Anger in the workplace

I felt like this yesterday:


When I started in this job three years ago, my boss (who happens to be Catholic, even though my company isn’t) walked into my office, handed me a piece of paper, and said, “I call this the editor’s prayer. You’re going to want to recite this–daily.”

It was the Litany of Humility.

I sort of got it back then, at least in theory. An editor’s work is hidden, only noticed when the editor messes up. Getting overlooked is par for the course. But back then I was inexperienced, unknown, unproven, and therefore bound to be humble in general anyway. I’d recite the prayer sometimes, but circumstances kept me humble enough; I didn’t feel I really “needed” it. Still, I’ve kept that piece of paper–it’s taped to my office wall, and I do glance at it now and then…though admittedly, I don’t say it nearly as often as I should.

I said it this morning.

Yesterday I responded very badly (very non-humbly) to a situation here at the office. I was overlooked on an issue in which I should have been consulted–at the very least informed–and I threw a fit. Okay, it was an interior fit, but a fit nonetheless. I spent the entire afternoon seething, crying, and pacing by turns. I just kept thinking, After all the hard work I’ve put into this job, into this company, into this specific project, you’d think they’d at least nod in my direction. Is that too much to ask?

Honestly: no. It’s not too much to ask, and I’m still furious…and even a bit hurt.  But there’s nothing I can do about it right now; I can only roll up my sleeves and get on with things. For some reason, at least for today, I’m going to have to deal with being invisible. So I said that litany this morning as I powered up the computer and sat down at my desk to begin the day. Suddenly it makes so much more sense. “From the desire of being consulted…from the desire of being approved…from the fear of being forgotten…deliver me, Jesus.”

Aside from all that, though, I also need to pray for the courage to stand up for myself and my work. I think too often in the name of “humility”–a corruption of true humility–I bow my head and shuffle along. What’s the proper professional response? I honestly don’t know. But sitting on top of this simmering rage for too much longer is, I think, not the answer.

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A 6-week love story

Did I ever mention that I fell in love last year?

Yeah, I did. It was Advent, just two and a half weeks before Christmas, and I met him on a cold—really cold—Tuesday night, the vigil of the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  We both showed up at a D.C. church for a holy hour, only to find out it had been cancelled. He had an “in” with the priest and got permission to stay and pray, provided he locked up when he was all finished. In a highly unusual burst of courage (I hate hate hate asking for special favors), I asked to stay, too.

We ignored one another during our prayers, of course. Though I couldn’t help but notice that he wasn’t bad-looking… Afterward, as he locked up, we exchanged the usual pleasantries: names, jobs, home parishes. I liked him right off. He was open and chatty and obviously holy. Once outside, we shook hands, said, “Maybe I’ll see you around soon,” and went our separate ways.

Nothing special. Really, nothing. Except that I have this awful habit of assigning deeper meanings to events that have no actual meaning. Part of that Catholic upbringing of mine: I love signs, and asking for signs. And I guarantee you, if you ask for a sign, you will find one—whether it’s real or not. It’s amazing what you can read into something when you’re determined to find “meaning” in it.

It was the vigil of one of Our Lady’s feasts, and I just happen to be consecrated to her: a sign!

It all happened in a church, and one of my prayers as a romantic and overly pious teenager was to meet “The One” in church: a sign!

He mentioned in the course of our brief conversation that he’d just gotten out of seminary after two years, and I’ve always wanted to end up with a guy who gave the priesthood a try: a sign!

He had a really cool biblical name, which wasn’t in itself anything I’ve “always” wanted, but was nevertheless fascinating and therefore probably significant.

So even though the chances of me ever seeing this fellow again were pretty slim, the incident stuck with me for weeks and weeks—and yes, the hope that this “nothing special” might be repeated or followed up and become something.

It didn’t.

In a turn of events that will surprise no one, when at last I did see him again (at the same church about six weeks later), he was with another girl. C’est le vie.

Why am I bringing him up only now? Honestly, I’d almost forgotten all about him, and then I ran into him at a house party some friends threw a couple weeks ago. Literally. The room was very crowded and at one point I took a step backwards and bumped into someone who said “’Scuse me” in a kind of peeved way, and I turned and said, “So sorry,” but he was already walking away. No flicker or gesture or movement of recognition. You fall in love with a guy for six weeks, you at least hope for the eyebrow raise and the, “I think we’ve met before” handshake when you see him again a year later.

