Friday, November 29, 2013

A Friday Story

Journey on the road to recovery
As one posting has led to another this past week, flowing freely from the mind to the fingers, from day to day, so can the seemingly random events of our lives.

Several weeks ago, I wandered into the local independent book store in our area to show my daughter the books I wanted for Christmas.  Entering the store, I saw a poster that intrigued me.  Wild Writers Literary Event.  I loved the way the title of the event described it.  

Wild Writers.  OK, cool.  

Literary.  Hmmm.  Not so cool. That kind of puts me off.  

Literary, I'm not.  

Wild, yes.  

A writer?  I hope so.


What is a literary event?  Does this mean the same as a writer's conference?  Only, maybe, on a smaller, more local scale?

I was intrigued.

So I went.  There I connected with a woman who runs writing workshops locally once a month.

One thing led to another, so I signed up for this workshop - and was well enough to go.  Yes!  Victory.

During the workshop, the presenter, a local travel and newspaper writer, read a piece she had written seemingly spontaneously about a slice in time on one of her many travels.  Maybe a ten minute experience she had on one of her travels which probably took longer to write out than it did to experience.

It intrigued me,

My fertile mind thought, "If I can find one story a week and write it up for my blog, it will add human interest."

So I started looking for a story to write about.

What I got, was not what I expected - or wanted.

A part of my road, but definitely not as tranquil, scenic, pleasant or peaceful as the picture above.  Not really the kind of story I wanted to share.  Definitely not uplifting.  But true.  Oh so true.

I wanted something uplifting, off beat, humorous.  Maybe quirky even.

But that is not what I got.

As most of you know, I've been down for the count (mostly) for the last two years.  Staying close to home.  Tired to the point of exhaustion.  Depressed (seriously at times).  Lethargic.  Psychiatric injuries that mimic brain injury to the point where cognitive skills, balance, speech, etc. are seriously effected.  Anxiety.  Panic attacks.

And then I had a breakthrough.  Two months or so ago.  A huge breakthrough.

My pre-workplace abuse personality, that irrepressible, hopeful, enthusiastic side of me came back.

It felt so good to feel good.

I was able to do things I hadn't been able to do for a very long time.

Life was starting to be exciting, to be good again.

But.I.Am.Still.Fragile.  Unfortunately.

I look normal But.I.Am.Still.Fragile.  I know I've repeated this statement twice in two sentence but bear in mind that when something is important to an individual, they tend to repeat it for emphasis.  To get the point across.

I may look normal and act normal for the most part But.I.Am.Still.Fragile emotionally.

I decided to get my feet wet (or shall we say wetter as going to the writer's "literary event" and following up with a writing workshop was also getting my feet wet by foraying into the outside world) by attending a senior's event at my local church.  I had attended it before the workplace abuse and subsequent injury got to the point of no return.  Where going out among people was too difficult to even attempt.

To me this was a huge victory on the road to recovery as I had not been able to attend these events for the better part of a year.

It took some planning as I needed a ride which those who run the event could not provide.  So I found a way to provide my own.

I got up.  I got dressed.  I put on my smiley, happy face because indeed I was so thrilled to be able to go out again.  To be ready to socialize.

I envisioned being able to share the joy, the sheer victory of what was going on in my life and have others, who knew me and knew of my journey even though they hadn't walked closely with me, share in it and be blessed.

My ride arrived.

We got there.

I went in.

Hung up my coat.

Joined the line entering the room.

Picked up my name tag.

Paid my fee for the lunch.

And then I looked around.

At all those tables.  Fifteen in all.  Chairs for eight each.  Each one with one, two or more people sitting around them.

I knew from past experience, that people have already formed groups and that some, if not most, of those seemingly empty chairs already have names attached to them.  Informally of course.  No visual such as a name tag, purse, jacket, etc. to warn me off.

I went to the first table.  One I had been welcomed to put my feet under many a time.

I was met with smiles.  Joy even.

But when I asked if there was a place for me at the inn - er, excuse me, table - I was met with dismay, confusion and much discussion.

It appeared that the seats were saved.  But they were trying to decide if there was one without a name attached.

It was then that another woman came up.  Asked the same question I had.  Without waiting for a reply, however, while I was still standing there waiting for one, she took off her jacket and sat down.

Immediately my mood shifted from one of joy, of victory, to - well - I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.

I felt rejected.

I felt powerless.

I felt worthless.

And I felt worth less than all those empty chairs with invisible people attached to them.

All the ugly emotions, all the lies I internalized from the workplace abuse situations, reared their ugly heads.

I turned away to find another table.

