bakery baking cake chocolate

In 1729 Jonathan Swift suggested we stew, roast, bake, or boil the excess of poor children who were clearly becoming a drain on society’s resources. Not to mention their filthy, begging hands and faces were detracting from the quaint storefronts of beautified down towns and the general, picturesque landscapes of a country. His solution was touted as a win for all; sustainable, fiscally responsible, wholesome and preventative as he argued this would allow ‘the breeders’ to go on producing as many children as their heart’s desired without the burden of having to care for their offspring past the age of one. Sadly, an estimated 31% of the population are now vegetarian and an additional 3% are vegan, until they get full time jobs and realize working people don’t have the time to dedicate to soaking their nuts. Therefore Jonathan’s well-intended solution might not be so swift after all. It’s too bad he died before The Great Hunger as he might’ve seen a reprieve in offers for his proposal. Thankfully Charles Dickens came along and gave us Scrooge; Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? Yes! And thank god. Prisons, it turns out are even more profitable than the cosmetics industry. They might be second cousins. The united states annual budget for prisons is $80 billion according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. A prison nonprofit says we’re actually spending $182 billion. I’m not sure where the extra profits come from; maybe it’s celery? One other source says our current leader has gracious plans to go either private or condo, probably for aesthetic reasons since old prisons are really lacking in curb appeal, thread-count and natural lighting. Money Watch calls this a real winner. Cha-ching! Meanwhile proposed cuts to national mental health funding, a whopping $17.9 billion, could be diverted to a chain of Swift Deli’s. I might be a marketing genius; we could put the Swift Deli’s right inside the condo-prisons and make dough hand over fist. I’ll lose faith in humanity if I keep going. What if awakening backed by science is actually cheaper than human bologna?

Two years ago my doctor asked if I was a veteran while going over the results of a cortisol test. For 24 hours all I could eat was boiled shrimp and brown rice. No problem since I’m great at mild starvation. Once in the morning, twice in the middle of the day and once before bed I had to find sanitary locations to blow into plastic tubes which I then Fed-exed to a lab. It felt indulgent, silly and foreign but I suddenly found myself with the best health insurance I’d ever had and went to a naturopath desperate to cure my anemia. Seven years of i.v iron infusions were taking a toll both on my body and my budget. While working on a psych unit for a county hospital my hemoglobin dropped to 8. Granted, I was also going through a divorce at the time, but building a day treatment program as the primary clinician responsible for upwards of twenty acute psych patients, five groups a day, five days a week may have been a contributing factor. My annual take home pay was roughly $34,000, barely enough for rent on my studio apartment and giant student loan payments to a dark lord named Sallie. The program itself cleared a million dollars in the first year. In order to get approval for a half time social worker to share the load, I was tasked with being the sole provider of intake assessments, group, individual and family therapy, discharge planning and all the glorious documentation for an undetermined amount of time as part of demonstrating to a man who looked like Captain America that we’d successfully exceeded capacity and could afford a little help. Please sir, I want some more. During that time I was assaulted twice. Thankfully the bites and scratches didn’t break the skin since I have a phobia of vaccines. As for the clump of hair ripped out of my head, in fairness it was falling out on its own anyway. After relocating 3000 miles in pursuit of a living wage, with the intention of Restoring Sanctuary, the work got harder which I saw as an opportunity to get better at finding solutions. In the first year I responded to crisis that made national headlines. Adding to the stress of the response, which for me lasted over 3 months, a blizzard had dumped an absurd amount of snow in a town with loose definitions of the word plow. Tip of a Titanic iceberg. I was doing everything I knew to stay well in an unwell system but it wasn’t enough to leverage the flood.

I was diagnosed with something called adrenal fatigue. It sounded like a fake diagnosis used to sell expensive supplements, which it is, but apparently there’s also a valid, medical reason for why I found myself crying in front of the dishwasher. My cortisol was spiking all day and plummeting at night to the point where my body was unable to regulate itself; like parents of newborns, combat soldiers, ER nurses, cashiers, police officers, med students, all of Wall Street, oppressed and minority groups, the daily lives of people living in poverty and anyone experiencing a chronic episode of trauma. Bonus points if your trauma took place in childhood. Extra bonus points if the trauma’s inter-generational. Isn’t that all of us since capitalism is built on the exploitation of self and other and human history has had zero chapters entitled Word Peace? The CEO works the people of the company so hard eventually everyone’s heart explodes. If that’s true trauma-informed awareness and applications don’t have to live silos. So why do they? We’ve been tricked into believing we’re fighting for scare resources. The cure for comparative suffering is compassion which despite being limitless, is hard to find when we’re sick, tired and being asked to do more and more with less and less, especially by someone who lives in a bigger house and has nicer shoes.