It’s amazing, the way we can take a fellow human being and stick him (or her) in a particular role in our own imaginary worlds. And even more amazing how angry and sad we become when that fellow human being gets his lines wrong or misses his cue. Don’t you know God gave me a sign? As if everything in the universe boils down to me and my silly daydreams.

And this all came over me as I watched him walk away at this party, clearly not even interested in introducing himself. Humiliating? You bet. But also incredibly freeing in its own way. I spend so much time asking what significance this or that event has to me in my life. But maybe this particular event wasn’t about me at all.

Maybe God just wanted someone to carry that boy around in her heart for a few weeks.

You just never know…

Almost to that one-year mark. How are we doing?

I know, I know, I know. I haven’t posted in a week and a half.

I’m sorry.

I could make a thousand excuses, and explain how I’ve had great ideas when I’m away from the computer, but as soon as I sit down to write I can’t think of them anymore. I could tell you I’ve been excessively busy at work (I have been), a bit cranky (true also), possibly even a little sick (not sure on this one).

But in the end, my only real excuse is this: anything I could write about right now would be so much about me that it has no place on this blog…which isn’t supposed to be my journal, but a place to talk about being a single, Christian young adult.

Which leads to the actual point of this post: It’s time to re-cast the vision of LifeInTheGap. Ideally, I would love to see this blog as a space for reflection/discussion on day-to-day life in this single “phase”–the gap between school and a permanent life vocation. That was the point from the get-go. I never wanted this blog to be “all about me,” and it’s definitely becoming that…mostly because I’m a pretty selfish and self-absorbed person by nature, and I love to talk about myself. And also in large part because I’m a terrible marketer, so my readership hasn’t gone far beyond my wonderful friends, who are willing to tolerate my ramblings.

So.

This is where you all come in.

First: If you, dear reader, have ideas, thoughts, even questions relevant to this blog’s main theme, please send them my way, either via comment, or by email. I’m not sure if I did so before, but I’m going to add a “contact me” link/button/whatever WordPress has to offer to this blog, and I’d really, really, really love to get feedback, ideas for posts, random comments, critiques (be gentle…but do critique), etc. If you’re willing to share your personal experiences, that would be wonderful, too. I’d love to tell other people’s stories, if they’re willing to let them be heard. I can change names to protect the innocent.

Second: Please do share this blog with others you think may find it interesting, even useful. If you’d be willing, add the link to your own blog (and let me know if I can return the favor!); post it on Facebook or Twitter.

Finally: I realize this is just a blog. Who doesn’t keep a blog these days, anyway? If you find you really don’t get anything out of it, be honest about that too. It won’t hurt my feelings because…it’s just a blog. I actually started it last December as a means to an end (which I can’t get into right now), and as we approach the one-year mark I’m going to be reassessing, changing course as needed, and even–if I must–ending it. The LAST thing I want is to add more unnecessary noise to an already over-crowded cyberspace.

Why I Am Not on Facebook

I got off Facebook a little over a year ago. I’d had an account since 2006, and while I had tried the occasional deactivation and the periodic purging of the gorged “friend” list, I realized I was quite the addict. Not addicted, as many of my friends joke, to finding out what other people had going on in their lives or to keeping up with old connections–no, in a weird way I was addicted to myself in the form of my Facebook profile. I would sign in at least once an hour just to see if anyone had noticed me. Had someone posted on my Wall? Liked my status? Sent me a message? Tagged me in a photo? And if they had not, I inevitably logged out feeling a little low. Maybe no one loved me, after all. I mean, they couldn’t even be bothered to acknowledge my electronic existence via social networking site. Never mind that I just checked the stupid page an hour ago.

So I finally took a step back and reassessed the situation one September afternoon in 2010. I had to acknowledge, first of all, the absurdity of the whole thing. I was seriously allowing this electronic reality to color my perception of myself and my relationships. Not just my casual acquaintances, but my real relationships as well; you know, the ones you should believe in and hold on to because those people still really love you even when they’re not blinking at your Facebook profile and clicking “Like” under your latest status update. I could feel the resentment welling up within me when my best friends wrote nice things on other people’s Walls, but not mine; or when my sisters tagged all their friends in photos but couldn’t be bothered to give me even a thumbs up.

