Tag Archives: career

Delusions of Insignificance

Delusions of Insignificance

The Boyfriend Candidate is really cute but he so exhausts me.  We got into a rift.  In truth he got into the rift by himself while I painted my toenails.

As I’ve mentioned before, my guy is a problem solver.  I don’t mean with the admirable skill of analytically attacking a challenge.  I mean he cannot function without a problem.  And when there isn’t a problem, he can always make one up.

The problem he was making up was not original:  job dissatisfaction.  this is one of those unsolvable problems that keeps him invigorated and me drained.  On cue, he asks for my advice.  I always say the same thing:  fix it, live with it, or get out.  If you can’t change the company from within, then you must accept one of two things; learn to live with it by appreciating a less than perfect situation OR look for another job.  I mean just look around because often times by looking you realize what you have ain’t so bad.  But wait, my advice might actually solve his problem leaving him problem-less, so it’s ignored.

He went off on me for being dismissive.  I rolled my eyes; I’m so bored with this.  He likes being the underdog, the disenfranchised.  Having the odds against him helps create focus.  So, in fact, he is exactly where he needs to be in order to excel.  I told him that too.  I’ impressed with his creativity an his ability to manipulate a situation to his advantage (jeez, I even managed a compliment).  But I wasn’t getting sucked into some made up drama that he had no real intention of relinquishing.  I continued painting my nails and tuned him out.

He looked completely rejected — probably because he was.  Only a sick woman would indulge his delusion of insignificance.  I’m not that woman.

And he was disappointed.  That’s kinda sad.

Incidental family

Incidental family

When my landlord decided to lease the guestroom in my house, Gaefan became an incidental member of our family.  When he moved into our lives, I was one year into the divorce process, one year into a job hunt, I was way behind on rent and I was shouldering $80k of credit card debt my ex created by secretly supporting his failing business with my credit cards. Since he used my cards, I was also dodging the phone calls from Citibank.

My parents were retired and lived inTexas.  Still do.  My father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  I was working six part-time jobs and still not able to pay the bills.  I had also started dating a guy fairly regularly.  He was employed, good looking, crude and probably an alcoholic.  Some of my best stories have to do with the Boyfriend Candidate.  He was and is quite something.

So basically, I was busy and panicked.  I had relationships going and coming.  I was trying to keep the lives of my three boys normal, at a level of privilege they had gotten used to, but was impossible to maintain.  The days of immediate gratification and spontaneous generosity were over.  I came up with an empowering action list.  I love lists.

Option 1. Get a job.  I had been a stay-at-home, home-schooling mom to my slightly autistic son.  That would have to end.  He started brick and mortar and I started pounding the pavement.  I submitted my resume to over 500 companies in the 8 months I was out of work.  I had temp jobs that floated me.  I transcribed.  I participated in surveys, and I dated for dinner.  Best of all I started web and blog writing.

Option 2. Get remarried, quickly, to man who would make all our problems go away.  It could happen.  I figured I’d fall in love again one day.  If that day could be today, that would be really convenient.

Option 3. Prepare to move back to Texas.  If 1 and 2 didn’t work out, singularly or in combination, that would be all that was left.  Me and my three would be moving into a three bedroom with my elderly retired parents, one of whom was suffering from dementia.  These are not the warm fuzzy grandparents that I hear other children have.  My mother takes no prisoners and my dad is a mystery.  So finding a job or finding the love of my life was really critical.

So into my very ordered, yet unpredictable life comes Gaefan.  He was all hippie auras and holistic transcendence.  He was so far out there he looped all the way around, back to self-righteous and had no idea.

When I met Gaefan, it was late at night.  I opened the door to a much older man, shaved head, energetic.  I didn’t get any kind of a vibe off him so he seemed safe.  Not a child molester, not a gay pedophile, not hot for me.  No flags.

He was British and had the accent.  Clearly delightful.  I gave him the tour.  We have a yard; he had a dog.  I told him then my children were allergic to dogs so his would need to have limited range.  He seemed ok with that.

And he was in.

Merry Christmas my children, I give you me

Merry Christmas my children, I give you me

This Christmas I decided to give my children my office.  I’m completely redecorating with desks and bookshelves, lots of space for school projects and floor to ceiling whiteboards.  It’s costing more money than I have , but it really has to be done.  My kids are struggling at school.

I openly stressed about the money and the transition to my mother over the holidays.  She completely missed my bigger issues which makes sense because she is a woman of another generation.  My open stressing rendered no support, instead some small condemnation.

My mother suggested I was redecorating because I like to do that sort of thing.  She suggested that I not make financial expenditures which could deprive my children.  This was merely a luxury I should forego.

