Monday, December 31, 2012

Breathe... just breathe

OK, do this with me…  take a huge, deep breath in, fill up your lungs, fill ’em up, fill ’em to almost bursting, and... now let it all out.  Ahhh...

So, 2012.  Last day.  In many ways, I say good riddance.  But it’s also been a milestone year in my life.  Our baby girl got married.  That was awesome and still so hard to believe.  Time flies. 

And after working at the same company for 35 years, 2 months and 24 days, I retired.  That was also awesome.

So this last day of 2012 deserves some note.  Somehow my mind settled on a blog post.  Probably because one of my sisters (Hi Kathy!) asked me yesterday when I was going to start blogging again.  Not the first time I’ve been asked that question.  A good friend with whom I’ve reconnected (Hi Carla!) has asked me that a few times, along with other friends and family, and some people I didn’t even know read my blog.

I’ve tried to start blogging again before, because I do remember how much I enjoyed it.  I enjoy writing, and I enjoy journaling the things in my life, important and unimportant stuff.  I never wrote blog posts because I wanted someone else to read them; I enjoyed it because I read them, and I enjoyed the writing.  I enjoyed the photos, too.  So why did I stop blogging?...

I stopped writing because I felt like the creative juices had been mostly all sucked out of me.  What little I had left, I devoted to pottery.  On many days, I felt like the clay studio saved me from doing things I would regret (and possibly end up in jail for).  Pottery is now a passion for me, creating crap out of clay.  I love it.  I love my friends at the studio and the time I spend there with them.  It’s fucking awesome. 

But I had nothing leftover to give to my blog.

I tried, but it was difficult and the results were lame.  It all started in 2007, well, really before that, when I was driving my old LeSabre and some guy rear-ended me.  In that accident, I now believe that my C6 (neck) vertebrae was fractured, slightly and not detected.  Long story, short (and previously documented in this blog), I ended up with neck surgery in January of 2008.

But the pain that started in 2007 is what started the sucking of creative juices.  The clincher was 2008.  First the surgery to fix my neck, then the infection, then the 2nd surgery to get the infection, then the antibiotics for months, and then... then I returned to work in May of 2008. 

It was the returning to work that started the final, big sucking.

My boss at that time, let’s call him M, is an engineer who had worked himself up through the ranks to his first position with people reports.  He was a micro-managing, nit-picking, argumentative, patronizing know-it-all.  An asshole.

From that time after returning to work until early this year, I had to report to that asshole.  He made my life at work miserable, and the misery seeped into my personal life.

I would work Monday through Friday, go to the pottery studio on Saturdays, though sometimes (often) also have to do some company work at home early in the morning before going into the studio, and sometimes afterwards as well. My job was busy, too much work for a 40-hour work week.  I hated the overtime it always required.

But then Sundays... oh, the Sundays.  Many of them I spent unable to get myself out of bed.  All day long.  My husband is amazing.  His understanding during those times was truly heroic.

I would lie there in bed and do a lot of fantasizing.  My enjoyment of reading murder mysteries and watching TV shows like “CSI” really paid off in those fantasies.  So many ways for M to suffer and die. 

He’s from Canada, and I somehow really focused on that.  I went from liking Canada to disliking Canada and all things Canadian. 

He was such an awful boss.  Through my more than three decades working at that company, I had a lot of bosses.  I switched jobs a few times, through the years working in three very different functions at the company.  I spent my first decade working in Marketing, my second in Legal and my final decade in Human Resources with a dotted line to Finance.  So I’ve known a variety of supervising styles.  On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst at people management, I would give M a solid 10 average.  In over 35 years, with all those other many, many bosses I’ve had, I was lucky enough to have a couple of 1’s and 2’s, mostly 3’s, some 4’s, and sadly a few 5’s... and some pretty awful 6’s.  That’s the gap between how bad M was to all the many others... on my scale, a 6 is terrible, so a 10 is truly, truly terrible – a lack of people management skill level sufficient to cause harm.  M was well and truly that bad.

