Gratitude List – In the Aftermath of Sandy Hook

I know that through the years when I have complained about everyday things, people from the program have told me there is always someone who wishes they had my “problems.”  For every day I wanted to lose weight, there is someone who wishes they were as “fat” as me.   For every bad day on the job, there is someone who really wishes they had a job.  For every day my son annoyed me, there was someone who wished they could be with their son ……. and  so forth.

I reposted a blog the other night, “What Six Looks Like.”  It was eloquent and if you get a chance, please read it.  What an amazing writer.

I can’t possibly touch that.  But have a lot on my mind about it.

That fateful Friday I heard about it at work.  Another school shooting.  A coworker stuck his head in my office door and asked if I had heard.  I shook my head and listened attentively.  He shook his head, ” An elementary school, ” he muttered.  There were no numbers.  No ages.  Another school shooting.

When I got out of work, I turned on the news.  Six-year-old’s.  At that point, they were not sure of the numbers.  They showed parents crying and still shots of kindergartners being led out of the school by police.  One line showed the kids single file, their hands on each others’ shoulders.  It looked like a field trip or a fire drill, just that ordinary.  But that one girl in the middle with the horrified look on her face, the one with her mouth wide open like she was screaming ……..

Then there was a story about a teacher hiding her students in a bathroom and huddling with them.  The teacher said some of them cried and said they just wanted it to be Christmas.  They just wanted to be home.  That tore through me.

I went and picked my son up from school.  It looked so normal.  My heart burst with gratitude.  My heart burst with gratitude that I picked him up uneventfully at the end of the day and it never occurred to me that day to wonder if he was safe or okay or ……alive.   I wanted to kiss my nine-year-old boy, but he would have hissed, “MOM.  You’re EMBARRASSING me.”  Showing restraint, I smiled adoringly at him and smoothed his hair before walking him home.

The news reports continued.  Parents were gathered to be reunited with their children.  The news stated that some lingered half an hour after the last pupils left and finally someone told them, “If you have not been reunited with your child by now it’s already over.”  I cannot imagine hearing those words.

Years ago, I signed the papers to have my beloved cat euthanized.  He became ill very suddenly, very unexpectedly.  He was my cat for more than 10 years.  I signed those dreadful papers and ran out without the cat-carrier.  I heard a lady yell, “Miss?”  I walked faster.  Eyes locked on the door, I hightailed it through the lobby fighting tears. I couldn’t – could NOT – carry that  empty carrier.  THAT was heartbreaking.

But?

It can’t possibly hold a candle to leaving some place without your child.  It can’t possibly hold a candle to hearing that news – and that news delivered so callously!   It can’t possibly compare with hearing the news that my son’s school is being shot up, breaking the sound barrier driving across town, expecting to see him  or her rattled, expecting to give him or her a HUGE hug and take them home and give them a bubble bath and their favorite toy and a hot dinner and ……… How do you go home so abjectly empty-handed?      So horribly empty-hearted?

My son got the biggest hug that night.  The biggest kiss, too.    Many times over.

I was glad there was balled-up, dirty socks on the floor.  I was happy to swipe a sponge over ketchup streaks on the counter.  I was delighted to tell him to pick up his damp towel off the bathroom floor – in a flat and even tone……not the usual frustrated burst of aggravation that comes with saying it a kazillion times.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude looking at his Christmas presents  stashed in my closet and knowing he would be here to open them on Christmas morning.   My anxious glances at my bank statements this month seem so foolish now.

I cuddled him and he tolerated it.

I cried.  I don’t usually cry.

My son said, “But mom?  You cry once a year.”

And here I was crying for the children whose lives came to a screeching halt, crying for the teachers who huddled with children and protected them – the way we hope they will as strongly as we hope they never have to, crying for the parents who have to go home without their child, crying for the town that has to grieve together, crying for the children who made it out and who will never be the same, crying for the adults that died protecting those kids, crying for the gunman and either his severe untreated illness or his blackened soul, crying for the gunman’s family – the family who watched this boy grow up and had more idealistic dreams for him than this,  crying for the parents who had more idealistic dreams for their 6-year-old’s, crying for the parents who wished they had been there to protect them, crying for the grandparents and aunts and uncles and siblings……….. just crying.  I couldn’t stop.

