Thursday, May 29, 2008

Life Lessons

So, smart people learn from their mistakes and really smart people learn from other people's mistakes.

My friend and co-worker lost his job yesterday and I saw it coming. For about two years.
My job is to help people be successful in their jobs, but I'm not anyone's boss, so my influence has to be subtle. Subtle didn't work with my friend. I was supportive, coached, suggested, occasionally became cross, but I didn't get the chance to tell him if he didn't get his stuff together, he'd be fired. Then he was.

I couldn't help but reflect on my own mistakes - it was so familiar watching his self-destruction. We're a lot alike, he and I - and even shared the same birthday. He worked for my company for a really long time - clearly too long - and he knew his strengths, but refused to work on his weaknesses. I think in the back of his mind, he believed that if he just didn't do a good job on certain tasks, they would be reassigned and he wouldn't have to do them anymore. He acted like a victim, got lazy, had righteous indignation and didn't believe it would happen.

So what is this about us, that we do this to ourselves. I have an amazing capacity for convincing myself I'm right when I'm wrong (though I'm working on being better about that) and my friend did too. But what he didn't do was face his challenges and deal with them. He would rather duck and cover rather than confront someone face-to-face and he risked and lost his job because of it.

I want to learn something from this. I wanted to be a better support to him, but he needed to decide for himself. I want to learn to be brave and confront challenges even when my whole body resists. I usually know what the right thing is - but I don't always make myself do it. I want to. And I want my friend to, too.

He's not returning my phone call -
I so hope he does.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Having Stuff

So this whole buying a condo thing has taken over our life - thinking, dreaming, shopping... Especially shopping.
While I've acknowledged being uncomfortable with the whole flaunting-our-own-privilege aspect of buying a vacation property, it hasn't inhibited my desire for nice stuff to go in it. In all fairness, the stuff is all being bought at discount stores, but we're really determined to have the really nice sheets and stemmed glasses in every shape imaginable.
Got Jeff to shop today, but only because it involved a large flat-screen tv (I sprung for a new really wide ironing board which I'm embarrassed to say makes me very happy). The big problem will be how to fit all the stuff in one car when we drive to the Cape for the closing on Friday.
Still - we're so looking forward to being so close to the ocean and having a place to just be still - we can't do that so much at home because there's always yardwork, laundry, dust, clutter, etc. I guess driving three hours to our other house somehow excuses us from that responsibility.
Our friends keep telling us we deserve it.
It is awfully nice to have spring finally here and the perfume of the lilacs in our front yard. We'll soon have the most wonderful balance between the beautiful views of the Berkshire Hills and an escape to the ocean surf and salt-kissed air. We are blessed.
We are blessed indeed.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Life Lessons: A Reflection For Mother's Day

I haven't blogged in a while. I tell myself I don't have time, which is mostly true, but sometimes I have trouble with inspiration. I still don't have time today, but am feeling a little inspired nevertheless.

In the past week, in different contexts, I've witnessed or heard about instances of people "checking out" of responsibilities. As if that's an option. The first two were at work, when I was contacted by people who didn't want to come to work because they were experiencing life stressors and felt that one shouldn't be expected to come to work when one is "stressed out." The third was when a classmate who is trying to finish her thesis in the last days before graduation is trying to keep her head from exploding because her roommate is too "stressed out" to manage any responsibility whatsoever including doing dishes, dealing with the landlord to get out of their lease in time to save $3000.00 or reserving a moving truck (in the western Massachusetts 5-college area where approximately seven million people graduate from college and have to move out of their dorms or apartments on precisely the same Saturday) so they can move out of their apartment when they do deal with said landlord. The roommate also almost set the apartment on fire because she put on the tea water to boil then took a shower. This is a graduate student who will soon be in charge of something expensive in the world.

Which brings me to Mother's Day. I lost my mom in 2001 and miss her very much, almost every day. Mostly I miss the completely unconditional adoration my mother showed me. She made me believe I could do anything, that I was brilliant and beautiful and the world was lucky to have me. She also taught me completely dysfunctional ways of being - in the if-you-never-talk-about-it-it-never-happened kind of way. I've made some unbelievably huge mistakes in my life and, while I take full responsibility for the complete dope I can be sometimes, I sometimes wonder why I didn't turn out worse, given my upbringing.

But "checking out" was never an option - my mother faced incredible struggles and if anyone were to describe her today, the first word they would use would probably be "strong." She was incredibly resilient and, though very flawed, raised four daughters and taught us that it was more important to be smart than almost anything else. She believed in love, but didn't want us to rely on that for our survival. She told me that she loved the man who would become my husband, and trusted him, because of the way he looked at me. But she also encouraged me to be self-sufficient and get an education in case that wonderful, trustworthy man thing didn't work out.

So I want her to know that I'm doing o.k. The husband thing has worked out - she was right to love and trust him. I am blessed to have him. I have a job that I love and feel like I make a contribution, while I am surrounded by young employees who don't come to work when it's too hard. It's my job to share with them some of what I was taught and convince them that they're stronger and more resilient than they think and that while they would probably rather take the weekend off and sulk about life's unfairness, they'll feel better about themselves if they gather themselves together and get through the day productively. She would be very pleased (a little understatement) that I got into grad school, but she would be telling me on the phone right about now that I sound really tired and when finals are over she'll take me out to lunch and buy me earrings. She would be cheerleading and bragging and giving my husband credit for propping me up. She would tell me she's so proud.

So, Mom, I'm doing just fine. I'm a little tired, and sometimes a little scared. You'd be proud. And I learned it from you.