I really hated M during those days, months and years.  Now, however, I could give a rat’s ass about him.  He no longer has the power to force me to summon the energy required to hate him.  I’m not saying I like him.  If I ever see him again, I will thoroughly ignore him.  And hope Kevin doesn’t recognize him and beat the shit out of him.  I’m not joking about that – it is a real and valid fear I have that we will run into M at the Meijer store and Kev will recognize him and kick his ass.  This was a frequent fantasy, and however much I would still enjoy seeing that happen, the resulting problems we would have wouldn’t be worth it.  I think...

Anyway, I still don’t like Canada.

And what is worse than a micro-managing, nit-picking, argumentative, overbearing SOB for a boss?... a submarine bitch.

Early this year, M was replaced by D.   Someone high up made the so very perceptive and sensible decision to move M to a position where he had no people reports.  D is a woman who has had years of experience supervising people.  At first, we – that is, myself and many others in our department of about 50 souls, with more than half being contractors, so truly affected were really only those of us left that were actual employees of the company – anyway, we thought D was a big improvement, a start to getting things fixed.

At first, I liked D.  She and I had some good talks.  But then... I noticed we could not really connect.  D is a woman who is about 50 years old, and she has spent her entire career life at the company.  She is a local girl, I know this because a good friend of mine also went to the same local high school.  That same friend’s mother-in-law is good friends with D’s mother, who is not all there mentally now and living in a facility of some sort.  D herself told me once how she didn’t marry until very late in life, close to 40, and was only married for a few years because she could not get along with her husband’s teenage children.  I heard from another person who also reported to D, let’s call her J, that D got herself a great, big nice house out of the deal, that is, she got the man’s lake-front house in the divorce.  I also know that D has one sibling, a brother who lives in California and with whom D does not appear to have much contact, according to the aforementioned mother-in-law.  I believe it was J who also told me that D has no pets.

This is life in the town where I live and the company where I worked... everyone knows everyone's business.

And then I began to notice D's office.  Really notice it.  D has a lot of stuff around her office, so it was misleading for me at first.  Because when I took the time to really look at the stuff, I realized everything in her office was related to her career at the company.  Every.  Single.  Thing.  All about the company and her various positions through the years.  Not one thing related to a personal life.  No photos, no travel mementos from vacations.  That’s when I realized I could never connect with that woman.  D lives in a big house with no pets - no dog, no cat, not even a fish.  I am confident in surmising she also has no living house plants; D is definitely the fake fern kind of gal.  She is the only living thing in that great big house.  D has no close family, no husband, apparently no boyfriend or girlfriend, no children, not even nieces and nephews.  No substantive personal life.  Her entire life is the company.

My running joke this past summer was how when D would die, her headstone would read: “Here lies D.  Married to The Company.  Marriage consummated.”   Fellow older company employees would easily get that joke, because those of us left who had been around for a long time know that if you stay with the company long enough, you’ll get fucked good in the end.  D certainly doesn’t seem to realize that, as it would seem she has devoted her adult life to the company.  Sad, really.  But, then again, she is a bitch, so the bitch gets what she deserves.

In the end, I totally and completely disliked D.  And J, too, because she is one of the most two-faced, mean-spirited, hypocritical co-workers I have ever had the displeasure to know.  J thinks she is awesome, funny and well-liked.  She’s a woman about 50 who clearly has no idea that she has a long reputation for being a two-faced back-stabber. She’s awful. 

J’s awfulness is followed closely by two other co-workers, let’s call them T and A, which yes, that phrase you’re thinking of now after reading “T and A” is pretty accurate.  T is a woman nearing 50 who is full of herself and totally irritating.  My nickname for her was Stomping Interruptus.  T used to be fat but had a stomach surgery and lost a lot of weight.  Good for her, of course.  But after her weight loss, she became this loud, way over-confident creature.  Loud walking and loud talking.  She’d stomp into my cubicle and bark out her question with no concern whatsoever about what I was doing before she arrived.  But then, of course, whatever she had was Much More Important.  I used “over-confident” because T is a smart person, but she is not quite as intelligent as she believes herself to be.  T has a college degree, and how she achieved that without learning how to speak proper English is beyond me... her knowledge of grammar is so poor that when she would talk with me, I could feel my brain flinch.  Think, “I ain’t got no idea” and “he don’t have it” and "we can't get no help on that" and so on.  Since she talks a lot, well, I flinched a lot.

