Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Scars

I work with a writer who is brilliant. She's a down to earth, normal, every day person, but she's a genius with words. Somehow she always manages to write what I think but don't know how to say.

I read one of her stories and one paragraph spoke to so many things in my life that I highlighted it. I ran across it again today.

"I wanted my outside to match my inside. Inside, I felt battered and lost and sad and tired. I wanted to see bruises and scrapes and black eyes and broken limbs. I dreaded going home with no scars that could be seen. Scars would remind people that I was changed. The sameness would make them forget."

I'm still struggling with turmoil from the fire that burned all the trees on the mountain behind our house, caused the evacuation of 32,000 people in my city, and destroyed 346 homes in my neighborhood. I still have a home and my immediate neighborhood is untouched. In fact, the devastation doesn't start until about 3-4 blocks from my house.


Stand in my driveway and all you can see are homes, people, deer, green trees, green lawns, flower gardens, dogs, cats, and all the other things that are part of a normal neighborhood.

But go down half a block and you see the mountain with its black, burned sticks and the massive quarry that stood in the way, giving the firefighters a chance to keep the fire from destroying us.

Yet, there is evidence in small bits here and there that we were indeed granted exceptional mercy. The chunk of charcoal in my garden and the burn streak in a neighbor's driveway. The small, burned bits of wood that floated down into our yards after the heat left them and they lost their loft.

I have friends who are affected more. One lost her home completely and one still has a home that is surrounded by the rubble and ash of her neighbor's homes.

Who am I to suffer so? And yet I do. Like my writer coworker I feel that external scars would somehow make it easier by bearing witness to the internal ones.




Friday, September 07, 2012

Oximoron

Today I received an email through Linked In from a person who used to work in my group. The email was advertising a book that she helped write about how to create a positive work environment.

It was a good thing I didn't have anything in my mouth because I would have choked. As it was I exclaimed so loud it got the attention of my team mates as far as four cubicles away. "______ wrote a book on creating a positive work environment!"

"What? No way! That's hilarious."

I briefly considered forwarding the email, but realized that it could inadvertently go viral. Not for good reasons.

The reason for the strong reactions is that this person was poison to our group. We (each of us and as a group) suffered from serious post traumatic stress after she finally left. I'm not kidding. It was that bad. It took us a year before we finally felt we were free of her and her damage.

All of us had gone to people over her head with no result. We had all gone to HR with no result. She could bad mouth, yell, throw tantrums, bad talk team mates, shout down clients, do whatever she wanted, but we couldn't get rid of her. It didn't matter that she didn't yell or trash all of us. Those who didn't have it directed right at us had to watch it happen to team mates knowing there was nothing we could do. We had to listen to it day in and day out.

It's not like no one knew what was going on. She wasn't quiet and we all put in complaints. We still don't know why no one would fire her. I could guess, but I'm not going to open that can of worms.

So in reading her Linked In email I have to wonder if she even realized what she did to us. Does she see herself as the victim and we were the perpetrators? Was she oblivious to what she was doing? Perhaps she was suffering and needed help, but sadly her way of coping not only shut us all out, it made us her victims. 

I could probably find a lot of reasons why she was so horrible. However, whatever her reasons or perspectives, it doesn't change the damage she did or the abusive choices that she made. Yes, she was (is?) an abuser.

We're so often leery of that word. It's so negative. And yet I can't help but feel if our directors and HR had understood that word and allowed themselves to use it things would have been very different. They could have stopped her abuse by either firing her or getting her the help that she needed.

I do know that about a year after she quit she wanted to come back. She called someone she hadn't managed to alienate during her time here and he had to tell her that she could never come back. She'd burned all her bridges. I wonder what she thought about that.

So, her writing a book about creating a positive work environment is funny in a very sad sort of way. I just hope its genuine. I do know that I think she should send us all an apology.

P.S. You're probably wondering why I'm connected to her on Linked In. Unlike her, I don't like to make a habit of burning bridges. Also, I have learned from experience that abusers are also victims who are passing on what they learned. So I keep that connection to her in order to keep that bridge from falling apart completely. I have to confess I'm also curious. Besides, didn't someone once say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer?