So last night I told you that I’d had a “moment.” I have to give you some background…and I apologize up front that this is a longer one…
Throughout our lives we’re faced with people who are challenging, or people who become nemeses, or are simply present and we turn them into competitors in our minds…even if they are nothing of the sort.
I had a boss ten years ago who was truly awful. When she came to interview for the position she wore a tweed Chanel-looking suit, wore pearls, touted her Georgetown degree, and I was completely enamored. This was MY kind of woman. I thought she and I would become fast friends and that we could do amazing work together. Not so much. She was a terrible manager, would pace and slam her fists on tables during meetings with partners and clients, she screamed, cried, and could be sticky sweet, insincere, vicious, and kind, all in a span of three minutes. She was a hot effing mess. I lasted one year under this woman (almost everyone else who reported to her cleared out of the organization within months of her arrival) and finally I had to leave. The really unfortunate part was that I loved my job but I just couldn’t work for crazy. I was so sad and scarred that I swore if I ever ran into her again I would give her a piece of my mind. I played out all sorts of scenarios, crafted speeches that I would spew if I ever saw her, and in my head created this cinematic rivalry. With a crazy person. Who probably never gave me a second thought after I walked out of her life.
My girlfriend’s husband had a serious relationship prior to him meeting her. She would ask him about the relationship, or about the woman, and he told her she “kind of looked like Carmen Electra.” Umm…seriously? A for one, who tells their wife that the girlfriend before her looked like a Playboy Playmate?! B for two, how do you as a woman process that information? You get a little obsessed and in your head create a rivalry with a woman you’ve never met who, for all practical purposes, your husband doesn’t even think about anymore and certainly doesn’t care about anymore.
A few jobs back I was added to a sales team. The team consisted of three other women and my male boss. The four of them had worked together for a while so they were tight. It quickly became clear to me (but for some reason not to my boss) that my three colleagues were lying in our weekly update meetings. It was also clear that they weren’t actually out meeting with clients when they said they were (women do not show up to work with wet hair and in sweats if they are COMING FROM A MEETING WITH CLIENTS…they show up with wet hair and in sweats when they are COMING FROM THE GYM…my boss didn’t even notice). Even though these women were clearly lying, they were the “old team,” and nobody was questioning their mediocre numbers or whereabouts. To make matters worse, these women treated me horribly, like I was chopped liver, because I was the new girl. In my head, it was war. Hell if I was going to stand by while these women got manicures and went to spinning class yet received all the accolades.
As a Step-Mom, second wife, and co-parent among three others, there are struggles. I don’t know many women who come into this role that feel 100% secure in themselves, at least in the beginning, or who glide along in their role as a co-parent with no hurdles, anger, heart break, or insecurities. As a girlfriend pointed out recently, the women who co-parent and act as though they are all great friends and that it’s perfect, are either lying or heavily medicated. It isn’t easy. There are times when it’s okay but it’s never perfect. When you are a smart, and creative, and strong woman, your mind can also be all three, and the sh-t you can come up with is sometimes startling. You contend with jealousy, fear over your own parenting skills, fear about the parenting skills of all involved, a desire to be doing better than the others, a need to prove that you’ve got your sh-t together to the other parents, AND the people at school, AND the people at gymnastics, concern over how things “look” from the outside, and most importantly, concern about how the little girls fare in the midst of all of it. It’s exhausting. It’s keeping up with the Joneses times 100, and at the heart of it is the well-being of the sweetest and most precious little girls ever, which makes the stakes feel so much higher.
So about that horrible boss I had? I did run into her. I was at an outdoor concert with my husband and my little girls a few years ago and there she was. Initially, when I first noticed her walking towards me, I felt like a deer in headlights. A for one, I couldn’t unleash my well-rehearsed speech on her in this setting…I always assumed I’d see her in a restaurant or something…not a crowded concert. B for two, I didn’t want to say anything to her with my little girls there. C for three, as I continued to avoid her and she continued to try to get through the crowd to greet me, I noticed how old and sad she looked. And how eager she was to see ME…a woman she terrorized for a full year…she was excited to see ME. And I felt sorry for her. I realized in that moment that my ability to stay professional and ignore her crazy when we worked together, and my subsequent luck and success in my career and life, meant that I WON. There was no contest. She didn’t have any power over me and telling her off about things that happened ten years ago, that honestly don’t affect me anymore at all, was unnecessary. I didn’t need that anymore.
My girlfriend whose husband dated Carmen Electra before her? Well they were in his hometown over Christmas one year and they went out to a bar that he used to frequent back in the day. And guess who showed up at the bar? And guess who was cute, but DIDN’T look like Carmen Electra? And guess who realized that while the ex-girlfriend was cute, and friendly, she WASN’T married to my girlfriend’s husband? My girlfriend had the prize of her husband’s unwavering love and adoration, the ex-girlfriend didn’t.
As for my old job and my unprofessional colleagues…I worked my a-s off that year and blew their numbers out of the water. I had clients whose performance improved by 300%. All three women left within months of the close of that fiscal year and I won a regional award for my work.
So last night my littlest little girl had her first elementary school concert. We went, sat with the little girls’ other parents, and as the night progressed I had this crazy moment. The kind in which time stands still, and it feels like you’re looking in from the outside, and perspective becomes crystal clear, and it’s surreal, and when it passes you release a breath and think ‘so this is what this feels like.’ And I realized (even though I guess I’d suspected it for a long time) that I am an amazing parent, and an amazing spouse, and that my husband is truly amazing himself, and that the little girls adore me and believe in me and look-up to me and feel safe and loved and adored by me, and that the people around me view ME as one of THE parents, and that all of those insecurities and competitions I’ve had going in my head are now simply null and void. Game forfeited. No competition.
And there is calm in a space of my head that has been longing for calm for many years. And it. Is. Amazing.
TODAY: What if I’ve been competing in a game that is long since over? And what if saying “screw the joneses” also applies to people with whom we’ve created fictitious rivalries…and that at the end of the day we’re doing just fine thank you very much?
PS – Sometime last night while I was sleeping this blog reached the 5,000 views mark. In just six weeks. In the grand scheme of things I have no idea if that’s “good” or not, but it feels totally amazing. I just wanted to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to those of you who read, comment, share it with your friends, and who have been so supportive of this endeavor. It’s been a truly lovely six weeks and I don’t think I can say thank you enough times to properly convey how grateful I am. Thank you, thank you, thank you.