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Fueled by Forgiveness

Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
― Oscar Wilde

I should remember that one. There are a few people who wronged me in recent times that I haven’t even bothered to try to forgive. My faith tells me to do differently, but my hurt and anger say, “agonize over their shortcomings.”

Yet I know I’m capable of forgiving, because I’ve done it before. About fifteen years ago, I was fired from a job because of a lie a co-worker told about me, and I chose to forgive him. Over the years, I sometimes wondered what happened to him. Had his inexcusable behavior caught up with him?

It was only recently that I looked him up and discovered a few disturbing things: he’d ended up in federal prison for a time, and is now listed as a sex offender.

Let me go back in time a little.

I’d started this job as a temp, and it worked out so well I’d just been hired on as a permanent employee. I got along with my co-workers, including the man in question, and another woman whom I’ll call Caroline.

The company holiday party was held the night before I actually started as a “real” employee, and Caroline and I, as the only two single women there, sat together for dinner. Later, we saw this man (let’s call him Carl), also alone, and I waved him over.

Playing matchmaker for the first — and last — time in my life, as he approached us I told Caroline, “you should meet him. I really like him.”

That statement was misinterpreted, repeated, exaggerated and by the end of the party, Carl wasn’t talking to me. I don’t know what exactly was said between my somewhat drunk colleagues, and I didn’t catch on to the problem until the next day at work, when Caroline apologized to me.

“No big deal,” I said, believing that to be the case. “As long as he doesn’t still think I’m interested in him. I don’t need that kind of confusion with anyone I work with.”

By the end of the next day, however, I was fired from that job for allegedly stalking Carl. This bizarre and false accusation not only cost me that job, I couldn’t get another through the temp agency, and the unfairness and just plain mean-spirited nature of the whole thing threw me into a deep depression for more than a month. It was a dark time, and a lonely one.

beautiful landscape on stormy weather, Dobrogea, RomaniaIn addition, the day after I was fired, I began to get annoying, then increasingly troubling, phone calls. Eventually I called the phone company, who at the time worked closely with the police department* to trace and stop these calls, making arrests if necessary, but never, ever letting the victim know who had been calling them. I suppose that was out of concern for retaliation.

The calls stopped a week later.

A month or so after that,

I moved out of state and began a new chapter in my life. In December I remembered to send a letter to all my employers from that year (there were several) letting them know about my change of address for my W-2.

A week later the same pattern of troublesome phone calls started up again. Through a series of clues I won’t detail here (well, I’ll just say, caller id was big help), I’d already deduced Carl had likely made the first round of calls. Remembering his cubicle was next to the chatty woman who entered employee information in the company data base, it was fairly clear to me he could easily have seen my change of address letter.

Another call to the phone company, and again, the calls stopped. Over the years I wondered what, if anything, had happened to Carl, but didn’t imagine he’d paid too high of a price.

Caroline, it turned out, had.

The two ended up getting married not long after they met at that holiday party, a bit of a rush ceremony since Caroline was pregnant. The marriage didn’t last long. Carl was arrested before their first anniversary (for what, I need to be clear, I don’t specifically know) and things fell apart while he was waiting for his trial. By the time he went to prison, they were divorced, and Caroline was essentially a single mom with her ex-husband and the father of her daughter incarcerated for a sex offense.

concepto de suavidadWhile I found their story intriguing, I was surprised by my own lack of any sense of vindication. Yes, my claims of innocence certainly had to be more credible to the disbelieving human resources manager, but that barely mattered. I had long ago stopped caring.

I believe my choice to forgive Carl — and it was a choice, one I had to make on a daily basis for a long time — had been the right one, relieving me of an emotional burden that would have eaten at me for years. For me, forgiving Carl meant praying for him, and in that light, I’m not sure what to think of the known events in his life that followed.

Today, I need to draw on that same strength and forgive the fools who, essentially, brought me to ruins a few years ago. That emotional burden is with me daily, and the weight of it is killing me.

I need to be fueled by forgiveness. The energy is so much cleaner.


