The kind of conversation you can only have in an office like mine, and Faith Stuff

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May 23, 2008 by 8junebugs

I’ve been clear all along — my office, overall, is the kind of environment everyone should experience. I have colleagues I respect and admire, colleagues at different career levels and with drastically different personalities. With few exceptions, every one of them is supportive personally and professionally.

They are, in the terminology of my native state, good shits. I have felt at every step of my career here that I have strong role models for the kind of professional life I would like to continue.

After a meeting I held yesterday afternoon, one of the attendees from a different division caught me for a quick conversation. Although I’m always at her service, I was nervous — this is a colleague I value highly and like very much on a personal level, but with whom I have had a deteriorating relationship. To be blunt, she’s been at the other end of a project that is (1) cursed, bedeviled, and doomed, and (2) my biggest professional cock-up ever.

And so, having disappointed her in the past and swallowed my pride a couple of times, I wasn’t sure where our post-meeting chat would go.

With eyes a little shiny, she looked at me for a minute and said, “Welcome back.” And I sort of knew she wasn’t talking about being back in the office.

She went on to say that she’s been in three meetings with me in the last couple of days and has been really happy to see me back. Concerned about delivering a backhanded compliment, she was quick to say that she knew there was a lot going on and that she never, ever thought the drastic change in my performance was my fault. In fact, she was pretty sure she knew about one of the factors because she’d gone through it as well… She’s right about that one, though I think we experienced it differently.

But she told me that, when I first started with this company, she’d been tremendously impressed by my work and by what I brought to the table…enough to talk about it, I guess. Apparently, I’m back to my old professional self. According to her, the last three meetings have been like old times. I’ve “taken charge” and had the bandwidth to think strategically, expand the discussion, and ask questions that are tough but necessary.

To wit: “I have every confidence in your ability to meet this aggressive project deadline. However, there are a lot of moving parts and we’re relying heavily on a resource-constrained vendor who, even with the best intentions, may not be able to meet our expectations. Have you considered a fall-back plan if the launch date gets pushed to the next quarter? Here’s what we can recommend…”

I do not know when I started speaking in buzz words, but it works in context, ‘k? What’s the use of being a word person if you can’t pull out the big guns to get something done? And the vendor in question brings a metric ton of variables to the table — big, deadline-affecting ones.

That she pulled me aside to let me know she’d noticed and appreciated the change means more to me than I would have expected. We talked for a bit and I think two things affected the impact on me: I have been more attuned lately to how different people express their feelings, and she was less guarded with me than she has been in a long time. And I think my own filters are clearer than they have been in years.

***

It’s true that I’ve felt better lately, all things considered. In fact, it’s confusing to some people that I am as upbeat and positive as I am. But, to beat this month’s dead horse, people deal with things differently.

Two things are true about me: Having more information makes me less likely to panic, and I deal better with crisis-type situations that wait-and-see ones.

Both of these are even more true when I have a good support system. Right now, I have the strongest support system I have ever had in my life. With so many amazing people on my side, I feel like I can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Cancer, for better or worse, has no chance against that positive a force combined with my overwhelming disdain for its very existence.

My disdain is a force to be reckoned with. 😛

Faith plays a big role in this for me, though perhaps differently than some might expect. It’s true that I was raised vaguely Catholic and have returned to those roots more in recent years than expected. And I have found some comfort there…less in the mandatory doctrine than in a better personal understanding of how I see — or need to see — God.

I don’t claim that my view is right for anyone but me. But I came to a point years ago where faith in a higher power helped me in the way I had known it to help others, yet never experienced. And I would not abandon that, although my Catholicism differs greatly from my memere’s, from the Pope’s, and from my local uber-conservative diocese.

JP II, and me, though? I think we’re going to have beers in Heaven. (In Heaven, I will like beer.)

I fully believe what I have written here before. We are given only what we can handle in life. And when it feels like just one more goddam thing, we are graced with strength and insight greater than we could manage on our own. Whether it comes from within or whether someone appears in our life when we need them the most is irrelevant.

(Appropos of everything, Sliding Doors was on last night. I love John Hannah in that film for so many reasons, not least of which is how he looks in the rain.)

Much of what’s wrong with this country and the world at large comes from trying to interpret Allah/Yahweh/Goddess/God’s “plan” and make it fit into our mortal and limited view of What’s Right. With a human race so gorgeously varied, how can there be one What’s Right? Even within our own little microcosms, when do we decide: “A ha! This is clearly God’s path for me. This is the road I shall take!”

The point is that we don’t “decide,” as such. Over and over again, I have learned that forcing my life to fit into “God’s plan” causes great harm…quite likely because “God’s plan,” in these instances, looks remarkably like an arbitrary timeline I have pulled out of my butt. Was getting married God’s plan or mine? Is Mom’s cancer part of God’s plan or a result of the choices she made over time? If I have an inconveniently timed chance at being very, very happy about something, for whom is it inconveniently timed? Me? God? The Commonwealth of Virginia?

Who?

Epiphany: I like to believe in God because it prompts as many questions as answers. And asking questions is sort of my Thing.

I am tired of trying to wrap my arms around God’s “plan” for me, and the folly of doing that in the past is very close to my heart right now. So we’ll see where His “plan” and my free will (also His fault) take me. There is one thing that Christians of most flavors believe, though I think too many of us give it less value than it deserves: God loves us and wants us to be happy.

Just because it appears on posters about alcohol does not make it any less true from the Christian point of view.

If happiness — or full-blown, deep-rooted joy — is placed directly in front of you, my fellow Christians, what will you do? Do not ask yourself what Jesus would do — ask yourself why God sacrificed His son in the first place. Be Christlike in loving and serving, but do not assume that you must sacrifice everything that makes your life what God would have it be.

/sermon

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