Exhaustion and Burnout: Part One

First of all, I’d like to apologize for not posting as often as I usually do on here recently. I love writing this blog and I feel bad that as of late, it’s had to take the back burner on the stove of my life.

For the past several weeks, I’ve had to work longer hours at work. Two of my employees have had COVID, and since I’m the General Manager and the only salaried employee at my store, any labor shortages or slack immediately become my responsibility. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m almost dead. Last week, I clocked 61.98 hours, and that’s not including the lunches I worked through catching up on paperwork that I’ve had to neglect.

The thing that sucks the most about the whole ordeal is that the harder I work and the more I accomplish, it still seems like it’s never enough. The backlogged projects still shout at me. The unreasonable expectations of higher-ups still loom over me. They expect me to be more than human, to function like a well-oiled machine, but I just can’t. I’m unfortunately human. I have feelings. I get tired. I’ve been living off of candy and fast food for weeks because I’m always too tired to make anything better.

My bowels are irritated. I’ve had to hold myself and medicate myself to the point where my stomach is never not hurting. I take medicine to go and medicine to stop going, and I haven’t been allowed to simply go when I need to in so long that it’s going to take me a while to straighten myself out. Some days I don’t eat until I get home at night because I’m afraid that if I eat it will give me the urge to go and then my sales floor will be unattended.

Does my boss care? No. When I hear from her at all, it’s for her to inquire about my progress and to ask about our sales numbers. What are you doing to motivate your team to success? When will your excess truck be out? Why haven’t you made progress toward the XYZ project and do you have an estimated completion date? What conversations are you having with customers to promote our programs? Your sales numbers are not reflective of company expectations. Please tell me what you are doing to change that momentum and move the needle in a positive direction. One day, I’m going to just start screaming and I won’t be able to stop.

I’m a cog in the machine. If I drop dead, they’ll eventually (sooner or later) replace me with some poor schmuck who’ll probably get paid even less than I do. May God have mercy on their soul.

I want to say more about all of this but it will have to wait for another day. I actually get a day off tomorrow and I intend on sleeping in. Take care and thanks for listening.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

You Know Who Wears a Mask to Protect the People He Loves? Batman.

James Baldwin once said that he was “terrified at the moral apathy, the death of the heart” that he witnessed from his own countrymen. Being a Black gay man born in 1924 certainly guaranteed for Baldwin that he would experience a two-pronged prejudice, a hatred of an insidious and endemic sort, a hatred woven into the fabric of the American ideal. This ideal disenfranchises, stigmatizes, ostracizes, redlines, segregates, colonizes, abuses, rapes, and murders all that deviates from it; all that is not lily-white, heterosexual, capitalistic, and Christian is hewn down and cast into the fire. James Baldwin saw the truth, and he also saw his isolation within that truth. I cannot help but imagine that he must have been an incredibly lonely man.

James Baldwin saw the truth, and he also saw his isolation within that truth. I cannot help but imagine that he must have been an incredibly lonely man.

We still have systemic racism and homophobia, but there’s a new beast in town rearing its ugly head to expose our inequalities: COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic is now in its third year of ravaging the world. Because we’ve not reached herd immunity, we’ve cycled through two known variants of the disease, Delta and now Omicron. Don’t misread me: I am not comparing social ills to a global pandemic. However, there is a stark similarity between the former and the latter in terms of the lack of care shown to marginalized groups.

Because we’ve not reached herd immunity, we’ve cycled through two known variants of the disease, Delta and now Omicron.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say something along the lines of, “Well, they were elderly, they probably didn’t have long to live anyway.” Or: “They had underlying conditions, so it wasn’t just COVID that killed them.” Or: “I’m not wearing a mask because I’m vaccinated and I’m not high-risk anyway.” These sentiments reach across political and socioeconomic lines. I’ve seen sentiments like these from both Republicans and Democrats, older people and younger people, well-to-do and poor people, etc. The apathy extended toward the immunocompromised, toward the disabled and sick and otherwise vulnerable, is appalling to me. I am disgusted by it. And I cannot condone it. I can’t stay silent about it any longer.

The apathy extended toward the immunocompromised, toward the disabled and sick and otherwise vulnerable, is appalling to me.

I mean, what is it about taking basic precautions that causes people to be so cavalier with not only their own lives but the lives of countless strangers? Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Practice social distancing. Wash your hands. Are we really, as a society, so heart-deadened as to not be willing to do these simple things? The evidence tells me yes.

