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Was it just me or was there just not enough public outrage over the shutdown—partial or otherwise—of the federal government?

I mean, I saw people crying about their conditions, begging for the government to reopen and, in some of the most saddening cases, tearfully accepting assistance from food banks or charities just to make it.  But, even in the face of uncertainty and humiliation, overall, people were just a little too reserved.

Now I’m not advocating violence or anything crazy like that but, what better time to at least speak truth to power than the shutdown…a shutdown that was punctuated by a President of the United States so out of touch with poverty, not to mention reality, that he suggested that those affected by the shutdown simply explain their situation to their local supermarket managers to receive assistance (when simply being escorted from the premises is the much more likely scenario)?

If that were not enough, to add further insult to injury, it was actually suggested at one point that those affected take out loans.

How many more shots can anyone be expected to take?

I mean, what else did they have to lose?

House, car, food, utilities, kids in college depending on parental assistance, etc., were already jeopardized.

Why not speak up?  Why not yell from the rooftops?

Of interest to me is that Trump remained relatively popular and supported even after a devastating 30+ days of government shutdown (which, by the way, affected everyone and not just government workers).

I mean, I wasn’t expecting torches and pitchforks, but I was at least expecting some kind of mass mutiny from Trump’s poor white base.  Instead, they didn’t seem to mind suffering just as long as poor blacks were suffering too (to say nothing of getting that wall to keep all those nasty, brown people out).  And just forget about Trump’s campaign promise that Mexico would pay for the Wall!  His base totally put that aside without further ado.

It made me wonder how this could be.  But, more than that, it brought back to my mind the question of how a rich white man could have ever been chosen by poor whites to represent them in the first place?  How did they convince themselves that he could…much less, would?

Then it dawned on me.

I asked myself, who benefits the most from poor whites blaming/fighting and protesting against poor blacks and Hispanics as if they are directly or indirectly responsible for their impoverished state of being?

The answer?

How about the wealthy white one percent who benefit by getting the impoverished majority to battle each other while never focusing on them?

Think about it!  What would happen to them if all the underrepresented groups ever joined forces?

Maybe that mass mutiny I spoke of earlier…complete with torches and pitchforks?

Can anybody hear me?

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As another year comes to an end, I find myself experiencing an emotion that I feel almost every year now.  In fact, as far back as I can remember, I’ve felt the same way year after year.  The funny thing is, despite what I just said, I can barely even remember what actually took place during the year.

Don’t misunderstand.  This isn’t a memory issue—this time.  I remember eating, sleeping, praying, shopping, working, cleaning, eating, writing, reading, eating…but not necessarily in that order.  You get the point.

But, here’s the thing, what I don’t remember is having any particular feelings associated with these actions.  How can that be?

How could I have vivid memories of the actions but not feel any more about them than I do throwing a napkin away?

You might be saying, so what?  If you are, does that mean you do remember?  Does it mean that you don’t remember either or that you really don’t care?  That’s fine either way.  But, I really want to know if anybody else has forgotten or if it’s just me?  And, more than that, is this how it’s supposed to be?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t feel sad or even depressed.  But, I can’t say that I feel happy either.  And, that’s almost the problem!

Aren’t I supposed to feel something?  All the time?  Most of the time?  Sometimes?

Shouldn’t I know which one I’m feeling at any given time?  Does anybody know or are the people who seem to know just faking?  Or maybe pretending is a better word?  Acting like they think they are supposed to act?

To be clear, I find myself completing the actions I did mention with proficiency, but it’s almost like a checklist.  I’m borderline robotic.

In fact, I seem to get the most satisfaction from completing the listed task (and thus checking it off for a time) rather than from participating in any of them.

Now that I think about it, the fact that I refer to them as tasks is probably cause for some of my uneasiness and concern.

When did life become just a series of tasks to complete?

On the flip side, I could be making more of the situation than it warrants.  Maybe I’m just an ordinary, everyday person who feels like every other ordinary, everyday person who is simply trying to confirm my ordinary, everyday status in a world where the ordinary and the everyday is always under attack for not being extraordinary.

But, what does extraordinary really mean?   Would I perform my tasks with a smile, if I were more extraordinary?

I don’t know but, I’m sure willing to give it a try!

Can anybody hear me?

Where does the line lie exactly?

