Choices, stressors, negative vibes

Today, I had only one positive thing to say to anyone thus far. Meeting my friend K at the gym tonight, so that will change. She is doing really well with her barbell training and it’s inspiring and exciting to witness. But for now, I’m a squatter in the negative neighborhood and feeling justified in my wallowing.

Okay, maybe not justified, but having reasonable expectations of allowed humanity. My job has gone from being a huge source of satisfaction and pride to this dismal sinkhole of profanities strung together inside my head while my expression seems to say “what now?” every time someone walks into my office or my email pings.

This is so not me. My friend J, who has been a stalwart work-related supporter, mentor, friend for years and years, is starting to think I need to pull the pin now for my own sanity. He says when Pollyanna goes into hiding it is time to get out. He could potentially be correct.

Okay, work itself is gearing up and going well for the most part. For 90% of the staff, acceptance of the changes coming is starting to sink in and everyone is settling down and looking ahead to whatever comes next. Unfortunately, the other 10% are creating a lot of headaches and drama. For a couple of them, I can completely understand the palatable anxiety. They are non-attorney staff, more extreme on the head-down introvert scale, and were not treated like special snowflakes by the incoming firm members thus far. That’s a given; no one here is a special snowflake. But they have been here awhile – one 7 years, the other closer to 9 – and feel a little slighted. The types of personalities, they need a lot more hand-holding than the average professional. I am only capable of some much compassion and propping up before my expectations that they suck it up and deal kicks in.

Surprisingly to me, before today they were the biggest of my staff-related issues regarding the ownership change. My own stuff is my own stuff, and I have a pretty capable Plan B and Plan C to fall back upon. Then I came in this morning and was presented with a thornier problem that blew up my week.

So back embroiled in an HR-related issue for a firm expiring as an entity in a few weeks.

For the most part, I’m hugely disappointed in the staff members involved. It creates an unnecessary negative dynamic in an already tense work environment. But for tonight, I’m outta here on time. The problems and issues will be waiting for me here in the morning.

I get that we all have choices in our lives – what we do, how we react to events in our lives. Today, I am reminding myself of this throughout much of my workday. Thankfully I’m 20 minutes away of another being in the books.

Sometime soon I hope to be back to my regular level of positive motion blogging. The way things are going – it could be July 1 before it happens.

OMG – Losing my shit with my bosses

The attorneys are all out today, doing CPE or something like it. It’s me and the rest of the non-JD staff. We all went out to lunch – on the firm – and have had a lovely day just cleaning up around here, purging files, clearing the deck in preparation for the takeover.

A couple of the bosses came back this afternoon and made beeline for my office. There was a communication issue with something they are planning and the feedback received from the staff today about the merger was very negative and hard for them to hear. I get it – I have been getting buckets of it tossed my direction all week as well. Always my conversations with staff have been considered off the record communications; they are blowing off steam and bitching about life and times as an attorney. I get it. We all get it. But for some reason today the honest dismay over the merger – they took it personally and got their boxers in a bunch with something akin to hurt feelings.

I regret to say voices were raised and doors were slammed – for once I was not the guilty party on the door slamming, a personal behavior at home that has taken me decades to break.

But they do not get to yell at me when they are mad, frustrated, or anything else about a situation I have zero control over and not sharing what is typically considered other employees confiding in me privately. I encourage them to take their concerns and feelings to the bosses, and sometimes – like today – they take the advice to heart and pour out their feelings. I think – I know – the week is getting to all of us. They yelled at me, I yelled back. Everyone in the office was cowering like children when parents and other family members get into a knock-down, drag-out verbal altercation.

I am not proud of my knee-jerk reaction; I am much better than this and my professional self should have better control of my temper. Where a week ago none of the critical comments would have mattered enough to take personally, today it was like betrayal of the first order, blown completely out of proportion.

It took a good 45 minutes for me to cool off enough to wonder what I should do about it. I shredded old files in my office and finally acknowledged that while they are being childish, I sank to that level and let them get to me. BUT, as their office doors were both still firmly shut, there was nothing for me to do except work.

Partners 3 and 4 came in while I was debating my next course of action. They stopped briefly to ask me how long I would be in the office and very nicely asked me to stay and talk with the 4 of them. Of course. I figured the worst that would happen is that I got fired today and burned a professional reference. It was upsetting to imagine, but entirely possible.

So 20 minutes later the 5 of us are sitting in the conference room like so many times before. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to apologize, and if I was, could I fake it well enough to at least appear contrite? Nope, unlikely. So I didn’t say anything.

They spoke about the impact the merger is having on the staff, how they “probably” handled it poorly, and that the acquiring corporation being here this week was harder than they foresaw on everyone. Ya think? Part of the issue with these guys is that they are emotionally tone deaf when it comes to their employees. They think everyone thinks and feels and acts pretty much like they do, except it’s not true. I am living, breathing proof of that, and one of my functions within the firm is to be the sounding board and steering wheel for the morale and spirits of the staff. The news was hard for me – I characterize it like the ego-bruising heartbreak of a relationship ending when you still have strong feelings for the other party and do not want and are not ready for it to end – and I have been struggling with being able to listen to the staff as firm management and sort out my own feelings as their employee peer. It’s rendered me less effective in this role this week. Then I have the Hellbeast waltzing through what is still my territory and messing with my peeps almost immediately after finding out this change is going forward? So. Not. Cool. As M said to me, “territorial much?” to which I was completely unrepentant in my emphatic “oh FUCK YES!” reply.

