Green Is the New Black

Jagger saw a red door and he wants it painted black….

I saw some shamrocks and I want them to turn black.
No greenery anymore, I want it to turn black.
I watch people walk by dressed in their St. Patrick’s clothes.
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes………….

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Well, maybe St. Patrick’s Day isn’t that bad, that filled with darkness.

My brother passed away on St. Patrick’s Day, but I don’t begrudge drinkers their green beers and Guinness. I don’t begrudge the ski areas their green snow. I don’t begrudge restaurants their fiddle music and corned beef. I don’t begrudge McDonald’s their Shamrock Shakes (I’m drinking one now). I don’t begrudge the masses wearing green t-shirts, green berets, green hats, green beads, shamrock pins & jewelry ………. ohhhhhh, it’s heartbreakingly everywhere. I entered a grocery store yesterday and saw multitudes of green carnations. I burst. But I don’t begrudge the world flowers, either.

I try to imagine if I relapsed. I imagine I would spend St. Patrick’s Day in a bar. Since today is a Sunday and the holiday has stretched its legs across the whole weekend, I imagine my trip to the bar would’ve started on Friday with a few naps and a couple of fights before Monday morning. I imagine I would have rapid-cycling mood swings in the bar and I’d be wailing about my poor brother and expecting free drinks and to be the center of attention – – sympathy, please! That cup would be impossible to fill. I would be just as greedy for sympathy as I would alcohol. No question about it. I would also probably become hostile and confrontational to anyone who irritated me and I would feel justified because “it’s a tough time for me right now.”

Because I did NOT relapse, because I have an outstanding network who helped me through this tough time, I am still sober. Because of the 12 steps of AA I am still sober – particularly since I worked them before the shit hit the fan. They would not have worked for me in an emergency and only in an emergency.

My new tradition to cope with the loss is to go to an AA meeting. Let me rephrase that. I have ALWAYS gone to a meeting on this day, but now I choose to attend an anniversary meeting. It’s nice to go and see people surviving and life getting better and better. It’s a celebration of a new life. I go and a lump grows in my throat. Tears pool in my eyes. I keep tissues and listen as best I can. With this rollercoaster of emotions, I don’t always hear the full story.

My brother died 4 years ago today to the day. Today the celebrant was, in fact, celebrating 4. It was very moving (and powerful!) to go to a meeting and hear about the day when someone’s new life was just beginning as my brother’s ended. It was beautiful. It seemed everything came full-circle . I tried to explain this to him, the celebrant. He nodded compassionately and mentioned his recollection of my being in meetings during that first week, how he had seen me in a lot of “nooners.” But I don’t think he fully understood. How could he?

I had been in a lot of nooners in the prolonged period of mourning. I had never had a loss such as this and went to meetings every chance I could. Often this was twice per day. I went to them on my lunch break. I went to them at night. I went into them sobbing, unable to control it.

Will had been in the military and a considerable amount of time passed between his passing and the military’s returning the body. Or maybe it just seemed that way. In writing this, I thought it was nearly two weeks. In looking through my photos of visiting family and the digital timestamp from the camera, I learned it was 8 days from being informed of his death to the funeral.

Learning of his death stung me with one level of pain. Going to the airport and seeing the flag-draped coffin unveiled another level of pain – – oh, it was so real now. Then seeing him in the coffin for the first time impaled me with pain I’ve never felt. It was heartbreakingly real now and that lingering thought that whispered muffled in the back of my mind … the thought that there was a mistake and it was another sailor who died …….. was now squashed. There was no mistake. It was my baby brother.

It was my baby brother who wore footed pajamas and fell asleep in my lap when he was a toddler. It was my baby brother who knew all the names of dinosaurs – whether common or more obscure, knew every bug. It was my baby brother, the one who loved to sit in a BIG empty box with me and pretend it was a car. He would ask me to drive this cardboard car because he was too young to drive. His destination? Nicaragua. Yes. And he pronounced it like a 2-year old, skipping some vital letters such as the R. He’s the one who grew into a humorous young man who had some sarcastic whispers, some secret jokes, and attempts to withhold a smile – a smile that couldn’t be bitten or hidden more than halfway. Yeah, that bemused half-smile of his. My baby brother.

