lection season is in high gear, and I hear a lot of political candidates yapping about the middle class squeeze or the middle class crush. As a member of the middle class, I’d like to reframe that worn-out image. I don’t feel squeezed, or crushed. What I have is pissed off-ism.
Note I didn’t say pessimism. Pissed off-ism ups the ante. Mere pessimists just expect the
worst. Those of us in the pissed-off ranks get there by trying to make a lousy or unjust situation better. In a way, we’re actually a strain of optimists, because we think our actions stand a chance of improving the situation. Thus we play perpetual offense.
The problem is, bringing about the improvement in the 21st century U.SA. often takes so long and becomes so draining that it just leaves you feeling pissed off.
Case in point: Being an advocate for a special needs child. Last month we requested a new classroom assignment for our son on the autism spectrum after the first one proved a poor fit, manifesting in unprecedented aggressive behavior, anxiety and resistance to going to school in the first place.
We were fortunate. The school staff was extremely accommodating and the new classroom has made a night and day difference to our son. But getting to that point required intensive energy and effort for three solid weeks. That has real consequences for mental health.
Now, just as that’s squared away, comes implementation of Michigan’s new autism insurance law. This Detroit News article headline sums it up: New law offers little help. I’ve already made multiple calls to our insurance company, e-mailed our clinical providers and attended three meetings in the last month, and I still have no guarantee that I won’t have to pay out-of-pocket for benefits the law says my child’s entitled to today.
Pissed off? You bet I am.
In between there’s all the so-called small stuff. Take the car in to the shop complaining of a squeak. Spend $1,000 to fix, take the car home, only to hear it still squeak. Intermittent furnace problems only three years after installation (read: still warrantied) and indifferent service from the company who happily sold you the thing.
Thing is, that line about it all being small stuff is baloney. It may be small relatively speaking, but it’s not like you can blithely release the need for reliable transportation or a warm house for your family of four. And the parent stuff? That’s big stuff. Way worthwhile stuff. Stuff I’ll see through no matter how bloody bureaucratic it gets.
Which brings us back full circle, to walking around in a perpetually pissed-off state. Besides the mental stress, I worry about blood pressure, ulcers, migraines. That’s not small stuff, either.
So, then, what is one to do? Truly. Candidates, my fellow members of the middle class, anyone? How do I get off offense and back to enjoying this thing we call life?
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