I value relationships. I value my associates and the camaraderie and trust we have built over the past couple of years. I  prize that my bosses are men with whom I can speak directly and completely candidly without fear of retaliation or worse. I have never had anything like that in a corporate structure, and I dislike not trusting my peers or management. It does not make for a happy workplace wondering what direction I’ll be facing when the backstabbing happens.

So yeah, emotions are running high all over the place. I think we will all recover and regain our footing, but we need the stability of normal, business as usual for the next couple of weeks. There needs to be some time to adjust and get our footing with the change before the suits are in our midst and glad-handing us like professional politicians. They agreed.

And maybe some informal conversation and communications about what the future holds. Yesterday was the first new normal last of our present firm days and everyone was busy with various things related to the merger. Today the office was mostly empty and what they heard from the staff was to be expected.

Blaming me for not telling them what I was hearing was wrong. I received appropriate, unsolicited apologies. Accepted, let’s move on.

This is what I will miss about my great little firm experience. Business is business, family is family, but people get angry and lose their shit, sometimes inappropriately, but always understandably. Unless things are getting thrown across the room (my predecessor once had a tantrum where he pushed an entire desktop of work onto the floor in someone’s office becasue they had not gotten their paperwork in for a second straight month – the horror!), all is generally forgiven. People are people, and with the ruling body open to admitting their own mistakes and forgiving others when stuff happens, the workplace is a much healthier, secure place.

So I walked out tonight with same sort of grief over all that I am losing while at the same time feeling more comforted that I am not the only one who grieves. While this is an amazing opportunity for the partners, they are well aware that they are breaking up a really good firm filled with very loyal, dedicated people. It’s not personal; it is just business. But because we are loyal and dedicated employees, it is impossible for us to not take it somewhat personally. Intellectually we all understand it. Emotionally we are all still shell-shocked and saddened. The people we are, though – our emotions are on the clock to get sorted out and resolved before this change it fully implemented. Any expectation that we will be over our sad in a week is unrealistic.

The bosses all get it now. It only took a brawl with their “work wife” to slam the point home.

I do not look forward to the interactions with the Hellbeast the lie ahead, but I have big enough big girl pants to handle myself with a professional demeanor. She and I – we will never have the trust I share with my present partners; I cannot ever let my guard down enough to honestly express any of my emotions. And I genuinely suck at robotic impassivity.

Despite a rocky week, I will miss my firm in its present management and dynamic. I realize there are only 15 work days left for my job in this firm and work environment and it makes me sad. Best I can hope for is to rise above the rest of the corporate bullshit to savor each and every one of them.

Work-zilla has taken over the blog. Apologies in advance for reporting my day-to-day trauma drama.

Expectations, feelings, The Holidays

My daughter and son-in-law are presently somewhere in Texas (it’s a big state) enroute to their new home and chapter in their life in Florida. She texts me, her brother and sister-in-law every evening when they are done driving for the day. While I am not especially worried about them on this grand adventure, it is nice to know they made it safely to their next waypoint and to follow their progress on the map.

K and G have acquired Christmas sweaters for G’s holiday party. K’s is actually quite cute, with LED lights that flash embedded in it. G’s first choice was stunningly awful, and I need photographic evidence that he actually wore such an terribly gaudy thing – it would be so out of character.

The holiday madness continues for me professionally right now. My private clients, I met one for a drink and consultation on Wednesday night, lunch with another on Thursday, and M and I are attending another large holiday party tonight. The goodies collected thus far have been extremely generous and the lovely baskets have been divided up between various people we know who will enjoy it. At work, I have found that the vendors I have used through the move have been extraordinarily lavish with their gifts. I have done some horse trading with my bosses and seniors, because that seems to be the sport they prefer to engage in and enjoy … as opposed to me just willingly, happily handing them the object of their desire. Consequently, I ended up with even more booze I will give away to others. G and K have several new bottles of wine to try, M’s cooking wine cabinet has a couple of new bottles, and my trainer gets a little boost to his liquor cabinet as well. Coffee seems big this year, and I have a couple of friends who love unusual coffee beans. Any foodstuff I typically leave at the office, but I did get a couple of lovely baskets out of the deal.

Work-work we are in the middle of a couple of big things right now, so I will be spending my rainy Saturday at the office helping out with the workload to keep things moving. After practice, of course. I have my own self-employment work to plow through as well, so it will be a busy weekend.

And now back from the gym, where I had a most satisfying and productive practice. Finally, after a year atop the nemesis list, the cable 1-legged Romanian deadlift is coming together and working without a lot of swearing involved in the effort.