That pain stabs me in the heart again at random times throughout the year. Sometimes in the fall on a random warm and slightly overcast day. I’ll wonder what it is about that day and I’ll remember it was the weather pattern the last time I saw him. Certainly the pain comes on his birthday. The pain stabbed me when I saw pineapple upside down cake in a glass cooler in a diner where they displayed their desserts; pineapple upside down cake was his favorite. The pain pierces me on Christmas and Thanksgiving. Sometimes on very random days I cry like a tantruming 2-year old because I want to call him NOW. I want to hear his voice NOW. Sometimes I cry when I’m buying a card for someone – anyone – and I meander through the aisle with birthday cards and pass the section that says “Brother.”

Once in a while I smile. I’ll hear a joke that I know he’d appreciate. I’ll be at a family function and I can imagine some things he’d have to say. I’ll see a picture of him and that smile, that amused half-smile and I’ll giggle, knowing what he was thinking. I can only hope there are more of these smiles. I certainly had zero of those the first and most painful year. There seem to be more and more of these as time passes. I don’t miss him less. In fact with each passing day I have more I want to say to him. With each passing day I feel like he’s even farther away. The distance of time is greater than any mile, than any light-year.

Today. Today I heard a man tell his story, a man whose new life started in March 2009. Thank God he found us. Thank God his life got better and better. Thank God he shared his message of experience, strength and hope with me today. Today I went to a meeting where they hand out chips. Two people got up for their 24-hour chips. Maybe this is the very beginning of more St. Patrick’s Day anniversaries for me to attend.

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Feeling Like a Newbie Again ………

Today it has been one month, one week, and four days since my last brush with nicotine.  It has been one month, one week, and six days since my last cigarette.  This latter one might have been my quit date, but I found my electronic cigarette in the house. I sucked that thing like a hungry baby with a pacifier.  I held the smoke like an 10th grade stoner, blowing out a whole lotta nothin’.

It reminded me of my last drink.  It was an urge paired with easy access and anonymity.  Anonymity meaning I did not have to emerge from my dungeon and move through the world and risk being seen in a package store (or in this case a convenience store with a 10-spot and asking for a pack of cigarettes).  Yes.  No one had to know.  It was private. It was between me and my fix.

But when people asked how I was doing? I told them. I ‘fessed up.  A co-worker laughed and asked, “Does that [vaping] even count?”

These are the thoughts that sometimes go through my head, justifying bad behavior.

But yes, I feel like a newbie again.  A recurring newbie.  This is not my first stint quitting smoking.  I can’t help but wonder, “Is this IT?”  and “Is this REALLY IT?”

My family has smiled approvingly.  But there’s no air-horns and confetti like the first time.  Or even the second time.  I can’t blame them.  It’s getting to be old hat.  And this one-month+ milestone doesn’t hold a candle to the time I made 7 months or the time I made 19 months.  That 1 year + was my record.

I don’t mind there being no  tickertape parade.  I get a bit of that from my coworkers, and honestly I feel a little embarrassed by it.  My straight posture slouches and I smile sheepishly.  I guess I’m not so sure myself that this “is it.”

My son asked me if this is it.  He has seen me quit before.  He caught me when I was a closet smoker, trying to keep it from him.

Ouch.  Why had I done that? What motivated this – and it’s probably the same with closet drinkers – is that I planned to just quit again. He’d never be the wiser.  It was also fear:  fear of disappointing him, fear of the uncomfortable conversation “why did you start again?”, fear of disapproval, fear of his losing respect for me,  fear of getting comfortable with it once he knew and not wanting to stop ……….

So why did I start again?  I’m reviewing this because I need to know. I need to remember.  This is the same thing that  happens to drinkers before they relapse.

My Nicotine Relapse

My brother died.  He was 24 and it was unexpected.

