Thursday, May 26, 2011

Hobbits, Lobbyists & My New Hobby - Working on My EQ

I've been trying to up my EQ. You know, Emotional Intelligence. Apparently, its all the rage.

What is she talking about? you ask. Or maybe you don't. But I shall tell you.

Emotional intelligence is basically (at least according to this fancy webinar I saw last week) having a grip on how and why you react to situations and understanding how and why others react to you. There are four components: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Its been said that there's not much you can do to improve your IQ - your EQ, however, is another story.

One of the ways to be self-aware is to recognize what people/things trigger an emotional reaction in you. You know, what gets your knickers in a twist.

Up until last week, I had pretty clearly defined my triggers: 1.) my boss's voice. 2.) my parent's phone number on my caller ID. 3.) any email emanating from a particular co-worker. 4.) a particular tone of voice my husband uses when he thinks he's being rational and sensitive in making a request and I think he's being whiny, clingy and needy. There. 1. 2. 3. 4. Easy enough.

That was until I had a whole new entity enter my life.

Right now, its budget season. That point in the year where politicians present their ideas of how life should be and who should pay for it and at what amounts. Lobbyists, advocates and concerned citizens scramble, rally, hoot and holler to see who can effectively (or at least loudly) make their case for whatever their case may be.

There is one particular piece of the budget that relates to what I do that has several folks' knickers in a twist. You can't really see it unless you look pretty hard. It's not obvious when you pore through those pages and pages of spreadsheets. But it's there. Tucked away as a "program integrity" measure. And some feel it has the potential to dismantle an entire service delivery system for some pretty vulnerable people.

The point is, it's so serious, we've called in every single member of our association that is remotely connected to or has once upon a time hired a lobbyist and tried to get them all into one room. Tried to hand them papers to get them to all speak from the same page. Tried to get mega MEGA type A personalities, who, BTW, are all competitors and don't particularly care for each other, to get along and, gasp, perhaps even collaborate. All for this higher good.

I am unsure if anything is any "higher" than the egos in a room full of lobbyists. JFC give me strength.

In my role with this group, I am treading a very delicate line - we do not pay these folks, our members do. So I can't directly manage any of these people, these personalities, their relationships or what they do with them. I can attempt to facilitate and coordinate. But I am trying to do so as a peer, not as a staffer, not as some kind of administrative assistant. At the same time, any time I get too deferential, I can hear my boss hiss in my ear (because she's subtle like that, "don't ask permission! we should be in charge here.") Ok. Fine. But we're NOT. Not unless you, dear boss, want to write several large checks to several high powered lobbying firms who are still trying to figure out who the hell we are and what WE are doing here and why they are doing all of this extra work for what they believe is free.

This could be the most extreme test of my emotional intelligence ever.

I am finding myself simultaneously stroking, asserting, nudging, navigating, placating, juggling and coquettishly batting my eyelids trying to get my way. This might as well be a porno.

Or better yet, some totally nerdy fantasy film.

When I think of this motley bunch, the urgency of the mission, the larger than life personalities, somehow one visual keeps popping up in my head.

I've definitely identified my dwarf.

I am trying so hard not to be Sam Gamgee.

Whenever I have a quiet moment with anyone from the brotherhood (a few sisters in there. not many), they inevitably use it as an opportunity to bemoan the lack of cooperation from any other member of the fold. I'm all about collaboration, too bad xxx doesn't work well with others....

The hilarious part about that is, cut and paste any one member of this here fellowship with the other. They all say the same things about each other. Yes, hilarious. And tiresome.

So, several more triggers have been added to my EQ monitor, as have chances to improve how I deal with them. I can't help thinking if I get my EQ together some very real opportunities could emerge from this venture. Hopefully for me, and for the people we're working to protect.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Where m. is at a Loss for Words

I have a tendency to over-share.

I'll pause here for a minute so you can snicker and guffaw at the obviousness of that statement. "Oh really? She "over-shares" says the girl with 399 posts on a blog about people sticking things up her vagina?? The young lady who torments her beloved husband with tales of her amazing bowel movements? (they are awesome, fyi) You don't say!"

Well, yes. I do say. Generally, I say a lot. Far more than you ever wanted to know. It has taken me years to realize when someone asks, "how are you?" they're not really wanting all of that information. M is always one to remind me that out of 100 people who ask, 80% could truly care less, maybe 10% actually root for bad things to happen, and maybe, just maybe 10% are cheering you on.

So, I get that. And over the years, I've gotten much better at keeping my aches and pains and musings and commentary about others around me to myself. For the most part. But I still blab. A lot. About personal things. Which annoys M. to all get out. He doesn't much care for people all up in his bidness. Casually mention something I said to you about M. to him, and just watch the daggers shoot out of his eyes past you, the innocent offender, directly to his wife, that's me. The blabber.

