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.