Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My kingdom for some confidence

I am seriously screwed.

Work has weighed heavy on my mind this past week (even before the daughter debacle of '12). The director resigned suddenly 2 weeks ago, and I am going through some PTSD from the time I started at the publishing company and my boss quit 6 months after I started and forgot to tell me. Everyone took their hatred and frustration of her out on me and life was not pleasant until someone offered to be my supervisor, ensuring my employment. I had been a confident, assertive, outspoken, positive, loud teacher for 7 years prior to that and had to give up that profession for my (a) daughter and (b) sanity. As the yearbook sponsor, I attended everything (to make sure my staffers were there to wrote copy or snap pictures). I was involved in the union and had an air of confidence about me. (With teenagers, you can't let 'em see ya sweat!)

After leaving teaching, I went into publishing for more flexible hours. After 18 yrs in the industry, I felt I had a handle on things, held myself with professionalism and confidence, ran meetings, arranged receptions for hundreds of doctors, traveled to medical meetings, organized books with 300+ chapters and the same amount of contributors. I was a deadline machine. (One author referred to me as Dances with Deadlines.) I loved my job and the confidence that came with it, and the doctors never knew if I lacked confidence because I never let them see me sweat. If you ask them today, any one of them would tell you I was in total control of their projects and they appreciated my confidence. I was quite a force at church with my hands in every details, lector, Sunday school teacher, choir, welcoming committee, communications committee. You name it, I was at church as much as I was at home. I was a whirlwind. At the same time I was raising 2 daughters who adored me and respected me and were aware of my omnipresence. I had learned my job well when it came to teenagers never seeing you sweat.

And then 2003 happened. I was laid off from the aforementioned publishing position. I had no idea the implications. I interviewed for a few jobs at the company before I left but nothing happened. In the next year I had a handful of interviews at the company and we (my peeps and I) could not figure out why I wasn't being hired with 18 yrs of experience. I marked it up to being too expensive when they could hire a college grad for next to nothing. But after a year of futility we discovered I had been black balled by one of the vice president, a woman I had absolutely no association with in my time there. The only thing we could figure out was a conversation I had with her in the vending room when my daughter had gotten invited into a sorority... and her daughter didn't. Of course, I didn't know it at the time nor did I know she didn't get into mommy's sorority (double whammy). From that, she directed everyone NOT to hire me. Unbefuckinglievable. Next followed 2 1/2 painful years of freelancing and applying for jobs with nothing coming to fruition. Finally, in '05 I was hired as an administrative assistant. I made half my previous salary and had benefits and no real responsibility. I sored into the moderate level of Sudoku.

During those 2 yrs of unemployment, I was demoralized, humiliated, bored, lonely and abandoned. My ex gave me no support, comfort, confidence, help, perspective. None of the things I had given him over his many voyages into unemployment over the years. (And there were A LOT.) Somewhere along the line, I must have been to confident and intimidating that my ex never touched me, had sex with me, noticed me, wanted to be with me, but he also wouldn't move out. By 2006 he had spent the year working out of town and I liked being alone. And I was tired of being ignored and taken for granted so I got the nerve up to leave him. However I knew I couldn't afford to do so in the big city and opted to move to the college town where my daughters lived. Within 2 months I got a kickass job teaching sex ed where I learned how to talk to teenagers in jail, rehab, and detention about every aspects of sexual health. Talk about having confidence and never letting 'em see ya sweat!!! Within 4 months I fell madly in love with the love of my life. 2007 was the year of my lifetime. I was as high as any one human can be. Confident, assured, happy, in love, vibrant, and did I mention happy?

2008 brought an end to the relationship. It seems the love of my life was a functioning alcoholic who loved to verbally abuse me every time I visited. Before that, I was confident that I would move to the east coast to be with him one day and start a new life. But bit by bit, he chiseled away at my confidence and literally made me shake in my boots. He sailed and I didn't swim. So I took swimming lessons for this man (as my fan club already remembers). I lost 60 lbs and owned the world, but there were many memories of being scared to death of this man, and deep inside, I knew it had to end. Which it did. I was so devastated that I had to quit my job and move back to St. Louis when my lease ran out and rest up at my sister's place for 3 months. I could barely get off the couch. My world had crashed in. If you've been here long, you remember all too well the Fall of '08.

