More. Like. Her.

I fear this will be on the longer side…sorry…

Eight years ago I was working for a local nonprofit managing one of their statewide programs. I loved my job but my boss was crazy. I survived a year with her while most of my colleagues ran for the hills after a few weeks or months. The final straw was a meeting at which she told me I’d have to ask her permission before leaving the office for meetings. Because 99% of my meetings were external this would have put my schedule, my work, and my ability to effectively run my program, solely in her hands. Her crazy crazy hands. Umm…no.

That evening I spoke with my parents. They own a business and had enough work to keep me busy 20 hours per week. In addition, my mom had an old friend who ran a media buying firm, who was so busy with work that she was willing to hire me for the other 20 hours per week. The next morning I returned to my boss’ office and gave my notice.

I started with the firm with no knowledge of what media buying would entail. My work experience thus far had been with nonprofits and corporate foundations. I quickly learned that I would be planning media strategies for our clients on radio, TV, in print, and on billboards. My clients were a fast food chain, several political candidates, and a large local gardening store. My boss, who was also the firm’s owner and president, was a woman I’ll call A. My mom and A had become close friends when they both worked in radio years ago. Meaning, A had known me since I was five, and had been a part of my life as my mom’s good friend ever since.

It’s much more than an understatement to simply say that A was completely and utterly remarkable.

It didn’t take long for me to understand that media buying was an old boys’ club. You’d think this would make me mad and indignant and fired up. Instead it absolutely motivated me. It made me work harder, strive to really know my sh-t, and play it up as much as possible. I would call TV and radio station managers in the south and they would tell me to talk to their “little gal” about rates. Little gal? Really? I’d sometimes be negotiating with station managers and they’d ask to speak to my boss which they always regretted because A was a) also a woman, b) negotiated harder than I did, and c) could out-swear any of them any day of the week.

Our little office was made up of A, our office manager S, me, and a cute little intern J. We spent our days playing hard ball with sales guys (and the occassional sales girls), reading the gossip magazines that sales people would bring when they called on us, studying Nielsen ratings, and swearing up a storm when trying to squeeze as much media time out of the stations as we could within the budget constraints of our clients. It was one of the best work experiences I’ve had.

A year and a half into my tenure I started to get tired of working two jobs. I longed for the normal benefits and schedule of a full-time gig. Around the same time I saw an add that boasted travel to tropical locales, amazing benefits, and a cause about which I felt passionate. I applied on a whim and got the job.

A was supportive of my decision and we remained close. She was now a very close friend of my moms AND a close friend of mine.

Maybe four years ago, after suffering what doctors thought was a long lasting pneumonia, they discovered that A had stage four lung cancer. She was at our wedding in the fall of 2009 and passed away the following summer. Devastation doesn’t begin to describe how I felt. I still needed her.

I attended the funeral with my parents, my husband, and some of my mom’s other close friends from her days in radio. This funeral was like a perfect description of the kind of woman I want to be “when I grow up.” I remember my husband looking at me throughout the service, and at this time I was well within the throws of depression, and he looked at me like ‘this is the kind of woman I thought I was marrying.’

A was stronger and ballsier than anyone I’ve known. She could negotiate with the most close-minded, hard-nosed, ridiculous people. She could swear at a station manager that was trying to screw her and then get off the phone and plan a high brow fundraising event with ladies of society. She was kind, and gracious, and lovely, but never a push-over and never weak. She was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met in my life. She was well-read, had lived well, had experienced great struggle and made it through, and she was wickedly funny. She was quick to say “f-ck him” about the guys I was dating but would never write anyone off that she cared about even a little. She gave her time and energy to causes that were dear to her heart but still made time for herself so she could run, and read, and relax, and be with her family. She was a small business owner who fought every day to provide the best possible service to her clients, the best possible work experience for her employees, and to work out fair deals with the sales people with whom she worked. She was at the same time a force to be reckoned with and the most classy, brilliant, and gorgeous woman. She is the woman I aspire to be and I miss her nearly every day of my life.

Last week my aunt in went to the chiropractor. She’d been having pain in her hip and lower back. Upon examining her the chiro told my uncle to get her to the hospital immediately. They did just that and found that she had a large blood clot. Had they not gone in she likely wouldn’t have made it. They did some other tests while she was there and found something. Something that has now been determined to be cancer. What appears to be a pretty serious cancer.

My mom’s side of the family has struggled in the past couple years. My grandma in Arizona was the most vibrant, active, snotty broad in her 80s I’d known until about a year ago when she suddenly just wasn’t. My aunt and uncle also live in Arizona so they’ve done much of the work to determine how to handle my grandma’s newfound memory loss. My uncle suffered a major heart attack several years ago and has been struggling with heart disease ever since. My aunt has been the glue, the cheerful one, the one keeping everyone out there moving forward. And now SHE is the one suddenly facing serious health challenges.

My point is not to write a sad blog about these amazing women facing mortality too soon or the possibility of them leaving my life too soon. Although, those things are certainly on my mind. My point is so completely cliche…but…we cannot waste these lives we’ve been given. We cannot mess around with our health when we have the ability to live in a way that prevents some of the more obvious ailments. We cannot waste our energy on people and/or things that a) don’t make us happy, b) suck the life from us, c) are out of our control, and d) aren’t good for us. We cannot agree to be miserable, or passively go about each day doing things we hate. We cannot intentionally do things that are hurtful to others. We only have this one life…and by God…we should be doing something amazing with them. Like…immediately.

And by WE…I mean ME.

I spoke yesterday about needing a sense of urgency in my work. Had I been more healthful when A passed away two years ago I would have felt a real sense of urgency to LIVE better. This health scare that my aunt is now facing is just that. It reminds me that I want to be more like A. I want to be more like my aunt.

I want to be more like the woman I aspire to be. Right. This. Second.

TODAY: What if there isn’t time to sit around and lament about how things aren’t? What if it’s time to do everything in my power to live the life I want to live and be the woman that I want to be.


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