Humor me for a moment.

If I walk in front of a speeding bus to demonstrate that I truly believe/am convinced that The Most High God will not let the bus harm me, is that a simultaneous demonstration of strong faith, presumption AND just plain stupidity or just one or two?

Okay, while some are, no doubt, calling it crazy, my guess is, of the listed choices, stupidity is winning in the polls.  Duly noted.

But let’s analyze the scenario for a second.  If He stops the bus from harming me, is that due to my faith or was it perhaps to avoid a hiccup in His own plans for my life?

Is it presumptuous of me to assume that I am, in any way, even remotely integral to any plans He has for His Kingdom or is it strong faith that I believe that I am?

On the flip side, if He doesn’t stop the bus from harming me, is it due to a lack of faith on my part or because it was presumptuous of me to deliberately walk in front of the bus in the first place?  Or was it simply my time to die?

Taking it further, if He doesn’t stop the bus from harming me, is it because I was not integral to His overall plans or because my death in that manner was what was called for to advance the kingdom?  Would it be presumptuous to believe even that?

I know, I know.  This scenario is rather dumb.  But take it other places.  If I apply for this job I think is right for me after praying about it, is that the Spirit moving me or my own voice parroting what I want to hear?  If I go out with this person who just sort of leapt into my path, is that God’s will for me, just coincidence or me leaning into my own wants?  Which part of my decision is faith and which part is me presuming to know God’s plan for me?  And how am I to know the difference?

Now, some people think none of this even matters.  In fact, some don’t even believe in God in the first place.  And others seem to cling to that outdated “old man in the sky” ideology.  The line between faith and presumption (which can also tie into stupidity) may not be important to them, but to those of faith, these questions are the ones we contend with every day.

Sidebar note:  Is this because they don’t have any faith, have too much faith in their own intellect or because they presume that they are correct in their beliefs?

Sidebar to the sidebar note:  I find this to be particularly true with those in higher education!  Somehow, a textbook that changes every year trumps a holy book that doesn’t.

Is it possible to educate yourself (and others) into faithlessness based on the presumption of your correctness?

Should faith ever be based upon your ability to prove to yourself that you could not possibly be incorrect?

Is that contrary to what faith is or is supposed to be?

I’m aware that many others may indeed say none of this really matters but, I think it does!

What if they’re right, you say?  World keeps spinning, sun keeps rising.

But, here’s the thing, what if I am?

Can anybody hear me?

How many times in one day are you bombarded with opportunities to work from home with the promise of earning great pay and benefits, only to find that the job that caught your interest is just an illusion?

What do I mean?

Imagine a job with a description that seems to be exactly what you have been waiting for appears in your inbox.  Although you had searched through a gazillion listings, this particular position seemed to just come out of nowhere.  Just like that, days, weeks, months, years of depression have lifted.  While thanking God, you quickly gather your papers.  Suddenly, there is light at the end of this dark tunnel.  You have to get ready.

So, you immediately head over to the site/board/posting with your information in hand.  However, when you attempt to apply for the position, you notice so many other job offers keep appearing.  But, somehow, the specific one you were applying for (you know, the one that caught your eye in the first place) isn’t even listed.  In fact, you can’t find it anywhere on the employment website, even after an exhaustive search.  Isn’t THAT interesting?

Okay, you’re disappointed but, these things happen sometimes.  You can roll with the punches, right?  Never mind the fact that the perfect job you wanted and that was advertised minutes earlier seems to have disappeared into thin air and has left you scratching your head.  You’re willing to apply for a similar position.  After all, you’re talented, versatile and more than a little desperate.  So, you do just that.

To your utter amazement, the description of the next position you’re interested in is almost identical to the position that had initially caught your eye!  Things are looking up for you…again! What more could you ask for?

That’s when you notice that although the title of the new position and the description of duties is almost the same as your initial choice (maybe evaluator changed to specialist), somehow, the pay is what really changed…a lot.  Somewhere between evaluator and specialist, a substantial pay cut resulted.  Unbelievable.

Okay, you’re even more disappointed but you’re a trooper…and you still need a job. Thankfully, you don’t have that many bills, you don’t eat much and if you cut back on foolish or unnecessary spending, you can still make it.  So, you trudge on through the grueling employment process.  You’re now on your way to gainful, full-time employment…from home no less.  Exciting, right?