The next table I approached had two people sitting at it.  Six empty seats.

No, all of them were taken - by invisible people yet to arrive.

I went to a third table with again, maybe two or three people sitting there.

They dickered and dibbled and dobbled (if there are such words) before finally saying that there might be one seat available.  It took another bit before they figured out which one.

Gracious the response was not.

By this time, all the positive feelings had evaporated.  I was hurt.  Anger was beginning to rear its ugly head.

I went up to those at the table processing the money, etc. and said I have a major complaint.  I went to the person in charge of the event.

He exploded at me.  He told me I was ludicrous.  There were plenty of empty seats.  (Oh yeah?  You go and try to find one that isn't filled with "invisible" bodies.  Oh yeah, I forget.  You don't have to.  You're the leader of the event.  You have a seat reserved for you.)

By this time, I was so hurt, that I couldn't stay.

I left.

Outside the door was the senior pastor.  I stopped to tell him what had happened.

He immediately made excuses for the man in charge saying he was sure this person hadn't meant anything by it.

He went on to do some serious secondary wounding - in a well-meaning way of course.  Out of ignorance.  The compassion was there; but the knowledge of trauma was not.

He then told me, compassionately of course, that if I found a church that met my needs I was welcome to go there.

I was devastated.  Hurt beyond words.  Tears freely flowing.

Tears that would not stop or be quenched.

A major setback on the road to recovery.  A major blow to my re-emerging pre-workplace abuse personality.

Sometimes I feel like this statue in Ottawa with the bird standing - and defecating - on its head

This post has already gone on longer than I want my posts to go as I want them to be in short bites.  However, this incident, this story, highlights the pitfalls on the road to recovery those of us who have been affected by trauma, PTSD, workplace abuse, etc. follow.

Lack of understanding of what trauma is and how it affects the victim are paramount in our journey, leading to incidents like the above where secondary wounding occurs.

And also, how those who could make a difference, who are in roles of leadership in groups, churches, etc,  by learning about trauma and how it affects its victims, choose to ignore the reality of trauma in the lives of those around them.  

In settings where ignorance of trauma reigns, misunderstandings leading to real injury are inevitable.

There are resources available.  A lot of them.  Both on-line, in book form and in human form - i.e. people who are well versed in trauma and how people victimized by trauma heal - and don't heal.

That is the purpose of this blog.  To help others on the road to recovery learn that they are not alone.  

To help those who walk with them (and you truly are special) to learn more about walking with the traumatized.

And, perhaps, just perhaps to encourage those who know someone who is traumatized to start researching what it is and reach out a hand to one who is struggling.

I invite you to join with me on this road to recovery.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Workplace Abuse: Specific qualities and personality traits of the target

It seems like one blog posting is segueing naturally into another.  From a working definition of bullying to what causes the bully to choose a particular worker to target.  From there, it segued to why I, Cassie
Stratford, in particular was targeted.  Today, it is segueing to a long list taken from the material I collected over the years of qualities/personality traits the target has.

So today, because the list is long, this posting will be someone else's words, any dialogue I have to make on them will be another posting entirely.

According to the website, in their on-line article "Bullying:  what is it?",  "Targets of bullying usually have these qualities:
  • popularity (this stimulates jealousy in the less-than-popular bully)
  • competence (this stimulates envy in the less-than-competent bully)
  • intelligence and intellect
  • honesty and integrity (which bullies despise)
  • you're trustworthy, trusting, conscientious, loyal and dependable
  • a well-developed integrity which you're unwilling to compromise
  • you're always willing to go that extra mile and expect others to do the same
  • successful, tenacious, determined, courageous, having fortitude
  • a sense of humour, including displays of quick-wittedness
  • imaginative, creative, innovative
  • idealistic, optimistic, always working for improvement and betterment of self, family, the employer, and the world
  • ability to master new skills
  • ability to think long term and to see the bigger picture
  • sensitivity (this is a constellation of values to be cherished including empathy, concern for others, respect, tolerance, etc.)
  • slow to answer
  • helpful, always willing to share knowledge and experience
  • giving and selfless
  • difficulty saying no
  • diligent, industrious
  • tolerance
  • strong sense of honour
  • irrepressible, wanting to tackle and correct injustice wherever you see it
  • an inability to value oneself whilst attributing greater importance and validity to other people's opinions of oneself (eg through tests, exams, appraisals, manager's feedback, etc.)
  • low propensity to violence (ie you prefer to resolve conflict through dialogue rather than through violence or legal action)
  • a strong forgiving streak (which the bully exploits and manipulates to dissaude you from taking grievance and legal action)
  • a desire to always think well of others
  • being incorruptible, having high moral standards which you are unwilling to compromise
  • being unwilling to lower standards
  • a strong well-defined set of values which you are unwilling to compromise or abandon
  • high expectations of those in authority and a dislike of incompetent people in positions of power who abuse power
  • a tendency to self-deprecation, indecisiveness, deference and approval seeking
  • low assertiveness
  • a need to feel valued
  • quick to apologize when accused, even if not guilty (this is a useful technique for defusing an aggressive customer or potential road rage incident)
  • perfectionism
  • higher-than-average levels of dependency, naivety and guilt
  • a strong sense of fair play and a desire to always be reasonable
  • high coping skills under stress, especially when the injury to health becomes apparent
  • a tendency to internalize anger rather than express it.
And there, dear reader, you pretty well have my personality summed up succinctly in point form.  By an author who is not only in a different country but on a different continent entirely.  Someone who has never met me nor will, in all probability, ever meet me.  This wasn't written by Cassie Stratford for Cassie Stratford.  