And then of course there were the hundreds of casual acquaintances who had either accepted or requested my friendship, whose very presence in my “friend” list added to that haunting feeling of loneliness, because they couldn’t be expected to give a flip–really–about anything going on in my life since they weren’t actually part of it. Yet I resented their not caring; their names and faces were showing up in alphabetical order under the heading “Friend” in my profile, so for goodness sake, couldn’t they live up to the label?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, but equally (maybe more) painful were the close friends who had begun to relegate me to contact via Facebook. Instead of a phone call or a letter or an email, I’d get a comment on my Facebook Wall: “Hey love! Haven’t seen you in a while. Let’s catch up soon.” Party invitations were superseded by mass Facebook invites. Yes, I even got invited to an old school friend’s wedding via Facebook.

Somehow, Facebook set about equalizing all my relationships, and it did so by reducing them all to their lowest common denominator: me. My friends on my page, commenting on my Wall or status updates, sending me messages, tagging me in photos… Excuse this public examination of conscience, but Facebook allowed me to place myself up front and center to myself, and to demand that everyone else in my life do the same, to some extent–at least pay attention to me.

Anyway, after some serious soul searching I took the plunge and deactivated my account. After a few weeks (once the headaches and random dizzy spells had worn off), I figured out how to delete the account permanently. I haven’t looked back. To this day I experience a little burst of pride when some new acquaintance tells me, “I’ll look you up on Facebook,” and I can reply, “Oh, I’m not on Facebook. But let me give you my number…” If I ever hear from that person again, we’re already much farther along the road to becoming actual friends, since they’ve had to make the real effort to reach out to me. And vice versa!

And I’m sitting here a little over a year after Facebook, daily overcome by the knowledge that I am loved. That bears repeating: I am loved…and I know it. Granted, my list of friends has shortened considerably. Were I to sit down and write out the names of all my friends, I’m sure it wouldn’t quite tally to the 600 + I had at one point while on Facebook. But I spent way too much time and energy on Facebook desperately needing to be affirmed and loved, and constantly finding myself hurt because so many of my “friends” simply weren’t close enough to me to actually love me. Now, while my contact with others is less frequent, it’s always far more meaningful. And I’m more confident in my belief that, even if people aren’t contacting me or spending time with me or even thinking of me in this moment, the people who matter most still love me. There’s a lot of peace in that conviction.

What’s more, my relationships are no longer reducible to me. I’m forced to remember and acknowledge the existence of the other person in all his (or her) fullness, and not as just another profile page, thumbs-up sign, or comment on my Wall.

I actually sat down to write a post about friendship, and ended up writing an entire post on Facebook. I guess I’ll write more on friendship later. For now, for all of you who’ve asked me (or just wondered) why I’m not on Facebook: as Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

It’s time for an Adventure

October is going to be my month for adventures (more on later adventures…later). Tomorrow I take off for Dallas, TX, where I’ll be spending the weekend with my sister, mostly for fun, and also in celebration of her 23rd birthday (which is actually today). I’m super excited about seeing my sister (who lives way too far away… ), but not so much about flying.

I dislike flying. Intensely. For a variety of reasons, ranging from a deep, deep fear of heights to a particular loathing of anything remotely resembling an invasion of my personal space (which all security measures before flights are). Besides, stewardesses (‘scuse me, Flight Attendants) make me nervous. I’m convinced that they secretly hate us–all of us–and I’m waiting for the day when one of them finally loses it and does something drastic. I have no idea what, but I’m waiting for it. I’m also paranoid about layovers and connecting flights. After a rather scarring experience five years ago in Madrid, I live convinced that connector flights were established for the sole purpose of being missed. They rely far too much on perfect-world scenarios to be practicable, unless you have a five-hour wait (and who wants that?).

So yes, I’m off on an adventure tomorrow, but I just want to make sure you all know that I’m nervous. Just wish me luck and say a prayer for a safe flight, etc.