Wrong!

Upon further review, you now notice that the new position is only part-time so, the benefits (health insurance, profit sharing, etc.), that you were counting on no longer apply.  Thank goodness you’re relatively healthy.  Outside of occasional allergies, you’re as healthy as a horse.

Although this isn’t good news at all, it will have to do for now.  You have résumés all over town.  And while other potential employers aren’t exactly beating down your door, something else is bound to turn up, right?  So, you decide to work this position until something better comes along.  Sounds like a plan?

Until you read the even finer print and discover that the employer pays only once a month using an outdated, antiquated check system (in 2018) with no firm payment date and, if that isn’t enough, charges a you fee for using its website.

You guessed it, this dinosaur of a company is somehow able to retrieve monies from your bank using updated banking withdrawal technology—every month without fail—but pays its employees with checks—actual, outdated checks, not direct deposit—that, in addition to being inconvenient, requires additional processing time to be printed, mailed and then cashed.

Imagine all of that happening at one time.  Or go through it and then you can just remember instead of imagine.

It’s enough to make you quit before you even get hired!

Can anybody hear me?

If you’re like me, you hate to see anyone being mistreated.  If you’re REALLY like me, you hate to see almost ANY living creature (with a special minus on a select few) being mistreated as well.

As such, I am as upset over the recent immigration scandal as anyone else.  However, what really makes me upset is when people become selectively distraught by the sufferings of some while willfully ignoring the sufferings of others.

What do I mean?

It is of a truth that Jewish communities are allowed and even encouraged to remember the misdeeds of one Adolf Hitler.  According to history, he targeted them for destruction over a period of approximately 5 years.  We can safely assume that he is hated by all Jewish persons and, furthermore, that others are taught to revile him as well.

To that end, the Holocaust is taught in detail at every learning institution; at least one film is produced every year recounting their mistreatment; and (and this is the best part) even though they have recovered (quite handsomely, I might add) in the form of a homeland (Israel) and the amassing of extreme wealth, and social and political influence, Hitler remains atop history’s most hated villains list.

Conversely, African Americans, who were kidnapped from their homeland, enslaved in a foreign land, raped, murdered, pillaged, bred like animals and violated in every aspect of their lives, are directed to do the opposite of what Jewish persons are allowed (and even instructed) to do.  Instead of being encouraged to remember (even though it’s impossible to forget an ongoing saga) their historical mistreatment at the hands of an entire race of people (not just one man), African Americans are instructed not to relive their obvious and no less disturbing suffering.  And they are admonished for doing otherwise.

In fact, African Americans, unlike any other group, have to feign adjustment and affection for a hostile political and social system or risk being accused of being hate-filled, unable to move on from the past, and/or of using their history as slaves as an excuse for any lack of success; all of this despite the fact that they continue to reside in the land of their former slavemasters and must continually battle for basic human rights (or even to be left alone to live and work in peace) even in 2018.

If African Americans even discuss (much less make a movie about) the Transatlantic Slave Trade or any of the vestiges of racism, they are shunned.  They are attacked by all sides, even some of their own who think only of their own finances and not the fate of their people.  And on that note, to date, this is the only group that has received no monetary reparations for either their suffering or, in many cases, their contributions to the American economy, history or society.  Never mind that other races of people have received monetary reparations and apologies for race-related misdeeds, if they argue for it, they are just lazy and want something for nothing.

Today, in the face of continued racism, African Americans are supposed to and expected to abandon their own fight for justice to champion the battle that Mexicans and other people of color are experiencing against the same regime that destroyed and oppressed them…in spite of the fact that many of these other people have been, for the most part, silent for the plight of black people.

African Americans are expected to do this even though these same groups of people did nothing to assist them at the height of their mistreatment and, even worse, spoke out against their attempts to redress the balance and pursue justice.

It must be asked: where was the outrage for black people being murdered in the streets, and thus separated from their families by a bit more than a cell wall?  Where was the understanding that the system was flawed and actively working against a group of people to protect the interests of white supremacy?  And where were the unity, calls to action and cries for accountability just a few months ago, when white America was openly complaining that their rights were infringed upon because black people finally understood that their lives mattered?