I was beyond exhausted but couldn’t sleep and when I did, I found myself having nightmares about work or stuff I needed to work on which had been triggered by work; incident reports, the Gargoyle, crisis response, witnessing a fatality when I was 3, losing a case manager to home visit that went horribly wrong, daily exposure to human suffering charted across a spreadsheet in the form of capitation targets, remembering that time I was homeless, biopsychosocial assessments audited along a checklist of administrative rules or an actual human being sitting in front of me telling their story.

Before you break out a violin lets talk about dessert. Have you ever had a slice of flourless chocolate cake? If human service were a dessert it would be a rich, bittersweet, flourless chocolate cake. If you eat more than a modest slice of this dense beast you will most certainly get sick but taken in slow, thoughtful and savored bites the experience might change your life for good. I can think of no better metaphor. I was crashing hard cause I’d had way too much. Let them eat cake! Oublie Marie! Heartless bitch; such is the perspective of those encased in walls of solitary perspective like palaces or projects. Speaking of prisons, we might each be living in different, less globally profitable cages of silence, invisibility, misunderstanding and lack of access not just to bread or beds but to each other. I don’t understand the burden of being royalty any more than they understand the daily lives of peasants. The naturopath suggested I quit my job immediately. She had a friend who worked at ‘some dog food company. You could probably make like $80K a year doing easy stuff.’ What? A cushy job? So this is what happens when you have connections? I briefly imagined sitting in a quiet office learning how to brand and market gourmet kibble. After a few minutes my soul told me it would quickly shrivel up and die if I took one step closer to this well intended but awful prescription. In fairness my doctor is incredibly kind and willingly worked with my choices. There are many ways we can choose to get out but going through is the only choice I know of that gets us to the other side. I love human service, what I don’t love are the lack of boundaries, awards for codependence and general toxicity building up in a system designed by division. Essentially it’s sick because we’re sick; a parallel process requiring a triple dose of cure; yours, mine, ours.

If everyone swept their own doorstep the whole world would be clean.-Swedish Proverb

In order for each of us to tidy up our own stoop, everyone needs a stoop, maybe arms, legs, eyes and some kind of broom. Last time I checked the DG sells brooms for a dollar. They’re not the best and a dustpan costs extra, but it’ll basically get the job done. Sounds simple enough but life being less than simple means we can get sick, hurt, kicked out, hired to clean someone else’s stoop and are then too tired to clean our own or go broke which would then require help from a neighbor to maintain our threshold.

Fifteen percent of the world are disabled, according to WHO.  Roughly 40 million Americans are disabled according to PEW. Your level of ability is decided by YOU. Therefore participation in Swedish proverbs may vary which is why we need public services; people to do everything from making coffee to coffins. Along the spectrum from cradle to grave are multiple opportunities to invest in each other so more of us could be considered for the Lawn of the Month Club; public education, health insurance, mental health clinics, addictions recovery, restorative justice, birth control, non-violent communication, trauma-informed journalism, affordable housing and free manure. Instead we continue to invest in war, punishment and Ben & Jerry’s which have made hospitals, jails and mental health clinics very busy, underfunded and therefore understaffed.

This year Massachusetts proposed a mandate that would enforce patient caps for nurses. The proposal is being met with angry mobs of hospital execs who say there aren’t enough nurses to implement the mandate, some nurses are already taking excessive Diet Coke breaks and the costs to hire more help could force some centers to close. What is to become of Downton? I wonder how much the angry execs make? And now I shall be burned at the stake. Massachusetts. Salem. Anyway, back to cake and cortisol. We’re being asked to do more with less which is not only burning out a shrinking workforce, it’s leading to a decline in the quality of service, resulting in poor outcomes and a sicker, under-educated, underdeveloped population, not to mention fatal errors. According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Roughly 250,000 people die receiving healthcare in part because we, as healthcare providers, spend more time staring at computer trying to find a billing code than we spend looking at our patient. I suppose the five guys who run everything might enjoy lording over a world full of graveyards and prisons but for now there’s still hope.

Thanks to ACE’s research we’re gathering data on the prevalence and impact of childhood trauma, how it can set us up for a shortened life full bad choices we wouldn’t be making if someone would just show us a better way. No doc, we’re not all veterans but each of us are fighting our own war. My naturopath was the first doctor who cried when I told her about my childhood. While I was grateful and even taken aback by her compassion, it also made me feel…diminished? guilty? embarrassed? at first. I might’ve felt stronger if she’d high fived me and hit me with a splash of Gatorade. Instead I went back to therapy and started drinking holy basil. Together we got my anemia into remission and my hormones more balanced. We’re all works in progress.