Are we really, as a society, so heart-deadened as to not be willing to do these simple things? The evidence tells me yes.

I understand that part of it is the lack of centralized and non-contradictory guidance from public health authorities, yes, but a larger part of it stems from a bootstraps ethos which prioritizes the needs and wants of the self above the common good. There has to be something wrong with a country, with a world, in which the majority of people can’t be bothered to so much as cover their face to protect an unknown stranger from an agonizing death, alone and isolated from their loved ones. Like Baldwin, I am terrified at the moral apathy and the death of the heart I have seen since this pandemic started.

There has to be something wrong with a country, with a world, in which the majority of people can’t be bothered to so much as cover their face to protect an unknown stranger from an agonizing death, alone and isolated from their loved ones.

Those of you who keep up with my blog know that I recently contracted COVID-19. I tested positive on January 15th. I gave it to both of my parents, who live with me and are disabled. We live in a small two-bedroom apartment so infection was a foregone conclusion. I cannot put in words the terror I’ve experienced wondering if I might kill them by proxy. For more than two years now, I have taken every possible precaution. I’m vaccinated (as are both of my parents). I always wear a mask when I’m around people I don’t live with. I sanitize and wash and disinfect. All of that wasn’t enough to protect me because so many other people failed to do their part. So many other people failed to practice a baseline level of care to keep me safe, to keep my family safe. I don’t know if I am capable of forgiving them for that.

All of that wasn’t enough to protect me because so many other people failed to do their part. So many other people failed to practice a baseline level of care to keep me safe, to keep my family safe. I don’t know if I am capable of forgiving them for that.

The old adage says that it takes a village. Usually it refers to child-rearing, but I think it can equally apply to stopping the spread of a deadly disease. In this case, the majority of the other villagers are off enjoying a feast until they’re plucked into the woods and tied to a tree to die like the rest of us. Forgive me my labored metaphor, but if you’ve been with me here for long, you know how I love to labor my metaphors.

In this case, the majority of the other villagers are off enjoying a feast until they’re plucked into the woods and tied to a tree to die like the rest of us.

After writing the preceding paragraph, I left this post in my drafts for several days before I was emotionally capable of returning to it. After writing the preceding sentence, I stopped to watch a couple of films with my mother. You see, I am hesitant to finish a piece with an unhappy conclusion. I feel like a positive quip here would be disingenuous if not rude and unfeeling. Perhaps it is those of us who feel such palpable rage during this time that are the only ones who are truly living in the world as we know it. Everyone else, it would seem, is floating in a dream.

Everyone else, it would seem, is floating in a dream.

I want everyone to do the right thing. I want everyone to perform a series of correct actions which would render the pandemic all but null. But unfortunately, I cannot make people care who do not. I cannot bully someone into having empathy for other people, inconvenient though that fact may be. The only thing I can do is bear witness—stay awake. We owe the dead our consciousness if nothing else.

The only thing I can do is bear witness—stay awake. We owe the dead our consciousness if nothing else.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Quote for the Day: January 24th, 2022

Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown, Ph.D., MSW

There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise.

Brené Brown, Ph.D., MSW, Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Today’s quote is especially meaningful to me because I, like so many millions of people all over the country and around the world right now, am stuck in quarantine. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I tested positive for COVID-19 on January 15th. Since then, both of my parents have tested positive as well. I’m grateful to be able to have the time off work to recuperate and to have subordinates who can do the work while I’m not able to, but it’s also put a great deal of financial stress on me and my family because my job doesn’t offer paid sick leave and I have bills to pay and groceries to buy. I’m also extremely grateful that while all three of us are a little the worse for wear, we’re all vaccinated and able to ride out the storm together, at home.

I’m grateful to be able to have the time off work to recuperate and to have subordinates who can do the work while I’m not able to, but it’s also put a great deal of financial stress on me and my family because my job doesn’t offer paid sick leave and I have bills to pay and groceries to buy.

It would be nice if, instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars each year on defense, the United States would invest more in social infrastructure, on programs that would lift people out of poverty and help them during times of crisis (like, say, a global pandemic). If we’re being honest, the pandemic would already be over (or at the very least would be more manageable) if we could have been paid to stay home while the government built up our healthcare infrastructure and shored up basic social services. It is easy to tell what a society values by what it spends its money on, and by who is authorized to make decisions for the rest of us.

