Wailing Walls and the Waffle House

Stress - business person stressed at office. Business woman hold

I stood in the Waffle House parking lot wailing.  Tears rolling down my cheeks and crying at the top of my lungs “God, oh my God… why…why… hast thou forsaken me!”  The patrons and workers walked out watching me pace, clutch my chest and wail.  I looked to the heavens and wailed.  I bent over at the waist and wailed.  The cries came from the depth of my stomach through my lungs and I could not stop them. My anguish, pain, hurt, disappointment all came out and I had no shame.  The 911 operator kept asking if I was hurt and offered to send the rescue squad.  I was hurt, but no rescue squad could heal the pain that I felt at that very moment.

The 911 operator had no idea that my husband was hospitalized and facing another surgery.  She did not know that I had worked all day and was just starting the two hour route of our family delivery business.  The only reason I was doing the route that night was because my hubby had been hospitalized that day.  Our family was facing an unknown medical outcome.

She had no idea that 2015 was the year for major house repairs in our home.  The costs included repairs on two water heaters, the roof and the complete replacement of our heating and cooling system.  She did not know that my mother-in-law had experienced a stroke in April and was living in an assisted living facility in our community.  Daily my mother-in-law packed her belongings insisting that she was going home.

The 911 operator did not know that I had not visited my own 80 year old mother in months.  Every time I attempted, something happened.   As she listened to my wailing, she had no idea that I also needed to move my office to a different location and the pressure I was under to find something reasonably priced.  My business had stalled and no income was coming in.  She had no idea that we had replaced full sets of tires for our vehicles and my mother’s vehicle this year.  How much did that cost?  I cannot remember at this point.

The 911 operator had no knowledge that our daughters were involved in an accident the previous week returning home from a high school football game.  She did not know that I had been accident free for 30 years until I backed into a cement pole at the Waffle House in a rental car.

That night felt like the punchline to a cruel joke and I was the butt of the joke.  I entered 2015 praying for and expecting wonderful blessings.  Instead we received one attack after another.  Right after the accident, I felt like ‘just put me in a coffin because I am done; it is over; bury me as is.’

When the officer arrived, the 911 operator dismissed me by saying “you can hang up now.”  I am sure she thought I was over-reacting.  The patrol officer was indifferent and detached.  His presentation and attitude suggested that I was wasting his time.  Perhaps he was being cautious not knowing what to expect from the woman who was wailing in the parking lot.  Perhaps he would have been more invested in a car chase.  Either way, he was a wet sock to me.  Useless.

Wailing is used at the onset of death in many countries.  A wall is erected and the people come to express their sorrow for the loss in anguished cries.  It lasts for a few days until the burial and then the mourners move on.  After the accident report was made, I continued on my delivery route, contacted my insurance carrier the next day and attended to my family responsibilities.

Something died in me that very moment.  It was the doubt, fear, indecision and non-commitment that contributed to ambivalence.  It was the attitude that caused me to blame others for my perceived failures.  It was avoidance of being real with myself and real with others.  REAL social workers online magazine is about being real.  Right?  The drive to meld into the scenery and to be like everybody else died that night.

I started this business with the belief that it could supplement our ability to pay for our daughters’ college educations.  We do not want them saddled with the same level of debt we had after graduation.  I also believed that it would help supplement our retirement.   I figure that I can retire when I am close to age 70.  (ROFLOL)

In regards to my business, I focused on the technical and impersonal which is really antithetical to what I totally enjoy.  I totally enjoy getting to know people.  I enjoy hearing the stories that make people who they are.  I am a story teller and I always have a story.  The stories of life’s journeys that bring us closer together than we can imagine.  The stories of why we do what we do and continue to do what we do.  I have not shared any of those stories until now because in order to be real with you, I have to be real with myself.

I also wanted to have fun with my business.  I was not having fun.  Did that come across to my regular readers?

With this in mind, the focus for 2016 is RELAX.  This is the first and most important of the tenets of REAL Social Workers Online Magazine.  We are focusing on being emotionally and physically healthy and whole through the mind/body connection.

The accident I had was directly related to the stress I was experiencing.  I was stressed with the household maintenance costs, extended family responsibilities, and business concerns.  The straw that broke this camel’s back was my husband’s hospitalization.  When we function under stress, we do not think clearly.  This is one reason to avoid making major decisions during a period of stress.  Likewise, when working in stress filled environments, we need to slow our thinking down in order to make appropriate decisions.

Police officers have come under scrutiny for quick decisions that have resulted in questionable deaths.  Without blaming these officers, many have asked the question ‘was that level of force necessary?’  While social workers and other service providers may not carry weapons, they may have the responsibility of making life or death decisions.  These decisions when made under duress or excessive stress could raise questions based on the outcome.

The stress response, as we know, is a primitive means to save the being from extinction.  It is the fight or flight response that we learned in elementary school.  It is initiated when a physical threat such as a bear, tiger, or other large animal attacked.  Few of us are under threat of physical attack, but we are exposed to mental and emotional threats.  These mental and emotional threats are interpreted by our brains as if they are physical threats.  Consequently, the brain initiates the fight or flight response.

These are examples of mental or emotional threats:

Your supervisor walks into your office and closes the door.

Two co-workers abruptly stop talking when you walk into the room.

Rumors are floating around the office that your organization may layoff personnel.

Your spouse, partner or significant other has avoided intimacy for several weeks.

Your parent tells you that you do not care about them.

All of these situations initiate the stress response.  Our blood pressure increases, the heart beats faster and harder, our muscles tighten, blood flow to the arms and legs increase.  Hormones are jettisoned into the blood system readying our bodies to run or to defend.  Emotional and mental threats are not threats from which we would run.  Instead of running, we sit and ponder the situation, causing the stress response to continue or we ignore the response.  The damage of ignoring the response is felt over time with compromised immune systems, tense muscles, and aggravated conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Wailing allowed me to release all of the stress and tension I held without knowing it.  It freed me to think clearly and come to a decision about my personal and professional journey.

In 2016 I will focus on stress relief and management.  I will share stories of my commitment to wholeness with a focus on relaxation.  I invite you to join me in this journey.  You will hear about my new appreciation of yoga.  You will learn how I destress before arriving home.  You will also hear about Happy ½ Hour Guided RelaxationHappy ½ Hour Guided Relaxation is a weekly 30 minute stress management class I conduct in Brunswick, GA.  Participants learn personal signs of stress, quick stress relievers, participate in a guided relaxation exercise and more.

Last year, I was miserable and struggling to find my way in business.  This year I am excited about the direction I am taking.  It is so easy to hide behind titles, education, and positions, but the bottom line is that each of us has to be real with ourselves in order to succeed.  So, here I am, being real with myself and with you.  Best wishes to you in the New Year.

I would love to hear from you.  You may join the conversation by commenting on this post on our Facebook fan page REAL Social Workers Online Magazine, joining the “Social” Social Workers Project or connecting with me on LinkedIn.

M.L. Bailey Consultants, Inc.  Copyright ©2016 Marcyline L. Bailey All Rights Reserved

Real Social Workers Online Magazine Copyright ©2016 Marcyline L. Bailey All Rights Reserved

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