Professionalism

Why is “professional” reserved for management and above? Bullshit.

“Blue shirt”ed workers have to be more professional, during customer interface, than (seemingly) all. We bend backward and sideways to meet and exceed customer expectations, followed by demands.

We are the first impression. We are those that take the bullet the first time. If management has to get involved, it is only after the “blue shirt” staff has been riddled to whistling. And that staff has, inevitably, been pressed beyond their professional capabilities by the time they request management’s mediation.
In my many years of wearing “blue” I have felt the pressure of being the yes man.

Yes, sir. I have tightened each and every bolt, checked all safety wire, read all the wiring. I’m certain the problem is fixed.

Yes, ma’am, you may have a quad mocha latte, of course. Oh, that’s not what you ordered? Please allow me to remake your drink/ask the kitchen to remake your order even though there is a line out the door and I KNOW what I heard and wrote down to prove it. No, really, it’s totally okay. No worries. I don’t mind you questioning my abilities and capabilities and basic knowledge and understanding. It’s cool. Hahahaha.

I know the majority of management have worked their way up from the ranks. I do. I simply wish all customers and general public acknowledge the fact that the person you are most likely to receive your service from, and have your interaction with, is someone who is truly hustling. To pay their bills, feed their family, fund their further education. They know what they are doing, and they are doing it to the very best of their ability, because their livelihoods rely on their professionalism. I promise THEY will never forget where they came from. How can you???

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Tell Them You Love Them

We say let’s keep in touch. We say we need to talk more often/get together soon/make more of an effort. And we mean it right then. And we mean it every time it crosses our minds. We mean it when life resumes and we dive in and handle the day to day and then weeks and months and maybe years pass and we’ve thought about it and wished we had the time and then there is no. more. time.

One day you get that phone call that is crushing and you realize you will never hear that person’s voice again. Maybe you can call their phone and listen to their voicemail message, or replay a saved one from them on your phone. If you’re lucky. But that’s it. That’s the only way you will ever hear that particular music that makes up their voice ever. again.

Suddenly their voice won’t leave your mind. You hear their laughter, their oft repeated phrases and jokes. Your inner commentary suddenly sounds like them. Perhaps they counsel you, in times of distress, in their unique tone reserved only for you. It’s comforting in an eerie way, even though you know it’s only your emotions telling your brain to recall specific memories in a certain way. Or is it the other way around? Can we know?

What do we do with all they’ve left behind? All their essence, personality, everything that made them the unique soul you gravitated to. What do we do with all this regret? Over not picking up the phone, not making the effort, not seizing the opportunities to tell them what they meant to us while they could acknowledge our words? Why does it even matter? Why can’t we be confident enough in the fact that, particularly if there were no bad feelings or unresolved issues, you each knew you loved one another and that is all that is necessary? Why can’t that knowledge be enough?

What does it really mean to miss someone that is gone? Does it mean that we feel wronged by the fact that there will never be another opportunity to be validated by that particular person again? That the script we’ve written in our minds of how the perfect exchange may have gone would really have gone down that way? Because it wouldn’t have. This person had their own inner dialogue, their own driving narrative, that would have brought a completely different script to the table.

This grief shit is terrible. Rotten no good dirty pain. All the could’ve should’ve would’ve regret and rage. My uncle would be giving me a hard time right about now, telling me there’s no real point to getting all sappy and sad, because there isn’t a damn thing we can do with all this regret but drive ourselves nuts. He would make us laugh, comfort us the only way he knew how. And this is the reason I miss him so terribly.

Tell them you love them. Pick up the phone. Use your words and give your love freely. It means everything.

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Minefield

I’ve entered it. Tomorrow begins a month of one year markers that will open wounds and make my body ache. My heart will bleed and my face will leak and I don’t know what my landscape will look like when the month is over.