And in keeping with our theme here, I do just want to say that I love being able to be spontaneous like this. No husband, no kids, nothing to say I can’t take off for the weekend and see something new. Can’t complain!

What’s in a Name?

We’ve all been in this situation (on one side or the other) more often than we care to remember: you’re at some gathering, say a party, and you see a face you recognize. And that face obviously recognizes you. Usually by this point you’ve made eye contact, so there’s no escape. The person approaches, says, “Hey there, how’s it going?” and proceeds to strike up a conversation. So you try to play it cool, but the whole time you’re panicking because you can’t remember what the heck this person’s name is. Okay, and let’s face it: we all know when the person we’re talking to is scrambling through their memory bank, trying to figure out who we are before we catch on. So even as you do your best to control the situation, you know the other person knows. It’s just awkward, there’s no way around it.

And I’m not sure which is worse: to be the forgetter or the forgotten. The forgotten appears to have all the advantage here, even if it can be somewhat demoralizing. Just take it with humor and a dash of graciousness, and you can quell most of the embarrassment. The forgetter on the other hand is entirely at the mercy of the forgotten. Suppose the forgotten has just had it with being overlooked? Suppose he or she is having an off day, and this is the last straw? Suppose you’re the fourth person they’ve spoken to at this event who can’t remember who the heck they are? The list of possibilities goes on and on. Because despite his apparent advantage (at least in the immediate situation), the forgotten obviously has the more painful role in this transaction. It’s frankly humiliating to be forgotten. Nothing says “Sorry, you’re not really worth my time” like forgetting someone’s name. Birthdays? Fine. Job? Okay. But the name? That’s pretty basic stuff.

And then there’s the question of honesty. Do I (as the forgetter) take the bull by the horns and come right out and say, “Look, I’m so sorry, I am drawing a blank on your name”? Or do I try to coast to a decent stopping place in the conversation and then escape on whatever vague pretext in order to save face? As the forgotten, should I swallow my pride and just say, “I’m so-and-so, by the way,” to get it over with, or is it better to let the other person stew and struggle without pointing out their embarrassing lack of memory?

Even worse is forgetting the other person’s name right off the bat. I attended a party last weekend where I knew very few people, so it turned into an evening of introducing myself, exchanging the same information with person after person: name, occupation, location, and (if the other person hasn’t come up with a plausible excuse for escape) a little bit of personal history and interests. Then on to the next stranger. And at least twice I found myself five minutes into a conversation with someone when it began to dawn on me that I could not remember this person’s name. I can feel my smile freeze on my face, and I start nodding mechanically as they speak while I wrack my brains. Think, stupid. You just met this person two minutes ago. Name…starts with a…B? T? One syllable? Rhymes with… Sometimes it’ll come back to me, but more often than not it just doesn’t. This person will forever after be “the dude with glasses who works in financing” or “that girl who’s studying theology at the JP II Institute,” and obviously I can’t greet them that way when I run into them at future parties or on the metro.

Sometimes I get lucky. A friend of mine may come up to join the conversation, so I finagle a halfway introduction. To my friend I say, “Hey, so-and-so.” To the new acquaintance whose name I’ve forgotten I say, “This is my friend so-and-so,” and then I leave it up to the new acquaintance to introduce him/herself. And then I make sure the name is seared in my memory.

There’s obviously a reason Dale Carnegie includes remembering another person’s name in his tips for “winning friends and influencing people.” It’s so pleasant to be remembered. I’ve battled a certain level of shyness my whole life, and while at this point I know both sides of this unpleasant situation quite well, I’m far more used to being the forgotten. It sucks, if I may be so blunt. We all want to know that we’re important enough to leave some kind of a mark. We all want to be…well…loved, when you get right down to it. Our name is the first offering we can make of ourselves to those around us. “Hi, I’m so-and-so” isn’t just a conversation starter–it’s the first self-gift in this relationship, whether the relationship grows into a true friendship or ends after this first conversation.

I say all this, and I’m still a repeat offender when it comes to name-remembrance. So please, friends, I beg you: tips on remembering. I’ve been told the old, “repeat their name” trick, but that never works for me. Other ideas or tricks you use in these situations? Any name-forgetting moments you’ve had, or experiences of being forgotten? How do you deal?