Some blog worthy shit’s been going down at work, so I thought it might be time for an Extreme People Who Suck; Workplace Edition type post. Although, actually, not all these people suck. But, in this particular situation, at first I was pretty much like, “Oh hayyyyy-ll no! You fo’ real?” And now, I’m just pleasantly befuddled. Maybe. Sort of.
This all started one Tuesday afternoon a couple weeks ago. (I think.) It played out like this…
I’m sitting in my dark office, door closed, but as you might remember, everyone can see me in my freaking fish bowl made of glass. I’m minding my own business, actually working on my accounting stuff semi-successfully (which is extremely impressive considering my grief-induced ADD), when, all of a sudden, a co-worker knocks on my door.
Though I haven’t spoken to this co-worker since maybe August or September (we don’t really work together), she’s generally pretty nice, so I wave her in without hesitation. She flings open the door and asks, “Are you ever going to get rid of those dead flowers?” as she gestures towards the back right corner of my office (visible through the glass door).
We’re talking about the flowers I received from Mark’s parents back in October. Of course they died a couple weeks later, but, for whatever reason, I’ve hesitated to part with them. (Grief can be weird in this way, but, in my defense, it’s just a vase of dead flowers. It’s not like I’m a full blown hoarder, complete with the token petrified cat between my mattress and box spring.)
“Uhhhhh…” I hesitate.
“I mean, they’re really depressing,” She explains.
“Well, to be honest, they kind of match my life,” I try to say something that’ll end the conversation. (References to Matthew generally do the trick.)
“I know,” she sympathizes, “I feel SO sorry for you. But life is actually very difficult for many people. You really have to just focus on the positive.”
I give her a blank stare, trying not to give her the evil eye.
“I mean you really need to throw them away. They’re so depressing,” she reiterates, “And unless you’re going to press them, they’re pretty worthless.”
“Well, again, it seems right for them to be here,” I try again, dumfounded (there’s some angst in my voice now, and I’m fighting not to roll my eyes), “They really do match everything else in my life.”
“Okay, well, if you change your mind, I can get you some fake flowers instead,” she offers.
“Okay,” I turn back to my computer screen, silently praying she’ll take the hint.
“Okay, bye now,” she says cheerfully as she gently shuts my door.
As soon as she leaves I fire off text messages to some loss mom friends. I then send an email to AB and JVB, fully expecting they’ll sympathize with me. But, instead, the conversation goes like this…
Me – Someone just came into my office and told me I need to get rid of my dead flowers.
One of them – Ditto.
Me – Ouch.
One of them – It’s true. Gotta let the sun in.
Me – I feel no pressure to “let the sun in” when my life is still anything but “sunny.” I would’ve considered trashing the flowers until someone (wrongly) considered this her business. If only my biggest problem in life were some random co-worker’s dead flowers.
One of them – Who came in? Jenny?
Me – Like I’m really going to tell you now, when, apparently, you’re more on her side than you are mine. Why would I tell you? So you can go commiserate with her about my dead flowers?
But I still do lunch with AB and JVB, because at least they shut up quickly. And, later that night, one of them kind of made up for everything by offering up her art skills to paint a canvas for my office – something that might really get people talking. Something dark and scary. Perhaps something like this…
And, contrary to what some may think, I’m generally pretty forgiving and not on a warpath, and these friends have been mostly supportive, and I’m not necessarily looking to cut everyone out of my life. But the “ditto” was a bit of a dagger to the heart, if I’m being honest.
But, luckily, another co-worker and my boss commiserated with me and said sympathetic things like, “No wonder you never open your door when people say such weird shit to you.”
So then, about a week later, I started receiving these anonymous notes…
I’ve received three – the two little cards with Maya Angelou quotes (one is upside down) and the sheet of paper with the long message. Each have been waiting in my chair when I arrive to work ~10:00am. First came the two little cards on two consecutive days. Then, nothing for a few days. And then came the sheet of paper with the long message.
And I’m not a huge fan of the long message. It seems a bit like it doesn’t apply to my situation. Like I just need to decide to be happy and put aside thoughts about my past “failures.” I was kind of like, “Holy shit – my son only died six months ago!”
Though I appreciate the handwritten note on the sheet of paper. So I’m trying to focus on the fact that someone actually seems to care and ignore minor details like the typed message not really resonating with me, because, really, it’s just nice anyone cares about me at all – I’ll take it.
And if all this is coming from the co-worker who criticized my dead flowers, I guess I can forgive her. Though I’ve decided the flowers will stay forever.
So all this weirdness ensued, but everything else remains fairly status quo. Some other quick updates…
Lately I find I do about 80% of my crying at work, which is super awesome, and, I’m sure, gives me quite the professional edge. I mean, nothing says potential-future-CFO of the company more than puffy, red eyes and traces of dried mascara stained to my cheeks. (I try to wipe it off, but, seriously, it’s difficult to keep up with this.) And when my trashcan’s full of snotty Kleenexes, it’s an added bonus.
On a side note, it’s actually kind of annoying as this oftentimes makes me feel as though I’m an inappropriate crier – like I’m crying on and off all day, barely completing the simplest of tasks. But then I show up at support group – the saddest freaking room in the universe, and I’m, for the most part, stone-faced. WTF?!
I continue to use the nearby Shitter Office so I don’t have to run into others in the restroom. A new employee named Geoff (I love typing “Geoff” with a “G”) now sits right across from said Shitter Office. So it’s like, “Hey Geoff,” every time I exit Shitter Office. Except I haven’t met Geoff, because I’m not as social these days. (Though I’ve ventured over to the kitchen a few times to make hot chocolate.)
As noted above, I still sit in the dark with my door closed. When I have to turn the light on (like if I know a company president’s visiting, and I want to appear more normal), it feels very unnatural.
Though I still wear yoga pants sometimes, I’ve worn some real pants too. Mark actually bought me some new clothes. (I think he was trying to say, “Honey, you look questionable, so I want to help you out,” though he won’t admit this.) Though I still wear colored jeans (even on days that aren’t casual Fridays), because these don’t count as denim, right?
I skipped the office Christmas party and generally still avoid groups bigger than three. I’ve skipped all of our large staff meetings too, but nobody’s told me this isn’t okay, so I’m not super worried about it.
It’s not all doom and gloom – I’ve regained more function with performing my job. I’ve met important deadlines (by some miracle), and I continue to complete things in the nick of time. Though it’s still sometimes disheartening to seemingly no longer possess the drive and level of focus and even some of the skills that once came so easily to me… I wonder if this will ever change?
And there are some really good people. Some people who say the right things and have exuded so much compassion it reduces me to tears (in a good way) because I’m so taken aback.
I remember in particular one day during budget season back in late November. I spoke with a VP from another state about his budget. I’d dreaded our conversation. We hadn’t spoken since Matthew died. And, generally, this means it’s awkward to ever speak again.
But towards the end of our conversation, much to my surprise, he explained, “Christine, for what it’s worth, I just wanted to let you know I’m happy you decided to come back. I’m glad you’re still here.”
And I thanked him and then got off the phone as quickly as possible, because I was on the verge of hysterics. Because it’s worth a lot. Because he’s one of only a few at work to say something so kind. And he said the right thing. And it was so unexpected. And so rare.
And because semantics is sometimes everything. And he said “decided to come back.”
And I didn’t think I’d actually come back. Because one of the (many) most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life was walk through the doors to my office building for the first time since Matthew died. And I didn’t know how badly I needed someone to acknowledge this – that maybe I’d experienced something so tragic that there was at least some possibility I wouldn’t come back.
And I didn’t know how badly I needed for someone to tell me he’s happy I did.