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Exchanges: But I treated them so well.

"Exchanges" is a new creative project by Sarah Poet. It's a compilation of vignettes about various dynamics of energy exchange, collected through experience, for the reader to contemplate. 1) What was the exchange? 2) What resources - monetary & non-monetary- were involved? 3) What was spoken and what was unspoken about the exchange agreement? I am fascinated by the topic of human exchanges. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

It’s decades later and I should be thriving financially but I’m not. I’d had a complex PTSD reaction happen where years of fending off feminine siphoning and abuse patterns had finally caught up to me, and that took longer to move through than I may have wanted. I now know that unplanned and uncontrollable complex processes of spirit, mind and soul take the time they take. 

And, they can teach a person a lot. Like how to pull apart the dynamics of any exchange. How to tell which expectations of energy are named and which aren't.

So while I was reconfiguring the orientation of my life's work, I took a part time job working for a wealthy woman with a very big house that she’d established as a retreat center. 

Beyond privilege, I would now describe this situation as "elite."

When I got there in the spring, she had two cleaners that she didn’t like, but she couldn’t communicate with them well because she didn’t speak Spanish and they spoke very little English. Admittedly, I watched them work and they were not very fast at their job, seeming to milk the hourly pay for all it was worth (not much, though, because it was not much pay.) 

I was tasked with finding other cleaners who I would be responsible for managing. No problem. But these two women were here one final time, and I was watching this employer get more and more stressed and dysregulated. I tried to remind her that we would soon have new cleaners and all would be well. 

There’s no other way to say it - she lost her shit on these two women. I hadn’t seen or been in the presence of such a scene in a very long time, because I take care of my energy like it’s my primary job - out of necessity and choice. Taking care of myself and being conscious about the types of things I get involved in is a priority for me. She may own a retreat center, but I live every day of my life like I'm on "retreat." Every day is sacred and my energy is always tended.

So at a retreat center, supposedly focused on well-being, I never expected this level of explosion and also vitriol.

I watched the scene from afar, heard the tirade that the women could probably understand at about 25%, and didn’t even question when I saw them pick up their things and walk right out the door. 

In this explosion, I heard the employer yell, “No one I write a check to is competent!” 

Later, I sent her a message. I let her know that that was really uncomfortable for me (I didn’t mention the women who it had actually happened to but I couldn’t imagine how they felt on the receiving end of that), and I let her know that I’d heard what she said about incompetence. I was really overqualified for this job and she hadn’t taken the time to even look at my resume, but if she was calling me incompetent, we were going to have to discuss this. 

She said, “I wasn’t talking about you, Sarah.” 

The next time I saw her, she told me how she’d taken such good care of the cleaners. 

I wondered what she meant by this. It fascinated me, actually.

She stated it multiple times. "I was so good to them."

Giving them a job for $20 or 30 an hour? Not even remembering one of their names? Screaming at them? 

Her behavior had shaken me because it was abusive. It was the kind of behavior someone feels entitled to unleashing over another. What made her think that she could do that to them?

Because they were Latina? Because she employed them? Because she saw them as incompetent? 

What did she think she had given them, how did she see that she was so "good to them," that she could then give herself permission to mistreat them? 

What were the terms of the cleaning exchange?

What were the terms of the verbal exchange?  Were they included?

Does any one woman have the right or justification to scream and abuse two other women?

Would she have behaved this way toward two other white women of the same financial standing as her?

I can guarantee that answer is no.

So what do we call this?

Unacceptable, for starters. Elitism also comes to mind.

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