Therein lies its inherent value.  

This is for - and about - all of us who have faced bullying in the workplace.  

This describes us.  

This is us.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Workplace Abuse: Why Was I Chosen?

Yesterday, this blog explored the topic of how the bully chooses his/her target.  It ended with the quote below.

Today, I'm starting with that same quote.  Why?  Because I like it.  And because it sums up for me all the skewed dynamics which occurred in my place of work which facilitated and even encouraged the bullying.  
Bullying occurs for many reasons, and like a pot of stew, when all the right ingredients are mixed in together, someone begins to stir.  This means that when the organizational context, the bully's personality, the victim's personality and the managerial approval is all there, and the stars are aligned properly, bullies take on their form.  
From the web site No Workplace Bullies by Catherine Mattice
This article then goes on to address what particular attributes in the target might be attracting the bully.  Like honey attracts bees, so certain traits attract the bullies.
If you feel like a bully is targeting you, you may demonstrate some or all of the following:
  • You may be feeling low self-esteem 
  • You may have never learned how to defend yourself or to stand up to others  
  •  You may be shy, and therefore find it difficult to speak up for yourself and your right to be treated kindly
  •  You may have been a victim of bullies growing up, which seems to open the door for victimization as an adult 
  • You may be a minority at your place of work, whether because of your age, gender, race, religion, sexual preference, etc. 


Not sure.



Four out of five.  Not bad.  Almost a perfect score.

To be a bully magnet.

Let's look into these "qualifications" to be attractive to bullies a bit closer as they relate to my situation.

I walked into this, what turned out to be the second abusive workplace situation in a row, almost three weeks to the hour after being walked out of situation #1.  I was still in a world of hurt - and confusion.  Still utterly devastated by what had happened.  Completely confused as to why.  My self-esteem which has never been good, was at an all time low.  Probably somewhere in the non-existent range.  It was obvious to everyone in my new workplace that I lacked confidence in myself.  Although I later proved to be a good worker and competent in my job, it took a while.  A long while.  To regain that confidence that had been snatched from me in workplace #1.

I had never learned how to defend myself or to stand up to others.  I was brought up in a home where anger reigned.  I learned from early childhood on, that it was safest not to say anything, to hide, to lay low.  Hoping the tempest would pass.  That carried over in all my interpersonal relationships for many years.  At the time the bullying became unbearable I was in the process of learning how to stand up for myself in appropriate manners.  That didn't fly in the workplace because the dynamics were already set in stone.  In fact, I think it angered the aggressors.  I wasn't supposed to get better.  I was supposed to lay down and die.  (Silly me - note the sarcasm.)

As a young child and into my late teens, early twenties, I was indeed very shy.  I would shake badly when called in class to answer a question.  However, as time evolved and I matured, the introvert became an extrovert.  With periods of quietness to re-center myself.  To regain focus.  However, in retrospect perhaps I still believed in my heart of hearts that I didn't have the right to speak up.  I didn't have the right to be treated kindly.  My motto was more like "live and let live".  Accept these people for what they are.  Don't expect something of them that they are not.  It had worked in past situations.  In this one, it led did not.  Living and letting live was probably the worst thing I could have done - especially in those early days - as I was identified and perceived as being lacking.

Yes, I was a victim of bullies growing up.  More than once.  I was under-sized.  I was different.  I wore glasses.  I was perceived as being smart.  I didn't fit in.  It was devastating enough when my grade three teacher held me up as being inferior to the class and encouraged the rest of the class by her example to exclude me as well, but in later years when puberty set in, I became the go-to target for both boys and girls - boys in grade seven and girls in grade eight.  It took a phone call to the office by my mom after months of bullying before it stopped.