My son asked what was wrong – he didn’t know yet.  I paused, wondering if I ought to tell him.  My snap decision was to tell him the truth, to emphasize how unusual it is, to underscore how safe I believe his school to be ……… and silently remembered how safe everyone thought Sandy Hook to be.  I repeated how safe I believed his school to be.  I was reassuring, sad, but not hysterical.

So my gratitude list for that day and the subsequent days is very long.  I’m grateful for cooking my son dinner even when I don’t feel like it. I’m grateful for balled up dirty socks on the floor, streaks of ketchup on the counter, empty soda cans that I had not given permission to be emptied, damp towels on the bathroom floor …….. and all of the joy I get in exchange for these small irritations.  There are multitudes of people out there that would love to have my aggravations.  Only they’re not aggravations today.  They’re very dear to me.  Very dear indeed.

God Bless you, Newton, CT.  God Bless you.

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ReBlog – What Six Looks Like

Beautifully stated.

Real Housewife of Cleveland County

I am not really a major cryer. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I cry–when it’s appropriate to do so.  Funerals. The occasional wedding if it’s particularly beautiful or meaningful. Schindler’s List. Things that normal people cry at. I am definitely not an over-cryer. I don’t cry at commercials or cheesy Hallmark movies or at the drop of a hat. And, when I do cry, there’s usually a beginning and an end. I cry. I get it out. I stop. Normal crying.

However, since I first started to understand the magnitude of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning, I have cried a lot. I cried when I heard the terrible news. I cried when I went to pick my son up early from school. I cried when I told my husband what had happened. I cried when I talked to my girlfriends about it. I cried…

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Watching Karma Come to Fruition and Other Things I Didn’t Expect to Expect

Resentment:  n – the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult.

The word stems from the French word Ressentiment or “to feel again” from prefix “re” and “sentir.”  It is also a Philosophical notion from Nietsche.  According to Wikipedia:  “Ressentiment is a reassignment of the pain that accompanies a sense of one’s own inferiority/failure onto an external scapegoat. The ego creates the illusion of an enemy, a cause that can be “blamed” for one’s own inferiority/failure. Thus, one was thwarted not by a failure in oneself, but rather by an external “evil.””

That being said ………

I had a job that I loved, a job I was good at.  This isn’t just my perception; I received glowing commendation letters from funders following audits and site visits.  Outside agencies and coworkers and clients alike praised me.  They did and they still do.  That’s a fact.

A new manager took over and she “cleaned house.” I was a part of the house-cleaning.

[You know what?  I remember through the years hearing people lose their jobs to “politics” and “house-cleanings,” etc.  In the back of my mind I wondered if there was more to it, if the person who was fired really had some underlying contempt for authority or really wasn’t such a great employee as their self-assessment says…. yeah.  I was a little judgmental.  I put the “mental” in judgmental.  I was positively stunned that this lady could do this to me, that these things really happened and that I had little recourse in our “at will” state of employment.]

Compounding this …. or expediting it, I should say, was the fact that there was a lady who worked there who wanted to move up the ranks and had endeared herself to this new monster manager [birds of a feather….], and reported every little thing to her …..fabricating things if necessary.  She did not just do this to me.  There were others who were suspended and even fired. To protect the agency that does good work for the community (in spite of this), I will not go into too many details.  Besides.  There are tons of good people still standing.

Sponsorship – Thank God:

I kept in close contact with my sponsor throughout this and did EVERYTHING he said.  EVERYTHING.  Even when it was scary.  Even when it was the “right” thing to do and even when that “right” thing to do would make things worse for me.

Oh, and my lawyer, too.  I did everything he said, including keeping any and all written correspondence — even if it didn’t seem relevant.  There were some really unconscionable things going on and I was asked to do some unethical things.  I stayed true to who I was; my sponsor gave me the backbone to do this.  The new manager asked me to misreport some of our data so our census would look fuller.  She may have had a Master’s Degree but she was none too smart …. she made this request via email.  Yep.  Put it in writing.  I added this to the big file I was accumulating and responded to her (via email) just the way the lawyer suggested:  I asked if I should include the clients we report to [insert funding source]_______, the clients we report to _______, and the clients we report to _____ and asked her how I should proceed so that “I do this the way you want me to.”  This would let her come to the conclusion that it was double-dipping and it made me look like I was willing to do what she said …… but not double-dip.

Fired:

I guess if you ask too many questions then this is considered “insubordination.”  This is what they told me that last day in the main office.  The manager was rabid, spitting the allegations with foaming-mouthed contempt.  She really appeared to hate me.

