Friday, February 16, 2007

Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly

Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us - sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.

(just a few of the promises from the text Alcoholics Anonymous, page 84)

If you were outside Wednesday evening about 5 PM Eastern time (4 PM Central) and you heard a great sucking sound followed by a loud pop!, I can tell you all about it. I know what that sound was.

It was the sound of loving hands helping me to pull my head out of my ass about my employment situation.

For more than three months, I and my co-workers have been led through a seemingly unending series of crises at The Evil Empire. The carrot at the end of the stick that led me to put in more than 300 hours of unpaid overtime in the last quarter of the year (leading up to my hospitalization January 5th) was the promise that the Empire would "make it up to us," with some kind of financial compensation. What each of us heard was variations on this line: "I know that it's been difficult, and I know you've been putting in impossible hours - but we'll work to make it up to you in the new year."

And then, the second week of January, the person who had provided this assurance was abruptly slid out of managing our team, and those promises were deferred. Then they were rejected by our former manager's boss. The expectation that we would continue to breathe life into the ongoing processes through working late into the night every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday didn't go away. Just the promise of any kind of compensation or flex-time-off for it. Our position was getting a wee bit ambiguous, to say the least.

So I sent the obligatory "here's what we've done for you lately" memo, and suggested that if we were going to be expected to keep doing this, we needed a different compensation model.

Silence from the camp of the princes and knights. Growing annoyance in the camp of the squires.

So I sent a second copy of the email - with a read-receipt attached, this time. A swift response to this one - basically saying, "Hey, I've been busy. But you should know that these positions are salaried, exempt positions. That's what you signed up for. And exempt positions are not eligible for overtime or bonuses. Oh, and by the way, you guys shouldn't have to be doing all this stuff anyway - don't know what you were thinking when you agreed to do it. I'll call you later and we'll talk about it."

I re-read his email, and I thought, "Well, that is many things - but it is certainly not ambiguous."

I got angry. How dare they do this to me, after all I've done for them! Then I got a fleeting dose of reality. I put on my CSI:Miami glasses, and looked very carefully at all the evidence - all the timecard entries, all the software and all the files. And guess what? An objective examination showed that everything that had hurt me had my fingerprints on them. No weapons had been pointed, no poison threatened. No GSR anywhere. If I had any wounds out of this deal, they were entirely self-inflicted.
Selfishness - self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt.
So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making.
(ibid, p. 62)
It seems that my twisted logic went like this: if I were just selfless enough, willing enough, committed enough, and just fixed enough, saved them from the fire enough, then surely they would have no choice but to reward extraordinary effort with extraordinary rewards, eh?


(The sad part is, I am the one who keeps taking the institutional church to task for being stuck in the 1950's. But evidently my work ethic and motivation comes out of that same twisted history...I just think it should "work," in my case. Bleah.)

Well, after passing through anger, denial, and self-examination, the humiliation led me to just a wee dose of humility, and a massive dose of depression. I got vastly demotivated to do much of anything.

And the combination of all those things led to that great sucking sound, and that pop, I referred to earlier.

And I surrendered.

So today, at work, I didn't kill myself responding to anyone today. And by the time dinner-time came in northwest Ohio, I was logging off from whatever passes as "virtual reality" at my employer. No "hey, I'm leaving," no explanation. Just "Take me off the grill; I'm done." Watched a little CSI:Miami with my brother in law. Went to the Thursday night men's meeting, and told them of my uncomfortable revelations. Came home, had dinner with the family, and here I am.

I am still grateful for my job, to be sure. I am still employed, I still got paid this week, and I still have benefits. (There are 13,000 Chrysler workers who would gladly swap with me, today. ) The vast majority of my co-workers think that what I do has value, even if my managment does not. It didn't take another trip to St. Luke's Hospital to get here, this time. I'm still sunny-side-up, suckin' air and sober. This lesson didn't cost as much as others I have learned from....I am still a very, very, very blessed man, still very much in the bonus round.

So, later on today, it's back to the exercise routine. And I'll suit up, show up, and give 'em a full day - but no more, and let the chips fall where they may. There is a God, and They are not it.
When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn.
May it be, even unto me, God. Amen.


Erin said...

What wonderful news!! I can identify very much with how your situation grew... sometimes it's hard not to find your sense of worth in what you 'do'.

So very happy that there is more room in your life for life. Wow!

Michael said...

Twenty years ago when I was complaining to a counselor about the situation with my superiors (religious bosses, if you will), he said to me bluntly, "Why should they change? You keep picking up the pieces and tidying up. The system seems to be working for them. What are you getting out of it?"

What I was getting out of it -- besides a buttload of resentments -- was getting to feel like a good boy, a hero and so on. Eventually I decided to stop doing that, because the systemic problems would not be addressed as long as I kept contributing to the system by my messianic delusional behavior.

That system is still in trouble, but I got better and am no longer part of it.

Sounds to me like any overtime in your life might be dedicated to self-care: exercise, service and so on. That time will be life-giving, not death-dealing.

Peace and love from frozen Wisconsin,

Michael said...

PS -- I am doing a 40-day, 40-night guided reflection process and today ran across this Polish saying that I thought you might like: Sleep faster, we need the pillows.

Deanne said...


I'm very happy you've pulled your head out. :)

brother said...

Much like at an AA meeting, I feel like I'm hearing someone else tell my own story.

As Deanne said, GOOD FOR YOU .. keep the faith .. and thanks for helping me to more carefully examine my own, similar, work-related and self-inflicted martyrdom.

"The same thing over and over, expecting different results .. "

Poor Mad Peter said...

Hey, Steve man. You're also up against a few thousand years of Christian (?) tradition with labels like "suffering servant" and "bearing your cross". Small wonder we get sucked into toxic job and life relationships that have no correlation with strong, healthy faith lives.

Good going, Steve man. I think God is smiling at your change of heart, too.

bobbie said...

see me standing and clapping!! (and laughing at the idea of the super-sonic POP!)