myself needs to be productive and to know that I am contributing to society in some way.
  • people are incredibly generous and resilient in a time of trial. The members of my union showed me this by the way we shared resources, encouraged each other on the picket line, and participated in creative, community-building activities while on strike duty. I got to know a lot of my co-workers more personally while we picketed together. I felt very blessed by their openness to me to being known.
  • I have options with what to do with my life. Prior to the strike, I had gotten into a comfortable (and in hindsight, unfulfilling) rut in the routine of my life. There have been some things I have been wanting to pursue (like go back to school) but have not had the courage to make the necessary and radical changes in my life to really pursue them.
  • I can handle the stress and discomfort of living on very limited financial means. I’m not saying that I enjoy going into debt or anything sadistic like that, but I did learn to live on very little and came to appreciate the generosity of my family and close friends. God provided the necessities, just at the right time. But having said all that, I really hate being in debt. I still can’t believe that I’ve lost a quarter of my wages this year.
  • I am still marketable.
  • I can still give, even if I have very little.
  • How to increase and decrease in knitting.
  • That many of my co-workers love to play Scrabble and play it very well.

Okay, that’s all for now. I could go on.

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Gosh, where do I begin? Without making this post a gripe-fest?

Okay, let’s be descriptive for starters: I have been on strike for over seven weeks–one month and 22 days to be exact. Every week, I put in a minimum of 20 hours of picketing to qualify for a maximum of $250 of strike pay. What I do on the picket line depends on the picketing site. At the downtown branch, I try to walk for two-thirds of my shift, and spend the rest sitting down. While I walk, I usually take the opportunity catching up with or getting to know co-workers. When I sit, I either join in on a conversation, read, or knit. Sometimes, I will sign up for sitting at the registration or public information table to inform the public about what our issues are and what the media is not reporting.

Typically, a picketing shift is four hours. We are allowed to do two shifts (i.e. eight hours) a day. I prefer not to picket outdoors for an entire day, so I either will picket only for half a day or put in hours at strike HQ to help with administrative duties. Picketing is exhausting. Being exposed to the sun and wind saps more energy than one might think. My approach to filling my hours is to pace myself because I can’t afford to get sick or injured.

Essentials for a picketing shift: small backpack, water, sunscreen, walking shoes, windbreaker, something warm to wear, lip protection, portable time-passer (book, yarn/needles), snacks, sunglasses, cap, positive spirit (though that’s not always possible to procure). I can’t seem to get the hang of how much water to drink. Am often dehydrated.

I live extremely close to a branch (a minute’s walk), and fortunately for me, union members decided to establish a picketing site there a few weeks ago. So I’ve been picketing there as well. There isn’t much space to walk because branch is part of a mall and we are careful not to obstruct entrances to other businesses. I’ve been doing 20-40% of my hours there. Typically, I will read, knit, converse, or play Scrabble there. Occasionally, I will solicit signatures for a petition addressed to the City to end the civic strike by bargaining in good faith (which the City has NOT been doing).

Okay, better stop for now. I can feel my heart beating faster and my blood pressure starting to rise. When I calm down, I’ll be writing about some things I’ve learned from the past couple months. Isn’t that the point of living through hard times?

I’m suffering an unusual amount of internal pain these days, both physically and emotionally. I’ve been sick for about 2 weeks now … can’t seem to rid myself of this persistent cough. Also, I am living through some pretty big changes in my life. My workplace has been Head-less since late April, and the congregation I’m part of has recently become pastor-less. Both of these situations means more work for me which, I suppose, is only a natural consequence of change, and of course, duty calls. But I also sense the spirit of resentment creeping up on me because much of what I am doing these days feels merely like maintenance, rather than working towards a vision. These days, I am unsure of what my life is about, how best to direct my time and energy, and why I do what I do. Somehow, I seem to have lost focus or purpose in my life.

Not a fun place to be for a person who likes to have a reason for everything. God help me.

The fellow I take transit with to work came back recently from NYC and highly recommended Avenue Q. I wasn’t sure about it at first because I had all these other things I want see (plus I’m on a tight budget), but after listening to the original Broadway soundtrack (which the library readily had on the shelf), I’m warming up to the possibility, especially after discovering a song called “What Do You Do With a B.A. in English?”

The musical is quite obnoxious and offensive, full of black humour and edge, but it is clever and cheeky; it gets away with murder because it features puppets as main characters. My favourite number is “It Sucks to Be Me.” I crack up every time I hear it:

My itinerary is starting to take shape, with plenty of flexibility in between commitments. So far, I’ve got to tickets to see:

The Producers on Broadway is set to close April 22nd, just two weeks before I arrive in NYC! So close, and yet so far. How disappointing!! I REALLY REALLY wanted to see this live at the St. James Theatre in Manhattan. Looks like I might have to catch it on tour after all. It’s coming to Vancouver in about 4 days.

Aaaaargh! I just discovered that I missed an internal email sent at the beginning of February regarding an order for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So now I’m #408 on the holds list. Compared to when The Half Blood Prince came out where I was #7 on the holds list (because I caught the memo then), this you-snooze-you-lose situation is a bit hard to swallow!

To date, the order is for 197 copies. Assuming that most people will return their copies on time, I should get my hands on one within 4 weeks. The waiting will be difficult, but the thing is, I’m not enough of an HP fan to buy my own copy for $30-$40 dollars. So I guess I will have to wait. Or borrow from a friend.

For those interested in buying a copy, the book will be available on July 21, 2007, one minute past midnight local time.

But while I missed out on the last HP, a couple of the most recent guidebooks on New York did come across my desk this morning, which I promptly placed a hold on.


	
	

Woe is me. I am a sorry sight to behold these days.

Have been down with the flu since Monday and things aren’t getting any better. Have almost been non-stop feverish, nothing alarmingly high, but a chronic fever means that my body is still battling this most tenacious virus. Visited the doctor today and he recommends that I not go to work tomorrow AND Friday.

I imagine I became vulnerable to the flu after having recently come back from a retreat where 1) I slept poorly ; 2) it took us 9 physically arduous hours to reach (should only have been a 3 hour trek) ; 3) I didn’t drink enough water.

On top of this, I can’t get around very well because my right ankle is very swollen. It looks like a sprain, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t do anything to physically injure it. Actually, it has been sore for almost a couple weeks now and recently I noticed an sudden increase in swelling and redness. Doctor says I might have gout. Have to go back to see him in a couple weeks to get some blood work done. In the meantime, he’s prescribed me a schedule of Advil to help me cope with it. I sure hope I don’t have gout. It would mean I have to be more careful about what I eat. My mind doth protests, “But I’m too young for this!”

My friends and family have been incredibly caring, giving me rides and food so I don’t have to limp around too, too much.

I wonder what the rest of 2007 will bring.

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