Do the people who have been calling for assistance and compassion this entire time look like the bad guys in this scenario?  Does it make other peoples of color who are experiencing race related mistreatment the bad guys?  God forbid.  Instead, it should shine an ugly, historical light on the peoples—the same peoples—who are once again destroying the lives of yet another group of people (and people of color I might add).

Can anybody hear me?

For some reason, my emotions have been up and down all month long no matter how much I’ve attempted to concentrate.  It feels like I’ve spent more time focused on being unfocused than I have on refocusing.  Hopefully, that makes sense.

Unfortunately, this blog very much reflects my temporary struggle.  So, my blog for this month, is essentially a blog about a blog that almost didn’t happen.

You see, I didn’t want to write that I feel overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time, even though that is exactly how I’m feeling.  I didn’t want to write about feeling sad and happy at the same time, even though that would be accurate as well.  Finally, I didn’t want to write that I feel tired and anxious for fear that you probably would not understand, think I was whining or just plain not care.  It just didn’t seem right to blog about feeling like a ball of contradictions.  I mean, I’m aware that everybody feels one or the other of these emotions at any given moment.  But, right now, all of them seem to be competing for attention in the pit of my stomach.

You might be more than a little curious as to how I can feel what seems like conflicting emotions simultaneously?  Don’t worry, I am too.

Despite all that, I decided, at the last minute, to go against my original thoughts and write down every word…regardless of how whiny or confused it may have sounded.

And you know what?  It felt good.

It felt good to admit I was, to quote the song, a ball of confusion.  It was freeing, almost like a release.

However, with that release, I fully understood that I need to either explain myself at some point or be indefinitely relegated to the whiner’s hall of fame.

And since I didn’t want that dubious honor, that knowledge created more stress and an even bigger problem for me.  In fact, it took me right back to the beginning, when I almost didn’t write this blog in the first place.

The problem was simple.  I didn’t want to have to explain myself.  I didn’t want to feel obligated to explain how I can feel all of these emotions at the same time because, I didn’t know if I could.  I didn’t know if I could properly convey on paper what I felt in my head and in my heart.

So, not writing anything down at all seemed like a real solution.  If I didn’t write anything down, there wouldn’t be an issue.  Problem solved, right?

Wrong!

Wrong and more wrong!  You know why?  Because the issues would still be there regardless.

But like I said, after writing it all down, I felt a weight lifted from me almost immediately. It slowly dawned on me that, as crazy as all of this seems, that I’m not alone.  Sadly (or happily as the case may be), somebody out there knows exactly what I’m feeling/talking about.

Somebody out there feels overwhelmed and underwhelmed, happy and sad, tired and anxious, old and young, encouraged and discouraged, fearless and afraid, hot and cold, smart and dumb, loved and unloved, sure and unsure, all at the same time.

And, here’s the thing, that’s okay.  That’s perfectly okay!!  It’s just another aspect of life that people don’t talk about or don’t LIKE to talk about because they want to appear as always together, always sane, and always normal.  But the irony is, if we are honest with ourselves, we can all attest that ‘normal’ can be extremely overrated or underrated just the same…and at the same time.

Can anybody hear me?

As depressing as it is to say, racism/white supremacy is just as rampant today as it has ever been at any time in history.  Granted, it’s not as overt or as outright and widespread as enslavement, but it’s present nonetheless.  More than that, it’s no longer hiding under the veil of civility.

This may not seem like a profound revelation to some but for those who have had to endure this malady from the cradle, while often pretending that they don’t, it’s groundbreaking.

It’s groundbreaking not because it’s so shocking or somehow strange to modern day sensibilities.  Rather, it’s groundbreaking because of the clarity it brings to the everyday existence of the affected parties.

For those above mentioned individuals, the reality that a large portion of white America, as well as a decent sized swath of the rest of the population, considers them to be lesser people answers a lot of the nagging questions they have had about the status of their lives, education, and employment.

For those individuals, it answers the “whys.”  Why are other races of people allowed to prosper?  Why are blacks treated differently from other races?  Why do the cries of black people fall upon deaf ears? Why are black people profiled as criminals regardless of their contributions to society?

Regardless of what is going on in the world or what other races of people are actually committing crimes, somehow, blacks are projected as the race of people that should be feared.