About a year ago I changed my life forever, in a deeply painful and difficult way. The journey has in equal parts been revelatory and devastating, beautiful and sweet holding hands with dark and eviscerating. I sacrificed the very best part of me for my well-being, for the continuation of self; I sacrificed my daughter so her mother could be capable of showing her what a strong, persevering woman looks like. It was the hardest decision of my life, one that I question every single day.

My legs are still weak and new, and while most days are good others are awful and the only remedy to them is a good night’s sleep with the hope that tomorrow will be better. My heart is a ragged mess and my emotions run the full scale, but maybe this is what it’s supposed to be like. This real life actual living and dealing with all of the things. The upshot is I do not question any of my other decisions: when I saw with perfect clarity what was wrong and how to fix it, I followed my gut and it has not betrayed me. Not once, not ever.

I am geographically Home, my heart and body and mind are healing in this Portland air and wet and life. I’m exactly where I belong, in the place that has sung me her siren song for twenty-one years begging for my return. I have found the things and people I’ve been looking for: a community, this green wet my webbed toes have been longing to sink into, my sense of self and a reassurance that I really can do this. I really can be on my own and do the things that need to be done.

Unfortunately, difficult decisions come with difficult consequences, and there are always markers. One year since… so. This is my minefield and I will walk through it. It tore me apart a year ago when I first laid it. It may tear me apart now that I’ve come full circle, but this time I have some clarity, some distance and some extra strength in my reserves with which to weather the blasts. And no matter how quickly I would like to get to the other side, everything takes time. Time is what we have and all we need.

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Shipwrecked

Home wrecked. Body wrecked. Heart wrecked.

Mending. Reorganizing and strategizing. Feeling and breathing and dealing. Processing and coping. Adjusting. Finding my way through the dark and rough patches so I can continue to turn my face to the light.

Because there is light. And there will be more light. I will turn it all to light, turn on all my lights until the shadows steal back to where they belong: the past. The long road walked, alone, to get here. Here, where even though I feel alone I am not. Only lonely. Searching. Creating and seeking, finding and burning.

I make my own light now.

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Caffeine, Nicotine and Grief: Part 6

After so many years of being partnered up, I forgot how ridiculously awkward and weird I am.

I’m a bookworm. If anyone comes into the restaurant and asks me where else they should go my first recommendation is Powell’s Books. It’s an entire city block large bookstore that I could spend weeks in, losing myself and finding every word I’ve ever imagined and more. After that recommendation, my mind goes blank. I usually close with, “Walk around. It’s beautiful here.”

Being a bookworm, and introvert, I spend the majority of my waking hours locked inside my head. Most times it’s a great place, albeit weird and awkward. I find myself laughing out loud for reasons entirely unknown to those around me, and when I try to explain myself I come off as very nerdy/geeky/long-winded because what made me laugh isn’t what actually happened but what it reminded me of.

I’ve made peace with my weird awkward self. Somewhere out there is someone (other than all my favorite people that are already in my head) who will look at me and just Get It. They will get when my heart is on my sleeve and why I quoted that line and where that line came from and they will SEE ME and appreciate me for exactly who I am. Every part of me. Every fiber and flame and freakish explosion of emotion.

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Caffeine, Nicotine and Grief: Part Five

Today was a trip down memory lane, of sorts. It started with a call from one of my best friends. Seems he had had a fall, and needed some help. I hopped into some clothes and covered my bed head with a hat and headed out. My mom brain took over and within half an hour I had gotten some things at the drug store I thought he may need, along with three different pain relievers I hoped would work. I worried about the worst: that he was in agony and had broken his ankle.

The route I took from my side of town to his took me past places I hadn’t thought about in years: the hotel (I thought) I had stayed the night before I left for boot camp almost 21 years ago. A restaurant I remembered frequenting with an ex during my late night, under age clubbing days. Down a stretch of road I barely recognize now but still curves in all the same places; still feels almost the same as it did when I lived just off it 16 years ago. I picked out familiar landmarks and smiled as I turned at the Popeye’s I would stop at once a week before visiting my grandmother across the river. My grandmother who had just lost her husband of over forty years, still living in the house I grew up in. The house I lived in when I met the friend I was headed to fix up today. The friend I met in our junior year of high school.

