Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Knowledge November - Day 25 - Forgiving and Forgetting

I've received an email from no less than fourteen people in the past month, either written by an old lady whose name escapes me (Joyce Butterwell or somesuch) or Reg Brett, who both seem to be 90 years old and authors of 'The Plain Dealer' column from Cleveland, Ohio. I'll leave it to them to take each other to court and claim rightful ownership of the published and emailed wisdom.

Whoever the hell it was, they once wrote a list of 45 life lessons; most of which I've already seen on coffee mugs, bumper bars and t-shirts but this one rang a few bells:

Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

I know that Joyce or Reg or whomever has my best interests at heart, because there's no point in dwelling on bad situations that happened in the past or things I can't change or understand.

But what I hate - yes, hate - apart from people saying 'Don't take it personally' are people who automatically assume that because you can't forgive or forget something, you haven't moved on in your life.

Bulldog Craplock was my last 'office-based' boss and treated me despicably. She actively bullied me at work and then used her power and privelege to have me forcibly transferred from her office despite admitting in front of me that I was an excellent at my job.

My husband, LC, was a witness to my despair and powerlessness every night for a month. Unbeknownst to me, he tried to get her on the phone at a time when he knew I was out of the office to see if he could find out what the real problem was and how it could be resolved more reasonably. She then hung up and said to a fellow colleague, H, "Well well well.... why don't I get my husband to do my crying for me?"
H was appalled but kept silent. Bulldog was her boss too.

Three days later, Bulldog was informed by the HR department (her willing helpers in moving me on via the Enterprise Agreement) that I'd finally broken down and been admitted to hospital. Her eyes were dry until she read an email that LC had sent her, describing what she'd done to me. He threatened to send it on to everyone that she and I worked with: then the tears started to flow.

H heard her crying and assumed that it was due to her disappointment at being knocked back for an ARC grant because she'd put her name on as co-researcher on too many projects to be feasible.

She rushed in to see what the problem was.
"You know, don't you? You know what I did," bleated Bulldog.
H nodded, a bit afraid. "Yeah, I got the email too."
"Oh no, what have I done? Who else knows?"
H started to think that Bulldog was overreacting a tad. "Don't worry Bulldog, it's just me and the two PhD students who wrote the application who got the ARC response. Besides, there'll be other grants and we've got enough funding to cover the next few years."

As Bulldog wiped away her tears and visibly brightened in seconds, H realised that she hadn't been weeping over lost grant money at all. "Oh thank god, H! Um, right, of course you're right, there's plenty more cash in the sea...."

With the help of NTEU, I received a small pay out and my fellow staff with other job options (not easy when you're an academic researcher in a narrow subject field) soon left Bulldog's employ as a sign of solidarity and disgust. I used the money to work from home as a wannabe writer, pretending I was on a half salary for a few months.

Then, of course, the book was published, and I scored a few interviews and articles. I blogged more often and was invited to chat on radio. The chocolate gigs got bigger and better, and I loved the semi-regular segment on the commercial airwaves and the seat-soaking exuberance of not knowing who was calling on the other end of the (live to air!) line.

Moving to Melbourne saw a couple of TV spots, a weekly radio gig with Beautiful Bernadette and freelance work for the Age. A fitter, faster body, happily-settled-in child, fulfilled husband and a life that feels like it's full of interesting options instead of dull obligation.

My spies tell me that Bulldog has since endured a few well-earned dollops of Karma, and that's good enough for me - I'm not burning for revenge or thinking about her incessantly. Every now and then the pain of what she did comes back (you don't forget a stay in a psych ward too easily), but I then look around me and it disappears. What the experience has taught me is to fight hard (thanks NTEU), keep good notes of what happened-and-when and never, ever put up with being treated unfairly or badly.

So please don't say, "If Bulldog hadn't have done what she did, you wouldn't be a writer now, would you?" because that is simply not true. It has been me who actively sought out new areas to explore and tried (and will continue to do so) my best to get in there, grab at them and do 'em. My good fortune will never excuse her evil, egotistical and destructive behaviour and I will never, ever forgive her for what she did (not that she's apologised or asked for forgiveness). Why should I?


lc said...