Did 20 cigarettes daily for the past 3 1/2 years bring him back?  Of course not.    And my relapse with nicotine didn’t coincide that neatly with his death.  The days following his death were painful.  Shock is a pretty good anesthetic, lulling me into comparably blissful states of numbness.  When I’d feel the most acute levels of grief, I would hold on knowing that an island oasis of shock and disbelief was ahead of me.  That was the best I could do.  But after the funeral, reality set in.  And it became more horribly and painfully real in the days leading up to his birthday.  His birthday is the same day as my sister’s.  They’re not twins, just a coincidence.  Buying one card crushed me.  The pain was agonizingly heavy, sitting on my chest like an immovable entity.  I would spontaneously burst into tears.  Perhaps in the grocery store reaching for a red pepper.  Sometimes driving.  There wasn’t always a trigger.  It wasn’t always Free Bird blaring on a radio or seeing an American Flag folded into a triangle in one of those boxes for the surviving family members – but those have done me in as well.

I bought cigarettes.  I asked someone to watch my son while I went for a drive.  I smoked.  It was nauseating and it made me lightheaded, but it was what I thought was best.  I felt no regrets afterward, not even when I chewed gum and sprayed myself with perfume.  I snuck an occasional cigarette nearly every day.  One pack lasted for two weeks.  This was under control.  This was what I always wanted:  to be able to take it or leave it.  This went on for two months. For the first month I wondered if the other shoe would drop.  Into the second month, it never occurred to me that it would.  But it did.  It did.  Suddenly I was a pack-a-day smoker.  And I finally confessed, not because it was the right thing to do.  I confessed because of the sheer inconvenience of covering up 20 cigarettes per day and the dishonesty involved with accounting for that many minutes of my time.

Reading this back, it seems inevitable that I would smoke. I could tell myself, “Who wouldn’t?”

Relapse Mindset:

The days leading up to that fateful drive, that fateful first cigarette, were a lot of unhealthy attitudes about smoking that I didn’t tell anyone about.  My sponsor quit smoking. I certainly had someone to talk to.  Both of my parents quit smoking. I could have told them.  But I didn’t.  And I didn’t because I wanted to smoke.  I didn’t want to be talked out of it.  At work at that time, there were TONS of smokers.  It didn’t bother me before then, but in the days leading up to my first cigarette I wished I could go outside with them. I loved the smell and missed the socializing.     I started giving feigned pouty faces when my coworkers slid on their jackets and said they were heading outside; they laughed and encouraged me not to start up again.  They encouraged me with a wag of a finger and “Don’t you dare.”  I missed the “reset” button when I was having a bad day.  When I had a lot of paperwork and stuff I did not like to do, I missed having something to look forward to at the end – or something to get me started or to get me over the hump in the middle so I could carry on ……… I missed a lot of things.  And when you’re “missing” something, you often start feeling deprived.

I was hyper-focused on what I was missing out on and not what I actually earned.

 

Positive Mindset ?  What Could Have Been……….. No.  What Could Be Now!

I wasn’t thinking about how I could walk and converse without getting winded.  I wasn’t thinking about how my colds no longer lingered, how a nagging cough would nag me for a good month after other people recovered from their colds.  In fact?  At this point I did not get too many colds.

I wasn’t thinking about the sheer expense.   I wasn’t thinking about the slavery, and how I would have to power suck two of them right before going to the movies and sneaking out halfway through the movie to power suck half of one so I could get through the rest of it.  I wasn’t thinking about how I felt as if I had been taken hostage when a staff meeting went over the hour, how my foot would get tapping and my eyes would steal glimpses of the clock.  And OH that craving.  Yes.  The slavery.  Cigarettes controlled my every move.  A car trip required strategically timed stops.  I mentioned the movies?  9 times out of 10, I would prefer to watch DVD’s so that I had a “pause” button and did not feel so trapped.   You’ll notice there isn’t much in my list about cancer risk, heart disease and other things I had a close brush with and now have a much lessened chance of acquiring.  Oh, that was so beyond my imagination. I just couldn’t fathom those things ever happening to me.  I still can’t. I also conveniently forgot about the pressure in the back of one of my eyes that I had when I smoked.  It had been happening for a long while. I never told anyone. I was pretty sure it WAS correlated and didn’t want anyone telling me I had to stop.  Besides.  Maybe it would go away.

Anatomy of a Post-Relapse

And yes, this is a blog about alcoholism.  But this whole ordeal makes me think about my alcoholism, too.  That was slavery.  Relapse is not an act of spontaneity – there is a path leading to it, a path masoned of negative thoughts and false memories.   And there are rationalities such as “I’ll quit again.”  I did that with smoking.  “I’ll quit again.”  ‘Cause it had been so easy, right?  [wink] .  Here we are 3.5 years later.  I’m just getting the gumption to quit again.  I wholly did not WANT to this whole time.