When I got to him he was much better off than I had feared, but that didn’t stop me from mommy-ing him to laughter. I remarked he was lucky I had been an athlete and cheer coach in my very recent past life. Neither of which, at seventeen, the two of us could ever have imagined me becoming. I had to leave briefly to get to an appointment of my own, and I came quickly back to continue my ministrations and mothering.

I drove the same route back to him and was struck with a memory I had lost over the years. He had come to visit me the night before I left for boot camp. It was a difficult goodbye: he was upset I was leaving. I was too, but I knew I had to go. I knew there was more out there for me that I couldn’t find here. When I left here I thought I’d never want to come back. Little did I know I would spend the next 20 years doing my damndest to get back. Home.

He and I spoke of things today we never have before. Mostly I spoke and he listened. I told him things today I have never revealed to another human being. Because I know he will never, ever judge me. He will never believe I am anything but a good person. I knew he would comfort me in a way only he could at that moment: he said that things I’ve done and thought are completely normal. He accepts me on every level, with every fiber of his being, in every way that I can possibly manifest myself. He has seen me at some very low, unforgivable places. And I him. And it hasn’t changed a thing between us. And I knew it, right then, today: I have made all the right choices.

Every step I’ve taken has been with purpose, with strength, and was the exact step I was supposed to take. All the pain and joy and highs and lows were leading me to everything I was meant for. I was meant to find a safe harbor fifteen years ago and heal there. I was meant to have the life I did, in the place I did, with the people I did, for all of those years. Every person, every action and thought and plan I have had was exactly the everything I needed, that everyone involved needed, at that moment.

Moving forward will be no different. I am exactly where I am supposed to be, at exactly the right time. My daughter is exactly where she is supposed to be. As much as that sucks for me, every single day, it is what is best for her. And truly, she is all that matters. Because the past, the present and that wide open future, is exactly… perfect. Exactly perfect.

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Caffeine, Nicotine and Grief: Part 4

I’m carving out a new space for myself in this world. I have made so many big changes over the last 9 months. I am searching for my new identity, one that fits better than those I have inhabited before yet one that is a conglomeration of all that I am.

In this search I have made new connections that influence my thoughts and ideals. I am being picky, however I welcome the random encounters that help shape my new existence.

This weekend I met a couple that, at first glance, struck me as kind people with whom I shared common interests. They invited me, after we wandered Wordstock on Saturday, to a function last night they thought I might enjoy.

They have changed my life. They are the manifestation of the hopes I had about coming home. They are involved in the local writing community: a community of veterans writing their stories. That’s me. A part of me, at least.

The production I was invited to attend blew my head apart. It was a combination of many things dear to my heart: veterans, writing, the theatre and acting. These veterans wrote their stories and watched as these actors brought their words to life on the stage. I cannot imagine the terror and the honor these writers felt. But, oh, it was stunning. Beautifully done. Life changing. I felt so very lucky to find myself there among these creative minds and bodies, the room filled with all the heavy and peppered with laughter.

I told my new friends over and over last night how happy and lucky I am to have met them, to have been included last night. They then invited me to another reading at another location and even took me there. And I got to hear more stories, more words that changed and shaped me.

I came home with a new book and having made many new friends. I came home with a generous invitation to Thanksgiving. I came home with a full heart and an expanded mind.

I came home. I came home for this. For this community, for this inspiration, for these connections. And today I’m spending time writing in a space made just for this, just for us. Those of us secure in all the ways we don’t quite fit.

I’m thrilled with how my new life fits. I’m so excited to go all the places these twists and turns are taking me.

Let’s go. I’m so ready.

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