And then came grade nine - I finally grew physically.  I could wear "big girl" clothes.  I could fit in.  At least to a degree.

I was never bullied again.

Until the workplace.  I was in my fifties and sixties.  Years later.  Yet, I sense that I came up against the same dynamic I did with those boys and girls when we were in puberty.  No, not racing hormones.  But rather people who didn't feel good about themselves.  People who may well have been stuck in the mentality of their teenage years.  People who had a need to be recognized, yet (going back to yesterday's post) didn't have the power and capability within themselves to shine on their own.  I have always felt that the root of the problem in my situation was that they needed to make someone look bad in order to make themselves look good.  And I was chosen.

And the last one?  I'm white, middled aged, heterosexual, happily married, Christian, from the US living in Canada (dual citizenship), so how could this apply to someone such as me?  I'm Christian.  I don't proselytize but I do live my beliefs. The setting was predominantly atheist or agnostic.  A setting where I've listened to the majority of my peers express anger at Christians and mock our beliefs.  One of the bullies actively hated those in the workplace who could be identified as active Christians.  Coincidence perhaps?  Or the tip of the iceberg?

I'm an American in a country where not everyone likes Americans.  Where we're perceived as being aggressors.

Were these enough to cause the problem?  Under the surface of course?  Definitely covertly rather than overtly because then they'd be getting in dangerous turf.  Human rights issues.

Of course, at the time all this was going on, especially in situation #1 and at the beginnings of situation #2 where the liaisons were formed and the dynamics began, I had no clue as to the dynamics.  I didn't know everything that I know now.  What I'm writing about in these posts.  All this came after the bullying was fully formed and in effect.  What is notable, though, is that as I researched the subject matter and learned and grew through both research and continued therapy, is that no one in the situation, neither HR, management nor the union, would listen.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Workplace Abuse: Who Gets Chosen? And Why?

While I usually like to add an appropriate picture or two on my blog postings, at this time and for this topic, I'm not finding any that convey the utter despondency and devastation caused by abuse in the workplace.  Pictures of sunsets, sunrises, flowers, etc. just do not seem to fit in here.

Unless I were to have been in a place that had just undergone total devastation in the form of an earthquake, tsunami, typhoon, hurricane, tornado or flood for instance, there is no way to adequately portray in pictorial form the complete and utter devastation the target/victim/survivor of workplace abuse experiences inside.  

Inside where no scars show.  Where there are no visible wounds.

However, the internal damage/injury experienced by the survivor, is a totally different posting for another day.  Today, I want to focus on who is chosen for the dubious "honour" of being bullied in the workplace.

So, how do the bullies select their targets?  How did you (or I) end up becoming a threat to someone in the workplace?  What did we do wrong?

These are questions, I asked myself over and over.  Questions that perpetually teased my brain.  Questions that had no answers.

I was a very good, competent worker.  I knew my job - thoroughly.  I did not get involved in office gossip.  I was different from the others in many ways which I'll go into in a later, companion piece to this one.

Here, I'll let someone else, the web site Bully OnLine describe why you and I were targeted:
The target of bullying is often competent and popular, and the bully is aggressively projecting their own social, interpersonal and professional inadequacy onto their target. The purpose of projection is to avoid facing up to that inadequacy and doing something about it, and mainly - to distract and divert attention away from the bully's inadequacies, shortcomings, and failings. In most cases, the bullying you see is the tip of an iceberg of wrongdoing by the bully.  (quoted from actions to tackle bullying at work, a page from Bully OnLine, web site of the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line)
Adding more insight and credibility to the above quoted position that the target is, in general, being targeted for the "wrong" reasons i.e. because of their competency and other aspects of their character/personality rather than their incompetency, is the below quote found on the web site nobullyforme:
Contrary to popular opinion, those most vulnerable to mobbing (a prevalent form of bullying gone amok which we will explore in a later post) are not subservient, easily intimidated or insecure he (Stephen Hill quoted earlier in this article) stresses.  In fact, they are generally well-liked, principled, technically competent, co-operative and non-confrontational.  "A bully consider such personal strengths and abilities a threat and decides to cut them down," he says.
He further goes on to state:
As targets usually do nothing to merit dismissal and tend to ignore subtle cues to leave, they are subjected to harassment designed to force them out.  A recent No Bully For Me online survey concluded that 20 percent of Canada's bullying targets are male, 80 percent are female and 66 per cent are aged 35 to 55. 
Looking at the above, we can see that the target is picked not because they are ugly, have warts on their face and fart a lot.  They are picked because of their very competence.  Looking at the first quote, they are picked because they have qualities which the bully lacks - and wishes very much to have.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  However, a blog posting is not supposed to be a 50,000 word book.  You would lose interest quickly.  No matter how germaine or useful the subject matter is.