*Police departments still take this seriously, but the phone companies rarely take the lead any more in helping customers.

Image Credits: (Windmill) © saulich84 – stock.adobe.com; (Storm in the Valley) © mirceab– Bigstock; (Feather) © kesipun – stock.adobe.com

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moving forward

Some of you have seen this already, but here’s a post from a couple of years ago that means a lot to me. By the way, thanks to those of you who have been following my blog that long!

My World With Words

A few weeks ago I found myself sitting alone in a crowd, anxiously searching for a familiar face.

I was expecting a friend — until her text  told me not to. Now I was faced with sitting by myself at a celebratory service that would no doubt be an emotional, spiritual, uplifting experience (it was). I started looking for anyone I might know, a bit nervous but not wanting to seem so.

Thankfully, someone did appear, a more than gregarious man, well-known for being a bit of a character.  I’d only met him once for all of thirty seconds, but I didn’t hesitate to call out his name and invite him to join me. He did, and it made that service a whole heck of a lot of fun.

It wasn’t until days later it hit me:

this was not only the first time I’d had the courage to do…

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Those Shiny Shoes, the Precious Dresses

It is, remarkably, back to school for children and teachers in my area tomorrow.

That means football, fall leaves and best of all, sweater weather can’t be far behind.

lunch with momIt also brings back one of my fondest memories of childhood, the annual school shopping trip with my mom. It was a day just for the two of us, where we’d head downtown to the department store and buy shoes and clothing for the upcoming year. For lunch, we’d go to a nice restaurant and enjoy a special meal.

It made me feel valued, treasured — and grownup. It was probably the most sophisticated thing I did back then. Eat lunch at a sit-down restaurant? Like a lady? That was, quite simply, incredible.

My mom made a lot of my clothes back then, and that was a separate trip, preceded by an afternoon or evening of pouring over the pattern books she’d get from the fabric store (they gave away the old ones, which were current enough). I’d put a star on the patterns for the dresses I liked the best, narrow down the list, eliminate anything my sister also chose (we rarely had the same taste, but to match my sister just would not do) and carefully consider what kind of fabric to look for before we shopped. Then, my mom, sister and I would head out to buy bundles of fabric, enough to keep mom busy sewing for some time.

By junior high, the schools had changed the rules and we were allowed to wear pants, even jeans, so shopping for fabric was a rarer occasion. Of course in high school I wanted to shop by myself more often (although if mom were buying, she was invited). The back-to-school shopping trips became a thing of the past, except for a quick trip for undergarments and socks.

We grow up, we move on, but we hold on to the memories of childhood, the family traditions that meant we were special.

One more shopping trip — that’s what I’m hoping for this fall.


Image Credits: (Blackboard) © adrian_ilie825 — Fotolia; (Mother Daughter) © skypicstudio — Fotolia

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Caturday Memories

Today I want to remember all the kitties from my past.

I don’t have pictures of all of them, nor is it likely I’ll remember all their names. But Hugo, Petunia, Whittier, Salem, Gabriel, Cassie, Darren, Whitney, Montero, Carter and of course, Paco, you made my life better just by being there in the morning. Even if being there meant you were pestering me for food.

Granted, the quality of many of these pictures is pretty poor, either due to age or because they’re Polaroids (or both). But you get an idea of how blessed I’ve been.

Caturday Memories.


 

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Clear as a Cracked Mirror

Perhaps some of you have been taught the communication technique of “echoing” or “mirroring.”

After listening to a colleague’s thoughts or explanation of a situation, you summarize what you heard and, in your own words, repeat it back to them, prefaced with something like, “what I hear you saying is…” I think it’s suggested for personal relationships, too, but that’s a different topic for another day.

I’d learned about this approach to understanding, but hadn’t truly had a chance to use it, when I began a new job at a major corporation in the southern U.S.  I was learning, through one painful lesson after another, that the direct approach was rarely appreciated here. Instead, a passive-aggressive, read-between-the-lines method of communication was considered professional and respectful.