I found a job back at the university and returned to the college town to start all over. Joined a choir. Thus started the next 3 years of employment hell. I had 2 jobs at the university that reduced me to a puddle of whimpering fears. I had the distinct pleasure of working with an absolute sociopath who came and went as he pleased while I answered his phone and did his crap jobs while he reduced me to tears on a daily basis. It was so bad that after 6 months, my boss couldn't even give me a performance review because he never bothered to train me! A day before my boss retired she finally reviewed me after working there for 18 months and gave me a mediocre on all points. I was laid off 3 weeks later when I came back after my daughter's wedding. I was devastated and could barely lift my head off my bed for weeks. Next came the worst job I have ever endured, back at the university, as an administrative assistant again. After 4 months I was told I was skating on thin ice because I asked too many questions. WTF?? Could it be because they never trained me or told me what to do??? After 7 months I was fired for helping a student. I dragged my humiliated body back to my condo and took to my bed, sobbing in the dark for months. I will admit I considered not waking up but (a) promised a friend I would call him if I wanted to hurt myself and (b) thought of my daughters at every twist and turn as a reason to hang on. While I did see a lawyer to consider filing a lawsuit (the most assertive thing I did in the 17 weeks I was unemployed), in the end, I did not handle this latest session of unemployment well at all.

At the same time I was in a relationship with a man for 3 years that I knew should have ended after 5 months, but it took me 3 yrs to get rid of him. Seriously, folks, why does it take that long to get rid of another functioning alcoholic who is no good for me? Am I a magnet for people who take advantage of me and my sweet nature? I could never be mean to him and tell him to hit the floor running because I would not be #2 to alcohol. I was a chickenshit through most of that relationship and am so relieved that I finally got rid of him. (He recently e-mailed me that he has found someone else. Even HE has more confidence than I do!!)

That brings us to this current job. While it does not have benefits, it is a good job that I enjoy with people I really like. After 2 months the director informed me that we should meet once a month to talk about... ME. What a concept. In all the years I have outlined above, not one person, supervisor, dept head, manager, had ever pulled me aside, and said, "Let's talk." I was overwhelmed with joy and fear. Finally, at 54, I was going to have a mentor. I resented all my past supervisors in every job and career for not developing my business sense, my organizational skills, my understanding of the way I function. In that session she explained things that I had been too scared to ask about in team meetings. (Remember the aforementioned job that chastised me for asking questions???) Over the past 8 years I had learned to keep quiet, never speak up, have no opinion, assume you know what's going on and scramble afterwards, take notes. And all of a sudden I am encouraged to ask questions, speak up, be noticed, know what everyone's job was so I could be an authority on the company. It's enough to take my breath away every time I think about it.

Today I was asked to attend a meeting with the company. When we got the announcement that the director had resigned, one of my first thoughts was "I bet they ask me to replace her at the meeting coming up." But along with the invitation to take part in this critically important, terribly hectic meeting came "grave reservations" as to my confidence level. The new director does not want to see a "shrinking violet" with these doctors. They do not want a secretary taking notes and staying quiet. Oh crap, 9 years of learning my place down the drain. I am scared shitless. I do not have a confident bone left in my body and fear her "grave concerns" are justified. I am not who I once was. I have been stepped on, spit on, stolen from, crushed, hurt, torn to shreds, left to rot, pummeled with bad luck, hard luck, no luck. How does one come back from that? I'm asking you, seriously, how to I become the old me in a matter of 2 weeks and not let 'em see me sweat?

I am definitely a shell of my former self. If you knew me 20 yrs ago, the me you would describe is not the me I am now. Clinical depression and life's curveballs have really thrown me for a loop in the confidence department. Most weekends, I sit in my dark apartment. I never socialize, don't attend church, rarely go out with my children, avoid relationships, can't tell my kids what I think or feel so I don't burden them, don't go to the movies. Who am I? I don't even recognize myself from the woman I was prior to 2003.

I'm sweating as I type this. How do I get through the past to get over the past and enjoy the present?

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Not a cheery post so this is for me.

My daughter Dorothy and I went to a cabaret event on Saturday night. It was a disaster. It started off with a quietness because I don't want to ask too many questions. I can't even remember what the discussion was but she decided to say, "Are you going to cry?" to which I replied, "No, I have no intention of crying, but if I did, what of it?" I can't even remember if I was asking her about the Italy internship or her long hours at both jobs and asking if she was getting enough sleep. Doesn't matter. She thinks it's okay to interrupt with that at any time.

We went to dinner, quiet, and were at the theater early for a good seat where she talked to strangers. While waiting for the show to start, she talked to someone from her college days and completely ignored me. Dorothy actually chose me over her boyfriend (who I have nicknamed The Lump) since he didn't want to go. (Of course, she had asked him first. If I hadn't called, she had no intention of having me come along. (He hates theater and musicals and singing unless it's head banging music.)