I confess – not feeling especially festive. Not depressed, unhappy, or sad, just not feeling the holiday happy-happy-joy-joy, as if I am falling far short of the holiday feeling expectation. I mean, I have at least my normal level of happy-happy-joy-joy, and maybe a smidge more because there are good things going on around me with people I love, admire, respect, and really, really like. The expectation that comes with the holidays – I theorize it is the root of the problem for so many – the expectations of being happy and grateful that come with the holiday season. Find your family toxic 360+ days per year, yet there is something inside us that says it’s Christmas, and we should all get along. But we don’t. We just don’t. So why set ourselves up for the great disappointment that comes with it? I don’t know. Or have a job that does not pay adequately to overcome the financial challenges yet have this strong, strong desire to spend, spend, spend on gifts for the nearest and dearest that will make them happy, and us as well while the spending/gifting high lasts. Then the crushing reality of additional debt or reverse progress on savings goals and the anguish and disappointment that comes with that.

Those are just a couple examples of holiday blues scenarios I have coped with over the years. Happily for me, I have slowly weaned and trained myself out of such things, but I feel the sadness of others around me and so powerless to help or even comfort them. So I am am going to restrain myself and cease even trying. I wish I had more empathy or capacity for understanding, but if someone is sad and wants to be left alone with their sadness or somehow gives off a vibe of that, I will stop reaching out. The worst part for me? I do not feel worse about it; I have reached a point of acceptance that there is nothing I can do and listening is so inadequate in this situation. Hence my absolute sureness that I am a lousy candidate for coach of any stripe. Everything in me wants people to help themselves, and intellectually I completely understand that sometimes helping ourselves is nearly impossible. Perhaps if I had better training and tools in my toolbox I would feel differently. But as a friend, my ability to understand and cope is severely constrained.

C suffers from both depression and anxiety. K suffers from anxiety. Friend J is coping with recovery from a debilitating illness that has taken so much of his strength and endurance. Others in my life too numerous to call out individually here. I have concerns about each of them, and my deepest, darkest fear is that I will fail them when they need me most for my lack of training or ability to be there for them in a moment of genuine need. With all my close friendships, that there is always the possibility of some critical component I am missing that will let them down in the clutch.

Sometimes I fear being a nice enough, good enough, smart enough person is inadequate. I fear my own inadequacy on so many levels.

So I try very hard to build my strength in the ways I can right now. Whether it’s the zen of exercise or the curious mind that is reading anything and everything related my interests as well as just managing our lives in the times we are living in, I am conscious of trying to learn and to build some reserves and some strength. I wish to be more courageous and brave, not quaking on the inside while fighting the impulse to cower and run away on the outside.

The holidays are different for each of us, and I believe difficult for many. Maybe if I could completely disable my give-a-shit switch I would be better, but unfortunately it’s a dimmer switch and only goes dim to bright to blinding, never off. Le sigh. Me and my first world problems, I know.

I am working hard, because I do want to feel completely confident I am enough. The march forward is littered with stalled attempts and learning experience experiments, but it’s also cluttered with many small successes the push me ever forward. From just getting through the holidays to coping with the unexpected discomforts that inevitably crop up in life, this is a war I will win. Eventually.

Training #78 – Bang the drum all day

Monday morning, training with J. Today was all about new warm-ups and very ab/core focused. A lot of stuff I have done before or already on a List somewhere, with a few new goodies thrown into the mix.

Super excited about this. While it seems like a “light” day in terms of working hard at a weights List, warming up is something I tend to take very seriously. I have my standard that I have performed daily for several months now, but this is somewhat of a big booster enhancement. On its own as a warmup, running through a single set would be maybe 15 minutes once I get the rhythm and timing of it down. I am already contemplating pairing it with the cardio List as well for a super set before an older go-to workout. Hazy plan to try it sometime this week, depending on energy.

While I am waiting for J to update my List for today, I am pondering a lot of gym-related thoughts.

The warm-up routine suited me perfectly today, because I felt a little low-energy and not much in the mood for training this morning. I got plenty of sleep, did pilates yesterday and felt pleasantly buzzed about exercise, but just was not in the training session zone this morning. Probably this feeling relates to new things I am doing to streamline my mornings, but I was feeling apprehensive and anxious about going this morning. Sort of silly, and I was fine once in the gym and working.

But moving along through my usual warm-up and training itself, I felt … off. Like I’m not working hard enough. This has been an enduring feeling of late, like I am not paying enough attention or working hard enough or giving enough genuine effort. Every day I think it will pass, and most of the time I have been fine, pushing myself to push harder to overcome those feelings. Last night I began to realize I have been spending more time than typical on social media sites. Not only is it a complete time-suck, it’s damaging to my mental health. Most people can probably do these sites successfully; me, I end upon taking it way too personally and starting to feeling inferior and inadequate. Time to stop and just say no.

It’s not that I am slacking … too much. I am in the gym and working 6 days out of 7, and I am doing pilates on Sundays. I have been hitting yoga classes 2 or 3 night per week for the least few weeks. But (and isn’t there always a “but” when I say these things) M expressed some concerns about my sedentary work and how it impacts my lower legs. One tiny comment, made out of genuine concern, and I’m diving down the vortex of doubt and failure. Failure I say! Let’s go forth and embrace my old friend and throw out ever List and accomplishment of the last year.

Mental and emotional muscles are still on the weak side under pressure.

