Yesterday morning, Emily and I were sitting in the living room messing around on our new laptops. (YAY!) She and I spent most of the day lounging around. I have been plagued this past week with a recurring (and I believe stress-related) backache. Emily was more than happy to spend a lazy Saturday keeping me company. From time to time, our conversation broke the silence of our fingers clicking on the keyboards. Continue Reading »
I am too easily influenced by the emotions of those around me. I seem to feel the pain others experience on a gut or a spiritual level. I’m sure a lot of people do that, but sometimes I wish I could be more aloof to the feelings of those around me. I wish I could have more of a “not MY problem” mentality.
As much as I love my job, working for local government is challenging on even the best days. The general public doesn’t understand allocation of funds. They don’t understand that if we spend in one area (because grant funds were received) that those funds can’t be used to save jobs in another area that is undergoing budget restraints. It is often frustrating to be accused of wasting taxpayers money instead of being thanked for writing a compelling grant narrative that resulted in a grant award for our community. Stimulus money was being thrown around right and left. Shouldn’t we have tried to get as much of that as possible to flow into our community? Of course we should, but now that the projects are underway, the perception is that we’re wasting taxpayer dollars to fund them. What the public doesn’t understand is that those grant funds MUST be used in a certain way and for certain projects. It’s not a blank check. It’s not fun money. Grant funds were awarded for a specific projects.
The people in my department are some of the most conscientious, intelligent, talented, hard-working people I have ever known. A great team has been assembled. Years of planning, pushing, politics, and a tremendous amount of work are culminating into an economic building boom in our community right in the midst of a “mini-depression.” Our unemployment rates are among the lowest in the state. Our local businesses are seeing steady improvements in their sales. They are hiring additional staff.
You would think that our community would be proud, right? Wrong. While our local economy has been booming, our City budget has not kept up pace. City Council has refused to increase taxes even as expense are on the rise. During the first wave, all non-essential staff was let go. As positions became vacant due to retirement, they were not filled. The work was absorbed by others. That was last year.
This year, all non-union workers were told that there would be no pay increases until further notice, not even the increase we had been promised six months ago. We were also required to “donate” three days back to the budget. That meant we had to take three unpaid days of leave. That’s OK. I didn’t hear any complaints. We were all happy to still have jobs.
Still…City Council would not consider a modest increase in taxes. Still…costs continued to rise. Our elected officials were listening to their constituents. No more taxes!!! (Oh, and City services? Please continue those without interruption.) Everyone worked harder. I’m here. I can attest to the truth of that. We all worked harder, longer hours, with more responsibilities, and of course, the promise of no financial incentive as a reward for the increase in those duties and responsibilities.
It looked like it was working. “See? We didn’t raise taxes. We trimmed the fat. Those under-worked, over-paid city staffers are finally pulling their weight!” Still…City Council was advised that if there was not an increase in taxes, the budget would continue to be in the red. But why would City Council listen to the finance department staff? They listened to their constituents. “No more taxes!”
It’s that time of year again. Budget hearings have been going on this past month. There wasn’t much more “fat” to be trimmed from City staff. More cuts would be forthcoming, though. Should garbage service be privatized? Sure! What about EMT Service? HUH???? Well, wait a minute. We can’t cut firefighters’ jobs. They are heroes. Why not take the money from that economic development project? Well, you can’t. Those are grant funds. So what!
I have twice had to cross picket lines to get to my office. It has been hellish these past few weeks, and it all came to a head last night. The final vote on the privatization of EMT service was going before City Council. A dozen firefighters were potentially going to lose their jobs. Emotions were running high. Police protection was requested to bring a routine economic development matter to Council.
More picket lines. Red in the face yelling. Gavels pounding. TV cameras all around. Some of the nicest people I know being harassed, threatened, and criticized. None of it was said to me. I am hurting because I have watched human beings FORGET that they are dealing with other human beings. Who tells someone that they hope they have a heart attack as they leave the building? This was said to such a gentle, kind-hearted woman. She is overweight and terribly self-conscious. I hurt for how those words must have stung her. It was proclaimed that others would burn in hell or rot in hell. Take your pick.
Today an angst-filled group was once again hanging around in the lobby of City Hall. As I crossed the foyer, I smiled at the group of people standing there, and said “Good morning.” I received a scowl in return and heard colorful, muttered comments as I passed by. What did I do? I had nothing to do with this decision. I made no recommendations regarding this matter. They hate me anyway.