Next we decided we would go for frozen custard. Twice in the last 2 weeks I have texted her, asking her if she wanted to get some frozen yogurt, but she never replies to my texts or calls me back if I leave a message. She wanted to go shopping with her Kohl's discount after ice cream. Again, I truly don't know what the conversation was about since I honestly try not to nag but instead ask her how her life is going, is she working too hard, what is she up to. As we turned into the place, she laid into me like I have never before witnessed. Screaming in the car that she hates spending time with me and that it's painful spending time with me and on and on and on until she finally says, "And I don't need to hear that you are e-mailing my professor and telling him what a disappointment I am and how I've wasted my degree." She said a few more quaint things and after a pause ended with, "Wow, I feel so much better."

I, on the other hand, was decimated. I had to bite my lips so I would not cry as the tears welled up. But remember, my daughter doesn't want any tears and shames me any time my voice quivers. We ordered a concrete to share while she just jabbered away about something. I couldn't hear anything any more. I was supposed to recover from this? And then I had to go shopping with her at Kohl's because, clearly, she felt so much better having pummeled me. I wandered around Kohl's finding some bargains here or there so she could use her discount on me.

On the way home, she said, "So how's your job going?" I said, "There it is." Silence. I added, "Did you know that if you would call every once in a while and ask me how MY life is going, we wouldn't even touch on the subject of your life?" So being the mature adult, I chatted about my job and the ups and downs of learning new things all over again at my age. I gave her the chocolate bunnies I had gotten her and The Lump for Easter and dropped her off at her apartment, the lovely little hovel she shares with him.

So no more ranting. No more e-mails. No more ideas to motivate her. It's over. I don't want to sound like the typical Jewish Mother, but when I think of everything I have done for that girl. All the tech weeks in high school I fed kids. Attending every concert she played in and almost every play or musical she has worked backstage. Running to her rescue when she was getting death threats in her senior year and rescuing her when she was suspended from school for bringing a Leatherman tool to school because it had a knife. I have bailed her out twice when she spent all her spending money in college. I have hidden things from her aunt (who paid for her college) so her head wouldn't explode. I never said a word when she announced she flunked her courses in England because she never went to class. I let her live with me for 14 months free so she could save her money. I have turned the other way when she dated boys that I deemed not good enough for her. I have obviously done it all wrong because all I get is an earful that she can no longer be around me. Maybe I could learn to live like her father. Oblivious. Ignoring his daughters until they call because they're coming to town whereupon they go out to lunch, a treat I never get. Guess when you live in the same town as your kids, that is a luxury.

From what she said, she missed the deadline to apply for the Italy internship (something I promised her I would make sure she got to if she was offered the opportunity). Apparently, she wants no suggestions or support for me so I am through. It's a clear memory that this very thing is how I lost her father many years ago when I would help him look for jobs after job lost after job loss. I knew the marriage was over the day he said, "If you haven't figured it out, I stopped listening to you a long time ago." I will never forget that knife in my heart, and I will never forget what my daughter said to me last Saturday.

Couldn't sleep so ended up awake till 3 the night before Easter. I had every intention of attending Easter service at the local Episcopal Church. 7:30, 9, 11. I figured I would wake up for one of them, but I did not wake up till noon, and I did not set an alarm. I used to love Easter. I mean, it is the biggie for us Christian. I was often singing in the choir on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. The day before Easter consisted of dying Easter eggs and finishing the girls' outfits. When I was so active in church back home, I would be at church by 7am for the 8 o'clock service, ate breakfast in between services, waited for the girls to arrive at church only to finish up the hair and outfits that their father barely got on them, only to sing in my 2nd service of the morning, supervise egg hunts, go home for another egg hunt, and collapse. But ever since I moved here, church is painful because I am so lonely. Easter is excruciating. All the families. All the Easter dresses and baskets and joy. By the time we get to the passing of the peace, and everyone has someone to turn to and I have no one, I am practically in tears. (I did go to Ash Wed service because it is a depressing, lonely service. Perfect for me at this stage of my life.) So I could not convince my body to get out of bed for Easter.

I sat in my dark bedroom most of the day. I moved to this town 5 yrs ago because I wanted to be with my kids more than I wanted to be with their father. I spent the 1st 16 months so extactically happy from being in love, but after that, everything has gone downhill. I have gone through 4 jobs: one I quit before it ended, one I was laid off from, one I was fired from, and this one that has no benefits. (And don't even get me started on that subject.) I never dreamed that I would move to a town to be near my daughters only to have my daughters want little to nothing to do with me. It reinforces what a horrible daughter I was to my mother till the day she died. Last summer when I wanted to die, it was thinking of my kids that got me through those horrible days and night. Now I don't even have that to live for. The loneliness and pain is palpable.

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