About the comment – I have this tendency to wrap my right leg around my left while sleeping or sitting, hindering circulation, and the result is ongoing bruising in my lower leg. Being diabetic, M imagines the worst possible outcome. It’s why I have a treadmill desk at home. It’s why I should have one installed at the office as well.

The bruising has faded significantly in the last year since I began my quest for regular exercise. However, the last few months have been insane with work, and I have not been using my treadmill desk as frequently as I might. So M noticed a couple of new spots appearing on my leg and has grown increasingly concerned. While he does not nag or yell, there is a “tone” in his voice that immediately makes me defensive and angry. Imagine a fire and brimstone preacher looking down from the pulpit and glaring and singling you out in the congregation while yelling “REPENT!” and you’ll get an idea of how I hear that tone. I know he speaks from concern – this is not him trying to be controlling or worse – but that tone in my ears implies bad things about my character. When we have discussed this at various times through our years together, heatedly and within shoot-to-kill type intensity, he defends himself in not saying anything of the sort, and I defend myself with this is how my head hears it so adjustments must be made. So we end up taking a step back, a few (dozen) deep and calming breathes, and then wade back in and try again in a less vitriolic manner.

Yep, human here. And in a normal, healthy relationship complete with arguments and fights.

But in the back of my mind, I feel like maybe M is confronting me on my lack of effort in my exercise pursuits. Maybe I need to work harder?

Which is, to borrow a favored phrase from a good friend, utter bollocks. That’s my shit, and the responsibility for it lies on me. If M felt I needed to put more effort into my exercise pursuits, he’d say so, possibly without that tone in his voice.

Not sure what is going on with me. Probably nothing. Possibly fatigue from the rest of my life leaking into my typically protected gym time.

A lot of negativity swirling around lately. People whining about fatigue, yet staying up way too late doing whatever it is they do. Complaints too much work or not enough time to do what they wish to do, yet floundering around trying to figure out their own priorities and such. Gossip and trash talk about families and friends. The election and politics needs a whole other blog post for the litany of hysteria surrounding it.

All this stuff impacts me on some level or another. This morning, I simply was not in the mood to work really hard. And I hate that. I hate feeling as if I have the potential to waste my hour of opportunity to learn new things, ask questions that occur, hone my focus on my exercise technique. Consoling myself that it is one hour out of however many I have left in this series and of however many future series I will pursue. My point here – one day of not feeling on top of things is not going to cripple me today much less forever. Tomorrow is another day, another opportunity to give it a try. Or I may cruise into the gym tonight and run through a List, just because I can.

And it just occurred to me – J is sneaky. J is smart. J is pretty well prepared for our sessions. J probably has already uploaded the List while I’m sitting here navel-gazing and weenie-whining about my diminished attitude. Of course, there it is, waiting. So, about what we actually did today:

Bands

  • Squat-to-row
  • Right horizontal choppers (double band)
  • Step-to-press
  • Left horizontal choppers (double band)
  • Straight arm pulldowns
  • High-to-low choppers (double band)
  • Low-to-high choppers (single heavy band)

Stability Ball Core

  • Glute bridges
  • Ball pass
  • Hamstring curls
  • “Russian twists”
  • Bird dog
  • Stir the pot
  • Roll outs
  • Reach up crunches

So that was lunchtime, and here I am long after the office workday is concluded and after running through several tasks for my own little business. Busy week this week.

Despite my low energy and general feeling of internal apathy today, I really enjoyed this new warmup stuff. It was not super hard working at weights type training, but it is an important part of my daily routine.

The bands are all familiar exercises that have appeared on various Lists throughout the last year. The squat-to-row does appear on another warm-up List, but for some reason I have never really taken to it. I don’t ever really tire of goblet squats, so that could be why. I can see how this is a more compacted version of the daily warmup I typically pursue.

Keeping it real, horizontal choppers with a double band are not a favorite. They are not nemesis, but they are in that limbo land of if they never appeared on a List again I would not rejoyce but I would also not be whining about it either. The horizontal choppers, especially with the double band, are such a pain. If I am not completely focused on what I am doing I am falling over sideways on the return. I know they are effective; they are just not an exercise that makes my mind perk up and take notice at the challenge it presents.

Step-to-press, once situated so that band is not slapping me in the neck or the face on the press portion, is a favorite. I have zero aspirations to take up boxing of any stripe, so this is about the closest I will ever come to throwing punches. Imagining myself actually hitting someone I’m irritated at is rather exhilarating, and I find myself smiling more and more every time I do these kinds of presses with those sort of violent (for me) imaginings in my head.

I do straight-arm pulldowns with the bands every single day I am in the gym practicing or training with J, so I was and am happy to see they are retained on this List as well. Still working hard at standing up straight, or tall and upright, and keeping shoulders down and back. These computer use-induced shrugging habits are so hard to break.

