Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving and beyond

It's been a most interesting week.  An absurd amount of snow dumped on the area south of Buffalo (and South Buffalo) last week.  Almost 7 feet in some towns and villages.  That's an entire winter's worth of snow in 72 hours or so.    And while the worst of the snow is behind them, there will be high winds and unseasonable warmth tomorrow and Tuesday, which could lead to intense flooding when all of that snow melts in record time just as it fell in record time.    We hold our collective breath and wait .  

How will this affect our Thanksgiving?  For me personally, I am thinking of it as just one piece of the big picture of my daughter's final year of college.   So far we have experienced:  the final dorm move-in, the final Parents' Weekend and now, as I type this, the final Thanksgiving Break.  Here's the thing: I know that wherever she lands after graduation, I can vow to visit her as often as possible, but life has a funny way of getting in the way of vows such as these.  I saw this when my brother's kids moved South while he was still working full time.    No pun intended, I will give it the "old college try", but I have to be realistic about the frequency of our visits.   There will be no more convenient school breaks.   It will be the next chapter of our lives, the inevitable progression of life, blah, blah, blah ...  So, I ask for pardon and patience as I am tending to approach these school breaks with even more sentiment and more of a sense of importance than usual.   I spent a good chunk of last week being unreasonably worried about the people I know who were trapped by this behemoth storm, defending Buffalo's good name on Facebook and focusing with laser attention on the effect that all of this might have on my daughter's flight into town on Friday.  I'm afraid that this might sound awfully self-centered to some people, but I am embracing that and accepting it.  My daughter will never have another Senior Year in college.

I am thankful this year for the health and well-being of my friends who survived the storm - SNOWVEMBER - as it is now called.   I am thankful that we are the people who we are here in Western New York, where a gang of over 200 people armed with shovels called themselves "The Shovel Brigade" and converged on South Buffalo to help dig out the unfortunate citizens still trapped in their homes.  This is just one example of the type of citizenry that inhabits these parts.

I am thankful for my family who used my 50th birthday to show me just exactly what I mean to them.  I am still overwhelmed when I think about that party.  I can only hope to continue to deserve this level of devotion and to be able to demonstrate it in return.

I am thankful for my best friend.   Since Thanksgiving last year, some things have happened that have tested our friendship.   What I have learned from these experiences is that we have radically different ways of dealing with high-stress and big-anger situations.  I must learn to give her space and room to digest her anger by herself, within herself.   In return, I hope she understands that my way of dealing with tough situations is to immediately discuss, discuss, discuss until I can visualize a pathway to a solution.  This is the only way I can stop my brain from processing the situation over and over and over - interrupting sleep, work etc.. and that if she takes too much time for introspective thought, I just might explode!    I am thankful that we were able to flush these things out.   While we have so much in common, are connected in so many ways, it is good to have some differences to keep us on our toes.

Mostly, some interesting things have happened since last Thanksgiving that cause me now to be thankful for being the 50-year old me rather than the 25-year old me.   I am thankful for the wisdom that comes with age.  A gift that can never be taken away!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Trying to Understand, Trying to Deal

Turmoil is not fun for most people.  I need to believe that only the most narcissistic, the most self-centered, the most non-empathetic person cannot be negatively impacted by organizational upheaval.  It has to be so.

Three years and four months ago, BCAS went to Washington, DC.  I was a singer and I was the Board Secretary.  At that time, the future was rosy and all was good with the world.  Our Board was comprised of a diverse set of personalities that somehow meshed in spite of our differences.  One woman in particular evolved from being a fellow singer and Board member into an occasional dinner partner with our husbands.  I liked her intelligence.  I liked her affinity for good food, good drink and good entertainment.  She was generous beyond comparison.  Her husband was quiet and witty, her young daughter was charming.

Now, let me be clear - this woman had her quirks.   She was not hurting for money, and she never missed an opportunity to remind all of us, the great unwashed, of that fact.   But she was such a philanthropist that it was easy to overlook the braggadocio. She loved to talk, and in particular, she loved to talk about herself.  This little quirk could actually drive those in her presence crazy.  Yet, once in a while ... when you could get her to listen...., she usually had something valuable, interesting or helpful to offer in return.    I don't want to make it sound as though we were joined at the hip or soul mates or anything of that nature.  She and her husband were our friends in the way that adult couples cultivate friendships with other couples.  Certainly my husband thought so too.  It was the sort of casual, no-strings friendship that people are supposed to have lots of.   We didn't have lots of them, so maybe we unconsciously placed too much importance on this one.

I'd have to say that things started to change after her second child was born.  Her family was squashed into a house that was too small.  Then, her employer started having issues.  What exactly triggered the changes in her, I'll never know.  We had to reorganize something in the chorus over the holidays, and she took it into her head that somehow three of us on the Board had clandestinely planned to pull off the re-org without her knowledge or involvement.  This could not be further from the truth, but to her, I was the friend who had betrayed her, and no amount of explanation on my part could make her change her mind.

In the months that followed, her behavior became more erratic and angry -  anger that (unless I was imagining things) seemed to be aimed at me.  Every week, I would compose my rehearsal notes to email to the chorus, and every week, I would hit the send button and hold my breath.  If I accidentally omitted something that she thought should be in the e-mail, I would start receiving a string of texts, usually punctuated with "I'M SCREWED NOW".....   If I was above approach, she'd start sending angry texts about perceived slights perpetrated by others.  This was a pattern that continued to the end.   If she was angry with anyone else, I would become her verbal punching bag.  One time, I had to finally text her back with a terse "I'M DONE.  TURNING OFF MY PHONE NOW".   Oddly, I heard through the grapevine that she was sorry, but the apology never made it to me.  I think her "revenge" on me was finally complete when she verbally attacked me at a concert after-party.  This, in turn, caused me to act out in spectacular fashion with others around me.   That, for me, was the final straw in the delicate shell of what had once been a pleasant casual friendship.

I developed a fairly effective defense against her behavior.  Indifference.  It was probably too effective, because that's when she started becoming a problem for the chorus in general and our fellow Board members in particular.  Her meltdowns increased in direct proportion to her paranoia that we were secretly meeting and making important chorus plans without her.  If we so much as had a 5 minute conversation without her, it was grounds for accusations.  Worst of all - her bad behavior became directed at chorus members.  Her unpopularity was palpable, and all the time, I kept thinking "where is that person that we used to have dinner with?"  It was so hard for me to make the connection between the person I knew and the person who was wreaking havoc in our lives.

In a nutshell, we believe she attempted an ill-planned coup of our Board along with two other equally-disgruntled chorus members.  She has now resigned from all chorus duties and taken a leave of absence.  We are all relieved - there are no words to adequately describe our relief, as a matter of fact.  But I am also sad,  Because I know in my heart of hearts that I don't want her to come back, and that even if she begged forgiveness for her behavior, I could never trust her again.  And that makes me sad. Maybe it shouldn't, but it does.  She never actually perpetrated anything wrong, but she just said such awful things in private and in front of people who did nothing to warrant them.  She struck verbally with the force of a viper and left her victims literally breathless.  But this was not the person I knew just three short years ago.  I don't know where that person is, but wherever she is, I hope she will miss me just a little bit and not hate me or think of me as a betrayer.  I can't explain why I care, but I do care.  I guess I just don't understand people sometimes.