Cogitating Powerlessness, Yet Again

If I were a mathematician, I would spend time formulating a theory about the correlation between powerlessness and hopelessness. Maybe someone already has and I just don’t know about it. And if someone has, it’s probably a good thing I don’t know about it; it would be too depressing.

 

Looking back, the times in my life when I was the most depressed were the moments when I felt the most hopeless, all because I could not control whatever was happening in my life to make me depressed. I could have repeated the old adage “the only thing you can control is your attitude” to myself until I had no breath left in me, but in the end it would not have helped. Some things just are not within our control.

 

We can build the best plans and take all the precautions we can imagine, and still there is risk simply in the fact that we choose to live, to get out of bed, to interact with our environment, society, the world. One minute you’re fine and the next minute you’re not, simply because you exist. A car accident. A house or apartment fire. A plane crash. A tornado or earthquake. One minute you’re holding your own and the next minute tragedy strikes in the form of a stroke or heart attack, a diagnosis of cancer, or MS or HIV or on and on. Maybe it’s not you; maybe it’s your spouse, or your child.

 

Such events suck the breath and life right out of a person, and yet, some people survive. Pancreatic cancer is a death sentence and yet statistics show there is a 6% survival rate. Heart attacks that happen outside of a hospital setting have a 9% survival rate. Every day thousands of people survive car accidents. Despite being hit by the proverbial bus, people do survive.

 

In the face of adversity, when hope is so slim it can’t be seen with the naked eye, when not a single thing is within one’s power, where does that ounce of survival DNA come from and how does it grow and expand? What gene allows one training athlete to fall down a hundred times and get up a hundred and one, yet cause another to lay down and die? What is it about the character of one person struggling through despair who manages to smile once in a while, when another cannot find a single person to reach out to for encouragement? How can one person see only a dead end in the road, but another can see a fence to climb or a tree limb to grab hold of and propel to another path?

 

Don’t fret; I’m fine. Just cogitating.

 

It’s a Lie!

Job experts say it’s easier to find a job when you have a job. While it might seem that hiring managers are more willing to take a risk on someone currently employed than someone who has been out of the game for a while, I’m telling you finding a job is tough no matter when you’re looking. And lately I’ve begun to think it’s all about who’s the better liar.

I had the terrible misfortune of finding myself without a job in September 2008. The company I worked for merged with another and my position was eliminated. The timing was the worst in the last half century. It took nearly three years before I could find another full-time, permanent job, and that was only because the hiring manager saw he was going to get “an exceptionally skilled worker for a song,” his words not mine.

That thirty-four month journey was so depressing, so ripe with hopelessness that I promised myself I wouldn’t go through that again. Funny how we make promises like that to ourselves. Just think of how many women in the throes of delivering their first child promised to never go through that again but went on to have a second child. (In my case, I had another three.)

About six months ago the manager who hired me left for a better opportunity. Immediately I started another job search, albeit quiet and behind the scenes. I can’t let my current manager know I’m looking. I can’t tell my co-workers, although I suspect at least 80 percent of them are also looking. We’ve already watched a half dozen critical employees leave since the start of the year. Morale in our office is so low a snake’s belly could rub against it. And yet, on any given day all of the managers and directors will tell you things are just fine.

Four weeks ago I went to work one morning and told my manager I had to leave early for a doctor’s appointment. Instead I left early, drove five minutes down the road (that’s the truth), and interviewed with another company. It didn’t go too well. My work day had not gone well and I was frustrated and stressed and exhausted by the time I landed in the lobby of that prospective employer. Even though I knew I needed to shake off the baggage from my bad day, I couldn’t do it. I am not a good liar. I don’t have a good poker face. That hiring manager was looking for someone to come in and help her solve problems and have the initiative to set chaos into order. Instead she saw in me an exhausted, seasoned employee at the end of the day worn down by bureaucratic hamster wheels. I asked her what she thought would be the biggest challenge in the job. Learning the product. I smiled. She didn’t have a very good poker face either. Although I desperately wanted the job, it’s a good thing I didn’t get it. It would have been a lateral move of exhaustion and frustration. Same shit, different office.

Tomorrow I have another interview. This one holds some promise, and for that reason I am concerned. Lately whenever I desperately want something, it falls apart. I desperately wanted to win that record Powerball a few weeks back. I was desperate for a Spring Break at some all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas, but that depended on the lottery winnings that never came. I desperately want to find an office “home” where I can settle in and stay a while, where I can grow and develop, learn and mentor, laugh and problem solve.

In an effort to invite good karma into my life, I’m trying a different approach. I left work early today, with an imaginary headache and stomach ache. Tomorrow I’ll call in sick early, getting the lie out there right away so I can properly recover from the guilt long before I will step foot into the lobby of this potential employer. I’m hoping for a leisurely morning, a long shower, a problem free commute, and a winning interview.

Sure enough, about an hour after I got home today I started to panic. Guilt had taken over and I feel awful about lying to leave early, knowing I’m going to miss another full day tomorrow. I was so worked up about it that I actually started to feel ill. And then I had a terrible thought. What if the universe decided to play a joke on me and tomorrow afternoon put my current manager in the building I’m headed to for my interview? I can tell already I’m going to have nightmares tonight.

I hate lying. I never tolerated it in my children when they were growing up. I don’t tolerate it with my spouse. And yet, here I am, telling a bunch of whoppers just so I can have a chance at making a better life for myself. I think it would be so much easier to find a job if I didn’t have one. Yikes! That’s going to upset the universe for certain. I take it back! It’s a lie!