The high-to-low choppers with a double band are not nearly as ho-hum as their horizontal brethren. Part of it is the set-up makes more sense to me. Part of it is the band stays in place and doesn’t creep when draped over the TRX bar up top. But the biggest draw is the downward motion and the sort of side bend/rib tuck. Now that I know for sure how it feels and such, I like the challenge of the form without having to contend with band creeping down the stanchion. When J demonstrates he’s perking along in a graceful, elegant manner that is a much peppier pacing. When I am going through them myself it is slower, more deliberate, and the difference in our ages and gym experience is very apparent. But oh well. I doubt anyone is standing around with a stopwatch timing me.

The low-to-high choppers with a single heavy band are mostly okay. I am getting the hang of them now, and then today J mentioned and these being kind of that motion. Gotta say, kind of ruined the experience for me. I hate golf. I am so not a sporty girl anyway, but golf – I just don’t get it. At all. I will have to contemplate my imagery to get through these. That will be fun.

Going through this sequence as a warmup was fun and not terribly challenging. I worked, but not as feverishly hard as I feel like I do on a typical training day. And today, it was just right. The stability ball section was where the intriguing stuff came today.

Today was a first foray into glute bridges on the stability ball. Man, I loved these. I have no idea why – maybe my glutes and core were completely numbed from yesterday’s pilates class, which was all abs almost all of an hour. For whatever reason, I just really, really dug these. It was kind of weird at first – I was maybe not listening or thought I heard hamstring curls? Anyway, once I got it straight that this was bridges, not curls, I found them delightful. No idea why the feet elevated on a ball makes such a difference, because I hate them when my feet are on the ground and have been trying desperately to figure out new ways to distract myself through the long hits of them when they occur. These were fun.

Watching J demonstrate the ball pass, I was doubtful. Really doubtful. Of the things we did today, I thought sure these would be fast track to nemesis-ville. But no, they were not so bad. I have observed others doing these and thought they looked really hard. In reality, they have a level of challenge, but I think I am mostly up to it. Going to take some practice, but I believe I have the basic shape down and can probably replicate it tomorrow. We shall see.

Finally we reached the hamstring curls. Not that I was eagerly anticipating them so much as these were at least familiar. Still find I am having issues with the tighter positioning of the knee tuck, especially at the end where the most contraction happens with the tightest tuck. Keeping hips elevated remains key, and I apparently do not want to keep hips elevated. Nice thing about these as a warmup is that if I am doing them all the time (read: daily) I am bound to improve my technique. It happened with Bulgarian split squats and it can happen with these.

Another first, the Russian twists. These look so deceptively simple, but alas there is some technique involved. The lean back with tall spine makes a difference in whether or not I’m feeling it in my low back. Once I got the basic shape down and the hang of the twist portion with the tall spine, they were not bad at all.

The bird dogs on the stability ball are more of a challenge than just doing them on the mat alone. I cannot quite articulate why, maybe it’s just because the ball is pressed up against the core, but I feel these more in my abdomen than I do from the mat on the floor. The look so deceptively simple – lay on ball, raise arm and opposite foot. Except nothing is ever that simple anymore, or probably ever.

While I know we have previously done stir the pot, it’s been quite awhile. Another one of those deceptively simple movements that require some technique and concentration. Just body stretched out from knees, elbows resting on the ball, making small circles to the left and then to the right. Sounds really simple, right? Except it’s not. I feel this in my shoulders, my abs, my middle/upper back. All good. Not a fav, not a nemesis; just an ongoing challenge.

Once I grasped the complexity of the roll out, I knew they would either go straight to nemesis stable or hover above it until I get a better feel for just how freaking complicated they are to perform. It’s not the rolling the ball beneath the hands to forearms to elbows while keeping body straight that is the hard part. It’s the getting back to starting position with hands on the ball while keep spine straight and tall and pressing forearms down onto the ball. For the most part I understand what the objective is with this one, but I can already tell just thinking about it 13 hours later that it’s going to take some focused practice to feel competent.

The reach up crunches are still my favorite ab exercise, mostly because I love the part where I am just laying on the ball before and afterwards. Feels fantastic on the back and shoulders.

And that was our training session today.

My low-energy mood and funk-light has lightened significantly after an email ass kicking/pep talk  from friend J. Plus as the day passed and work flew by so quickly my spirits began to really perk up as well.

I am excited to test this warm up tomorrow and to return to my roots with an older List. It’s also work from home day, so I need not be in an uber rush to get in and out of the gym.

There are definitely some new challenges in these warmups and I like that. I also think backing away from social media and too much communication with certain factions of people within our lives is in order. I am on a good roll with my eating and my exercise habits. I don’t need to screw it up by letting peripheral drama harsh my daily buzz.

 

Losing my stuff

Titling this post “Losing my shit” would have been more appropriate, but I am trying to be considerate of those who are not quite as salty as I am in my language habits.

Most of the time, I think I am pretty rational and organized. Then again, most of the time I seem to spend working. In my professional life I am practically a professional organizer.

Personal life, not so much. Nothing like starting your day by frantically searching for your keys at 4:45 in the morning. I looked in all the usual places, checked a half dozen other improbable possibilities, and finally gave up and took M’s key for my car so I could get to the gym and not be supremely annoyed for losing my keys AND missing practice.