For example, if someone asked for my help with a project that afternoon, and I knew my own deadline would preclude me from being available, it was best not to say, “I’m sorry, the Acme project is going to keep me busy all day. I won’t be able to help you.” The preferred response was, “As soon as I’m done I’ll come over.”

To me, it was dishonest and disrespectful to imply there was a good chance I’d be able to pitch in when I knew full well it would never happen. What I didn’t realize was this was code for, “no way will I have time for anything but my own work” and those raised in this area of the South clearly understand this convoluted language.

The lesson slammed down on me one day when I was called into a meeting with other managers in my department. They wanted to discuss a program our superiors were enthusiastic about, but was difficult to make practical. It sounded good. For one week, a manager and an hourly worker would partner together and train each other in their respective responsibilities to help understand the highs and lows of the “other side.”

In practice, this idealistic program was fraught with problems. While my colleagues agreed on the surface it seemed like a good idea, the stories they told me illustrated how frustrating it really was for everyone involved. However, it didn’t matter what they thought, they were mandated to make it work, and they were hoping I might have some fresh ideas.

hypocrite

I swear, I was a lamb.

I mirrored back a summary of what I’d heard them tell me. “It sounds like you’re being asked to manage a program you believe has possibilities, but what you’ve been doing so far hasn’t been working.”

The meeting ended with that statement. Two of the women walked out in disgust at my “rudeness.” Another sat there staring at me, as if she didn’t know what to say. A fourth pulled me aside and lectured me on professional behavior and respecting the feelings of others.

As someone who always, always considered the sensitivities of my co-workers, to a point where one of my supervisors listed “too nice” as my greatest fault, this was a shock. I struggled to understand, tried to explain the method of communication, and asked what I “should” have said.

I never got a response to the latter, and they brushed off all my explanations. In retrospect I believe there was something else going on. There had to be. I said nothing insulting, my intent and manner were respectful, practically deferential.

Yet communication is different in various regions of the country, and for that matter, the world. Those women would have fallen flat on their rears if they brought their communication expectations to a company in New York, just as I would have been told to be more straightforward.

Minnesotans pride themselves on what they term, “Minnesota nice.” You drive a few hundred miles south, and people who hear that phrase will think you’re being facetious. “You know, he was (air quotes) ‘Minnesota nice.'” What’s considerate in the Upper Midwest is blunt and coarse in the South.

How did I handle the frustrations of this communication block? After two years of the underhanded words and behavior of others in my department, I quit. I didn’t have the strength or wisdom to fight it, or the savvy to appropriately adopt the same thinking. I didn’t even fully understand what was going on.

Experts will tell you that when indirect communication is used, a knowledge of the culture is essential for understanding the meaning. That’s a challenge when you’re unaware of the depth of the cultural differences, even in your own country.

collective opinion

What we say isn’t always what they hear.

What I saw as disrespectful in what I earlier called “underhanded words and behavior,” people whom I came to respect believed was considerate, putting the other person first. Of course you don’t tell them you can’t help them. That’s rejection. So they developed this method of (as they see it) kindly saying “sorry, I’m not available.”

Communication is more than words, although some try to limit it to such. It is knowing the people around you and the environment you are living in. It is understanding when the issue being discussed isn’t the issue you’re dealing with, when to fight for your rights and dignity and when to maintain that dignity by bowing out.

It is being human, and letting others be the same.


Image credit: All © cristina bernazzani — stock.adobe.com

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Over You

“You’re going to leave me alone at Christmas…”

“You’ll be okay. You said you had to work that day. You’ll be too busy to notice I’m gone.”

That’s not exactly how it would work, and we both knew it. I’d had it. I had gone out of my way to get you really thoughtful birthday gifts just a week before, even though you’d been treating me like crap. I’d been doing everything I could to make this work. All of the effort was on my part, and now you were flying back home for Christmas and leaving me alone in a new city, a new state to fend for myself.

“Go to church. Lots of people go to church on Christmas.”

