Friday, October 30, 2009

Nothing Personal

Once upon a time there was a girl who had a job she kinda liked. Then 9/11 happened and lots of companies panicked and started laying off employees. The girl had a jerk for a boss who liked to make himself seem important. When he heard that a new VP in the company needed an admin, around the same time he heard he would have to let one of his employees go, he called the girl into his office and said, "Listen, here's the thing. There is an opening in another department for an admin. Is that something you've be interested in doing?" When the girl replied "No" the boss said, "Well, you can take the job or I can let one of your co-workers go." So the girl, not wanting anyone she'd been working with for the past two years to be suddenly unemployed, took the job.

That girl was, of course, me. And that admin job was just as awful as I had feared it would be, with one exception. The people in the new department. Sure, like every place of employment, there were the oddballs and the crazy people. But for the most part the new team made me feel welcome by helping me figure out how things worked there and by joking around with me to make things seem less painful. Over the two years I had that job, I had many different bosses, most of whom were terrible. But I really liked the people and came to genuinely appreciate the constant banter. I've moved on to different jobs since then, but getting to know those people remains in my mind as the single bright spot in an otherwise dismal job situation.

Times have changed and the higher level technical support those folks do is being offshored. I know I need to be careful what I say here, so I'll try to be all PC and stuff. I'll just say that in my opinion, these people who have been providing these services for over a decade are more qualified and better suited for these particular jobs than other, newer people regardless of where they live. It is frustrating to say the least.

Friday night I attended a farewell happy hour for the first of these people who had fallen victim to the RIF (reduction-in-force) brigade. This wasn't the first RIF round, but previous rounds had impacted newer people who I didn't know so I wasn't invited to their Farewell parties. "Jeff" was the first of the 'old timers' to go. Jeff is one of those guys who would give you the shirt off his back. Family man. Good friend. Really just an all-around great guy. And now he is unemployed.

The thing is that the representatives of big businesses would say, "It's nothing personal. It's just business." Really? Nothing personal? I'm pretty sure it is personal to the people who are now without jobs. To the guy who has given the majority of his time to the company for over ten years and who has spent the past several of those cleaning up mistakes that were made by off-shore resources. I think that is personal.

I don't really care if someone can pull out a chart or a presentation and run some numbers and say that it makes fiscal sense to reduce the on-shore resources. What about the things you can't put numbers on? What about a workforce who will cover for each other in a heartbeat if one of them has a family emergency and has to leave early? What about the salaried employee who for some crazy reason is still willing to work extra to ensure something is taken care of, simply because they take their work personally and feel it would be a poor reflection on them to leave at the end of their shift without seeing the issue through? What about the experience that comes from being at a company for so long and knowing all the players and which of two people to call who will help you resolve an issue even more quickly? What about someone who is familiar enough with a customer to know if something seems incorrect and knows where to look for the correct information? Those are the numbers I want to see. What is the value of those things?

I know times are difficult now. I know there are sometimes when a business must reduce the number of people on their payroll to keep themselves afloat. What I do not understand is why it seems like that is such an easy decision for some people. It seems they just look at titles and job descriptions and numbers and determine those people are no longer valuable to the company. Do they even look at other ways to save or avoid costs? I have to believe that in many cases there are other options. Options that would allow them to keep valuable employees at the company.

All of Friday evening, the elephant in the room was who would be next. As I left, several of the other guys made comments that now that I'd come to Jeff's happy hour, I'd have to come to theirs when it was their turn. I tried to stay positive and say that the company would come around and realize that we still need people here to do what they do, but in my heart, I know that probably isn't the case. And I hate it. No one will ever be able to convince me that the numbers companies look at when they make these decisions are always right. No one will ever be able to convince me that anyone should be told "It's just business." I'm sorry. When you're talking about good employees who have given so much to a company, it's personal.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Procrastinators Anonymous

I've been far too serious with my posts of late. I am formulating something on a lighter note, but it's not ready. The other day I was thinking of how terrible I am about putting things off and I remembered something I wrote a long time ago for a class. I really kinda hate rhyming poetry, but sometimes it works. Here is my poem from long ago, with some edits:

I'm part of a special club,
but please don't think I'm proud.
I try and try to be released,
but I do not know how.
I put things off.
I wait and wait.
Nothing gets done.
I'm always late.
Many solemn vows
say I will change my ways.
For now I think I'll postpone
and hope it's just a phase.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Live the Questions

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it, and live along some distant day into the answer.
-Rainer Maria Rilke

It seems as though, sometimes, I'm just going along and living my life and not really paying all that much attention to how I feel.... and I suddenly realize that feel like I don't fit in. Anywhere. As though I looked up and either I had changed or everyone/everything else had changed and I wasn't told about it. A lot of the time, I don't feel this way, which is good since I really dislike it. But when I do, I just want to make it stop.