In support of caseload caps and other forms of building workforce resilience, why not make cortisol testing part of the process? Instead of measuring productivity against capitation targets established by the man behind the curtain, set insurance rates against staff ratio determined by the toll the service takes on providers, while simultaneously investing in widespread resilience building through the theory and practice of trauma-informed care; a term many within the movement find limiting. The Collective Compassion Movement? Sane Solutions for a Septic World? How to be Human Initiative? Suggestions are welcomed.

The stress of modern capitalism isn’t limited to healthcare and doesn’t only affect service providers. If factories aren’t collapsing on top of us while we stitch together the fabric of our lives, our partner is leaving us for the plastic surgeon. I’ve only ever cleaned mansions but I’m guessing they’re lonely place to live.

Either way it wouldn’t hurt to establish a new measure of profit. We’re doing it backwards and feeling the pain. Flip the script. We say who, we say when, we say how much, but only if you’re in private practice or Kit DeLuca. Managed care is the industrial strength version human service. Wear gloves. It stings. Lots of organizations have workplace wellness tests and incentives like walking groups (I hide and smoke in the shrubbery.), healthy lunch clubs (I eat salad in front of you and binge all night.), hydration challenges (I pee in pools?) and personal health assessments which come with things like free first aid kits. Your blood pressure’s through the roof. Here’s a band-aid. Exactly.

Fortunately, we can amuse ourselves with satire until the powers that be start cutting equitable slices of cake.


ps: I feel horribly guilty writing 2000 words of something that isn’t my book but this piece wouldn’t budge till I got it out. Hooray for Saturday and Sunday.

pps: A fascinating article from the New York Times on Holocaust survivors and how their levels of norepinephrine matched war veterans. New rabbit hole research. 

38 thoughts on “A Modest Proposal

  1. I really appreciate your post. And it’s horrible what you’ve experienced. I hope you keep standing. For years I’ve seen the sliding of this country. But I always thought, that’s an observation about any government throughout history. But I really think we’re falling. I was a youth director at my church for a few years. My position was eliminated due to budget constraints. The pastors took over. I know they make $90,000 a year, because it’s a spreadsheet item at the annual meeting. To tell you the truth, the directorship was a labor of love as I couldn’t really afford to work it. I switched over to Uber driving. Now I run deliveries. A couple of months ago, I heard that President George Washington predicted that the United States would not last beyond 200 years. After reading your article, I know that he was absolutely right. Sadly , the foundation of this country is based on genocide and exploitation of people and natural resources. The land of opportunity is a cultural model. But the opportunities get grabbed up by the same group of people, every time there is an economic downturn. So our culture, which is based on spending, is becoming more and more elite. I hope I’m wrong.

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    • So very well said Branded. I’m sorry your position was cut despite funding being available; an awful feeling I’m sure. As you said the work was a labor of love. I think we prevent ourselves from falling too far with a healthy mix of compassionate service and passionate advocacy. We don’t have fail if our love and trust are bigger than our fears.

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      • I’m glad you said that. Talking helps. I tried my own program as a volunteer for a couple years. But gotta pay the bills. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to work for free? Thanks for your efforts.

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      • Your thoughts are welcome here anytime. It would be great to be able to spend more of our time helping each other rather just paying the bills, although Uber is pretty helpful; I bet some days you feel like a therapist 😉 Thanks for all you’re doing too. Compassion makes a difference no matter it shows up.

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  2. You write one of the most thoughtful blogs on the internet. This one made me laugh, think, fume, and agree. Cake indeed, crumbs to the masses, many of whom lap them as though significant nourishment had filled their bellies instead of toxic gruel. The awful thing is that we ARE eating the children – the impoverished ones, the darkly hued ones, the ones who follow OTHER religions, the ones for whom English is a second language, the ones with drug addled parents or none at all. You know – the ones who don’t count.

    I’m truly sorry for the pain you’ve suffered. Don’t need to know the details to know how much you hurt because I was stunned to find I suffer PTSD, despite never having been in the military or in a war. My childhood, perhaps like yours or perhaps an entirely different hell, left me scarred and anxious. But I rise and I defend those who deserve defense. Yes, we make choices. I’ve made some awful doozies but I can live with my conscience even if I can’t always sleep.

    You and I should both get back to our WiP. Obviously you have something worthy to write.