So, I am posting this in small bites.  Bites small enough to read in one posting.  Posts which, hopefully, will build on one another.

For today, I'm going to end with one of the quotes I found in the very beginning which summed up my situation quote well.  From the web site No Workplace Bullies by Catherine Mattice:
Bullying occurs for many reasons, and like a pot of stew, when all the right ingredients are mixed in together, someone begins to stir.  This means that when the organizational context, the bully's personality, the victim's personality and the managerial approval is all there, and the stars are aligned properly, bullies take on their form.


Monday, November 25, 2013

What I've Learned on the Road to Recovery Post Complex PTSD, Part 2

       Today is the second half of the list I wrote several years ago re: what I've learned in this journey.  Although several years have passed since I wrote this and there has been a lot more water i.e. trauma and damage under the bridge, it is just as valid now as it was then.

      Sometimes, it's good to look back.  And remember.  Where I've come from ... and where I am now.

¬ I’ve learned that while some people don’t smile, a surprising number do.

¬ We laugh a lot more.

¬ We share inside jokes.

¬ I’m learning to recognize the hand of God in things.

¬ I’m more thankful.

¬ I’m quicker to express appreciation for small things which mean a lot.

¬ I’m more spontaneous.

¬ I’ve gained confidence.

¬ There’s usually a bounce in my step that was never there before.

¬ I’m learning that I’m “wired differently” and that’s it’s OK to be different.

¬ I feel more accepted by myself and by others.

¬ Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure that it’s real.

¬ I’m learning to savour the good moments like a gourmet chocolate and not to devour them quickly.

¬ I discovered by accident that if one takes a few steps back, the scene/perspective is totally different and different things come into focus that were not seen in the close up view.

¬ I’m learning to face my fears and break their power over me.

¬ I’ve learned fears are irrational.  They have nothing to do with facts.

¬ I’ve learned it’s absolutely awesome to face the fears head on and start to conquer them.

¬ I’ve learned I can lean on my best friend, my husband for support – both physically and emotionally – if I let him be that support.

¬ I’ve learned my husband has his own insecurities, I have mine.

¬ I’m learning the power of forgiving others.

¬ I’ve experienced God’s grace and mercy when I was finally able to forgive those who have wounded me deeply.

¬ I’ve learned that we can only show God’s grace and mercy to others once we have experienced it ourselves.

¬ I’ve learned that once we experience God’s grace and mercy, it flows through us freely.

¬ I’ve learned that I cannot expect grace and mercy from people who have never experienced it.

¬ I’ve learned not only to identify my supports but to rely on them in times of crisis

¬ I’ve learned to take the time to enjoy moments of companionship with people I love watching the moonlight dancing on the water, hearing the call of the loons, seeing rain ripple on the water standing snug and dry under a huge tree …

¬ I’ve learned to take a step back when thoughts of anger and rage assail me and look at things more    objectively.    

I'm sure that if I were able to update this list now, there would be more to add.

However, I'm still in a state of flux, a state of recovery.  Not any two days in a row are the same.  Each has different trials, different joys - and, hopefully, different growth.

I'm not the same as you.  You're not the same as me.  Our growth and recovery will be different in the specifics - but yet there should be some commonalities.  The commonality of people dealing with the phenomenon of trauma, complex PTSD, recovery from workplace abuse in whatever form it took with each individual.  And, unfortunately, coping with a reality which is not widely understood by those around us.

And so, I leave you, dear reader, today with these thoughts:


You.Are.Not.Hopeless.    (Nor.Are.You.Helpless.)



Friday, November 22, 2013

What I've learned on the road to recovery post complex PTSD

      Yesterday was a terrible, horrible, very bad, no good day.  It was a day in which my re-emerging personality was bruised and battered, almost to the point of annihilation.  It was a day where tears and judgements prevailed.  It was a day that I am still recovering from. More than 24 hours post "whatever", my eyes still feel encrusted with tears.  Tears that still threaten to spill out.  A pervasive sense of loss.  A desire to retreat from the world and hide under my bed.  A strong feeling of wanting to give up.  Quit trying.  Quit working toward recovery.  

     It was in this frame of mind that I remember this piece of prose that I had written years ago - maybe around 2010 when what I call phase one of recovery was having its glorious work.