A friend once told me that she always feels like the kid who showed up half-way through the school year at a new school. I think that is a good way to explain this feeling. Even if you are caught up academically, everyone has already reached their quota of friends for the year and there isn't anything you can do to just blend in like you've always been there. You missed out on all those months of whatever happened... so..... yeah. You're the new kid and you don't belong.

I had a paragraph on why I might be feeling this way right now, but it was all conjecture on the perceptions of others. I don't think that is helpful to me right now. I think when I really boil it down, this feeling is because I am suddenly not comfortable in my own skin. I have all these questions and only some answers and I'm afraid if I'm just me and let myself be too comfortable, all of this craziness is just going to come gushing out. That I will start saying all of it out loud and completely freak people out. It seems safer to just make polite conversation. To talk about kids and work and the weather. To keep things more on the surface.

I know there are people with whom I do fit in. Some other kindred spirits who either feel the same way or don't mind being friends with the new kid. But they have their things too. They have to change and question and process and live. There are just those times when it feels like I need to process things in my own mind. And, despite that I know they would listen, I should just keep my insanity to myself. For now, anyway.

I really need to work on being able to deal with these times without it interfering with my self-perception. This awkward, out-of-touch thing originates with me. In me. When I found the quote above, I read it over and over, letting it sink in. I need to live like that. Not ignoring my questions, but not letting them consume me. I need to realize that I may find the answers, in time, through the moving on without them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ink Smears

Ink smears, as thoughts sometimes do. -Emme Woodhull-B├Ąche

Since my posts have been either heavy or whiny (or both) lately, I thought I'd try something else for a change. My thoughts are random and often smear together (I really love that quote) into something that makes sense only to me, but I guess if you're reading this you know that already and don't mind translating it out for yourself. So here are some ramblings about the crazy weather and a poem I wrote a few weeks back.

Yes, I love summer and hate that it is gone for the year and that soon the stupid Ohio cold will take over for the next six months. But I'm trying to look on the bright side. I do love coming home from work and having a warm fire blazing in the fire place as the boys race up and scream "Mommy's home!" and give me hugs and kisses. I always love that welcome, but something about the warmth of the fire makes it even more welcoming. I do love the holidays. I love Thanksgiving and Christmas and family traditions. I love nights snuggled on the couch watching movies or reading a book and not feeling the least bit guilty that I didn't get outside and do something... since the weather was too terrible to get out in. As much as it pains at me to admit it, there are a few things I.... don't hate about winter. I'm going to try to remember those things in the coming months.

Here is my poem. I was thinking I would have plenty of "Fall" time left to post it, but we kind of went from the coolest Summer on record straight to late fall/early winter. Since we are now in the middle of three semi-fall days, I'll post it now.

I can feel Fall creeping in,
but I still have the window open.
If only shutting it could stave off
the impending autumn.
Sitting here,
listening to the crickets
and frogs
and clinging
to the last
remnants of Summer.
I feel the passage
of time more strongly
as the life that
overflows in Summer
fades and floats away
in the brisk wind.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I Finally Remembered

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

- Ephesians 3:14-21

I plan to get back to writing soon. For now, I will post this verse. I remembered it the morning after I wrote the previous post. My mom made my sisters and I memorize it when I was 12 or 13. It is Paul, praying for the Ephesian church. Praying that they would remember their roots. That they would remember God's love. I'm guessing this prayer was fulfilled, since his letter to this church managed to make it into the Bible. It gives me hope. It's easy to forget the importance of hope. It gives me hope that my prayers are not in vain.

Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
- From 1 Corinthians 13:13 in The Message

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Trouble with God (Okay, Me)

God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. When I got my act together, he gave me a fresh start. Now I'm alert to God's ways; I don't take God for granted. Every day I review the ways he works; I try not to miss a trick. I feel put back together, and I'm watching my step. God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.
- Psalm 18:20-24

There are many things I have prayed for in my lifetime that have not happened. There are many cliche's about why this would be. I'm not going to get into those here, because most of you have probably heard them and I think they are as lame as most people probably do. I am typically not bothered by God not doing what I want. Many times a day my kids ask me for things that I do not give them. This does not make me a bad parent any more than God not doing what I ask makes him bad or uncaring or non-existent.

What does bother me is that I often find myself praying for other people. And other people can do whatever they want. God isn't some big puppeteer in the sky just waiting to make people do something. He is a loving Father who is waiting for people to choose to love him back. I don't force my kids to tell me they love me or to show me affection. I, of course, shower them with love and affection because I love them more than life itself. And that is how God is with us. He tries to show us that he loves us, but he does not force his way into our lives. We choose him or we don't.

