Posts Tagged ‘work’

The presence of a paycheck

November 25, 2012

From the time I was 16 years old until the present day, I have been unemployed for maybe a total of 6 months . . . and I’m, like, eleventy three forty-one years old or so. For some unknown reason, I have been blessed with this uncanny ability to not only find and keep a job, but I usually have two or three jobs.

Right now, I have three paying jobs. I have a full time career position in health communications. I teach as adjunct faculty at a community college. And, I am the editor for Loyola University’s Meaning Making blog. The full time job takes 40 hours a week. Being adjunct faculty takes about 7 hours a week. My editing job takes maybe 3 to 5 hours. These are all jobs that I enjoy very much.

I did not always enjoy my jobs. To put myself through college and graduate school, I did medical transcription. I made enough money but it was laborious work occasionally sprinkled with sorrowful anecdotes that continue to haunt me. For example, one emergency room doctor referred to motor cycles as “donor cycles” because the accident victims tend to be healthy young men who are dying of head injuries while the rest of their internal organs are intact. I was not sorry to let that job go.

Today’s job market makes me nervous, even with what seems to be as secure employment and credentials as anyone could have. There are segments of our population that are extremely vulnerable when unemployed. One of those groups includes people ages 50-65, and eleventy three forty-one falls within that age group. When these people lose their jobs, they generally also lose their health insurance. This is the age group when high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure begin to make their presence known. Untreated, these chronic diseases cause all sorts of silent damage to your body. Without a paycheck or health insurance, the unemployed are probably not going to get their blood sugar or cholesterol checked. They might have their blood pressure checked. Heck, that’s free at any drug store. One thing is for certain: even if it is high, without a paycheck or health insurance, they are not going to get a medication to lower it. Their only option is to change their lifestyle, eating habits, exercise, and all that.

Here’s another bit of bad news: by the time someone reaches age 50, his or her habits are pretty well established. Very few people are motivated enough to change behaviors when something REALLY bad happens like a heart attack. Almost no one changes their behaviors because their blood sugar, cholesterol, or blood pressure are a little high.

The worst news is that these chronic diseases will continue to affect that person’s body in ways that won’t become apparent until that first heart attack or until blindness sets in or until there is a sore that won’t heal or a stroke or a blood clot. Chances are, though, this person will make it to age 65, be eligible for Medicare, and finally get treatment. But the damage that has been done can’t be undone.

This isn’t news to anyone. It is basic public health principles. We’ve known it for a long, long time. My new piece over at Meaning Making this month is about pastoral care and career counseling, especially for those people who are unemployed and over the age of 50. I am blessed to count myself on the money-making side of the population and often feel quite helpless trying to help others produce a paycheck. Yet, the other side keeps coming back, week after week, and they thank me each and every time.

No, I say, thank you. You are helping me stay real with God.

©2012 by Barbara L. Kass


the presence of challenge

January 12, 2011

The belief taught in the Lotus Sutra provides no easy answers, no escape route from the difficulties of human life. In fact, it rejects such easy answers; instead it implores us to take up the two tools for exploring life, belief and understanding, and use them to continually challenge and work to perfect ourselves. And it also provides us the energy to do just that. -Daisaku Ikeda (

Life has its easy moments . . . remembering that “easy” is a relative term. What I sweep through like a breeze might be a hardship for others. The idea that life itself is easy appears true for only a few individuals. Even then, what we see is the appearance that life is easy. We don’t see the struggle and work behind the scenes. Many people I know who seem to have the easy life worked very hard to get there.

Life is not always hard, but life is always work. In a recent post, my friend, Ben, wrote “the challenges in the world today . . . are forcing us to seek something new in ourselves and only in this moment. That is all we have.”

He is right – we only have this moment to meet the challenges of our lives. Because life is not static, each moment brings a new challenge. Even if those challenges appear to be the same old challenges, they are not. We are unwinding and unfolding along with that challenge in each moment. More of our selves are exposed and available. Thus our abilities, our perspectives, our understanding are changed and there is more of who we truly are to bring to that challenge.

