Who Suffered for You to Have That Stuff?

The title might give away this post as less than touchy feely, or perhaps more so. (No, I am not talking about Jesus, though He is especially fond of you.) I had a whacked out dream last night, have gotten out of bed and staggered down here to write about it.

Yeah, I bet you want a picture of how hot I might be right now.



Seriously, this is me too early in the morning, sans the hot black stuff, no shower and before I am awake enough to be photographed. You asked for it.

Anyway, I recently read the book "Working in the Shadows" by Gabriel Thompson
about the jobs most Americans won't do; lettuce harvesting, poultry processing and delivering flowers and food in a big city. I am sure that is part of where this dream came from, my poor pea brain still trying to process it. This book helped me understand why people who work HARD and LONG hours just have nothing left at the end of a day. Nothing for themselves, for their kids, or to make more out of their future. It broke my heart.

I worked in a factory for a time, but it was what I called a "Princess Factory". It was well lit, we got breaks, listened to music, joked around with each other and the work in my area was super easy: feeding rolls of film (remember? Before digital cameras???) into a big machine and making sure they were 'spliced'. My gal pals and I called ourselves The Splice Girls. Yup. Pretty clever.

In my dream I was in a large building and Jillian Michaels (Biggest Loser trainer, just in case you live under a rock) had sort of taken it over. She rounded up everyone and it was kind of like she might kill us all. It was WEIRD. Of course, for all the Biggest Loser I have watched, I can see why I thought she might kill us. (I love to hate her during a Biggest Loser DVD workout! I am missing her this season and not even watching, tho I loooove Bob too.) I was inspired by her yelling and more recently her story of why she left Biggest Loser. But I was deeply afraid of her in the dream.

She ran us through the halls and then up some stairs, most of us were seriously confused and inappropriately dressed. I tried to call out to some oblivious folks hanging out as we passed by, "Jillian Michaels has taken us hostage! Help!" Only later to find they were all in on it helping her. For a minute I thought I was going to be thrown out for trying to get help, but then strangely relieved I was still "in" and I told her so. She said "That person on the show, that isn't me, THIS is ME." And our next place was a paint shop in the bottom of whatever the building was. It was about fifty people in a communal live and work environment, painting what looked like Legos. (This is NOT any kind of commentary or speculation on Legos or their paint, so Legos please do not sue me for my subconscious weirdness. I don't think they are painted anyway I think the plastic is colored.)

Jillian talked about the people we were seeing, that the paint they used was so toxic it created memory loss after just a few days or weeks of working with it. That is why they lived there too, to offer them 'support' as their lives changed. Jillian asked us to talk with some of the people, to look carefully at the work they were doing and not breathe in too deeply.

I remember feeling sick and mortified at their bland responses as a few of us asked them questions. One girl in our 'hostages' crowd began to totally freak out and threatened to kill all of us or herself over it. Extreme, but probably part of why when I woke up right here in the dream from my sweet daughter's coughing. I staggered down here in the dark at six a.m. to type.

I think part of me is the screaming woman, horrified at how I want to live and who I don't think of that provides that living for me. I immediately prayed to God about squelching my desire for shiny crappy things someone else worked too hard to make and in poor conditions. I do not think about that often. After this dream, I will be thinking about it a lot more.

Toxic Paint.

Overseas Sweat Shops, Cheap labor for cheap products.

My deeply American desire for LOTS of things big, new and shiny: as long as they are also inexpensive.

I do not want to admit this. I do not want to face this in myself. I do not know what to do to make a difference.



Deb Arney said...

Heather, I admire you! I know you have some pretty sleepless nights here and yet you still managed to wake up enough to type this blog. What I see this as is a cry to people to buy American. There are not sweat shops here and if we the American people start to shop local then the overseas sweatshops may get shut down. I know the people working in those places rely upon their income to support their families but they should not be subjected to those working conditions. My mother made a very specific effort to buy American this past holiday season and my sister sill amazes us with her homemade gifts. It is possible! Buy American...put the sweatshops out of business!

I also love Jillian so I think that it is awesome that she was a catalyst in your dream. Keep up the good fight and the positive spirit that you bring to the world!

Miss and love you.

Rachel said...

If you wrote this at 6:00, how did I read it at 4:30? Anyway, good questions and thoughts to ponder. I've been thinking about a lot of these issues myself and usually come up with more questions than anything. The US might not have sweatshops, but we definitely condone and benefit from those who work in terrible conditions, mainly undocumented workers. What can we do? Also Dave and I just watched something on sweatshops and working conditions overseas and how the US supports these places and keeps them going. How depressing! But what would come of the people working there if they were shut down? Would it be even worse for them? So sad. And again, what do we do about it?  

Heather Novak said...

HI Rachel!  I often write posts ahead of when I actually release 'em....that never-sure-when-I'll-get-time-to-write deal.  I believe everyone has a job to do, from the lowly holy toilet scrubbers to the Bill Gates of the world....but if we as a culture at least value and respect the toilet scrubber the situation can improve.  We have started on occasion giving thanks at dinner for the people who picked the lettuce or processed the chicken.  Humbling.

Heather Novak said...

Deb you are so right.  We try to buy local even thought it costs more...isn't it better to give money to someone you can touch?  I know people are moving toward more thoughtfulness but, OH!  We each have so far to go.  THANKS for reading, and better yet for commenting.  I was nervous about this post.

Michelle Ahlfeld said...

This post reminds me of a phrase that has stuck in my mind since my hippy dippy teen years (though even as an adult, I'm still more hippy dippy teen than I'd like to admit), "Live Simply so that Others may Simply Live."  I too struggle with living simply, buying local, knowing my source, etc. with that very American consumer driven desire for shiny things.  It kind of sucks.... How I've found to cope?  Shiny things made consciously with the occasional "uh oh" made in china piece of crap :)  No one's perfect, right?  lol

Heather Novak said...

What a great quote Michelle!  My friend Lovelyn also shares "It is a poverty to decide a child should die so that you may live as you wish." Mother Theresa....OUCH.  I could seriously feed two more families if I stopped buying organic and high quality food for our family.  UGH.  Thanks for the comment, it made my day to know I am not alone!

Nancy said...

WOW - I call those psychedelic dreams....no kidding you pictured yourself cross eyed - dreams are very telling and you make a great point about stuff. 

I ended my stuff phase of my life about 3 years ago - I have been a nomad these past few years and I travel and move with only the things that can fit in my car.  I've moved every 4-6 months and a move usually takes 20 minutes -

Simple - "Live simply so you can simply live" ....Elizabeth Seton

In gratitude to your transparency,

Heather Novak said...

Thanks Nancy, WOW you are a nomad!  I cannot imagine...but we are thinning our stuff on a weekly basis and it feels great.  If only we didn't have a basement to stuff with things we are not ready to let go of!