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words Sharon. I guess there was a reason this piece pushed itself to the front of the line.
      As for your PTSD, first I’m sorry to hear you were hurt too. And even more sorry that we branded PTSD as a special illness only reserved for soldiers. This was true for a long time and likely part of the propaganda of keeping the masses stuck in our shame while continuing to glorify the sacrifice of human life to the war machine. We’re all hurting. Everyone’s pain counts.
      So we keep rising, as you say. EMDR gave me my sleep back, just saying. 😉
      Yes and hooray to WiPs! Happy writing Sharon!

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  3. “compassion, and limitless supply”…:) I haven’t seen either of those in the same vicinity, ever. 🙂 It is a program I can stand behind. Sign me up! I also think that crying in front of the dishwasher is normal. Especially if it’s one of those out of the blue, just hits you, uncontrollable sobs. If we could plan those, and make it a sport, I think I could win. 🙂 Then again, I don’t have any medical degrees hahaha 😉 Prisons are nice if you don’t have to be in one or look at them. Although, aren’t we all in a prison, or looking at one when we look into the mirror. 😉 The system seems to be jammed up everywhere, my dear E. Being at a “medical, and then rehabilitation” facility for over a month, dealing with the mountains of paperwork, lack thereof, the procedures to get from point A to point B you have to go to D, then, Q, then M, and then, and then, and then…. The light at the end of the tunnel was like a pinhead every step we had to take. You could feel, it was as if, everyones hands were tied, and no one wanted to take a step for fear of rocking the boat, or that they were just as confused as we were. It was a 50/50 mix 🙂 One issue I do have with this post E. I love the image of the flourless cake. I think it is brilliant. But the picture you posted 🙂 oh my goodness, it looks so good, sadly, I fall into the category of not having a slice of it 🙂 ❤

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    • Mags! Hi. I made you this Dishwasher Sobbing Award, first place for tears washing grease out of the way. 💙🥇🏆 Yes, there’s no end to dishes or compassion.
      Were you in medical rehab or was this a loved one? I hope all is well. A dear friend broke her foot recently and lives in a country with universal healthcare; I can’t imagine not having to fill out mountains of paperwork or sharing in the confusion with tense providers. Maybe we should move or at least consider a field trip? 😉
      I’m sorry the cake is a trouble spot. Likewise for me but the metaphor worked. To choosing our own culinary adventure ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      • My mom broke her femor, and our adventure began. No one listens to me but if insurance worked, then the medical staff could provide the health care we need. Insurance muddies the waters. Its crystal clear when the insurance premiums are due, not negotiable you pay. When it comes to the insurance company turn paying the medical bills, its time to negotiate, deny, appeals, more denials. I have heard, “insurance won’t pay for that” so the doctor can’t do it. WHAT? My doctor of over 30 years told me earlier this year after my battle with my insurance company that he isn’t allowed to practice medicine after over 30 years of doing so, he said he works for the insurance company. He talks to a person who has never been to medical school wanting to know why he ordered a prodecure, bloodwork, test, etc for a patient. Did he try this or that? Does the patient rrally, really need this? As if he is bored today, and is just ordering test. Meanwhile having to hire more staff. Not to take care of patients mind you but to deal with insurance companies. The circle of life. I want to jump into the endless compassion pool 🙂 I didn’t have the ingredients to make the cake but I did make homemade biscuits with lard and all 😉 Buttered and strawberry jammed them up 🙂

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      • Ugh. I’m sorry to hear your mom broke her femur; I can’t imagine the pain. And as you so clearly describe the insult to the injury that is American healthcare. I don’t have the strength to go there at the moment but I’m happy to pray for your mom. You’re welcome to sit and soak in the deepest end of the compassion pool for as long as you need. Homemade buttered biscuits with strawberry jam sound like the perfect medicine. ❤️

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  4. you covered so much ground here. I read all 2000 words and it was great. Thought provoking, stingingly true and very sad at its core. You want the right things, I only wish I thought that they could materialize in our lifetimes

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  5. OMG, the meagre pay you mentioned combined with the 2.0 FTE position … sounds like teaching too. You do it because it’s a calling, bwahahaha. I too enjoyed the experiences, but not the shocking work overload and low pay and the fact that the middle managers who play golf, give speeches and absolutely don’t engage in frontline work get three times what the frontline workers make, for doing so much less in terms of time, and even less again in terms of usefulness. The tail is wagging the dog… I’m out, and your exit will come too – there are other ways to use your many gifts.

    Modest Proposal was such brilliant and dark satire. Much like this song:

    This is from the guy who organised Live Aid etc ROFL.