The HR lady sat with her arms folded, eyes fixed on the table, her long hair obscuring her face. I kept looking at her in disbelief.  I wanted eye-contact. I wanted her to look at me.  But she didn’t.  Not directly.  I couldn’t be mad at her.  She clearly looked like she wanted the world to swallow her.

So I left.  I went home, rattled. I called my boyfriend and told him. I was trembling.  I paced.  I turned on the computer. I paced.  I checked the online classifieds.  I couldn’t read. I paced.  A single mom with no income.  How was I going to take care of my son?  There are Food Stamps, yes …… I paced.  I had money in savings. I could pay three month’s worth of rent.  I might need to tap my mother for help.  Would I even get Unemployment if I was fired?  Finally ….after an hour of this outrageousness, I prayed.  I knelt and prayed and prayed with all of my might.  I prayed with tight hands and clenched teeth.  I prayed and surrendered — fully surrendered.  I replayed the meeting in my head and should have said …. no.  No.  I prayed. It’s over.  No more “should haves.”  I’m powerless over the past. I prayed.  A wave of calm washed over me and I felt totally bathed in a sense of “EVERYTHING will be okay.  Everything.”

Being rattled came and went.  But I was adrift on this wave of calm.  I kept referring to it.  It was powerful.

Unemployment:

Staying home and looking for a job is hard work — not physically, of course.  Just mentally & emotionally.  It’s also unfulfilling work.  I sent my resume to one agency and they promptly wrote back:  “we need this in a PDF format. ”  Nothing else.  No encouragement.

The lady at the Unemployment office was outraged by what happened.  She shook her head and kept saying “Really?” in an incredulous voice.  She filled out the paperwork for me and told me to call in my hours every week. I did. And?  The agency  I had worked for appeared to be fighting my Unemployment.

When the state called and asked questions I told the man with the Boston accent, “this is what happened:  ___________, and I have an email …. shall I fax it to you?”  He said yes to all of these instances and offers to fax him the documentation I had collected.  I faxed him a 16-page bundle of documents.  My Unemployment was direct-deposited the following day, retroactive after nearly 1 month.

Where is our cast of characters NOW?

Meanwhile?  That lady who wished to climb the ranks without a college education, without doing anything remarkable to earn it (except lie and be malicious) got my job.

I won’t say too much about the job or where it is…… after 1.5 years …… because I don’t want to hurt the agency which seems like a seedling in the thawing  ice trying to grow back to its once beautiful self.    Really, they appear to have righted some wrongs.

The program manager lost her job (though she got a pretty little cushy layoff), and the Executive Director of the whole agency lost his.  He received a nice column in the paper interwoven with nostalgia for his decade-plus of service.  But I found out he was fired…… for misappropriation of funds.  I’m sure that nice column in the paper will get him a nice job elsewhere with little more than a handshake and a smile.

Even though they left with halos in the public eye and I had this scarlet letter …… this big red F for Fired ……. I was able to move on emotionally.  I was just genuinely happy that their corrupt and unethical  influence was gone, that the clients I loved and the staff that was like family were now “safe.”

That lady?  The one who made crazy allegations and got away with it and got my job?   She kept working there.   That drove me crazy.  On many job applications there is small print stating that lying on an application is grounds for dismissal (or for not being hired in the first place).  What she did to me (and to others) was tantamount to lying on a job application …… except worse because it hurt others and was not simply an act of self-promotion.  I seethed.  Oh, I seethed.

Resentment:

I struggled with a resentment.  I would pray it away and would do well for months and then someone would mention her, or I would see her name in an email CC’ed among many, or I would see someone who looked like her, or someone would mention the work-site in question …….. and there I’d go again.  I would fantasize about getting her fired.  I’d fantasize of enormous hardships in her life. I’d fantasize about all sorts of things, and it would always end with me encountering her somewhere and giving her a big Cheshire-cat grin except more smug, my arms folded, nostrils flaring, and my foot tapping.

Then it would occur to me to pray again …….. but it was too fun living in this maniacal fantasy world where I telepathically tortured her.  When I realized its impact on my serenity – and reminded myself that resentments are like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die — I would pray for her.  I would pray for God’s will for her, accepting whatever that will was.  Maybe she WOULD get fired (in God’s time, not mine).  Maybe she would win the lottery and move to Fiji.  Whatever. I accepted it all.  Then I’d be back on the beam.  Then back off of it.  Then back on it.  It was nauseating.  All this back and forth nearly drove me to Dramamine.