While I take ownership of my responsibility for my own stuff, this is partly M’s fault. Last night there was a major miscommunication – totally my fault – that resulted in a short, intense disagreement between us. I freely admit to not handling conflict well and that it takes a toll and sometimes takes a bit of time and/or space to completely purge the negative emotions from my system. What happened is G and K had made arrangements to store wedding beer in one of our refrigerators, and I completely forgot to tell M about it. As in, they arrived unexpectedly (for him – I knew about it) and that’s a big no-no in our house. So that was strike 1. Then M goes into this long, elaborate explanation with the kids of why it’s better to leave the beer in the house (thinking fridges are both sort of half full), only to be told by my son that I have already cleared out the refrigerator to make room. That’s strike 2. Then G and K are purchasing our former vehicle and may be selling G’s car, which was a surprise to M yet should not have been because I told him what I knew about it last weekend. So that’s sort of strike 2.5. So I get home, step out of my car, and M is at the door venting all his pissed-off-ness at the situation I put him into and complaining, loudly, that he seems to not be a resident of our household, that to other people it’s my house.

Fuck that. The kids did the right thing, made the arrangements with me, and it is 100% my fault that I forgot to tell him. Do not play that “the kids are shit because they treat me like I do not exist here” bullshit. Had I told him the kids were going to be dropping by with the beer, he would have asked what time, I would have said I don’t know, why don’t you text them and ask? And all would have been fine. But I’ve been busy with other things – like making a living – and simply forgot to tell him. Trying to lay blame on the kids does not fly well with me and I told him so very tersely, so it was not a pleasant get home from a busy, stressful, crazy day at the office.

Somehow in that tense discussion I tossed my keys on the desk and they flew off the edge without my noticing. They were  hidden in plain sight on the floor in the office. After getting home from the gym and frantically tearing through the house looking for them (and thus harshing my post-shoulder practice buzz), I happened to bend down to pick up a piece of paper off the floor and spotted them.

Thing is, the whole lost and found search for my keys has this domino effect of setting me up and into a pretty foul mood. Then I forgot to leave the gate unlocked for the pest control people … who were supposed to come yesterday, except I forgot the gate then as well and M was gone much of the day, but they were running behind and pushed us to today, and I forgot again. Fortunately they are running behind again today and M just got home to unlock the gates.

Kind of a sucky start to a Friday. It’s working out, but still. I feel like such a drama princess right now.

So, in order to hopefully save me from myself and this sort of bad feeling, I have bitten the bullet and ordered one of those key finder tag apps. I actually ordered 2 of them, so I can keep track of my work keys as well. Maybe my angsty drama at 4 in the morning can be avoided in the future.

And finally, in my when undelightful things happen, Monday trainer J showed me how to use the hamstring curl machine. Wednesday when I went to try it on my own, it was out of service. Bummer. Last week (I think) he showed me how to use a shoulder machine upstairs. Today when I went to use it, it was out of service.

If the dip machine I learned yesterday is out of service tomorrow, I am going to take it as a sign of something. Bad luck? Poor timing? Coincidence? Black clouds around me when it comes to machinery?

Still freezing in my office, so we are closing up at noon and all working from home. I cannot wait for hot yoga at 5 so I can warm up. And I am looking forward to getting home and getting back to baseline emotional normal while being mindful of where I leave my blasted keys.

Happy Friday everyone!

Marriages, children, family dramas

The last few weeks C has been texting or we have been talking about this whole marriage and family thing and how it works. Now it’s come up with G and K as well.

First, with C and her husband, A.

They are good kids, normal with some debt and working out plans to pay it off and save for things for their home. Oh, and they bought their first home, closed a few weeks ago. It needs some cosmetic work, but structurally very sound. Sweat equity will happen.

Thing is, A’s family was very upset (to put it mildly) that they did not use family members for their real estate purchase and mortgage, and in truth, M and I were the voices of reason in this regard. My feeling is it’s far better to not involve family members in personal business matters, not if you ever want to maintain some independence and autonomy and remain on good and loving terms with your family. I have advised my kids on everything from buying cars and obtaining loans to their taxes, but my advice and thoughts are no strings, free of charge, and I do not profit from those transactions. I also understand and encourage their freedom to make their own decisions, free of pressure or stress from me. I also have no other family members to gossip with about their income, debts, taxes, etc., as is very common in A’s extended family.

A’s family is huge and boundaries are nonexistent; everyone seems to know everyone else’s personal information, financial standing, etc. C is not comfortable with that level of disclosure, and A would like to be able to not feel they are entitled to get a vote on his life and marriage. It’s been a few years and there has been some very modest progress in this regard, but his mother has hard a very difficult time letting him cut those apron strings. She is a lovely woman, but as previously noted, our parenting styles are very different. Setting boundaries can be difficult in the best of circumstances. For A, it is akin to a root canal without any anesthesia. He’s doing it, making slow progress, but it is not very easy for him.

So C feels embattled because she insisted upon using (*gasp*) total strangers to help them find and purchase their first home rather than A’s uncles in those particular lines of business. This is on top of their decision to use Vanguard for their retirement accounts on their own rather than allowing yet another uncle manage their embryonic retirement accounts, on a fee-based commission schedule.