     So today, this is what I want to share with you.  Things that I've learned on this road to recovery.

¬ I’ve learned that good can come out of bad things

¬ I’ve learned that the relationships that are the most important to me are my family

¬ I’ve learned that my husband does care for me; he may not understand me or know what to do in certain situations, but he does love me

¬ I’ve learned that I am loved.

¬ I’ve learned to value, honour and respect my husband.  And he is responding in kind
¬ I’ve learned to put the crocheting, knitting or the book down and talk with my husband.

¬ I’ve learned to pay attention when he wants to talk about things that don’t really interest me because they do interest him and that shows I value him

¬ I’ve learned that the only person I can change is myself.  But when I change myself, others change towards me as a result.

¬ I’m learning to trust God in the small things because if I can trust Him in the nitty-gritty aspects of my daily life, then I can surely trust Him in the BIG issues.

¬ I’m learning to talk to God just like I would to a real person.  I find it hard but I also find it exhilarating as He directs my petitions and thoughts in completely unthought of directions.

¬ I’ve learned that I am not stupid.

¬ I no longer tell myself that I’m stupid.

¬ I’ve learned that I do have talents and what some of them are.

¬ I’ve learned that my strengths are more numerous than my weaknesses and to concentrate on them.

¬ I’m learning to say I’m sorry when I’m wrong – and work to make things right.

¬ I’m learning to work on relationships and seeing the rewards of hard work in that area.

¬ I’m learning about trauma and how it affects people in general and how it affected me in particular.

¬ I’ve learned that I’m pretty typical of people who have been affected by trauma.

¬ I’ve learned that there is life after trauma – and that it can be good.

¬ I’ve learned that detours can be fun – if you let them be.

¬ I’m learning not to take things personally (although some people from yesterday might disagree on that one).

¬ I’m learning what my triggers are and that helps me not react to things as badly.

¬ I’m enjoying life a lot more.

¬ I’ve learned that although I might go through a rough patch, overall I am doing well.

¬ I’ve learned that it’s more common to hear than it is to listen – and how destructive and wounding that can be.

¬ I’ve learned what secondary wounding is and how to recognize it when it is happening to me.

¬ I’ve learned what people who are experiencing trauma are going through and what kind of support and encouragement they need.

¬ I’ve learned that relationships take effort.

¬ I’ve learned that people respond to initiatives.

¬ I’ve learned that good relationships are built slowly – one block at a time.

And that is where I will leave you, dear reader, today.  The rest of the list on Monday.

May you have a good and blessed weekend.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Throw Back Thursday: To Honour My Mother

Yesterday I did a "hump day" piece.  Something lighter than the usual heavy workplace abuse stuff.  After all, our diets don't consist of all meat or potatoes.  We need a variety of foods to tempt the palate.  Like dessert.  Dessert is good.  Very good.

On Facebook, I've seen pictures labelled TBT and couldn't figure out what they were all about.  Eventually, with trembling fingers touching the keyboard, I asked.  TBT stands for Throw Back Thursday.  I like the idea.  So today I'm doing a TBT piece.  My idea is to start using old postings and bring them up to the front on Thursdays; however, this particular post was originally written well over a year ago, while my mother was still alive - and never finished.  Never posted.  This was when I still used the moniker "Mama Bear" and so my mother was called "Matriarch Bear".

 Matriarch Bear passed away on August 24, 2012 so this phase of my life has ended.  Yet, I feel compelled as I begin writing my blog to start where I left off.  To share the preciousness of those moments in the seniors' residence with my own Matriarch bear.
Matriarch Bear's 97th birthday
with one of her great granddaughters and my sibling bear

 Visiting with Matriarch Bear for a week in the seniors' residence reminds me a lot of when, as a child, my family and I would travel to North Carolina to see the grandbears.  Both sets of bears had their dens in the same area.  One in the city. One in the country.  The grandbears in the city had a small apartment.  Mom and Dad got the one and only bed.  My grandbears got the pull-out couch in the den.  Sibling Bear and I suffered on blankets thrown on the hard floor to make a pallet.  I guess they didn't have inflatable mattresses in those days (back in the 1950s).  But the warm, welcoming atmosphere made up for the nighttime physical discomfort.  Bedtime was an anticipated treat as my grandmother would come in and do dramatic recitations of poems from a book called Silver Pennies.  To this day, I can still remember vividly the sound of her knocking on the wall followed by the words:  "Whose knocking on my wee, small door?  I opened.  I looked.  From left to right.  But naught was astirring in the dark, dark night."  As I'm writing this from memory more than half a century after the fact, I realize that I don't have all the words verbatim.  But the memory.  Ahhhh, the memory.  That lives on.

