I gravitate towards ppl that I can relate to – the broken ones trying to overcome their struggles, whether external or self-inflicted. While my friends all have their shit together, successfully adulting and don’t ever make me feel judged, I don’t want to sleep with any of them. I’m attracted to the complex and the tricky. Unfortunately, complex, tricky and broken individuals, while fascinating, are rarely capable of kindness and empathy bc they are too busy trying to work through their own demons. And so I break even more, and my shadow celebrates.
June: During my annual bday workation in France, a senior VP invited me out for a business supper, networking with a client and our Eastern European sales team. That night, SVP met professional Vanilla, which is the best version of Vanilla: smart, sassy, charming, authentic, with integrity and drive. A good evening.
July: One week-day, in the middle of the afternoon, I got a phone call from Hickster. Hickster is Hickster – swept me off my feet, without warning. One is never sure what the outcome will be: like a hurricane, he sometimes strips away superfluous stuff, revealing underlying beauty that got muddled by life’s modifications and sometimes inflicts deep wounds and scars. On this July day, the conversation went sour, fast. I sought refuge in a nearby conference room, to spare my coworkers the distraction of overhearing a vicious, petty fight. Mid-fight, SVP walked in: unbeknownst to me, he was visiting our Mtl offices as he is wont to do every 6 weeks, and had set up the conference room as his temporary office. He paused in the doorway, shocked by my tear-stained face. I tried to end the convo with Hickster, who was too busy ranting to realize we’d been interrupted. SVP whisked himself out of the room, and I wrapped up the fight, mortified.
Later that day, SVP came by my desk, “Is everything alright? Don’t answer that. But if I may: in all my years experience, it is never warranted to let anything or anyone upset you that much. Nothing in any area of your life should dim your joy, fix it so it doesn’t. And if you need help fixing it, find the people that will help you and be sure to ask them for help.”
August: SVP was back in our offices, set himself up in the same conference room, near my desk. I was working late one night, when Hickster called me. A normal conversation until I blinked and Hickster displayed his mean side. I never could handle mean – I cave and cry. And cry I did, listening to Hickster’s diatribe of how I’d slighted him. SVP sauntered up to my desk, I believe to ask me to join him and some other managers for a night cap. Seeing my tears, he left me my privacy. We did not mention it when we saw each other the next day.
September: Another SVP visit. He looked rather apprehensive when he saw me, no doubt anticipating the moment I’d morph into an unstoppable fire hydrant of tears. With every day that I behaved with typical professional decorum, he relaxed. On the last day of his stay, in an avuncular manner, he asked me whether everything was good, at work and in life? Yes? Good.
Traumatizing senior management by hysterical and sudden meltdowns, due to an inability to keep my personal life under control: NOT a recommended approach to being noticed at work by the higher-uppers.
Tuesday afternoon. Phone call from Hickster. I could tell from the moment I answered that it would be a bad one. There’s no point avoiding them: he calls repeatedly, leaves upsetting voice notes and texts that echo in my head and make me feel dizzy from hurt. I naively believed that if I appealed to the Good Hickster, Broken Hickster would subside. Broken Hickster did not subside. I took the call in the parking lot, hidden from my coworkers. It was a short and brutal call. I felt something break in me – no matter what I did, or how much I showed I cared, it would never be enough. Good Hickster had skipped town, and Broken Hickster enjoyed bullying me.
For 45 minutes, I hid in that parking lot, unable to stop the tears of shame and grief, worried that my absence would be noticed, yet too distraught to sneak back into the office. I noticed I had a missed call from CSD (update: he is back at the office, periodically runs 10k, and is kicking ass. He celebrated his birthday this weekend, a poignant moment, given that doctors had told him in the spring that without a liver transplant, his odds of surviving till September were slim. What a dude!) I called CSD back, still sobbing, and asked if could he pretend he wasn’t talking to Emotional Vanilla, but talk to Kickass-Accountant Vanilla about wtv work issue he wanted to talk about, to distract me until I’d calmed down? Without skipping a beat or asking me to explain, he did. We discussed operational vs financial issues, strategy and approach, and after 20 minutes, I was all fired up and ready to fix all the problems of my company, my face still red, but more Bad-case-of-Allergies red, not OMG-my-entire-family-and-my-dog-got-hit-by-a-bus red. I thanked CSD for not thinking any less of me professionally when clearly my personal life was a trainwreck. “Don’t mention it. Everyone has shit going on. I would never judge you. Sides, I know you’ll fix this, your way, some day.”
But Vanilla, why do you go for such losers?
Because I am a creature of the underworld. This time last year, I was ending things with Beaut. I think back fondly on the quaint dysfunction of that relationship, now. #perspective
In all my years experience, it is never warranted to let anything, or anyone, upset you that much. Nothing should dim your joy, and if it is, fix it so it doesn’t. And if you need help fixing it, find the people that will help you and be sure to ask them for help.
It took me 3 months to apply SVP’s words of wisdom. Better late than never. Too shaken by the end of wtv-it-is you call the interactions with someone who mattered but never had an official title, I needed someone to kindly nudge me along.
If Oprah says so, it must be true.