My daughter’s influence on her husband is viewed with suspicion, yet C is following what feels to her like the correct path in marriage and setting appropriate boundaries with the extended family. With M and I it’s not an issue; we are not intrusive other than asking about how things are going or something equally benign and generic when calling or texting just to chat. To A’s family, it is as if they believe she has something to hide. What is going on with her? Why is she not opening up about their life so we can help? Is she concealing something from A and therefore us? C recognizes she may be exaggerating and being overdramatic (apple does not fall far from the tree there), but I do not think her feelings and intuition are far off the mark. While I roll my eyes in sympathy, it’s a real problem for A and by extension, C. As a couple they need to break away and make their own decisions, suffer the consequences of and learn from their own mistakes, and do so within the privacy of their own relationship. M and I – we are here if they need a sounding board, advice, help, support. We are not interested in running their lives for them, believing them both to be competent adults.

In other words, we are respectful of the kids’ independence and autonomy. It’s been years since I did anything other than offer an opinion or advice, and even then it’s when asked or in the context of a broader discussion. I am not the controlling mom who has to micromanage anyone. I have hands full tying to manage my own life and times.

Latest big bomb happened last weekend when it slipped out to A’s family that C and A do not plan to have children. Now, to me, this is a very private choice that every couple makes, and it is none of my or anyone else’s business. TI have had lots of conversations through the years with friends struggling to conceive, or with other friends who were pregnant with additional children after they considered their family units complete. Such is the nature of being a caring friend. I know and have known a fair number of childless couples, and if they desired to share the why with me I was open minded and curious to hear and to listen, but again, none of my business and not my place to pass judgment on a lifestyle choice so different than my own.

But as noted above, A’s family is VERY different. C and A told me about their decision long before they got married, and we were fine with it. I mean, as if what M and I think should matter at all to them? We are not the ones who will be responsible for the care, feeding, and raising of any children they might bring into the world. At the time, I was primarily curious about their decision-making process, if there was any particular factor that weighed more heavily than another. C remarked that it was a “selfish” choice, to which I replied selfish is to have children out of a sense of responsibility rather than a powerful conviction to be parents. They need not justify their choice and what they want for their future to me or anyone else. I want them to be happy and I trust their judgment. Besides, there are a lot of ways to be a parent should they ever change their minds.

A’s family? My goodness you would think the kids were contemplating something truly evil from the way the entirety of his extended family have reacted. There have been sobbing voicemails, weeping phone calls, stern/yelling phone messages and texts from stepdad and brother, and “why did you get married then?” type hurtful comments. My poor daughter has caught a lot of indirect flak and is angry and upset that the family as a whole are letting their awful all hang out. And I can do little other than coach them on their responses (“this is an extremely personal choice and none of your business”). Boundaries, guys – you need to start building them and then reinforcing them immediately. I have even gone so far as to recommending they call TM for help in learning how to live with the overbearing nature of A’s family while continuing to be part of it.

*sigh* It’s hard sometimes to be the normal, restrained parental units.

On the other side of the coin, K has an unusual family of origin story as well. Her mother and father were on drugs/alcohol when she was born and she was raised by an aunt and uncle. From what K says, the aunt and uncle were pretty good parents until she grew up and could/would no longer be completely controlled by her aunt. Power struggles ensued, seriously messed up power struggles, and K has been working on safe boundaries from this toxic aunt for the last 5 or 6 years. It has come to pass that they were not invited to the wedding, because of her aunt’s refusal to work on their relationship within the confines of a therapist’s office.

Anyway, that drama has been playing out for the last several months and was finally, definitely decided a few months ago when the save-the-dates went out and the aunt/uncle were not included. There have been some limited communications since then, but K is holding firm that the stress circus the aunt brings is not going to be part of her wedding to my son. It is her family and her decision – G has had a few tough call on his dad’s side as well – and we support them completely.

K’s second niece was born on Tuesday, in Michigan, via emergency c-section. Yesterday, K texted me midafternoon that her aunt and uncle showed up, unannounced, on her brother’s doorstep with plans to stay for 2 weeks. K’s brother and his parents have been estranged for almost 2 years. If the aunt and uncle would fly across several states, uninvited and without advance warning, K is now sure she/they will easily drive 2 hours to show up uninvited to the wedding. The thought has sent her on a spin cycle, which I find completely understandable. I immediately asked if she knew if the hotel had a company for security staff, because it is worth the expense to keep the emotions under control.

Also on K’s side of the family are very conservative Christian folks who are having difficulties reconciling themselves (aka keeping their opinions and thoughts to themselves) on their choice to not have children. While I have only met this branch of the family tree very briefly, my son tells me it comes up at every family gathering they attend and whenever K sees her cousins. At least they are both more practiced with firm boundaries and are able to deflect and redirect the conversation. Still, I wonder what is wrong with people and their sense of common courtesy and respect? M and I have our own ideas and opinions, some of which we ourselves do not agree with each other as well as with the kids and many of our friends. But we can be civil and polite about it, we can discuss without hostility, and we can agree to disagree. We also are not people to press or infringe upon another’s personal choices and opinions that differ from our own experiences and circumstances.