The Earned Hug

Many years ago when my children were young and I was in counseling to deal with my disintegrating marriage, I complained to my therapist how I was not looking forward to Mother’s Day. From the day my first daughter was born, my husband had never made a big deal about Mother’s Day. I always made sure he had a card and a small present for Father’s Day, and always made a special supper. As the girls grew older, I had them make cards or draw pictures to give to their dad on Father’s Day. But their dad never returned the courtesy to me on Mother’s Day. Oh, he always made sure to remember his own mother and even his grandmother when she was alive. But not me. It stung every year and I hated when the day would come around.

My therapist understood my feelings, but she persuaded me to look at things a bit differently. She told me my two oldest daughters (at that time they were in their early teens) were old enough to understand the meaning of Mother’s Day and they ought to do something on their own to honor me on that day. I agreed with her that my daughters were old enough, but I argued that their dad had never modeled honoring me so why should they? Very gently she replied and told me that perhaps my children didn’t need such courtesy or honoring modeled for them. Instead she suggested that perhaps I hadn’t earned to be honored on Mother’s Day.

Her words hit me as hard as if she had slapped me in the face.

Never in my wildest thoughts would I have landed on the idea that I hadn’t earned the right to be honored on Mother’s Day! My God! I had four daughters! And I was an at-home mom, providing everything they needed. Why shouldn’t I be treated special on that day?!

The therapist’s words stung and stuck with me ever since. I’m happy to say my children grew older and, on their own initiative, began to make sure I was acknowledged in some way each Mother’s Day and on my birthday. And every time they do, I am always reminded of that conversation with my therapist. I smile outwardly and inwardly. It feels wonderful to be recognized and it feels so rewarding to know I earned it.

I thought about all of this a couple of weeks ago when I went to visit my oldest daughter at her house. She and her family have been dealing with some pretty stressful things for a few months and they just can’t seem to catch a break. I gave up a Saturday to go visit them, and to help my daughter get caught up on many chores. Of course the added perk was that I would get to see my two grandchildren. I haven’t seen them since right after New Year’s.

As it turned out, my daughter and granddaughter were not at home when I arrived. Kate had taken four-year-old Eve to urgent care for an ear infection. So I visited with my eighteen-month-old grandson who clung to his dad every time I even thought of glancing his way. We went about our chores and sometime later Kate and Eve returned home. Eve came in the house and didn’t see me at first. But then she did. She ripped off her coat and shoes and ran as fast as she could to me and threw her arms around me in as big a hug as any four-year-old can give. It nearly brought tears to my eyes.

I’d like to bottle the emotion I felt in that moment.

 

Executive Idiocies, Example #10

It’s like a bad joke. You have to listen to a somewhat long story until you get to the punchline. It’s a rather simple story, but you have to keep track of the players.

“Ted” is an executive and he’s finally getting around to hiring a replacement for the manager who quit six months ago. Several people apply and four make it to first round interviews. Soon it’s narrowed down to just two, “Bill” and “Rob.” Bill is actually in the group that this new manager will direct, and Bill wants to be promoted to the manager role. Rob works in the same division as Bill but in a different group. Rob won’t report to this new manager, but he’s looking to get out of his current group.

Following so far?

So Ted has scheduled two sessions for our group so that we can interview Bill and Rob for the new manager role. Invited to the interview session with Bill is the group of people who will be reporting to Bill if he becomes the new manager. And this same group is invited to the interview session with Rob. But because Bill is already in the group (and wants to be promoted), Ted included Bill in on the interview session with Rob.

Bill and Rob competing for the same job. Bill gets to be a part of the interview with Rob, but Rob doesn’t get to interview Bill.

After some debate, I drew the short straw and contacted HR to ask if there was a mistake in the invites for the interviews. The answer? No mistake. Ted intended for Bill to interview Rob.

Will Rob be included in the interview with Bill? Nope.

If you can figure out the logic here, or if you can find a punchline, please share it. Because I’m still baffled as to why an executive would allow for one candidate to be treated differently from another.

Transition

When I first started writing this blog I was in the midst of daughter drama (but hey, when haven’t I been in the midst of daughter drama?). It was February 2012 and two of my daughters lived with me and my husband. A third daughter was just a few months from getting married, and my oldest daughter was already married and a mom herself. There was a lot going on with all of them and life was not always a bowl of cherries. I wrote to vent and to try and make sense of so much that seemed idiotic and downright stupid.

Now, just three short years later, my life has changed so much! It doesn’t feel like it’s been only three years; it feels like ten or more. Now, only one daughter remains in my house. And even though she is still here, she is nearly “launched.” Not quite ready to be on her own but very much an independent young woman rarely needing my guidance. Ha! Three years ago I thought this day would never come, or that I’d die before I saw it. Or that she would die as a result of the really bad choices she made every day. Oh, how the journey was treacherous! But I am relieved to know it is behind me (us).

With all of these changes, I’ve been cogitating for weeks (months, really) whether I should abandon this blog and start a new one. My original focus was to make sense of the nonsensical, to write openly about the difficult challenges I was experiencing in trying to shepherd daughters through adolescence and into adulthood in today’s world. After much thought, I’ve decided I’m going to stick with this one a while longer. After all, I created my four daughters and through that experience I am who I am today because of them. I am the product of my four daughters.

So it seems fitting to keep the blog name, and keep writing about my life and interactions with them. For while they are nearly all on their own, I still sometimes struggle with their choices. But mostly, I am struggling with trying to reconcile who I am today with the woman I was before I became a mom. And as I watch my daughters become women and mothers, I see myself thirty years younger in them.

I want to believe that by writing this blog, I’ll be able to process thoughts and ideas until they are fully formed and ready to be spoken and shared with whichever daughter I am interacting with. I am still learning how to be a mom, even after all these years. Funny. On the very first day of my first daughter’s life, my doctor told me I’d be a mom until the day I died. The older I get, the more profound that statement becomes.