"Don't take it personally."

"You've got to move on."

"See the positive side of things."

Usually said by people that do, can't and don't.

I'd forgive her: If she showed remorse, asked for it (after full admission of what she did and the consequences) and demonstrated she'd never do anything like it again. But that won't happen.

People can offer all the advice they like about a situation I doubt many would have handled any better and which none can understand the full extent to which it effected us. But don't expect me to take them too seriously.

Advice is cheap and rarely constitutes real help.

ashleigh said...

Well said LC.

I find it very difficult to hate. There are some people in this world who are haters, who can make and bear grudges easily. I can't and it sounds it bit like neither of you can either. A grudge well-founded is a different thing, and they thankfully tend to be few and far between.

There are always the one or two notable exceptions in the hating stakes, and as you rightly point out, if those people realised what they did and apologised for it, then the hating would be all the harder. There always seem to be one or two people that we cross in our lives who are just plain nasty, horrible or despicable. Handling them is one of the most difficult experiences one can ever endure, and I have only one solution. Get away from them.

Which you did - and full marks to you. In the end its not about status, or money (provided you have enough to get by). Its about feeling satisfied (with doing something, generally good - be that work, or family, or volunteering, or SOMETHING). And living with yourself.

I sometimes wonder what these horrible people will think, in their declining years - and murphys law says the buggers will live until their 80's. Will they think that perhaps they didn't need to be such shits after all? After all they will die too. Will they ask their maker for forgiveness? Or will they just sail on being complete mongrels until the day they stop wasting somebody elses valuable oxygen? Who knows...

I'm comin' over all philosophical-like...

River said...

"Don't take it personally" is kind of hard when it's said right to your face. That's about as personal as you can get. Still, it's in your past now and you're able to move on.

Helen said...

It never fails to amaze me how people like that end up in positions of authority. Although I guess that attitude is valued as the 'killer instinct' by people who don't know the value of having a cohesive work unit.

I think if someone does someting to hurt you (accidentally or on purpose) and they apoologise and mean it and make amends for whatever it was, the that's it. It's forgotten. I suck at bearing grudges.

But for someone to behave like that and not have the dedcency to apologise is just beyone any kind of dealing-with strategy I have.

I'm so glad you're away from her and happy now!

nuttynoton said...

I had this problem a long while ago, where the stress got so bad I wanted to go home and have an accident, instead I was able to take the strong decision to get out! We can all look back and say if only but life is a learning cirve and as LC says unless you are in the position it is easy to say you should have...

the one thing I have learned is we all move on and the sadness lessens with time, we do become different people often better and more caring. keep up the good work we all love you

Jack42 said...

Ashleigh is spot on about this, you have to move away from them. I'm not a psychologist but these people have no remorse, no empathy and they will do anything to anyone to get ahead. In short they are sociopaths and you can't do anything with them. They will hurt you and use you up without limit. I have observed people like this tangentially and had to deal with a few directly and there is no reasoning with them. You simply have to get away and do the best with your new situation whatever it is. Well done on having the courage and strength to do that.

Kath Lockett said...

Thanks guys. I know that I can't do anything to make her be better human being; just make sure that I'm a better one....

ashleigh said...

There is a HUGE comfort in knowing that you are a better person :-) :-)

Occasionally Schadenfreude comes your way as well... The pleasure to be had there is usually small, and somewhat bitter. But pleasure nonetheless.

There is a great satisfaction to be had sometimes in finding that you outlived the pricks.

For some reason some of the most unpleasant people in management or authority positions seem to be women - so much for the carein' sharin' communicatin' tag that is breathlessly brushed around. And thereby hangs yet another tale...

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Crikey Kath,

That's some story. I would never forgive Bulldog either.

To be honest, I would probably have been sacked for punching her in the face.


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