But I've been observing something lately. There is one part of my personal life that I cannot speak about. As in, physically, words stop short in my mouth. Its like I experience an actual log jam in my throat.

It's my dad.

And it's usually when those 10% who actually DO give a shit ask. The concern is real.

How's your dad? Is he ok?

And I stand there like a mute. Sometimes people see me struggle with my syllables and they save me. "It's ok. No need to respond. I just want you to know I'm thinking about you." Others sit and wait for me to force something out.

I, I, I.....I don't know. I mean, I do know I just can't say. I mean I can say, I just.....

Yes. Someone actually does pay me to communicate. It's in my job title. And these fragments are all I can muster.

My dad is not good. But really, if I am honest with myself, he has not been "good" for a very long time. Only now, he has a diagnosis. He has been waiting and wanting to die since oh, about 2005. But now he has some x-rays and pieces of paper to defend his musings on morbidity.

I don't know how long he has to live. I truly do not. It could be weeks, months, years. It could be days.

How do I feel about this?


Wow. She is Captain Obvious today, huh kids?

No wait. There's more to it. I am not particularly sad that he is going to die. My mother will be happier. HE will be happier. Those thoughts make me sad. But I am terribly, terribly sad that my father has no joy in living. At all. And I'm not sure he has for a very long time. I can barely stand to try and imagine what that kind of existence must be. What a weight to carry.

Every time I see him I want to scream, "What if you die tomorrow? Don't you want to DO SOMETHING with today?!?!"

But I know, I just know what his response will be: "Well hell, if I'm gonna die tomorrow, might as well just get it over with today....."


And this makes me want to yell and cry and ball my fists and punch and....

And what? Clearly, I cannot change him. We've been over this. But gosh, it makes me sad. Not the end, but the steady progression and wishing, hoping, forcing the end. Because somehow the two kick-ass kids you raised and the life you made for your family is not sufficient enough reason to try to live. To try to enjoy living. All he sees are the opportunities he DIDN'T have, the money that he assumes others have and he doesn't, the luck that THEY have and he missed out on.....

Is this man clinically depressed? Does the pope shit in the woods? Of course. But could you fit one more anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, anti-being-a-bastard pill down his gullet? Unlikely. Counseling? Ha. Try it. Even my brother (I did it for you. Can't you do it for me?) hasn't won that one.

So I steel myself for another few days with him. We'll head down this weekend. And he'll be happy to see us for a few minutes, spend the next few minutes bitching about my mom, who will then leave to find some respite. He'll sulk. We'll try to un-sulk him. He'll stare at the TV. We'll deal until a hallmark movie comes on and then text each other while we're sitting there plotting our escape. We'll go someplace for a beer and to vent and to recharge for the next day. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

I've started assigning deeper meanings to my father's actions. For no other reason than it helps me love him. I don't care if I'm projecting. I don't care if I am even remotely close to his intentions. My cousin and her newborn baby girl were down to visit last weekend. He told me he had no desire to hold the baby. At all. I attribute this to him mourning the grand-daughters he cannot hold. M says that's a stretch.

I don't care. That is what I would like to believe. So I've decided I will believe it.


So, how to encapsulate all of that into a one-sentence answer in response to "how's your dad?" I can't.

So I don't.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Not Really A Post

Had big blogging plans today. Really did.

I've got a few hours to myself which always makes me giddy with possibility. (lists! lists! checking things off my lists!)

But shit. Tabatha's Salon Takeover is on. As someone who grew up in a hair salon (literally, one was attached to my house) this is my crack.

And, what's that? Is the sun peeking through? Hmm. May need to do something with that as well.

So what, exactly, is the point of this non-post? Oh I don't know. Just to let you know I'm here. But for now, I'm completely sucked into watching train wrecks.

I'll be back once Tabatha sorts some shit out, I get a few more things ticked off my lists and a few raindrops start to fall.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Where M Drops the F Bomb in Church

Well, it's International Babylost Mother's Day. How did you get to spend yours? Me, I got to sit through a Christening.

We got through it. Kind of. We're home now anyway - M's playing a mindless video game. Me, I'm staring at the screen trying to sort through what I'm feeling right now.

Mom was in town for the family event. Dad claimed he "wasn't feeling well" and didn't make the trip. Tomorrow starts cancer treatments for him. More on that in a minute. Maybe.

During the ceremony, where they also baptized seven other little ones (is this how they do it these days?), there was, of course, a set of twins.

"Oh look, does she have twins?!"

"I guess mom."

"Oh she DOES. She does have twins. Awwww....."

M's grip tightens on mine.

"Oh do you think they're twins or just siblings?"