I felt the weight of their anger pressing down on me. At lunchtime, once again, I sought the peace of the river. I sat there in my car, my beloved old car. I sipped a Pepsi, and dipped my fries in ketchup. The world is a mean place. People are just mean. I wished for a place far away…a safe place.
When I got back to the office, I spoke to someone who was there last night. I said that I was sorry. I said, “My heart hurts to see such anger and meanness,” and I gave her a hug. As I walked back down to my office, I passed others in the hall. Everyone wore a haggard, haunted look on their faces. There is a black cloud hanging over City Hall today.
I’m back from my trip to Springfield and the State Fair. All in all, I probably walked twenty miles while I was gone. My organization was part of a display for our state government’s booth. Of course, we had to park about two miles away from the building where we would be working. There was no way we could carry our display materials, so we made the half-hour jaunt and then begged someone for a golf cart to carry our stuff to the building. It was inconsiderate and half-assed planning by the state gov. Ha! Just what I was expecting. Par for the course.
Maybe it was my bad attitude, but I just didn’t enjoy much of anything about the trip. I wanted to be home. Now that I’m home, I don’t want to be here very much, either. I guess you could say that I am frustrated on all levels right now. I’m being pulled in so many directions simultaneously. No one thinks that I’m doing enough for them. Everyone needs something from me. No one is giving a damn thing back in return.
T was mad at me from the moment I got back home from this trip. He had wanted me to drive back on Friday night. That would have meant that I wouldn’t have gotten home until around 10:00 p.m., so I decided to stay the extra night and catch up on my sleep. I knew that if I returned home Friday night, I would unpack, do laundry, straighten up the house, etc., and I would be worn out. I went to bed early on Friday night (in my hotel room) and headed home on Saturday morning. Guess what? It was all waiting for me. They all survived. Still, he’s not happy with me for not doing things his way.
Today was spent on laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, changing sheets, and visiting my mother. She’s not happy with me, either. Other people have company everyday. Other people get to go out and do things with their family. Other people take their mother out for Sunday brunch. Ugh….I wish I could be other people! I need to be more than one person! I reminded my mom that other people have more than ONE child to do things for them. Other people’s children may not be trying to raise four kids and work full time.
One bit of good news, but it is overwhelming me at the present moment. Andrew was accepted into the school in Chicago. Now we have to find a place for him to live by September 1. I’m so excited for him, but I have no idea how to begin looking for an apartment from 190 miles away. I don’t know the first damn step to take. I feel like a helpless hillbilly. To top it all off, T isn’t being very helpful with this, either. I will probably have to take some time off from work later this week and head to the city with Andrew.
Lola and Emily start back to school on Tuesday. They have asked if I’m going to take the “first day” off work so I can take Lola to class and hear all about their days when they come home that afternoon. Impossible, but I am going to try to sneak of couple of hours in the morning so that I can take Lola to Third Grade.
Luke wonders when I can take him shopping to buy what he needs to go back to school in Milwaukee. He returns on August 26. Wonder how he’s going to get back to school???
Tomorrow I have a board meeting. Tuesday I am speaking at Kiwanis during my lunch hour and at City Council in the evening.
I need a haircut.
I’m worn out and unhappy. I wish I had a clone and the real me could crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my head.
Know what? I am supposed to be a professional. That is a fact that I sometimes have to sit myself down and reprimand and remind myself of. Most of the people who I work with on a daily basis know that I am a free spirit (i.e. A bit loopy.) In fact, we are a fairly irreverent group. Most of us have a few skeletons rattling around in our closets. There are no secrets in our office, and I mean that NONE! Yet, we all have a great deal of respect for each other. Within the larger department of about a dozen people, I feel a complete sense of freedom to BE ME. Outside of those office boundaries, however, I have to wear that veneer of professionalism. It’s like a cape that we all put on as we head out of the door.
Today I began the move to a new office suite. Yes. I am giving up “The World’s Best Office.” It is a little freaky, because I am moving back to a remodeled version of my old office. Nothing about it looks the same, but it IS the same space. Too many emotions and events that I would prefer NOT to remember occurred in my life during the time that I was once in that space. (Seasweetie, I could use some advice here on smudge pots and herbs to clear the sad/negative spirits!!) I am hoping that the NEW ME who is moving back into the newly remodeled office space will stomp down any lingering bad vibes.
