Desire: Why Working in the Federal Government was Miserable–Day 12, Getting Dressed


At times my differences
From other people strike me.
Americans love
Bright light and crisp images
Often accompanied by music
Presented quickly and loudly
In stores, offices
And in all media forms.

Those sensations make us feel
Efficient, alive
Like “Successful” busy people
Always striving for More,
As if being busy
And conspicuous consumption
Are accurate indicators for
Living an inspired life.

Instead, I desire
Simplicity within a kind of
Ancient world aesthetic
Where hazy auras
Drape quiet moments,
Slow simmering thoughts,
Ambling reflection,
At least some of the time.

Where natural light
And darkness guide us more
To wakefulness and sleep,
Where candlelight
Brings momentary timelessness to
Sense the joy of
Fluttering fairy wings,
To feel and grow
The warm glow
Possible within us

Instead of relying on
Things, other people and
Perfect circumstances to
Bring happiness to us.

This morning, I sit during a
Wisdom teeth appointment
Waiting for my daughter
To emerge, drugged,
With roomier mouth space.

Fluorescent rectangles
Blast the dentist’s waiting room
With massive assertiveness
While country music plays
At a too-loud level.

These light banks,
Energy efficient, I know,
Also possess an aggressive,
Encroaching quality that
I’m certain is hard
On everyone’s eyeballs,
Not just mine
Which happen to lack
Sufficient cones to
Process full light and color.
Yet so many work spaces
Use this kind of bulb.

“The lights keep me awake and going,”
My government co-workers
Said cheerfully,

As if an entire ceiling lined with
Flashbulb brightness
Actually facilitated
Getting through a two dimensional
Computer screened existence
Imprisoned by key stroke
Finger acrobatics.

Rain, snow or sunshine,
Human transmission of data
Must proceed
At the VA’s Eligibility Office
At a timed pace
To meet required quotas.

These VA troopers knew about Service.
So Dedicated (or something)
They showed up every day and
Willingly melted into rickety
Threadbare office chairs
Allowing their hunched bodies
To turn to mush during 30 years
In civil service.

There is apparently
More than one type of
Physical fitness.
Looking around the wall free room
At my co-workers,
I observed sobering outcomes
Of how the human body deteriorates
When bent down towards a
Sedentary, cubicled lifestyle.
We, as a species, are meant to
To run, jump and move.

And yet, I was also humbled
To learn that I did not possess
Their particular, gym-free kind of
Physical stamina.

So hardy, somehow,
Women with back fat
Bulging out from
Underneath bra straps,
Men with varying sizes of
Bellies hanging over belted pants

Were so much more able
To read and retype
Thousands of names,
ID numbers, medical expenses
On paperless forms,
One after the other on dual screens
Without tiring,
Without losing spirit
Than I was.

Every day,
Breathing in freezing,
Blowing controlled air
While their children grew up,
Garden beds dried out and
Home cooked meals lay unmade
They toiled,
Year after year,
Pale from weather-proof shelter,
Burnt from overhead fluorescents,
Literally counting down
The days, hours and minutes
Until retirement.

How they managed
To muster up the endurance
Remains a mystery to this day.

I couldn’t survive
What I found to be
Harsh arctic conditions
Doing relentless,
Soft tissue hard labor.
My body and soul
Shriveled into a brittle
Pruned skeleton devoid of
Buoyancy and
Supple spring.

Much to the great astonishment of
Co-workers, I abandoned the
Almighty Thrift Savings Plan
[Which is a 401K, not a pension]
And all the other
Underwhelming benefits touted
For freedom,
For health.

Everything does not happen
For a reason and
I wish the experiences I had
Working for the US government,
Filled with many more
Heartbreaking moments
And injury
That I won’t delve into here,
Never happened.

But the events did occur
And I can say
I am thankful to have
Exited that building,
That way of life
And of being, forever.

Today, I can say
I’ve gone on, up and out
With my own style
And am in the process
Of developing other
Enriching experiences to live


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