Even though the recent school shooters, church shooters, concert shooters, cinema shooters and mail bombers have all been white males, black males are still seen as the most dangerous threat imaginable.  Somehow, the white males are often presented as loners (not terrorists) and arrested without incident.

Meanwhile, a young father in his grandmother’s backyard with a cell phone was fatally wounded by law enforcement…because the officers suddenly feared for their lives!

The reality of seeing so many people armed to the teeth for fear of black and brown people answers the question of why the police don’t fear for their safety when dealing with white armed males but are afraid of unarmed black males to the point that they are murdered.

It also answers why so many other races of people who see proof of the injustices manage to somehow justify them.

Still, the question must be asked, what’s going on here?

Do white people believe black people are imagining these situations?  Do they see the fight for life as whining?  Complaining about nothing?

Can white people actually justify these situations as fair?  Do they even care?

More importantly, how long can any group think they will get away with these atrocities without repercussions?

Can anybody hear me?

Ok, I need to say this…

I’m so…sooooo tired of makeup companies and their biases.  I mean, supposedly they sell makeup products for black women…but they use the same formulas that they do when making makeup products for white women.

And that’s a problem.

I don’t understand why these mega companies cannot grasp that black women have very different needs when it comes to makeup than white women.  Is it really THAT hard to understand?

I mean it’s Makeup Science, not Rocket Science.  This should be fairly obvious.

Simply stated, white women often choose make up products that provides shine to their skin.  They refer to this shine as a youthful glow.

On the other hand, black women choose makeup products that control or limit shine.  They often incorporate face powder, etc., for a more matte finish.

And that’s ok.  What’s not ok is for companies to pretend that different women don’t have different needs, expectations and requests from their makeup and other products.

Why do black women have to/want to wear the same shiny makeup that white women wear?

At what point do companies that manufacture makeup—and other products in general—realize that different races of people may have differing needs when it comes to product selections?

Sadly, this has been going on for decades now.  It seems as though black women have been forced to more than compromise on every level.  Straighten your hair, stay away from afros, braids or any other “ethnic” hairstyles or be written up as unprofessional and intimidating.  Shave your legs, regardless of whether or not that is necessary for your body’s standard of beauty or be considered ugly and backwards.

In any of a thousand different ways, women of color are pushed into conformity with white standards of beauty.

This should not be.

Now, I’m not suggesting to you that all black women didn’t choose to shave.  My point is, black women were being cited at work and in other professional arenas for not accepting that this way is the only way PERIOD.

Enough already.  Compromising doesn’t seem to be working.  The more black women accept, the more employers, et al., want them to accept.

Now, I realize that there are companies popping up all over the country that specialize in makeup, skin and hair products for women of color.  And that’s as depressing as it is inspiring.  It’s inspiring to see products on the shelves that reflect the diversity of the people.  But it’s upsetting to think that a company has to be black-owned in order to care about black people.

I’m looking forward to the day when racial differences can be respected instead of overrode by someone else’s cultural needs being viewed as THE standard.

Can anybody hear me?

I think I hate men.

No.  That’s not right.

I’m almost sure that I do… but not for the reasons that you might suppose.

I’m not heartbroken over the one that got away.  I’m not recovering from physical or emotional abuse at the hands of a domineering lout.  I’m not even dealing with the aftermath of infidelity.

In fact, there’s actually a lot I love about men.

You see, I love their physiques (obviously).  I love their attitude.  I love how quickly they get over conflicts.  I love how they can thrive in the midst of adversity.  I love how they smell and even how they laugh.

So what’s the problem, right?

The problem (and the reason I hate them)… is their unfair advantage over women.

What do I mean?

Simply stated, I hate how the world treats men differently from women.  I hate how, for some reason, they age differently from women even though they have just as many years under their belts.  An old woman is past her prime; used up.  An old man “still got it.”

I hate how happy they are with themselves even when they aren’t attractive.  Women spend thousands to look their best, fight off the ravages of time and cover any blemishes.  Men will walk around with their guts out, their hair askew and their faces pockmarked and misshapen, fully confident that they can attract a “perfect 10” with little to no effort on their parts.

I hate how they can reset their family/time/body clock by simply marrying someone half their age and having more children.

I know, I know, women can do that too!  However, even here, she is at a distinct disadvantage.  If her much younger man wants children, she may have to birth a baby at a late age even if she already has grown children.  Ignoring that grown children are another animal altogether, carrrying a child is a lot more intensive than watching someone else do it.