And A... well, A is a sad case.  He is a young man, not getting any younger.  Nearing 30 now.  And living at home with mom and dad is kind of sad.  He seems to be a troubled person.  I believe I know why, but giving my theory on such a private matter on a publicly available blog is not something I feel I should do.  Basically, A was a pain in the ass to work with because he is so fucking moody.  And A foolishly glommed onto J as his mentor.  In the end, A was as much of a two-faced bitch as J.

I mention J, T and A because those three people were the co-workers with whom I had to spend my workdays, closely working with them and sitting very close to them since our boss D had decided to reorganize our department and consequently move most all of us physically so our physical locations in the cubicle hive would support our new organization.  I ended up sharing a corner style open cubicle space with three workstations with T and A, with J occupying a cubicle right next to us.  It. Was. Awful.

But, in the end, I was lucky.  So very, very fucking lucky.  Because 2012 was the year that the company decided to once again weed out the old folks.  That little golden carrot was dangled in front of our collective faces, but shhh... don’t tell anyone, it’s a Big Secret (that everyone knows).

One morning in September, J made me so angry that I sat at my desk space, staring into my computer monitor trying to not have the top of my head blow off and trying to not have a heart attack.  I seriously felt my heart painfully jumping in my chest.  It finally stopped the moment of my epiphany...  the moment I realized “THIS IS NOT WORTH IT.”  Fuck the mortgage.

And I was able to get out of there.  Thank God.  And thank God I was able to get enough of a carrot that I don’t have to go out and try to find a job to supplement my pension.  Thank God and Kevin, who works his ass off week in and week out and brings home the bacon.  Kev is the provider, the protector, the comforter, the center compass bearing of my life.  I love that man.

So I had my epiphany, and then the best part - I was able to get out of there within a couple of days of my epiphany.  Cue the music:

The problem is all inside your head, she said to me
The answer is easy if you take it logically
I'd like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be 50 ways to leave your lover
She said it's really not my habit to intrude
Furthermore, I hope my meaning won't be lost or misconstrued
So I repeat myself, at the risk of being cruel
There must be 50 ways to leave your lover
Just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
Don't need to be coy, Roy
Just listen to me
Hop on the bus, Gus
Don't need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free

And I am.  Free.  So very free.  And it feels so very, very good.  Writing this blog post is the most I’ve thought about M, D, J, T and A in weeks and weeks.  So lovely to be free.  After working at the company for more than 35 years, dropping off my key and slipping out the back wasn’t really how I planned to go, but it worked for me.  Not one second of regret.

It wasn't all bad - I also have good memories from my working years, because I worked with some amazing, wonderful people through the years.  Some I plan to stay in touch with.

But I’m free.  My finger tells the story.  I have one finger that I call my Stress Bird.  It’s my middle finger on my right hand.  Whenever I get stressed to a certain point, the skin on the left side of that finger starts to turn hard, painfully so.  And then the hard skin gets scaly and breaks and bleeds and hurts like fucking hell.  And it spreads to cover almost my entire fingertip.  Gross, I know.  It would look gross, too.  I would lie in bed and feel my fingertip throb with pain.  Lots of bandages and ointments but nothing would fix it.  I saw a couple of doctors years ago, and it is some kind of virus, like a wart is a virus, or shingles, etc.  Nothing that a medicine could fix, but it is not contagious.  Through the years, it has never spread to any other part of my body and nor have I passed it onto any family member.  Through 2008 until September 2012, my poor bird was hurting almost constantly.  Within two weeks of retiring, my finger was pink, pretty and healthy.  That, to me, tells the story.

And now that I’ve gotten this long-winded bag of crap story off my chest and onto this blog post, maybe I can start to feel the creative urge to blog often again.  That’s my hope.  I would like to backtrack and blog about the important events that have happened in the past few years, so that years from now, when my memory engine is running low on oil, I can read about them and better remember them, and enjoy those moments again through my journal.  Fingers crossed.  And hey, thanks for reading this all the way to the end - you're awesome!

I am one lucky, free woman.  Life is good.

Breathe... just breathe...