Friday, July 18, 2014

Who is this about?

I love my niece very much. More than that, I admire her. She's talented and tough and virtually impervious to peer pressure.

She's also only 21. She's stumbling as she finds her way, as we all did/do as we grow up. She's very unhappy in her relationship with her first real boyfriend but can't figure out whether to go or stay with him. If she stays, is she settling? If she goes, is she hurting him unnecessarily? And how will it feel to be alone again? If she were to ask me, I'd tell her to cut bait. (Of course, that could be why she hasn't asked me.)

One trait many women in my family share* is a fear of the dentist. As the date of my niece's impending oral surgery (wisdom teeth) approached, she blurted out to her mother/my sister, "That why I have to stay with him. If we break up, who will take care of me after the dentist?"

My sister was furious. "I'm her mother! How could she forget me? Of course I would drive up there to take her to and from the dentist! I'd sleep on the floor next to her bed as she recuperated! How could she forget about me like that?"

As always when my kid sister is concerned, the situation automatically becomes about her. To her, this wasn't my niece being so frightened she couldn't think straight. To her, it was her daughter dissing her.

I realize we're each the star of our own story, but my kid sister takes it to the extreme. On top of being unhappy with her love life and scared about the dentist, my niece got to tangle with her mother.

I must remember not to fall into this trap myself. My best friend hasn't been sharing much about his internal life with me. All he does is report the day's activities, as though reciting an itinerary. I've been hurt and insulted that he no longer feels he can confide in me. Instead perhaps I should remember that, since he lost his job, he feels emasculated and no longer in control of his own life. Just as my niece's problems are not about my sister, his problems are not about me.

*Except me. Doesn't bother me at all.

July Journal Challenge

Day 17 -- I'm Really Good at …
My job.

I got my annual* review this week and the results were "Needs Improvement" because I didn't/couldn't complete a project that didn't materialize (Bossman noted that on the form), an "Exceeds Expectations" for my online work and an "Excellent" for the successful and profitable ongoing project that lands solely on my shoulders.

It was very satisfying to hear.

Now all I need is money. I know I'm still making 11% less the guy I sit beside. He's a good writer -- dependable and knowledgeable. BUT the project I got an "Excellent" on accounts for more than half of my client's revenue for that division and well more than half of my agency's billings for my team. I'm a pudgy little middle-aged cash register ... for everyone but me.

I told my boss I was concerned that new employees with my same job title, those just entering the building through the revolving door, are probably making more than I am after 10 years. He told me how he's in the same boat, how hard it is to find good agency jobs at our age ... basically, that it sucks to be me.

I don't accept that. I told him I realize that he doesn't control the purse strings, but I'd like to talk to the person who does. "Who's that?" I asked. "Who knows the salary range for each job title?" He gave me the name of one of our HR reps, but told me first he'd mention my plight to the Chicago office president. I told him I appreciate that, but if nothing materializes by Labor Day, I'm talking to Human Resources.

If I don't ask, I won't get. And I've been at this agency for a decade and this will be the first time I've gone to HR for anything.

Day 18 -- Best Book Ever

For me, it's Saving Graces by Elizabeth Edwards. She wrote with breathtaking candor about loss and
grief. At times, during the scorching passages about how she struggled after the loss of her son, I had to put the down. It was too much, too revelatory, too raw.

And yet her message was ultimately life affirming: Sharing your fears and your pain doesn't make you weak, it makes you strong.

I took it to heart. I have successfully flirted with not always the strong one, for asking for help and hugs when they are needed, or at least accepting them when they are offered.

Elizabeth Edwards made a difference in my life with this book. I hope that where she is now, she knows how much she mattered to women like me who she never even met. 

*Only it wasn't annual. It's been more than two years.