The gardens at Matriarch Bear's residence
This set of grandparents were what would now, in this cookie cutter age, be called eccentric.  Even then, they definitely walked to a different drummer.  Creative.  Smart.  Talented in many areas.  My grandmother in writing (wonder where I get my passion for writing from).  My grandfather an architectural engineer.  An amateur photographer. 

My young world consisted of being loved.  Accepted.  Pet names.  Classical music always playing on the hi fi my grandfather had built.  Cocktail hour for the grownups.  With marachino cherries and orange slices in gingerale for my sibling and myself.

A time filled not with TV, DVDs (which didn't exist in those days), but with good, old-fashioned conversation.  Walking trips to get the daily newspaper.  Going for an ice cream was a real treat.  Driving around with Grandfather Bear pointing out the window showing us homes he had designed and the unique challenges of each one. Listening to the stories. Camaraderie   A linking of the generations together.  Feeling the love.

This scene on the porch of Matriarch Bear's residence is
reminescent to me of the scene at my grandbears home in the country
Always someone sitting on the porch in a wicker chair.  Waiting.  To welcome us home.
Family  There were always members of the extended family there at the old home place.  Aunts.  Uncles. Cousins.  A great uncle lived there for a time.  Cousins visiting.  Always someone else there.  Always an adventure.  Something to look forward to.

Fast forward approximately five decades and now the daughter is going to visit her own mother who life has spanned more than nine decades.  The Matriarch now lives in assisted living in her own little apartment.  She is provided with meals and medications.  Also on-call staff if there is an emergency.  Her life has downsized a lot in the last two decades of her life as frailty brought on by aging,  a heart condition and COPD makes inroads into this once very active, determined woman.  Oh, she's still got a lot of determination.  Just not a lot of activity.  She is fragile physically.  Has trouble breathing even though she's on oxygen 24/7.  Yet, the core of her essence remains.  She can still beat anyone at a daily game of Yahtzee.  On Bingo day, she's at her walker and on her way down stairs (via elevator now when once she would have eschewed the conveyance and trooped on down).

The aunts and uncles of long ago are long gone.  But in their place has come a precious assortment of surrogate aunts and uncles.  Those who live in the residence.  Like those who have gone before, these precious oldsters have claimed a piece of my heart.

I read in a book entitled Surviving Life's Crises (or something like that) that there are secondary losses when a loved one dies.  In my case, some of the secondary losses are the visits to the seniors' residence when Matriarch Bear lived, my daily round through the dining room to greet and chit chat with the residents (my surrogate aunts and uncles).  These people will always hold a place in my heart.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hummp Day: Post workplace abuse: Reclaiming my life in Stages

Today is Wednesday.  Hump Day.  So I decided that, at least for this week, on hump day I would do something different.  Something lighter.  Something to break the ominous clouds of workplace abuse.  After all, my life before, during and now after has not been ALL gloom and doom.  There have been rays of sunshine.  Moments of joy.  Times of wonder and delight.  Today, I share with you one of these times.

Saturday June 22, 2013 I did something totally different, totally new.  Again I pushed the envelope - but in a totally different direction than the weekend before at the writer's conference.  I became the designated photographer for a friend's children's birthday party.  My price:  a piece of cake.

It all began innocently enough.  A posting on Facebook by a young mother asking if anyone had a DSLR to take pictures of their child's party on the weekend.  

I felt like the proverbial second grader hand raised jumping up and down in his seat, barely able to contain his excitement saying:  "Pick me!  Pick me!"

The opportunity to have my first "gig" as a photographer excited me.  The opportunity to another piece of my life was an adventure I could not pass up.

Never mind that I'm not a professional.  Never mind that I've not yet taken classes.  Never mind any of the technicalities.  The opportunity was just too good to pass up.
My favorite action shot of the whole bunch.  Little sister and her balloon.

My life post workplace abuse is in a sense spontaneous.  It consists of whatever appears at any given moment.  And this moment, this priceless two-hour window on a hot, make that very hot, June afternoon was too precious to ignore. 

There were princess balloons galore which, I think,
were one of the main attractions for the princesses.
A young child having her fourth birthday.  And we know that fourth birthdays only come once to any given person.

A young mother determined to celebrate this event to the fullest.  And wise enough to know that she would be too busy orchestrating children and other things to take pictures to commemorate this event.

The "token" male in the group - the princess's father.
Does that make him the king?
A father, the "token" male in the gathering.  Mostly the silent observer in the room, putting on the crown to enjoy tea with his three daughters.