I have a few friends who have physical handicaps. One of them has multiple sclerosis and has had it for 40 years. He copes by reinventing how he meets that challenge each day, in each moment. When one technique stops working, he finds something new in himself to meet that challenge. He gets creative and is willing to do the work required to deal with the new challenges life brings him.

Ben goes on to write that the moments of our lives are “the alpha and the omega.” Each moment is its own beginning and its own end. Once we get inside that knowledge, we realize this moment is the eternal present and this is the only chance we have to find that something new in ourselves to meet our challenges.

Find something new in you today, tonight, tomorrow, and all the moments you encounter. Be that new creation, that new thought, that new action. There is a reason why we set all of this in motion and leave it in motion. None of it was designed to become cold and still . . . and that includes you.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

Unsettled presence

May 14, 2010

I am an unsettled presence. Sitting still and focusing have been particularly out of reach these past few days. Lots of life odds and ends clamor for my attention and taking care of the details of my life feels a lot like what I imagine herding cats feels like. I get one set on a specific direction, but then as soon as I focus on another, off the first one goes chasing some imaginary piece of lint dancing in the breeze.

Somebody is happy in here chasing those invented curiosities. 

Some part of me must be like the Magic cat – always looking for the next best thing to play with. It is not a new discovery for me that I want to know everything. The new discovery is that I might be inventing toys to investigate.

Today, for example, I am investigating a new way of being with the people at work. My presence wants to view my work place as more of a playground. My efforts at work and their results are a source of seriousity (<==== not a real word but fun, yes?) for me. I think it is SO important but the reality is that everything I do today will be like dry leaves on pavement tomorrow – eventually the breeze will clear them away to rot on the soil beneath the sun and rain and become fertilizer for something else to grow.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of distraction

April 10, 2010

Distraction is the presence of energies that attract our attention away from anything else that we could choose to focus on. Distraction is a useful mechanism, but like anything else, whatever we focus on will grow. It is even possible to have a life full of distraction.

I struggle with distraction. One time, I was sitting in a death-by-meeting at work struggling to stay awake among 20 other people also close to dozing off. My participation was not required. I was there for informational purposes only. The person who had called the meeting (let’s call that person, um, Unconscious) had already given me what I needed to know in the first five minutes. While I could have left, Unconscious was someone known to take that sort of behavior as a personal offense. To keep myself awake, I began freewriting and, before too long, I was well into the first draft of a short story. I had four handwritten pages by the time the meeting ended. I was part of the crowd surging for the door when I heard Unconscious call my name. Ever the good employee, I stepped aside and let the herd sweep around me. Unconscious said “I was really impressed with the amount of notes you were taking. Could I have a copy of those?”

You can guess the rest. I had to run around to 18 other people and ask them what the heck Unconscious had talked about without letting them know I had not heard a word. That story became my second short story from that meeting.

Distractions are just energies that appear more appealing than other energies that need our attention. I need to say “no” to all the distractions that come dancing my way waving their fancy little fantasies and tales of pleasure. I need to stop thinking in the Land of Supposed To Be or the Land Where I Would Rather Be and instead think and act in the Land of I Where I Am. I need to take full responsibility for my choices and take care of myself in the present. If there is a situation I am avoiding that I need to attend to, I have to stop and ask myself why. Am I waiting for the stars and planets to line up in perfect harmony? For everything to be okay so that I feel safe in taking that next big step in my life towards the Land of I Want To Be? If I continue this frame of thought, I will be waiting a long long long long long time so it occurs to me that I will probably take a small step today, put a toe (maybe even an entire foot!) in the water to test its depth, measure its temperature, and see how it might be to walk in that ocean that leads to the Life I Envision For Myself. At some point, I know I may fall off some yet unseen precipice and find myself underwater, but that’s okay . . . I know how to swim.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass