The Cold, Hard Winter

It was a cold, hard winter…

That was the first line of a book I started writing a few years ago. I’ve since tabled the book for of a number of reasons. One, the theme kept changing as the storyline developed. It was to be the story of a very bleak period in my life and some of the funny things that happened, some of the harsh drama I endured, and a lot of things I discovered about myself.

It started to become a tale of opinions and cynicism brought on by the world’s injustices. And then I went through a period (which has just recently ended) where I didn’t have a place or the resources to become and remain motivated and inspired to write.

So now, through a series of events that have brought me to point of not being able to sleep tonight, I find myself needing to write and to be read, so I am compromising my commitment to writing a food blog to air my innermost thoughts, struggles, and fears with whatever audience I have left on this nearly abandoned forum.

I went to Google and typed in a burning question that at least for the moment I don’t seem to have the answer to — “How do I stop being an asshole?”

The first hit took me to a bulletin board where the first entry on the page was this…

“The asshole inside me seems to keep getting larger. Masked in alcohol, snide comments and passive aggressive behavior. I can blame it on depression, or a shitty childhood, but really, I have to blame it on myself. I have had so many incredible opportunities, squandered most of them, bitterly, and been a shitty person dressed up as a funny man. I’ve also done some straight up asshole stuff like sleep with my friend’s wife, repeatedly. I can blame this on being lonely and rationalize it, but the fact is, that is something only an asshole would do. Also, little things, like expecting the world to treat you different than it does everybody else. Like I deserve better. That’s super asshole stuff, that is a daily thing. Looking down on people is a big part of it I think. Thinking you’re better than them, and not wanting the friends you have because they’re not good enough… but not liking people who think they’re better than you, or perceiving that… Authority issues? You bet. Asshole? Yes. I don’t like being an asshole. I don’t want to be an asshole, and yet – there it is.”

I thought to myself, “now there’s a guy who understands me.” We could be great friends, though we’d probably hate each other by virtue of our impossible and insatiable personalities. I wondered if I had gotten up in my sleep one night and written that myself without realizing it.

So then I followed a link to a free personality quiz designed to inspire me to buy something and I took it (I haven’t bought anything yet).

The result…

You are a Self-Knowing Self-Improving Believer

1.40% of the 207164 people who have taken this quiz are like you.

Oh that’s super! It certainly explains a lot. It explains why I’ve gone through life thinking that I’m misunderstood. Hell, I am…by 98.6% of the people on the planet. No wonder I feel so alone most of the time.

Where’d all this come from? I’ll tell you where. I’ve been getting my ass kicked at this new job the last couple of weeks. I live and work in a town where the labor pool is right shallow, and the demands on our understaffed little enterprise have been relentless for a thus far brief period that seems to be without conclusion.

I have been working 12-16 hours a day for about a month now, and have to retrain most of my staff of 40+ people on a daily basis. I finally had the opportunity to take 2 days off for Labor Day weekend and the phone rang constantly. It was like being at work, except I sat at my “desk” naked and chain smoked while I put out the proverbial fires over the phone and tried to maintain a calm and peaceful demeanor.

My core staff, long-term employees are dropping like flies.

One is retiring at the end of this week, seemingly because she doesn’t like the coworker that has been assigned to assist her with the mundane and simplistic task of maintaining a salad bar. But more likely because she is unpleasantly faced with the inevitable results of the aging process and just doesn’t have the stamina to do the job anymore. It’s always easier to blame someone else.

One quit last week to avoid being fired for stealing from us twice in the last 3 weeks on camera.

One just enacted a leave of absence due to a complete emotional breakdown over her grandson’s recent suicide. Perfectly justified!

One got locked up for a month for reasons unbeknownst.

One walked out last week citing that he just can’t tolerate the work load anymore and he wants to see the world while he’s young.

And one is being forced to quit due to medical problems that quite possibly may soon result in the loss of his right foot. He came to me tonight and asked me if he can return to work after losing the foot because he can’t accept retirement and disability. I hugged him as a tear nearly fell from my eye, and told him that he will always have a job with us if I can help it.

And not unexpectedly, there is a faction of the ones that are left that speculate that all these people are leaving because of me, and they’re spreading rumors about me within upper management that is designed to return them to a lack of supervision that allows them to practice the art of sloth and mediocrity. The dangerous part of it all is that it just may work.

The stress level in my life has soared to unfathomable levels and sometimes…on occasion…however infrequently…it seeps out in ugly ways and unkind words in the “heat of passion”. Doesn’t help matters.

And then there’s my chief nemesis. A woman who I like, enjoy, and respect that is as stubborn and immovable as a house-sized granite mule. She means well and has a desirable level of skill at her assigned job, but we just don’t see things in the same light. Unfortunately, she is the one person that I need to have an indivisible alliance with, and I’m really struggling with this. To all appearances it is impossible for her. She is an island.

She is a manager to whom I am equal on the organizational chart, but she fancies herself (in my opinion) the “lead dog”. She has turned our operation upside down, pissed off everyone around her, and is only interested in pleasing our client 100% at all costs. A noble and just interest, but she doesn’t seem to get that doing so within the boundaries of her vision requires resources and collective talent that we don’t currently possess. She’s not the one that has to do the work…and she doesn’t.

Now mind you, the last 19 years of my life have been for the most part focused on self-improvement (with intermittent success). The last month hasn’t been. It’s been about survival. I hate “survival mode”!

I want very much what most humans do…to be liked, loved, admired, desired, and respected. Funny how God seems to have molded my personality in ways that contradict all that is good and pure in human striving. Then I think that it’s this damned business. Why would he give me this one gift and talent that I can’t use successfully? This has always been my struggle, and in 19 years I have not been able to assign a viable and consistent remedy to it.

So tonight I will have another cigarette and return to bed where I will lie awake for a short while reflecting, praying, meditating, and wondering what I will return to tomorrow morning and how it will all turn out. I will try not to lie awake talking to myself…having that conversation with “her” in which I will tell her everything she deserves to hear in order for me to solve our relational problems by getting my way.

I will try to remind myself that I got this job by asking God to give me the perfect job working for an employer who thinks I’m the perfect employee. And I will continue to look only for my part in the misshapen chaos that has become my career…again!