You went on with your plans. “I’ll be back January 3rd. We’re going out New Year’s Eve so I want a couple of days to recover.” Oh, great.

I began to think how wise I’d been not to move in with you. It’s not that I was such a conservative give-me-the-ring kind of person. It’s that I wasn’t sure of you. This move had been good for me, but not because of us. I’d never been able to explain that to you. I’d needed to leave home, to get away from the place I’d lived all my life and experience something new.

We celebrated our Christmas the Saturday before you left. You were disappointed with the gifts I got you, and said so. “You did so good with my birthday gifts…” Not that your gifts to me were anything to brag about, but you couldn’t — or wouldn’t — see that. I didn’t say anything.

I drove you to the airport the next morning and dropped you off at the terminal. “See you January 3rd!” you said cheerily.

“No,” I said firmly. “That’s it. It’s over. I’ll take care of your house while you’re gone, feed your cat like I promised, but I’m done.” You looked at me quizzically and left. I knew you didn’t believe me.

Not one phone call for nearly the entire three weeks, but you had an excuse: I’d broken up with you. Finally, New Year’s Eve day, you called. I didn’t answer, but you left a message. “I’m coming home early. My flight gets in at 10:00 p.m.”

I’m not picking you up. I had no plans, but I turned all the lights out about 9:45, just in case you were early. I knew you’d have a hard time getting a cab home to your place, you lived so far from the city limits. I knew you’d head to my apartment. You did.

Pounding on my door. I didn’t answer. Swearing.

The next day around noon you called. I still didn’t answer. I put your key in a padded envelope and mailed it to you.

You called again.”What the hell are you doing mailing my house key to me? Anybody could’ve gotten it and broken into my house.”

This time I returned your call. “It’s over.” I said. “Got it? It’s over.” Silence. You hang up.

You tried calling a few more times, but I’m done. I’m over you.

Sad love heart symbol background

Photo Credits: (swan) © Indiloo Designs – Fotolia; (heart in window) © robsonphoto — Fotolia

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Four Classic Films they couldn’t make today — and one I’d like to see them take on

Okay, never say never. But it seems unlikely these films could be made today, for the reasons I’ve listed.

I’ve added one film that was limited by the restrictions of yesteryear (and perhaps some bad choices by the producers, directors, screenwriters and/or actors). Still, the story is worth telling, and if the right people took it on…

All of these films have been reviewed on my other blog, Classic for a Reason. Click on the title to see the individual reviews, and if you get the chance, check out these movies!

The More the Merrier
Joel McCrea  Jean Arther, The More the Merrier

Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur battle it out — and of course fall in love.

A single woman rents out the spare room in her apartment to two strange men? It was a controversial idea at the time, but today it likely would be nixed because of the danger factor, not the sexual one.

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
shirley-temple-and-cary-grant

Shirley Temple, Cary Grant

A man suspected of seducing an underage girl is sentenced to date her? While there would be outrage at the concept now, Cary Grant and Shirley Temple (with the able assistance of Myrna Loy) make it plausible — and really funny.

The Thin Man series
Myrna Loy, William Powell in After the Thin Man

Myrna Loy, William Powell

Since we all know drunks don’t get more charming and capable with every martini, Nick and Nora’s sophisticated use of liquor would be suspect. Besides, some classics just should be left alone.

Dark Victory
Bette Davis, George Brent in Dark Victory

Bette Davis, George Brent fall in love — but he’s her doctor, and knows her destiny.

You have to tell the patient she’s dying. You just do.

And the film the right director should take on…
In This Our Life
Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland In This Our Life

Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland in a film worth re-making.

This is an incredible story based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, and the movie is good, but it should be great. There is so much going on it actually would make a good multi-part series (you know, six episodes on HBO, that sort of thing). Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland alone make it worth watching, and it was John Huston’s second film (after The Maltese Falcon), but it just doesn’t quite reach its full potential. And, I’d suggest they change the names of the lead characters. Stanley and Roy are simply not great names for women.


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