Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Drawing the Line



There seems to be a common experience among my circle of female friends this week. At least three of us (and maybe more that I don’t know about) are making some serious decisions about life in order to maintain (or regain, in some instances) our sanity, health, and self-respect.

One of my friends has come to a heavy realization that her job situation is life-threatening – not just unhealthy, but life-threatening. And frankly, I’m glad she has come to it – I hate it that she has had to suffer through so much physical and mental crap to get to this place, and I wish that it could have happened a couple of years ago, but I know that she will be making some good changes for herself soon. I know she’ll get her spark back as a result. Any time you take action to improve a situation, even when it’s scary and the result is uncertain, you regain a measure of trust in yourself – and you start believing in yourself again. Not that she’s ever stopped believing in herself – I think that may be what’s kept her alive over the last couple of years.

Another friend is dreadfully underpaid for the job she does. A previous reorganization at the plant has slapped her with another jobful of duties and there has been no accompanying pay raise to compensate for the extra work, not to mention the extra stress. Management has been making promises to keep her department happy short-term, but hasn’t followed through (big surprise when you’re dealing with a large corporate structure.) She’s finally decided that she’s had it – and has given herself the gift of a number limit – if the pay raise doesn’t come through, or if it’s below the number she’s set for herself, she’s leaving.

Understand, constant reader, that if this happens, I will be simultaneously jump-for-joy proud of her and crying-in-my-seltzer sorry for myself. But I can’t blame her for her decision and I’m actually very impressed by it. It’s the second example of setting limits that has struck me this week. At this point in our lives, most of us have accepted that we can’t control 100% of our environment once we leave the house to face our days. But the ladies I’ve mentioned here have both set limits on what they will and will not accept in their day-to-day lives. These limits may not make their lives easier in the short-term, and the application of these limits will probably push them into unknown territory. But damned if they’re not strong brave women, both of them, who can and will handle the changes with grace, style, and wisdom.

I’ve set an important limit myself this week, and for similar reasons. It’s hard to be in a relationship – any relationship – when you’re constantly having to redefine who you are and what you stand for in response to someone else’s behavior (or misbehavior, in some cases.) I’ve reached a limit recently, and since I’m no longer hampered by fears that have plagued me in the past, I can make solid decisions based on those limits. And I have. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to do. I get sucked in by the status quo. I get bogged down by the illusion that commitment to something (a job, a relationship, a project, a marriage) means sacrificing your self-respect to maintain and follow through with that commitment. I get sad and depressed because I feel like I’ve failed when I refuse to accept doormat status. How ridiculous.

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Another co-worker has brought in the most amazing homemade chicken salad. She used chicken sautéed in olive oil and garlic, then chopped fine, added dill pickles, mayonnaise, red grapes, almonds, carrots, and grated cheese. Then served it on garlic Ritz crackers. WOW. It sucks that after next week, I won’t be sharing an office with her anymore. She’ll be just across the hall, though, and I can only hope that if I keep shoving food at her, she’ll do the same for me. My fingers are crossed, because she’s a great cook. Also we’re kind of soul-mates; she’s one out of maybe two people I know (myself included) who dip French fries in Frosties.

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Duckie goes in for surgery tomorrow morning. We should be home by noon at the latest. Wish us luck.


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