M : "Who the F*CK cares. Would you STOP!"

Yes. Yes. You did just witness my husband dropping the F bomb. On my mom. In Church. And she deserved it. Thankfully, no clap of thunder. No lightning-singed spouse. Phew.

"Well, I just thought they were cute that's all."

"STOPPPPPPPP!" (This time it's me. And I think I added a JFC in there too)

And soon its over and we are reminded yet again that my parents speak without thinking. Think without thinking of anyone else, least of whom our daughters. I can't take it personally. Dad is too obsessed with how many sodas he can drink now that "my sugar's the least of my worries. I gots The Cancer..." and mom is far too busy making those martyr eyes and funny faces that show the world oh how much she suffers with this husband of hers. Poor her. Poor poor her.

So, there's all of that. I'm mad at dad at how he's behaving. I'm mad at mom at how she's behaving. None of this is new. Its just got some extra juicy cancer-flavor to it these days. You feel bad for one of them until you yourself are forced to sit with them and you think, "Oh god, no wonder the other one can't stand you." And then you sit with the other one and have the exact same thought. They are not nice people. They are not nice to each other. Being around it is exhausting.

But that's where we spent my birthday.

No, no, don't worry. No need to wince. This post actually has a somewhat happy ending. We decided to make the drive last Friday evening when we got word that dad's cancer has spread. It is not stage 1 as expected; its actually progressed to his brain. Not sure of the prognosis, but they are moving forward with treatments as planned, adding radiation to the brain and anticipating a need for chemo after that. That's the news we got Friday right around dinner time.

Don't worry about dad. He now feels he gets a free pass to tell everyone how he really feels about them, to eat and drink everything he wants, and has a built in excuse to avoid any and all family events and obligations that would displace him from the couch. I think I should note that this is how he has been living for some time now. But now, NOW, he feels like he has a real good reason. Sigh.It's hard for me to be sad when dad acts like this is a dream come true. If someone feels like they have no reason to live, they usually find a way not to.

But still, I'm sad. What should we do? M asks? What can we do? I ask? What would you like to do? He counters. Well, I guess I would like to spend as much time with him as I can while I still can. That makes sense, M says. We'll leave in the a.m.

So we did. And somewhere between state borders, the sun started to shine on the weekend that was predicted to be yet another monsoon. Hey now, we joked. We are being rewarded for our altruism! And we were. The sun shone freely all weekend. We had ample time at the beach and D*gfish Head Brewery - two of our happy places -which is where we escaped whenever the house got too claustrophobic. The weather was honestly so gorgeous, not even my dad refusing to sit on the porch with us (what?!? it's too hot!!), in fact, refusing to do anything with us unless it involved sitting with him watching a show he was watching on TV, or my mom coming home from the neighbor's house totally soused on Saturday night could dampen our spirits.

We had given ourselves a little pep talk on the car on the way down. That helped: We cannot change them. We will not change them. All you (notice how it shifts down to singular here. There is no love lost between M and my parents) can do is love them and be there for them and let them know you care.

So that's what I did. I tried to suspend judgment (but dammit. Dad downing 3 cans of soda one night made some of that seep out.) What??? Not like I'll live any longer if I don't drink it.

My dad is like Shit My Dad Says. But not funny.
My mom is like Raymond's mom from Everybody Loves Raymond. But not funny.

Most of the time we are around one or both of them, M and I usually end up staring at each other, mouthing "did he/she/they just say/do that?" gasping incredulously wondering at the insanity of it all.

And then we go to Dogfish where we can debrief and try to piece together different interpretations of all that we've seen and heard even though it always ends up at the same conclusion: "Your dad, he's senile and ungrateful and has no idea how good of a life he actually has....your mom, well she's crazy and she thinks she's performing on a L*fetime movie and will never not think that the world has shit on her." We shake our heads, and drink wonderful beers and eat cheap hummus and veggie burgers and try more beers and then walk to the beach where I read not only the Economist but also the New Yorker the same week they were issued (which I think has never happened before). And then fall asleep. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. This is our daily Delaware routine for 3 days.

I fall asleep on the beach for my birthday. Now, I tell you, a girl cannot ask for much more than that.

But I left last weekend with that gift that always sneaks into our pockets after a few hours with the crazies, I mean parents. And that is the gift of thankfulness. Thankful for M. Thankful for our lives. Thankful that we don't spend every waking minute cursing our existence or each other. So, SO damn thankful that that is not the house we live in or the relationship we have with each other. After a weekend with the 'rents, we inevitably leave thinking, "Our life isn't so bad. Except for that one really, really, horrific thing that happened to us and our daughters, we have a lot to be thankful for. Let's not forget it."


Tonight, we are trying not to forget it.