Even if the younger man agrees to adopt children, the older woman starts over in the worse way: Diapers, Kindergarten, PTAs, etc.

Again?

Who wants to do that unless you have money and can afford a nanny to help out?

And then there’s the issue of trust involved with that.  Compare the number of single fathers you know to the number of single mothers.  All too often, men have the option of simply walking out, leaving the mother to raise any children alone.

Men don’t even have that as an issue when they marry a young girl. Oftentimes, she hasn’t experienced these things yet and has the energy to keep up with the demands of young children, to say nothing of the novelty and newness of such a thing.

Is it just me or does this seem very unfair?

So, looking back at my previous statement, I guess I really hate men because they have more lives than women.

What does that mean?

It means that, like a cat, they get a seemingly endless number of do-overs.  They can stop and start and restart their body/life clock whenever they like.

Meanwhile, women are in a footrace against that same body/life clock to meet, marry and bear children before they end up as old maids…or raising children well into their fifties and, God forbid, their sixties!

I know, I know.

Women are having babies at older ages, and you always have women who want that life and embrace starting over.  But for the vast majority, getting through with childbearing and rearing and getting back to your own life is the goal.  And they can’t reset the clock whenever they please.  Once their time is up, they’ve essentially expired.

Can anybody hear me?

Alright, I have no choice.

I finally have to accept the fact that I have a problem.  Actually, if I’m being honest, I’ve had this problem as long as I can remember.  However, by now, I had hoped it would be solved or that I would have simply grown out of it.

You see, unlike some (read: most) of the people I grew up with who seemed to have everything figured out, I never did.  While they knew from approximately eight years of age that they wanted to become a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a preacher, a writer, an artist, a pecan tree, or whatever, I was struggling with . . . acne, knock knees, and everything else.

While they pretended to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, preachers, writers, artists, etc., even during times reserved for play such as recess, I was trying to figure out where I fit in in the scheme of things.

While they seemed to eat and drink what they expected and accepted to be their life’s work (and have a damn good time of it), I was wondering if I would ever be chosen as a teammate and not just relegated to the team that was unlucky enough to get stuck with me.

While some of my peers were planning what high school, college, fraternity, and sorority they would join, I was struggling to understand slang along with wondering if I would ever speak publicly without stuttering.

While they were planning when they would marry and how many children they would have, I was still wanting and playing with Teddy bears and dolls.

Basically, where they had certainty and callings, I had distraction and confusion.  Some refer to this clarity as knowledge of their assignment in life.  And as I looked at them go about their callings, my question always was, when would I discover my own assignment?

I was normal, I guess.  I played house.  I pretended to have a family with children.  I pretended to have a spouse.  I pretended to be a doctor, a lawyer, a preacher, a teacher, a writer, an artist, etc. Sometimes, I even had fun.

But, none of the careers stuck with me… or maybe, I didn’t stick with any of them.  It seems that as quickly as I became interested in any subject, I became equally and just as quickly disinterested.  Why?

Why did this keep happening?  And where was that blinding certainty of action?

Maybe, if I had struggled through school or a particular subject, something would have jumped out at me.  However, I seemed to do just well enough in each subject without any real commitment that nothing ever screamed at me “do this, dummy!”

So, day after day (or year after year, I guess you could say), I was waiting for something in my life to stand out.  But alas, nothing ever did.  Ever.  So, I’m left envying people who have a clear calling.  I’m left wondering why I never received such a calling myself.

Perhaps my head is too hard or my hearing too weak.  Perhaps, I am ignoring my calling because it isn’t fancy or lucrative.  Perhaps, I need to meditate or pray harder.  I don’t really know.

What I do know is that something odd is happening.

All my friends who grew up with clear purpose and who followed their respective dreams from childhood keep soliciting my opinions, input, and advice regarding their lives, their children, their spouses, etc.  And, if that isn’t crazy enough, they all seem to value my humble opinion.

While I’m walking around frustrated with no real focus and with no clear idea of what to do with myself, my friends, the doctors, lawyers, teachers, preachers, writers, artists, etc. are all asking me (and often, exhausting me) with the weight of their problems.  What does it all mean?  What could it possibly mean?  A clue?

Can anybody hear me?