One week ago I spoke to my sponsor about it again.  He acknowledged that what happened really was not fair.  When it first happened he told me:  “expecting the world to treat you fairly just because you’re doing the right things is like expecting a bull not to charge you because you’re vegetarian.”  He’s right.  He asked if I can make the distinction between forgiving and forgetting , how this is something I probably can’t – and shouldn’t – forget.  I let him know that I know the difference.  This is more than remembering.  He recommended a step 4 on it, like in the Big Book.  So I started my flow chart of seething.

Her actions affected my sense of security [Fear: might this happen again?….. who knew that a lady doing a good job could get fired in an incredibly hostile way?]    Her actions affected my pride [Fear:  I am not always in control, good , bad or indifferent]……  my self-esteem [Fear: can’t I take care of myself and prevent things such as this?]…. Her actions affected my …… perfectionism! [Fear:  I now have this termination on my resume].

But all in all?  It was a control issue.  She ultimately “won” and had the upper hand and THAT is what was killing me.  Was I accepting that maybe this was God’s will?  No.  Was I accepting that maybe she …. in all her inglorious evil and sicknesses …. went AGAINST God’s will?  And that maybe in His infinite wisdom He knew she would do that and put me in her path for a reason?  No.

My conversation started with my sponsor on Friday. I did work on it over the weekend.

Monday? I got the call I have fantasized about this entire time.  She was fired.

A triumphant smile crept across my face.  I felt relieved.  “Yesssss,” I whispered.   I felt like the universe had somehow been restored.  I felt a renewed belief in humanity, that the agency I mentioned was done being complicit in bullshit.

The feeling ebbed as quickly as it had arrived.  I felt sorry for her.  No. I REALLY did.

It’s a couple of weeks before Christmas and this lady has a child.   Did that child make bad decisions or any other thing to deserve this?  Nope.  And that’s where my program is weak and can have holes punched in it:  children.  I have to remember God has a plan for children, too.

I felt sorry that she hadn’t learned anything, that she hadn’t “risen to the occasion” and done good work there.  The allegations against her are pretty serious and I’d even daresay scandalous.  I felt sad that the clients I loved so much were exposed to someone so unethical, cruel and perhaps even dangerous.  I felt sad …….. flooded with sadness.  That feeling has not gone away.

What I Wish I Had Done Differently:

* I wish I had been able to continue to look on the bright side.  *

1.  Did I REALLY wish to still be there when the upper management was taken down?  To still be there I would have had to have participated.  Is that who I wanted to be?

2.  My termination was a catalyst to my life improving.  I work for a GREAT agency now.  The governor recognized them a couple of years ago as being among the top ten list of “best companies” to work for in the state.  I was hired for 30 hours/week [not what I wanted, but the pay is better than Unemployment!] and my take-home pay is similar to what it was at that other place.  Working 30 hours permitted me to finish my education.  I needed to do an internship and I did it with this agency.  I learned more there than I might have at other places.

3.  Did I REALLY wish to still be there today?  I would have worked alongside this woman for the past 1.5 years and witnessed her in heartbreaking action?  No.

4.  Last but not least:  God had a plan for me.  I learned MANY lessons from this.  Would I trade that back?  No.  No.  No.

* I wish my forgiveness came before her being fired.  Was there really a need for “justice” to have closure or was I working toward closure anyway?  I don’t know.  I do know that I’ve wrestled with this for 1 1/2 years and wish I dealt with it sooner, using things I had already learned.  * 

In the Big Book it says in Chapter 5/Step 4:

“This was our course: We realized that the people who wronged us were perhaps spiritually sick. Though we did not like their symptoms and the way these disturbed us, they, like ourselves, were sick too. We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, ‘This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done.’

“We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful. We cannot be helpful to all people, but at least God will show us how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one.”

I never found that caliber of sustained tolerance for her.  On my best day, I would feel that tolerance for a few minutes.

So here I am, examining where I went wrong and how I can do better (beginning with remembering that I’m a human being with human failings).  Hopefully this never happens again!  I’m praying for knowledge of God’s will for me and the power to carry it out.   Sometimes if I don’t “get” the lesson, it is repeated.  Hopefully I’ll “get it.”