Saturday, November 19, 2011

Butterfly Colors

The night when the box came I'd buried your name. Irritated with the intrusive sounds of the courtyard gate welcoming the scattered leaves and the doorbell ringing loudly, I dropped it on the floor underneath the edge of the breakfast bar. I cursed the postman for acting like a mischievous teenage lover, running away before I could see who was there. I said I wasn't going to look until the next morning. I had a scene to write, twenty pages to script by an impending deadline that kept screaming "miss me and you'll lose what you thought you wanted."

But I couldn't take the anticipation of not knowing. Patience has never been my virtue. So I stopped writing and I tore the tape off one of the edges. I skimmed over the letters and the paperwork, tossing the quarterly magazine full of contest and publishing opportunities to the side. The outside covers of the books were purple, lavender. How fitting, I thought. I didn't open the one bearing your name. I just stared for a moment and smiled. How amazing that the universe seems to keep showing me signs of "full speed ahead" whenever I'm ready to pack up my bags and turn around.

I remembered you from last time. How could I not. You didn't look like the others with your pristine image and the black dress with embroidered butterflies in blue and green. You spoke of the Appalachian mountains and delivered your image of the world with a smile and a confidence that I recognized. You came from that world I'd decided to leave. The world I no longer needed a map for. And now I was stuck in this one without a compass or a lighthouse to guide me. I thought perhaps you might understand and offer some insight about this journey from one side of the universe to the other. I thought maybe I would switch genres for a semester so I could get the chance to feel at home. The universe must have heard me loud and clear.

What strikes me is that I don't have to do anything but keep walking. There must be something going on here. Something that is making everything fall into place like a stack of dominoes seemingly out of control. I can't give up. I can't stop. I have to see this through. I have to remain strong, but not so strong that I stop myself from feeling. I have to stop saying "I can't" and say "I can."

Humans are like butterflies that can't see their colors before they emerge from their cocoons. But once they fly, the entire world notices every single shade.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Purely Conditional

This week I've been thinking about how our responses and perceptions are largely determined by our past experiences. I had this wonderful epiphany at my day job as I suddenly realized why one of my bosses is periodically asking me how I'm doing with my new assignment. It's not because she thinks I'm incompetent or can't handle it, but because she doesn't want me to get burnt out or hate what I'm doing. As silly as it seems, this kind of consideration from an employer is kind of foreign territory for me after the past five and a half years.

I love the fact that I can actually call in sick and not get raked over the coals for it and come in late with no consequences and guilty looks if the roads are bad or the power goes out at my house. I appreciate the fact that I'm not expected to work more than 40 hours, have a set schedule, and can take comp time if I ever get into a situation where I go over those 40 hours. The 100 percent employer paid insurance plan is nice too and I certainly appreciate the fact that I'm not treated like a complete idiot if I need to go to a co-worker or a boss for assistance. And just about every week there's free brownies, zucchini bread, donuts, pizza or some type of treat for everyone in the office.

Every month there's staff engagement meetings and the Director of Technology actually took the time to have a private meeting with me as a new employee. He thinks it's important to find out what his employees think about the organization and the department. To top it off he sincerely listened to my suggestions and put one of them into practice. It was a simple request to help introverts like me come up with things to say in those meetings. I was kind of caught off guard and flabbergasted. Something like that would have been completely ignored and discounted with my former employer. I would have been made to feel like an outsider and alien for even bringing it up.

They tell me that they think I have "so much" to offer and that I was hired for my communication skills and confidence in dealing with people. When I hear this, I automatically think huh? Wasn't it my former boss who used to say that my weakness was communication and that I didn't do this at all? It was assumed that because I was "quiet," came to work and didn't get involved in office politics that I was "very unapproachable" and "extremely sensitive." Intellectually I realize my former boss wasn't very adept at understanding people different from herself. Or perhaps she was criticizing parts of herself that she was told she shouldn't be. It still stung at the time. It still does. No one had ever told me things like that or been so mean. I asked a few friends and former co-workers to make sure. They all said "no" and I still had a hard time believing it wasn't true. But then again this is the company that likes to point out and focus on any little weakness rather than what's being done right. They would also rather ignore the fact that their own culture and structure creates the situation rather than find some way to make it better.

I've figured out that it's going to take some time to get reconditioned and retrain my internal responses. Rather than assuming I'm the target of someone's dislike of my personality or inability to achieve perfection, I'm going to have to learn to realize that some people want to be supportive and I can depend on them. But this lens isn't just from my former employer. I'm not trying to blame them or point the finger away from myself. There's a reason why I was drawn to that pit to begin with. I was conditioned to think that kind of treatment was okay, normal even. I didn't want to take the time to see that another reality was possible.

We make choices and then we wake up and stare blankly at our surroundings, wondering how we got here and why our lives are a certain way. Sure, we can change it but then we would have to consider the possibility that our responses are triggered by something that isn't really there. It's automatic, it's robotic, it's programmed, it's not real. But we only see what we think we know as truth and then we end up re-creating the past nightmare we weren't even in to begin with.

The universe is funny. We think. We wish. We hope. And somehow we get these lessons and these external fulfillments that end up revealing that we've been asleep and struggling because we've let our conditioning poison our eyes. It's true that the bad exists. But it's also true that it only continues to if we allow it to become real.