My (really, really awful) intern packed up all of the files and folders. The IT department moved the computers at 2:30 this afternoon. We were all ready for the union workers from Public Works to do the heavy lifting at 3:30. I will add here that I think this entire process has been terribly bureaucratic and inefficient. There are plenty of us to move a few cabinets and desks, but we would catch holy hell if we were to have done it ourselves. The union reps would have filed a grievance if salaried staff would have taken on a union task. As it is, I am probably going to be in BIG TROUBLE because I used Windex to clean off my desk. I was caught red-handed by Public Works staff, and I was called out on it, too! “I would have cleaned that for you!” Uh….I didn’t know what to say. Well, yeah, I did. I didn’t want to wait three hours for them to get around to it, when all I wanted to do was set my stuff back on a clean desk!
On top of the office move, which is still not complete, I had to give a presentation at City Council tonight. Today felt like one of those days when I was going in about fifty directions all at once. Everyone wanted something from me, and no one was giving a damn thing. Oh…par for the course. I wasn’t feeling all that great, and it always interests me that my brain has the ability to take over and force my body to function even when all I want to do is curl up and sleep. When I feel like crashing, or at least taking a nap, I somehow find the energy and strength to do what needs or must be done. Of course, that ability has a limited duration. That’s why I crash each weekend into the Napping Blob.
So, I got a little goofy this afternoon, or I almost did. It was late in the afternoon. I was frustrated, tired, and standing in the middle of a mess when all I wanted to do was lay down and take a nap. “Where does this go?” “Where do you want this cabinet?” Really…I don’t care, but oh….it’s my job to care. OK. Act like a professional.
I stood there talking with one of the workers from Public Works. She was measuring the wall space for a large shelf that was going to be the next item to be moved. As we talked, she pulled the metal tape out of the tape measure over and over. I watched her, and realized that I would have done the same thing if I had been holding it. For some reason, her actions mesmerized me. I made her nervous, and that made me feel bad. Really, I could be a janitor. There was a time when I would have thought that was ALL I could be. She is just a woman. So am I. Essentially, there is no difference, but to her, there was all the difference in the world. I hated that. In that moment, I really hated that. I wished I could take her out for dinner or lunch and tell her that I AM NOT LIKE THAT. I wanted to tell her about MY history, then she would know. I knew what it was like to feel like LESS.
For over three years I have known this woman. I have tried to be her friend. I admire her. She is a breast cancer survivor. She is a brain cancer survivor. She is a widow. She is a mother. Her life is not, has not, been easy. For three years, I have tried to show her respect. At least I hope she feels that much. For three years, I have tried to be her friend, but she will not allow it. I am a different pay grade. I am salaried. I don’t dress like she does. I don’t lift, and mop, and haul. (Ha! I do, just not at work!) She won’t allow my friendship, and it drives me nuts. Why? I think I scare her. She is always polite, but with reservations. Why? Believe me, I am not scary. I don’t try to be scary!
As we stood there talking, another worker came into my office. They debated the shelf placement. I watched them. She was relaxed talking to him. Although, she still kept pulling the tape out over and over. She referenced the tape measure. The previous afternoon, she had needed one as we discussed furniture placement. She said to her co-worker, “I’m glad you brought your bag of tools over last night.”
I about lost it. I almost burst out laughing and said, “That’s what she said!” I had to leave the room. In fact, I grabbed my keys and left the building. I couldn’t hold it in! Maybe it was because I was so damn tired, but I felt like a middle-schooler. I had to call T. Our family has been regularly watching The Office. As any Office viewer knows, Micheal Scott’s favorite phrase is “That’s what she said….” It’s now something that is heard often, no…..constantly….in our house. We all jump at the chance to use “That’s what she said…” It’s become the family game, and today, I almost blurted it out.
Maybe I should have said it, but it would have cracked that veneer of professionalism. What stopped me? I have thought about that ever since I walked away instead of just saying what popped into my head. I chose to walk away instead of be myself. Yes, I called T and laughed. I called my son, Andrew, too, but why didn’t I just say it? Why did I maintain the space between us. I’m not sure if I am proud of myself or if I am ashamed. Maybe tomorrow, I will tell her. Maybe I will share my joke. I know it would make her smile. As I think about it, I wonder if it is me who is afraid. Maybe I am afraid that I will not be accepted back into the world where I once felt that I belonged.