She was missing big points and I couldn’t convince her otherwise.  She was a stay at home mom most of her life.  She married my dad when she was 21 and raising children was all she ever knew.

My kids have me for only a couple of hours every night – for homework, dinner, chat and cuddling.  They are now at an age where they need space to open books and make projects. The three of them share a single, small bedroom. They need my office space more than I do.  My single, imposing desk which accommodates one will not help the four of us muddle through the three Rs.  No question:  they need a functioning room and the expense is just one of those things I’m going to have to shoulder.

But the bigger heartache in all this is losing my office.  I had an occupation and a profession which gave me satisfaction and independence.  I had barely begun marketing myself and enjoying the thrill that comes with building a business.  I’m turning my back on that, giving it away to the three people I love the most who depend on me for everything. . . and it hurts.  It hurts to realize I’m not that zippy independent professional I once thought I could be.  Calling the shots from my seat of power, making things happen and influencing the world.  I’m simply not important in that way and handing off my office seals that fate and acknowledges my own impotence in the adult world of movers and shakers.  It’s really quite sad.  I could feel like a failure except that I see this step as one toward creating success in other areas, other more important areas, like the development of children.

This really is their time.  I suspect my time is over, my arc has ended.  Whatever chances I had to “be something” have now dissolved except in ways that pertain to or at least include consideration of the kids.  I’m really ok with that.  It’s an adjustment period certainly, but I feel triumphant in that it was a hard decision. . .  and I only hesitated about two days to make it.

To wake, perchance to exercise

To wake, perchance to exercise

I was thinking this morning, as I hit the snooze button for the second time, that my good and bad days are determined by one key event: getting out of bed.

To be more precise, getting out of bed when the alarm actually goes off.  For the first time.

It’s psychological and also physiological.  If I get out of bed when I’m suppose to at 4:45am I have an immediate sense of accomplishment.  I did it, I got out from under the covers! I can do anything!

After that I make coffee and get on the treadmill.  I’m taking care of myself, increasing my metabolism, burning calories, and waking up the engine that will power my day.  I can listen to Bill Handel and his morning crew and nothing makes me smile like an irreverent cynic with great sound bites.  He’s an equal opportunity offender and I am in love with him.

I pound out two miles, sometimes I even run for some interval training, and I’m good to shower and beautify.  Then, with the extra time, I can make my lunch and fix myself a couple of boiled eggs.  I can safely and cleanly eat these as I drive to work.  As everyone in LA knows, you have to multi-task when you drive or it’s a missed opportunity.

All of this happens while the children sleep.  I’m alone.  I’m uninterrupted.  I’m self-indulgent while still being responsible.  It’s truly the best feeling and tees me up for a productive day.  Sometimes I even have time to accessorize!

Mind you, I’m having this epiphany while continuing to hit the snooze button.

You know, maybe every day is too big a reach.  Maybe I need a day off so my muscles can recover.  I heard that somewhere.  So every other day might be more realistic.  I could live with good days 50% of the time.

And that’s about the time I notice I’ve “overslept” about 15 minutes and now I’m late.

But it’s totally worth it because of the invaluable epiphany.  I can’t wait to see what my epiphany will be tomorrow.

Deck the halls with boughs of brag

Deck the halls with boughs of brag

Actual photo from my 2005 Christmas card. I made some quip about "all through the house not a creature was stirring.... just not my house."

I haven’t sent holiday cards in three years.  I use to love creating holiday cards.  One time I drew a Christmas tree on each card, just the outline, and used my children’s toe prints to create the ornaments.  This year, I’m finally in a financial position to send cards, and I have some things to communicate.  There have been some big changes.

I haven’t decided how exactly to say all that I’d like to say so I’m paying attention to the letters I’ve been getting and, unfortunately, they annoy me.

I don’t like the impersonal trend toward ink jet address labels and Shutterfly messages, but more than that, they are all braggy brag.  “Our son was accepted into the Global Leadership Program for bilingual children with a political interest, and after graduating from first grade this year, he will embark on the program in Spain.”  Or the most irksome, “Our daughter has mastered the moguls and won her first competition.  Dad doesn’t understand why this second home in Aspen which was suppose to give HIM the opportunity ski is instead making Olympic hopefuls out of his children (Darn that work!)”  Seriously, this was in a letter I received today.

My letter would read something like this: “Dear friends, what a year!  I’ve finally hit stride as a single mom.  After a year of searching and hundreds of resumes sent, I’m back with my old employer, something I never envisioned myself doing.  I realize now how important stability, a pay check and benefits really are.  Big adventure and risk-taking are overrated.  It’s all about the orthodontic coverage, and I know that now.  My oldest son is gaining confidence although his daydreaming is reflected in his grades.  My number two son is doing well with his support systems and warming up to reading now that he’s in the third grade.  We’ve tackled many of his food sensitivities and his nose stopped running after three years!  Who knows how number three son is, I haven’t had time to look at him.  That’s right dear friends, I’m now solidly on the road to healthy mediocrity and couldn’t be happier!”