It is easy to tell what a society values by what it spends its money on, and by who is authorized to make decisions for the rest of us.

Instead, we are now in our third year of the pandemic and our government cannot (or will not) even provide clear guidance on testing, quarantining, or living with the after-effects on infection. Instead, we’re thrown bones. We got a measly stimulus payment in March of last year that for most Americans didn’t cover (or barely covered) a month’s rent, and now the government has announced that it will mail out four COVID-19 tests to each household. That’s great, but not for multi-generation or multi-family households which are most likely to be BIPOC. So, just so we’re clear: $1,400 and four tests to be split up among however many people live in your household.

I’m reminded of a scene in Michael Bay’s 1998 doomsday science fiction film Armageddon, where deep-core oil driller Harry Stamper (played by Bruce Willis) is commissioned by NASA to help prevent an asteroid the size of Texas from colliding with Earth. He’s talking with NASA executive Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) about NASA’s contingency plan should something go wrong:

Harry Stamper: What’s your contingency plan?
Truman: Contingency plan?
Harry: Your backup plan. You gotta have some kind of backup plan, right?
Truman: No, we don’t have a back up plan, this is, uh…
Harry: And this is the best that you-that the government, the U.S. government could come up with? I mean, you’re NASA for crying out loud, you put a man on the moon, you’re geniuses! You’re the guys that’re thinking shit up! I’m sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up! You’re telling me you don’t have a backup plan, that these eight boy scouts right here [gestures to USAF pilots], that is the world’s hope, that’s what you’re telling me?
Truman: Yeah.

We are all Bruce Willis right now shaking our discombobulated heads at the government.

We are all Bruce Willis right now shaking our discombobulated heads at the government. I mean, not to get on my soap box or anything, but what are they truly doing to help us right now? They won’t pass voting rights legislation. They won’t protect a woman’s right to choose from draconian state houses just waiting for Roe v Wade to be overturned (or weakened beyond repair), and they won’t help their most vulnerable citizens through the most dire public health crisis of our time. What are they willing to do? A concerned (and sick) citizen would like to know.

What are they willing to do? A concerned (and sick) citizen would like to know.

Despite all of this, I know that living through COVID-19 has made me a stronger person. It’s also made me grateful to be as privileged as I am with relatively good health and people who love me and can take care of me when I’m sick. I know that my life could have looked very different had just one or two things been shifted by a measure of a couple degrees. I hope that this is over soon. I am tired of people getting sick and dying, of getting sick and staying that way, of losing their jobs and their homes and their loved ones, of an indifferent government ran by charlatans, of a night that refuses to end. But still I rise.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

My COVID-19 Diagnosis

Well, dear readers, despite all my efforts to stay safe for the past two years during this global pandemic, I am sad to say that I have been infected with COVID-19.

I am still processing this fact. I started feeling poorly around 7:00 PM on Friday, January 14th. Extreme fatigue, tiredness, shortness of breath, etc. All of which I at first attributed to the week I’d had. My store’s Regional Vice President visited on Wednesday, January 12th, and I had spent more than twelve hours the day prior prepping for her visit, which was my first as General Manager. I knew she liked me already from prior visits she made when I was my store’s Assistant General Manager. I am just about as Type A as a person can be. I leave nothing to chance and always make sure my ducks are in a row.

Tuesday, January 11th was a perfect storm. As anyone who’s worked in a bookstore knows, Tuesday is the day most major publishers release their hot titles so those days are always busy with updating bestseller features, putting new product on the floor, and changing out in-store marketing. On top of that, we’ve been bombarded with after-holiday resets, sales sets, and overstock scans (oh my!). I didn’t have the manpower I’ve been enjoying because sales and foot traffic have slowed (though only marginally, following this unprecedented sales year). When I got to work, our truck shipment had arrived. The receiving area in the back of my store is chock-full of voided and overstock titles awaiting their journey back to our warehouse. And this truck was huge. So I had to play quite a few rounds of Totes Tetris to even be able to process my truck shipment.

Then, in the evening, I found out that my fellow (and only other) closer had been in a car accident early that morning and had stayed at school the rest of the day because she wasn’t having any complications or soreness. When she got to work, though, she started having shoulder pain and I made her go to the ER and closed by myself. No biggie, I’ve done it before. More than once or twice, in fact. One of my other managers volunteered to come in after her dentist’s appointment to help me get the store ready for our RVP visit. We were there until after 11:00 at night.