And I used to think I was the crazy one. My kids, all 4 of them now, thankfully, do not really see it that way or me in that light. In the clutch and when it matters most, M and I are the picture of sane sensibility. That, my friends, is almost unsettling to imagine.

 

Parenting fails

Today I had the most surreal human resources experience of my entire career.

Backstory is simple – an associate at the firm has been having escalating interpersonal issues with other staff members and increasingly clients. Despite numerous conversations, significant amounts of coaching, disciplinary write-ups, and actual one-on-one mentoring with me, her professional behavior continued to deteriorate. After a 2 week paid vacation at the partners’ request, she returned on Monday and within hours of being back in the office she was again having angry confrontations and displays of temper with other staffers, most of whom are higher up on the organization chart. A direct conflict with me on Monday brought out the sterner, I-am-your-superior tone and demeanor, which completely sailed over her head and she trudged on in trying to argue with me, over professional courtesy and somehow made me feel as if I could be more productive being the yard supervisor at the nearest school yard. I finally warned her that I was about to fire her ass for insubordination, and she tried to argue with me about that. Shutting her up came down to squaring off with her, practically nose-to-nose, and suggesting she keep talking if she wanted to really see what I am capable of doing to her professional career. Wisely she turned and stomped off.

I gave up. I emailed the partners a brief report on the day’s events and stated my opinion we could either have rebellion with the rest of the staff (myself included) or we could terminate our employment relationship. I was to be back in the office Wednesday and we could discuss it further at that time. Get out the forks – I was so done.

This morning I was getting texts before 8 a.m. about her having temper tantrums and ransacking offices and desktops for files she wanted to review for the case she had been assigned. Not asking for the files, merely marching into offices, demanding them, and then starting to look through piles on desks when the other person did not jump quickly enough. Shortly thereafter my boss was on the phone with me asking if I could calculate a final paycheck, PTO payout, and the insurance COBRA information for her benefits. If at all possible, could I also come in and be present for the conversation? Things were falling into such disarray so quickly I agreed.

I got to the office around 1 p.m. and our meeting was scheduled for 1:30. At 1:15 she returned from lunch … with her parents in tow. She knew or at least strongly suspected what was coming and insisted her parents be present for the final conversation. The partners held firm and said her parents be confined to the reception area and she refused the meeting without them present. I asked the receptionist to please adjourn to the copy/work room, because I thought we were going to have to fire her right there in the lobby, but the managing partner related and  we moved into the conference room, parents included, where he and her supervising partner explained the firm was terminating the employment relationship, and I explained the terms of her final paycheck and severance (paid through May 31), her insurance benefits, and requested any/all final expenses by the end of the week. The investigator we use was also in to the office specifically to escort her to her desk to remove her personal items and escort her from the building. Her email and all electronic access had already been disabled.

Her parents did interrupt several times during the meeting, trying to plead their daughter’s case – she’s so brilliant, she’s so talented, she’s special and unique and is entitled to allowances for her delicate temperament. Yep, they actually used those specific words, although the quote may be inaccurate. The partners present were kind and firm about it – this was a conversation between an employer and an employee, of which they were neither, and it was only courtesy and expediency that they were allowed to be present.

She lashed out, but we remained calm in light of her outbursts. She insisted that her parents must accompany her to her desk, and we refused. Finally she went with our investigator, I stayed at the reception desk, and the partners went to their offices to get back to work. She wanted to talk to other staff members working in their cubes and offices, which our investigator did not allow, and it was a very tense 45 minutes before she and her folks finally left.

We are all very busy right now, and that hour is something none of us can get back. But I am so glad she is no longer our problem. Her parents tried to talk to me about the situation, explain or plead her case further in hopes of some reprieve, and I had to be very firm in repeating myself that I could not, would not discuss this with them. It was a very awkward wait for her to finish gathering her stuff. What do you talk about with parental units who insist upon accompanying their child to her firing/exit conference? If you’re me you smile vacuously, repeat that you cannot discuss this matter with them, and pray she hurries up and gets out of your life.

This young woman is very bright, possibly even brilliant. But the symbiotic relationship with her parents does her no favors. That said, it was not my place to counsel or discuss their responsibility in their daughter’s irresponsible and erratic behaviors. But dang, in my head I could not help comparing my own pretty normal kids with these people and their fucked-up parenting style.

I have young adult children. I know quite a few fully functional, independent 20-somethings. I am not someone who makes broad-brush generalizations about entire generations, but this was helicopter parenting on steroids.

Knowing my former associate as well as I do now, I know she is particularly high strung and overly sensitive and suspect she will struggle to some greater or lesser degree in most firms. Because ours is a pretty chill and supportive firm as far as lawyers go, and I have worked with several through the years. The fact that the most gentle of constructive critique unnerved her so completely speaks volumes. Her parents and their overprotective enabling do her zero favors.

The office was a quiet, sober place after the drama concluded. The managing partner emailed everyone that she was no longer associated with the firm and thanked the staff for their patience through resolution of this unfortunate situation and expressed hope to hire another couple of associates over the course of the upcoming several weeks. I think I heard a collective sigh of relief before I left to return to my other work.

Frankly I’m relieved as well. Only now after ties have been completely cut do I recognize how much a drain on my time and energy she has been.