Little things that change my life

Little things that change my life

I’m divorced.  At the time of the Great Divide, I was a stay-at-home, home schooling mom to my three sons – one of them with entry level autism.  I hadn’t worked in years.  Divorce was a big thing that changed my life.  I still grapple with the meaning of it.  My kids are back in brick and mortar school.  I’m back at work after 8 months of bitter unemployment.  I’m raising three boys to be men without a male presence.  I yell a lot.

What I never anticipated was our ability to adapt and the beauty of the unexpected simple solution.  The little things.  I have a day job, but as soon as I get home, I’m in the home office doing my part time work.  There are never-ending interruptions from the boys which always makes teleconferencing a challenge.  Most of my clients are resigned to the screaming in the background or the occasional “Mommy I have to poop.  Will you wipe my bottom?”  Right now they are in my office arguing over boiled eggs.  They don’t even like boiled eggs.  I repeat myself with withering conviction throughout the day.  “Get out of my office!”  “Let me finish my work!” and my favorite “I’ll be there in a minute!”  This is a good one: “Stop touching your brother!” That one works 24/7.

Anything I can do to reduce the stress I’m game for.  TV, for which I have a love-hate relationship, is a big trigger for tension because the boys only have a love relationship with it.  When it’s time for bed, it becomes all out war.  They’ve developed effective strategies.  The ear piercing whine is fairly reliable.  But a couple of weeks ago they did something exceptional.  They turned the volume down so I would think they had turned it off.  They faked me out.  Now I have to stop what I’m doing to get a visual on what they are up to.  I cannot trust my ears which for a mom is a really big loss.

Last night a little thing changed my life.  The guy I’m dating, the Boyfriend Candidate, is a problem solving junkie.  He must look at my house with the same glee as a mosquito in a blood bank.  He gave to me a most powerful weapon: a remote control power switch I can use on the TV’s outlet.  From my office, without warning, I can turn the TV off at its power source.  They cannot turn it back on.  They may yet find a go around; they could outsmart me.  They are younger and more flexible.  But for now, I’ll take the peaceful resignation of “What happened? Why isn’t the TV working? Barnacles.”

Adaptation is a small and beautiful thing.

I do coffee too

I do coffee too

I got a job exactly a year ago.  OK, not exactly, more like 13 months ago and it’s given me some cause to reflect.  Being “out there” then was an interesting experience.  I suppose when you are competing in a large metropolitan area for a job with thousands of other similarly qualified candidates, it couldn’t be anything other than interesting.  And grueling.  The rules of engagement have changed for a job that is traditionally undervalued:  assistant.

First of all, I’m rather lucid about who I am and what I have to offer the market.  I’m an executive assistant.  I can almost remember where I was when we changed from secretaries to assistants.  I kinda liked the secretary verbiage.  It means keeper of secrets and I was.  I am.  I digress.

Many years later I know I am not a risk-taker.  I’m not going to be the guy in the window office trying to raise money or materialize profitable ideas.  I will however be happy to execute that person’s vision and in all other ways kick ass to make it happen.

And believe it or not, industries still need secretaries.  The cutbacks of the last few years have seen many of my peers cut loose and it’s been a mistake to let them all go.  One of my window office friends works in a small industrial tools office.  Highly specialized.  They let their two assistants go rather than sacrifice the “real” talent.  Now he spends three hours on some days trying to make an airline reservation.  He spent two hours yesterday uncovering his FedEx account number.  I think their investors would croak knowing this talented sales guy who could be out nailing contracts, growing their business and ensuring their long term success is instead spending hours trying to create a six leg travel agenda that an experienced assistant could do in ten minutes – then she could help put his sales presentations together, make sure he had all of his materials for the road show and be on stand by in case he needed items FedExed (an account number she has memorized).

What I do is not glamorous, but it is significant.  And sure a lot of people can do it, but there are a few of us who do it really well.  That’s what was interesting about the interview process, trying to figure out how they were separating the wheat from the chaff.  In the end I think it came down to direct honesty rather than strategy.  I was upfront, “This isn’t rocket science, I’m not developing new ideas. I’m not even interested in being creative.  I’m interest in making you succeed, because when you win, the client wins, the investor wins and, yes, I win too.”

I’ve been doing this too long, not be in for the win.  Secretaries can have killer instincts too.  I just wish I could have brought a few of my friends with me.