Every princess has to have a crown
so these young ladies are decorating their own.
The obvious enjoyment of the children, including and especially the birthday girl, enjoying the moment as only young children can.  Concentrating fully on the task at hand:  creating their own princess crowns.

The two Snow Whites.
Will the real Snow White please stand up.
The two princesses who dropped by for the afternoon.  After all, it was a "princess" party.  Complete with two princesses, princess dresses for all the party-goers, balloons, special cupcakes and, of course, a crown for the royal princess of the day.

The princess dresses each party-goer was encouraged to dress up in.  Some were shyer than others, taking time to get comfortable.  Others changed dresses.  Some never did become a "princess".  But that was the beauty of it:  each child was allowed to just be herself.

Snow White reading a princess story
Snow White who opened a story book and started to read to all the princesses assembled.

Little Sister has to get in the action.
"Do you think they will notice if I try this on for size?

The siblings of each party-goer and their parents.  Each of whom will take away their own special moments and memories of the event.

I don't know if this afternoon will forever leave in the memories and imaginations of the children who were present and participated.  But it will forever leave in my memory.  A day of pushing the boundaries for myself.  A day of watching the wonder in a young child's eyes over things that adults take for granted:  princesses who come to visit. balloons that fly high in the room, presents to open.  And most of all, that precious gift of feeling safe and loved.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When Did the Workplace Become So Dangerous?

As I work through this series on bullying, what it is and why it's important to be able to recognize it and deal appropriately with it, I am going to use different formats.  Some will be like the last post on the definition of bullying, working with my research and giving it to you the reader in small bites.  Some may be reviews of books that I've read which have helped me on this journey of self discovery and recovery.  Hopefully, at some point, I'll be able to recruit some guest bloggers to give their perspective on either this challenge or other life challenges that they've encountered and are working through/recovering from.

Today, I give you my thoughts, as written down more than a year ago.  This is only a piece, a small piece, of my story.

This is the prologue I wrote for what appears to be a "book in progress" I've been working on and off for over three years now about bullying in the workplace.  Actually. more off than on.  It's working title is Taking Off the Rose-Coloured Glasses:  What to do when Conflict Resolution doesn’t work AKA The Bully in the Corner Cubicle

Bullying: When did the workplace become so dangerous?

I think perhaps the workplace changed and became dangerous sometime in the interim when I was busy raising my children, occupied with the home and family and not paying attention to the larger, outside world.  

Maybe it was when I ran my own typing service and was self employed and again living within a world of my own making.  

Or maybe just maybe, it has always been there – in the background, the elephant in the office begging for recognition.  Begging for someone to come forward and tell it like it is.  Clamouring for a voice for the voiceless, power for the powerless and justice for those whose lives have been irreparably damaged by the hidden, unseen, unspoken phenomenon of bullying in the workplace.  

I am a victim of bullying in the workplace.  Not once but twice. 

I am also a victim of bullying several times in school.  My daughter was twice a victim of school bullying.  My cousin was bullied in her workplace.  As I open up and talk to people I run into, I find that the woman who now owns a bead shop was a victim of bullying; ditto the woman who is a server as a local restaurant; a friend on Facebook, someone I met in a computer workshop.  

All the stories are different.  But all the stories have the same common themes.  Injustice.  Severe stress.  A workplace unable or unwilling to hear the victim and take appropriate action.  

And then the breakdown of health and the ultimate early leave taking of the victim.  

I have just lost both my health and my job courtesy of my second round of bullying in the workplace.

Workplace bullying is a very complex issue.  No two scenarios are identical but there are threads running through each one.  So far, I've not seen one example of serious, down-to-earth, or what I call tai-kwon-du bullying resolved by management and Human Resources or the union.  Why?  Because none of these sectors have seriously studied the issue and learned of its patterns.

In my present round of bullying, it took me approximately two years to realize what was happening to me in the workplace.  That it indeed did have a name – and that name was bullying.  

Since that time, I have been researching over the net what bullying is, how it relates to me, and does it relate to me?  How to combat it.  It was through this search that I discovered that what had happened to me earlier in my prior workplace, although very different in the way it was carried out, was indeed bullying.  

Since the time I discovered that I was being bullied in the workplace, I have tried, unsuccessfully, to have it stopped.  

This is my story and what I've learned as I've reluctantly trudged down this road I would rather have avoided.

And that is where I will leave us today with this post.  This is indeed my story.  My thoughts.  My perceptions.  My journey.  And, ultimately, my journey into recovery.

See you next time....