Had I known then what I know now…but I couldn’t have, could I? Sometime during that day, we were both exposed. She had opened that morning and came in after closing with me that night. We are both vaccinated but haven’t gotten our boosters yet, and we wore our masks at work at all times. But we still got infected.

I suppose one could call my case “mild” because I didn’t need to go to the hospital or require a ventilator, but in the world we live in, “mild” as a descriptor really doesn’t cover the hell I’ve lived in.

I started writing this post after I left urgent care on Saturday, January 15th. It is Friday, January 21st. It’s only been in the past couple of days that I’ve been able to string more than one cogent thought together and even now I’m aware of the haphazard and jumbled state of my mind. Whether that’s COVID-19 itself wreaking havoc on my mental faculties or simply the by-product of being deathly ill for days on end, the effect is the same. I suppose one could call my case “mild” because I didn’t need to go to the hospital or require a ventilator, but in the world we live in, “mild” as a descriptor really doesn’t cover the hell I’ve lived in.

Wearing a mask for up to twelve hours a day wasn’t enough. Washing my hands and disinfecting things constantly wasn’t enough. Social distancing, as much as one can social distance while working in a retail store, wasn’t enough. Nothing I did was enough. I still put the two people I love most in the entire world in grave danger, and we’re still not out of the woods.

You see, I live in a small two-bedroom apartment with my disabled parents. My first thought when I got my test results was of their welfare, and my second thought was pure unadulterated rage at the fact that despite my best efforts at protecting them and myself, I had failed. Miserably. Wearing a mask for up to twelve hours a day wasn’t enough. Washing my hands and disinfecting things constantly wasn’t enough. Social distancing, as much as one can social distance while working in a retail store, wasn’t enough. Nothing I did was enough. I still put the two people I love most in the entire world in grave danger, and we’re still not out of the woods.

I should be staying home recuperating and caring for my parents but the god of capitalism demands a sacrifice and thus on the heap my body goes.

How do I reconcile all of that? How do I cope with my anger at the fact that I am supposed to return to work tomorrow when work is the farthest thing from my mind, the thing which concerns me the least? I should be staying home recuperating and caring for my parents but the god of capitalism demands a sacrifice and thus on the heap my body goes.

My personal experiences have reiterated to me the urgent need we have here in America for universal healthcare, for a single-payer system.

I forgot to mention that I discovered during all of this that my health insurance had been switched without my knowledge, so I went into urgent care thinking I’d have to pay out of pocket because I was dropped by my previous provider. I’m still working all of that out and unfortunately it’s just been one more unnecessary piece of bureaucratic red tape I’ve had to navigate to get basic care. My personal experiences have reiterated to me the urgent need we have here in America for universal healthcare, for a single-payer system. It’s unfortunate that something so essential is so politicized, with right-wingers decrying “SoCiAlIzeD mEdIcInE” every time someone mentions single-payer healthcare. Never mind the fact that Medicare is socialized medicine lite, but the Faux News pundits won’t say that. It’s okay to hold contradictions when they serve your interests, i.e. further enriching the top 1% of the top 1% while the rest of us are left with scraps, if anything at all.

Never mind the fact that Medicare is socialized medicine lite, but the Faux News pundits won’t say that. It’s okay to hold contradictions when they serve your interests, i.e. further enriching the top 1% of the top 1% while the rest of us are left with scraps, if anything at all.

I’d like to end this post on a positive (or at least lighter) note, so please enjoy the following memes I’ve saved from Twitter in the past week. Note that I am unable to provide attributions to their original creators.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: I Love You, Call Me Back: Poems by Sabrina Benaim

I Love You, Call Me Back: Poems by Sabrina Benaim

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

Sabrina Benaim has gifted us with a collection that is both a blueprint for grief and a roadmap to help us find our way out of it.

With I Love You, Call Me Back, Sabrina Benaim has gifted us with a collection that is both a blueprint for grief and a roadmap to help us find our way out of it. It’s not an easy task to meld hope and despair together in the same poem without coming off as maudlin or worse, melodramatic, but Benaim manages to do so with the grace and panache of an assured stylist.

Her voice rings so clear and true that while reading her new collection I felt like I was having a conversation with an old friend, one with whom I could share my highest hopes and biggest fears. After the past nineteen months of dealing with the isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, finally someone is saying that everything is not okay, but it will be eventually. And in the meantime, we can hold space for small joys, of which I count this poetry collection as one of them.

