~1~There is always a cross.
I think I'm going to write a post about this that goes more in-depth, but I've been thinking of crosses, suffering, etc. lately. I was raised Protestant. One of the things that drew me to Catholicism (and still draws me), is that it is the only logical explanation of suffering I have found in religion. It doesn't deny it or try to avoid it (as some Eastern religions do), it doesn't blame the victim for "karma" or "lack of faith" (as some other Eastern Religions, New Age religions, or Christian "prosperity" gospel preachers do), it doesn't blame God for being "sovereign" and basically call him a jerk for bringing you suffering in order to smite you or teach you a lesson (as the Calvinism I was raised in taught me)...the Catholic God suffers with you. See him up there on the cross? He's been where you are, if not worse. He suffered, not so that you don't have to suffer in this life, but so that you could see there is meaning in suffering. You can offer it up. You can join it with his.
So, my newest cross is a medical diagnosis I got this week. The back pain I have been suffering with increasingly over the last several months is not a kidney stone as I suspected, but arthritis. Ugh. Doesn't that sound like something an 80-year-old should get? Not someone in their 30's? On the one hand, I'm glad to put a name to it, instead of wondering WTH was going on with me, or thinking I was crazy and that this pain was all in my head. On the other hand, I've never had a health problem that was basically chronic pain due to something genetic or not an infection or out-of-nowhere. I feel like I'm too young for this. I don't want to be on drugs for the rest of my life, and yet, medicine is pretty much a new daily necessity for me. It doesn't even alleviate the pain, it just dulls it enough to allow me to make it through the day. So, I'm processing what this means for my health, my faith, my life. I would like to seek alternative ways of healing. I wonder if I will need surgery. I wonder if this would ever qualify as a disability, if the pain ever kept me from working. I wonder how in the HECK people who are in great pain can remain virtuous. My patience and kindness pretty much evaporate when the pain sets in. And, at the same time, I see a new cross in my life (and I definitely feel it in my back!) This could be an opportunity for major growth, but God help me. I don't know how to deal with it.
Silence is a theme of Advent. I think it's also a theme of introverts. To take it to a completely mundane, and NOT profound level...I work in an office of about 15 people. We work in cubicles (except for the 2 bosses, they have real offices with real walls and everything). Some cubicles have doors (not me), and some cubicles have a window (again, not me). All that to say that throughout the day, we either work in deafening silence, in which a pen can drop, a phone can ring, or a person can sneeze, and it makes you jump out of your skin. The other half of the day is spent in deafening noise - 15 simultaneous conversations, 1 lovely co-worker who literally narrates her day/makes personal phone calls/talks non-stop, and a revolving door of our customer base (students). All that to say that I crave privacy and silence. I would LOVE a door. And I would LOVE a setup to my office that would allow someone to come in the office without having to look literally over my shoulder at my computer screen or be seated behind me at an awkward angle (thanks, cubicle). These things will probably not happen as long as I work here. I have brought headphones and earplugs to work, but some days, even that isn't enough. I am really sensitive to noises, I think, just by personality. I can hear things better than most people. On top of that, I'm an introvert, and I love silence, especially when I'm trying to concentrate. It is a challenge for me to maintain my focus amidst our loud and busy office. Lord, give me patience with these people.
So...Christmas is in 6 days, and we still haven't gotten a tree up. Probably this weekend. For real. I really want to, but we have been so busy and I have felt so crummy that we haven't gotten around to it yet. At this point, it is definitely staying up until Epiphany, if not later. I started wrapping some gifts last night, and it really put me in the mood to have a tree to put said gifts under!!
I haven't felt like this big of a nerd for about 10 years, when my then-boyfriend dragged me along to The Matrix midnight release. This week we watched The Hobbit 1 and 2. Tonight, we are going to see The Hobbit 3 in the theater. I don't remember the last movie I saw in the theater. It's not 100% my cup of tea, but that's okay. It'll be a fun double date with my husband.
The Power of "No"
I am facing the prospect of either accepting or rejecting a social invitation this weekend with a very difficult and manipulative person in my life. I find her stressful to be around, and really try to limit my time with her. As with all unhealthy people, when you set up a boundary, there is backlash. Last time I kindly, but firmly, told her "no thank you" to an invitation (when I was legitimately knee-deep in wedding planning stress), she lectured me about what a terrible friend I am, and basically accused me of lying to avoid hanging out with her. In normal circumstances, I would love to cut someone like her 100% out of my life. However, she's a family friend, and I do have to deal with her for the foreseeable future. So...anyway....I am faced with another invitation. I know that if I say "no," it may cause a fight in which my integrity and honesty is called into question. If I say "yes," it might be out of fear of conflict, manipulation, or obligation rather than a genuine open-ness to friendship. I'm torn as to what to do. Last night, my husband was talking through the options with me. I was saying, "I think I'll just say 'yes' so that we don't have another fight." And he was like, "It's an invitation. You shouldn't feel forced. Yes OR no are both options. I want to empower you to say "no" if you need to." Isn't he awesome? I know he's right. If I were giving someone else advice, I would also say that you don't have to feel pressure, you should make your choice and move on. My therapist told me that "no" is a complete sentence. You don't have to justify why it's a no. You don't have to make excuses. You have the power to say yes or no. I know all of this in my brain, and yet I'm still feeling such anxiety and pressure to say yes. I gave her an "I'll let you know," answer to buy myself more time.
...not the movie. I'm not saying I have a horrible boss (or bosses). But here are some things I think you should avoid if you want to be considered a good boss...just don't ask me how I know.
Don't send ALL emails with a flag of high importance, it makes the flag meaningless.
Similarly, don't make all requests (for data, reports, etc.) right near (or even AFTER) your deadline, forcing your employees to drop their priorities because of your poor planning. A lacking of planning on your part should not create an emergency on my part.
Don't bad-mouth, trash-talk, gossip, judge, analyze, or otherwise discuss employees with your subordinates. That should only be done equal to equal or equal to superior (boss to boss, boss to supervisor, etc.) It should not be done boss to subordinate. It puts the subordinate in a really awkward position when you discuss the faults of his/her equal (coworker). It also creates distrust in that it seems safe to assume that a subordinate's behavior is also subject for discussion with everyone else, but only behind your back.
Don't ask people to do things which you yourself do not do. You should set an example for respecting others, arriving on time, etc. If you're asking for a behavior that you don't exhibit, it creates resentment and a double-standard. People might do it out of fear (wanting to keep their job), out of a greater obligation (because it's the right thing to do, even if you don't do it), or they may not do it at all (because...why bother?)
Don't complain about things that would seem like luxuries to the person you're complaining to. For example, if the view out of your window (of your real office, with a real door, real walls, and outside view) is about to change due to some construction... consider that the person you're complaining to does not even have a door or a window in their cubicle ...so.... it's hard to have any sympathy for you there...just sayin'. Also, don't complain about your salary to someone who makes LESS than you do.
Do take action. This means, when a problem presents itself, seek guidance, have discussions, but take action. Don't wait 2-3 months to confront a behavior. Don't build up a problem so big in your mind that it takes one year to resolve. Don't wait to hire replacements out of mourning for the person who no longer works there. I have noticed that good bosses and companies tend to have a sense of momentum, purpose, vision, and action. That's not to say that things get done on time or perfectly, only that there is a feeling of progress, not stagnation. Everyone wants to see that their work matters and makes a difference. If you sit on a project or over-analyze a decision to the point of paralysis, it makes your followers weary.