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    • The English aristocracy used to hang cross-stitched Scripture about the nobility of service in the work areas of their ‘below stairs’ staff. Is it noble to empty a chamber pot for someone capable of doing it themselves? I have similar feelings about inspirational quotes and those Hang in There cat posters in classrooms. Extortion by cheerleading. I’m sure both Jesus and the cat feel equally insulted to be used as productivity fodder.
      Thanks for the video link. I’ll check it out. Jean Paul Sartre said there’s no exit but I trust you 😉


      • Just go to YouTube and type in The Great Song Of Indifference, by Bob Geldof. 🙂 Nice little anthem.

        If it’s between me and Sartre, I think I give better advice! LMAO

        I read Nausea years ago and here was my overwhelming recollection: Thinking, “If you want meaning, get off your ass and make it already!” Grrr.


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      • Will do! I just finished watching a fantastic video featuring a man playing the Uilleann Pipes which had me in stitches given the context 😉
        Without question you’re far superior to Sartre but I’m very grumpy in the morning. Much more in love with humanity after cardio, which I just finished.
        To making meaning! In my current job I get to implement a blueprint for world peace so, not the worst thing to be doing between episodes of writing. 😁


      • Well, the song is just delightful! 😂😂😂 Chipper nihilism.
        One fantastic detail about today, my devotion this morning was Free; Live as free people- Peter. God reads our commentary and He’s the eternal optimist!


      • The wild synchronicity here is almost beyond words! My DH wrote a piece yesterday also referencing a terrible political omelette! I’m cracking up!!! Pun intended 😂


      • Oh by the way… in summary, I think existentialism is just an excuse to sit around, moan and drink beer! As a “philosophy” it probably really appeals to those whose preferred leisure, or indeed life, activities are sitting around, moaning and drinking beer. Imagine lending an imaginary weight or imagined sanctity to these activities by putting them under a philosophical umbrella! So now you get to sit around, moan, drink beer *and* feel superior at the same time – and enlightened, or should that be de-lightened. Hmmm, let’s do a feminist reading of the concept – since these leisure/life activities seem to be particularly preferred by possessors of Y-chromosomes…

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      • With all the tasks assigned to those of us with XX chromosomes who among us have time to sit around and drink beer? Which I’m told tastes like wet socks from within the souls of rubber boots 😉 *sigh* off to shave my legs and paint my nails while the patriarch sustain their reign.


      • This is an *excellent* point. ROFL

        Speaking of -isms, Brett cracked up so much when we watched the Trilogy concert DVD recently. I actually didn’t know any of the songs off the Pornography album, but was familiar with Disintegration and Bloodflowers. I knew some of the band were really into existentialism (my theory is that it is compatible with and lends imagined weight to beer drinking et al as explained previously) as young twenty-somethings when they did that album. So here I was, straining for the first line of the first featured album, and it was: “It doesn’t matter if we all die.” So I said, “Well, that’s a good start!” and for some reason Brett could not stop laughing after that! 🙂

        Now that I can sit on a chair again I might actually be able to start going through your playlist from before my accident, that I was going to have as my tax soundtrack. I wasn’t going to do it the disservice of listening on tinny laptop speakers; oh no, it’s got to be the real speakers hooked up to our office “mainframe”! 🙂

        How I wished that could have been movable when I was looking for horizontal entertainment these long weeks…

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  6. Oh yeah, I’d love to see this blog piece go into the New York Times or The Guardian or some other reputable vehicle, as an opinion piece. Ticks all the boxes. Highly educational for the public and a great springboard for discussion. Why not send it in? You’d even get paid for it! ❤

    Big writing high-five! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I sent in a letter to the editor of The Atlantic. Nothing so far. But I might have connections (eventually) to this brilliant columnist with The Guardian. She’s my hero. 😉


      • Hah you dag! 😉 Make hay while the sun shines, don’t wait for your neighbour to cut their field! 😉 Your hay is ready, m’dear. What do you mean, letter to the editor? That doesn’t get paid. Thar’s just for when you need a good vent. You should be paid for your writing. Just pick a sub-editor, and ping it to them. That’s what I do (and it was DH who encouraged me and he was right). Nothing to lose, everything to gain. Think of those pedicures now! 😉

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      • Ha! Australian dags can’t be rinsed off. They are good and sundried and usually contain burrs for good measure. They have to be *chopped* off! 🙂

        Aquatic pedicure: A really smooth pedicure performed by a friendly merman or mermaid on a human water guest. It involves nail trimming and filing, skin exfoliation using various natural algae, and a nice foot massage – but regrettably you have to do the moisturising and toenail painting yourself, since that doesn’t work so well underwater…

        Liked by 1 person

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