So... I'm not sure of why praying for other people is a good idea. I should probably have said this earlier, but I am not a Bible scholar so maybe there is an answer to this of which I am unaware. I will try to find it, but right now this is more of an honest rant from a hurting heart. I know there are many, many times in the Bible where someone prays for the healing of someone else. We have all heard of examples where someone had an ailment and they were prayed for and somehow, unexplainable by science, the ailment disappeared. There are also examples of praying for provision or for guidance or even for someone to be raised from the dead. I am wracking my brain and cannot think of any examples of when someone just prayed for someone else to (paraphrasing the scripture above) place the pieces of their life before God so that he could make them complete again.... and then it happened.

I should probably not even be writing this, but there are a lot of people I am praying for and I am beginning to wonder if this is just an exercise in futility. I'm not saying I am in danger of quitting. I'm just wondering if those specific prayers are the best use of my time. God gave people free will. People can do whatever the hell they want. They can turn their back on everything they know to be right, they can inflict hurt on people without a second thought, they can give in to hate. They can break your heart and there is nothing you can do about it And praying they won't doesn't seem to be all that effective.

I'm not trying to worry anyone. I'm really fine. I guess I'm just having a Doubting Thomas night and it kind of feels good to write about it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The People We Love

"You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you." -Frederick Buechner

I've been thinking a lot about love and the people I love. I've been thinking of how terrible it is to hurt someone you love or to be hurt by someone you love. I think there was a time when I would have said that hurting someone you love is even worse than being hurt by someone you love. But lately I've come to think that worse than either of these is hurting for someone you love.

If you hurt someone you love, you can do everything in your power to make amends, to say you're sorry, and to try to set things right. Yes, it is terrible and you feel awful and you don't have control over if they will really forgive you. But if there is true love there and you are truly sorry and you really do not commit the same offense again, there can be healing. There can be restoration of the relationship. There can be forgiveness, and, after a time, the love will cover the hurt and there will be happiness again.

If someone you love hurts you, it is also terrible and you feel awful and you don't really have control over their choice to make amends or not. You can be devastated and feel that the world will never be the same again. But you do have control over how you handle it. If they are sorry and do whatever they can to make things right, you can draw on the love you have for that person to work toward forgiveness. If they are not sorry, it may take a long time to work through, but you can still learn from it. You can take that experience to become stronger and to be more empathetic of others who have the misfortune of the same experience.

But when you hurt for someone you love, you have no control. You have nothing but the anguish of their pain, pressing on your chest and welling up in your eyes and souring your stomach. It doesn't matter if it is a unforeseen tragedy or their own toxic choices that have caused their pain. You cannot change it and you cannot make it better and you cannot come up with any words to take it away. You can remind them how much you love them and you can pray for them and try to offer encouraging words, but none of these change their circumstances. It is something they have to work through. Yes. I think hurting for someone you love is worse than hurting someone you love and far worse than being hurt by someone you love.

I'm not sure where this leave us. As the quote at the top pointed out, we have a whole world living inside us. Is it better to limit the number of people you allow into that world in attempt to limit the pain we can feel? I don't think so.... but sometimes it really feels as though that would make life so much less painful.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Terrible Tuesday Week

Today has been a week of Tuesdays. This Tuesday was especially horrible (not that Monday was great either, but Tuesdays and I have a history). I decided to call Tuesdays 'Terrible Tuesday" from now on. Somehow, that backfired on me and I ended up with not just one Terrible Tuesday this week, but an entire week of them.

Work has been completely insane. People disregarding established processes and operational agreements and acting like I'm some kind of magician that can just make something happen if they wish it to be so. I actually love having something urgent to work on and a rock-solid deadline that I must meet, but when people begin messing with said deadline and piling on additional responsibilities, I can feel the stress in my shoulders and in my back between my shoulder blades. I start having trouble functioning. I lose my appetite and have to remind myself to eat something and drink water so I don't end up with the mother of all tension headaches. I feel like I completely lose touch with my family and friends, as work is eating up all of my time and energy.

This week of Terrible Tuesdays has put me into a serious funk. I try to be in a good mood, but I just feel like a crazy person who could, at any moment, lash out at someone who looks at me funny. Nothing especially horrifying has happened, but on top of all the work stuff, our car needs some pricey maintenance, the boys are cranky and whiny from the weather change, all the idiots were out driving this week, I have a big event I'm hosting at my house tomorrow (and my house is a wreck and I'm blogging instead of doing anything about that), and I'm not sleeping well as a result of all the stress plus having a pretty painful tattoo addition healing on my back.

I know I should be thankful for my family and that I am still gainfully employed and I also know that the tattoo thing is entirely my own fault. I've had some good conversations with friends this week, my boss paid me the mother of all complements this week (he said that he has come to value the quality of my writing and that it totally makes up for my lack of technical background), and I love the way my tattoo turned out. But I still just feel just feel all Terrible Tuesday'd out. I'm so over it. I just want to start a new week and I want the boys to be better and I want my back to stop hurting and I want to figure out how to reduce my stress level and I want to get back into my writing. Maybe this is a start.