I Love You, Call Me Back: Poems was released by Plume, a division of Penguin Random House, on October 19th, 2021 and is now available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Shot Twice (But I Survived)

I tried to go to work today. In fact, I made it nearly six hours. But I just couldn’t swing it. Yesterday I received my second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and it has really wiped me out. I ran a fever for a few hours, and I’ve been experiencing body aches, congestion, and lethargy all day long.

But I don’t regret getting it. I’d much rather deal with (temporary) side effects from getting vaccinated as opposed to potentially contracting the virus and risking having life-long ailments stemming from it.

The truth is, I’m just a big crybaby and I always have been. I don’t deal well with any sort of ache or ailment, and I don’t think I’ll ever develop the long-suffering fortitude of my ancestors. I’ll just take a long, healthy life with a very brief demise, thank you very much. No protracted battles for life for me, if you please. I don’t have the constitution for it.

No protracted battles for life for me, if you please. I don’t have the constitution for it.

So, I said all of that so I could say this: if you haven’t already been vaccinated, there’s no better time than the present. Just maybe make sure you have a day or so afterward to recover so you don’t put yourself in the predicament of begging God to kill you in front of all your coworkers (not lying). Bye for now!

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

First Shot

COVID-19 be like wut.

On Wednesday, I got the first shot of my COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer, of course. I’m not going to lie, with as much hysteria, confusion, and proliferation of false information surrounding the vaccine, I was a little nervous about getting it.

I believe the science. I have always believed the science. But I also know it is impossible to live in a world with so many unknowns and be certain about anything.

I thought about it a lot before I made my decision. My final impetus was my dad going to get his first shot on Tuesday. So on Wednesday, I called and made my appointment, and they had an opening for 5:30 that day.

When I got to Walgreens, I had to pee really bad. Their bathrooms were out of order and I didn’t want to miss my appointment, so I held it. There’s something about having to hold yourself that makes anxiety worse. I can’t really explain it, but anyone with generalized anxiety disorder like myself can affirm the truth of that statement.

Then my brain went into overdrive. I actually thought to myself, What if holding urine in my bladder can actually make the vaccine ineffective or cause some weird side effect? Is this something I can ask Google or WebMD about?

Luckily, my phone gets terrible service so I was unable to use the Internet to perpetuate my growing paranoia. So what do I do to pass the time? Judge other people, of course. If the pandemic has given us one thing, it has helped to shed all guilt involved in basking in one’s own self-righteousness.

I love judging other people. And if you want to judge me for that, tell your minister or your higher power or a stranger at the grocery store, because while I am myself self-righteous, I do not condone other people being self-righteous about my self-righteousness. Does that make sense?

I love judging other people.

Back to Walgreens. As I’m waiting to get shot (poor choice of words?), I look around at all the other people in Walgreens and allow myself to loathe the ones I see who are unmasked. Now, I know the CDC has said that people who are fully vaccinated don’t have to wear masks anymore. However, no one is monitoring this. You just have to take people at their word when they say they’ve been vaccinated and want to breathe near (or even on) you. And I don’t know if you know this or not, but people are liars. They lie.

“I’m fully vaccinated.” – A Liar

After what felt like an eternity of condemning my fellow community members for their selfishness, I was finally called back for my shot. The gentleman who penetrated…umm…vaccinated me was very nice and assured me that I would not in fact die. He was wearing a mask but he had kind eyes, and at least half of all human evil can be detected through eyes, so I felt momentarily reassured.

When the Moment of Truth finally came, I braced myself for an Experience. Now, I wasn’t sure if it would be akin to taking a nightmarish ride down a river of chocolate with Gene Wilder and some snakes, or more like when Dorothy realized she always had the power to go back to Kansas and became nearly catatonic with joy and irritation that Glinda the Good Witch didn’t bother telling her that before she was nearly murdered.

Now, I wasn’t sure if it would be akin to taking a nightmarish ride down a river of chocolate with Gene Wilder and some snakes, or more like when Dorothy realized she always had the power to go back to Kansas and became nearly catatonic with joy and irritation that Glinda the Good Witch didn’t bother telling her that before she was nearly murdered.

Friends and readers, it was painless. While I had expected Excalibur or Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, in truth I barely even felt it. In fact, when it was over I was unsure if anything had happened at all. And now I’m looking forward to my second shot.

Long story short: go get vaccinated!

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.