They say when we pick up addictions again, we pick up where we left off.  Well?  That’s not always exactly true and that is what is so insidious about it.  When I started smoking again, I wasn’t immediately out of breath doing everyday things. I didn’t immediately wake up every morning with that gross hacking cough.  I didn’t immediately feel enslaved; I could wait out a movie.  I could even work an entire workday!   And I think that’s sometimes true of alcohol.  It doesn’t always immediately bite us in the ass.

A friend of mine from the rooms confided in me that he relapsed – and this was a few years ago.  He said he was going out to the bar with friends every weekend and that was it. He wasn’t even having very many!  He informed me that this was going on for a few months and I wasn’t seeing him in meetings because he wasn’t an alcoholic anymore.  I suppose I’m sharing it with you because this moderation did not last.  He let me know it didn’t work out.   Coming back after the first sign of trouble wasn’t how it ended for him. He lost a job, a wife, a place to live.  Now he’s back in the rooms.  He has a little bit of time together again and has worked out a new place to live and a new job.   But it was hard.

Now……….

So here I am feeling like a newbie again.  An occasional craving will rumble in like a stark gray storm front.  I practically start to salivate.  I have to remember “this, too, shall pass.”  A sponsee of mine told me that she quit years ago and someone told her that the craving goes away whether you smoke or not. I tell myself that over and over it seems.

I’m using the steps, yes.  I prayed to my Higher Power to remove the compulsion and it worked.  It did, it did!  However, sometimes a switch is flipped when I’m walking on the sidewalk and find myself downwind from a smoker or when I smell it on someone when they come back inside or when I pass an ashtray near a store entrance and smell one smoldering there.   So I have to repeat Step 2.  I have to come to believe that a power greater than myself will restore me to sanity ……… and I pray again with that belief, with that conviction.  And it passes.  It does.

Weight gain ……….. that’s what diet, exercise and step 3 are for.

Hopefully this is “it.”  Hopefully this time I will not only get farther than I had the other times, but hopefully I will never pick up again.

But all that aside:  I’m not smoking today.

 

 

 

10 Years Ago Today…….

Ten years ago today was New Year’s Day 2003.  I woke up in disappointed, discouraged disbelief that I had thrown away two months just a mere 8 hours prior.  I swallowed rum, Vanilla Extract, and  NyQuil with a chaser of Listerine.  I descended on these things like one-woman pack of hyenas on a carcass.

Struggling with sobriety, I went to a first meeting following my relapse.  People said “Hi, how are you?” and I answered.  I spoke slowly and methodically, bracing myself for a look of disappointment, discouragement and disbelief.  I saw none of that.  What I saw was encouragement.  I was embraced not disgraced.  I was encouraged not discouraged.  I was believe in and not disbelieved in.  While I didn’t have “approval,” I didn’t have disapproval.   I was appointed to the potential for a new way of life – not disappointed.  I left there feeling stronger.  It sustained me for a while longer.

By the time the spell started to wear off, by the time the strength had begun to ebb, it was time for another meeting.  Day two.  After that spell had started to wear off, by the time the strength had begun to ebb, it was time for another meeting.  Day three.  Etc.

Ten years ago today I had a one-bedroom apartment, and it felt empty and lonely and brimming with anger.  Today I live in a three-bedroom house with a family and it feels full and lively and overflowing with love.  Ten years ago today I had newly declared bankruptcy.  Today I can pay my bills; it’s a struggle, but today I’m not standing next to a stray dollar on the bar wondering if the bartender will think it’s mine and get me a draught or whether she’ll realize it was her tip from someone else.  Ten years ago today I had shaking hands.  Today I don’t have the hands of a surgeon, but nor do I feel like people are staring at me and seeing how awake and angry my nervous system really was.  Ten years ago today I had little hope for the future.  Today I know that each day keeps getting better and can’t imagine it being better than today.

My dad called me this morning to wish me a happy anniversary – and a happy new year.  I couldn’t believe he remembered.  But like my friend Joe said, “How could he forget?”

 

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.

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.”