Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sheer Lunacy

Even before things got hairy at my job, the stories from the office could have filled novel.  The regularly occurring nutty events at work are what caused me to start this blog in the first place; it was a coping mechanism.  Eventually it will all come out in writing; it's just too entertaining to keep inside.

One day I will share about the story of "The Hobbit", as I affectionately refer to a character that was a key player in my dismissal (but not the cause of it; I add this in case the poor creature ever stumbles upon this blog).  That tale that alone makes this whole experience worth every disturbing moment.  I'll have other jobs, other means of income,  but I don't know that I will ever again have an experience to share that is as absolutely hysterically, belly-aching-from-laughing-so-hard, funny as the story of me and the Hobbit.  But now, just a quick visual image of the firing itself.

Picture me, a woman with many years of experience, skilled, confident, respected and yes, a bit eccentric, in a small conference room seated with a CEO and a young female HR "Director" who is looking decidely uncomfortable.  For the CEO, picture someone a bit like Michael from The Office, because that's how I think of him at this point.  He tells me "It should come as no surprise to you..."  I look directly into his eyes for the length of his monologue, completely calm while he drones on, "You've been disruptive...kept me from doing my job...."  "Wow", I think, "I am powerful indeed!"  I nod my head in parts "I take no pleasure in this..."  I crack a smile but only with my eyes.  "I personally enjoyed working with you..."  We had no personal interaction in the 7 months he had worked there. I worked with him on a project in the same way I work at all times, professionally.  He's firing me one week before a huge fundraiser that I was instrumental in organizing and also the week before the implementation of a major new tool that I selected for our company.  He's choosing this timing for something he'd been planning to do for months almost certainly so he can claim all the credit after the bulk of the work that was done. I'm thinking about my performance review, received the day before from my direct manager that was so glowing I got teary eyed reading it.

I am not surprised; I knew this was coming.  I am also not emotional, to my great relief.  Being fired by this man who had, over months, done the opposite of earn my respect, I could handle.  Crying in front of him would have been devastating.  Part of my strength to take it quietly and professionally came from years of preparation.  Another large part came from realizing my Mother went through this and unemployment with four children to feed and made it.  But the bulk of my courage came from the sheer lunacy of sitting across the table being fired by a CEO of a multi-million dollar business with enough time on his hands to print, stuff and then illegally place 200 letters into mailboxes without postage. A man who become indignant when the Postmaster called about this mess. And a woman who once got drunk, took her top off and smoked a whole cigarette in front of a bunch of our male colleagues, allowing them to take pictures which were then circulated around our office not 18 months earlier.  You just cannot make this stuff up.

I was just glad to be out of there, and proud that I didn't giggle myself into a tizzy.

Friday, January 7, 2011

When Friendly Phrases Fail

My Mother's boyfriend of 7+ years, Ray encountered my Father for the first time at a family event. Ray is the quintessential gentleman.  He is always kind and polite and is the sort of person that one cannot help but really really like.

My Father and Mother had a particularly contentious divorce.  So much so, in fact, that they had hardly spoken in over 20 years by this point.  The stories are legion and legend and include words such as theft, vandalism, court, jail and more.  I try to stay out of it.

When Ray bumped into Dad at my brother's wedding, he was probably a little nervous because he isn't the contentious sort and prefers to remain on good terms with everyone.  That, and he could have seen little sense in being anything but friendly and polite.  So Ray said what first comes to mind when you meet someone that you've know about for a long time yet never encountered "Well, now I've heard alot about you!"

To which my Father, who does have a great sense of humor, replied with a smile "I'll bet you have!"  Then they both had a great awkward chuckle.  Poor Ray was both mortified and tickled pink by his poor choice of words.

No matter that 36 years after their parting ways, Mom and Dad still rarely speak, Ray is a point on which they both agree.  He is a good and kind man.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Default Positive Thought

Since "becoming unemployed" ie; getting fired, I have a rule that requires me to think a positive thought upon rising.  Generally speaking, I am a pretty darn positive person, looking for the good in any situation; a trait which I learned from my Mother who I believe, upon finding her home burned to the ground would say "I was thinking about buying a new house, anyway, so this works out better for me."

But I knew it might be hard some days.  Something pretty ugly and unfair just happened to me.  In fact, it is head spinning to consider: years of putting my own best interests in the backseat, being a loyal employee and always thinking of the good of the company were rewarded with wretched treatment.  And last time I was unemployed for even a month, I spent my days in my pajamas watching Bonanza and feeling useless, even knowing I was soon to start a great job.  I am realistic about the effort it sometimes requires to keep a good attitude.

There were a few days when I just couldn't come up with anything positive, so I went searching on the internet.  There are actually a great deal of quality positive thoughts to be found just by searching.  But it really wasn't my ideal scenario.

Then, over Thanksgiving, something brilliant happened.  Max, my Cousin's son, age 9, full of energy, charisma and intellect, was bouncing off the walls a bit, in a way that is delightful for someone that doesn't see him nearly enough, but is probably a bit tiring for his Mom and Dad. Near the end of our visit, they sent Max into another room to occupy himself, something he does with amazing skill and creativity.

When it was time to leave, he came bounding into the room proclaiming "MAX IS AWESOME!!!"  Not yelling, not even remotely obnoxious, but with a confidence and certainty that made me feel terrific.

"Max", I said, "I have a rule for myself that I must think a positive thought each day.  But sometimes, it's hard.  Maybe because I am feeling a bit down, or maybe because I am tired, I don't know. But it isn't always easy.  And you have just given me an idea for a default positive thought, one I can think when I can't come up with anything else."

He replied with a twinkle in his eye "What? Max is awesome?"

So indeed, that is what I think now when I wake up grumpy and can't think of anything else, "Max is awesome!"  It never fails to put a smile on my face, reminding me that I am, too.  For some reason, the unclouded viewpoint of this brilliant boy speaks to me and gives me the strength and confidence to move forward with my day and toward my goals. "Awesome" is the way we were all made to be.

A Simple Lesson for Us All

My Aunt, who is trying to turn me into a cat lady, and her daughter, my cousin were visiting my house with my cousin's young son, Max, who Is Awesome.  I had adopted one cat from them, and they were bringing me another to keep her company.  They live on adjoining farms, and beautiful, well behaved long haired kittens continue to show up on their doorsteps.

Max had recently turned 8 and thus is in a period of great learning.  I love watching children learn things because typically there is a message there for us all.  And that day was no exception.

Max was petting the older cat and at first they were getting along quite well but then she pulled back a bit.  He did what most of us tend to naturally do when something or someone shrinks away from us; he redoubled his efforts and moved toward her, petting her a bit harder.

At this point, Aunt and Cousin, in perfect complement to one another began teaching Max something I wish I had learned in such explicit language at the age 8 (or ever, prior to that day).  "See how she's pulling away from you Max? You have to watch her body language. That means she's had enough, and she needs you to back off a bit. She can't talk, so she is telling you by the way she moves.  People do that too, Max.  We have to respect someone when they tell us they need their space, even when they aren't using words to say it.  She will come back if you let her be now."

Though this is a simple key to success in personal relationships, I've got nearly 30 years on Max and had never heard anyone express it so clearly.  Aunt and Cousin are pretty awesome, too.