Once upon a time, in a land that was more or less just and fair before abuse and bullying in the workplace existed and was condoned by management and HR, there was a middle-aged couple who bought their first home which came complete with a long backyard and a fire pit. Friends and family would gather around this couple like honey bees to pollen to enjoy the warmth (both figuratively and literally) of this couple's hospitality. They came for the barbecues, bonfires, friends, fellowship, and good food. They relaxed. They talked and shared stories with one another. They came away refreshed - and full. The wife loved having her own home, being able to enjoy the big backyard with no superintendent yelling at them. She loved people. Most of all she loved feeding them. The joke was that if you came away hungry from this couple's house, it was your own fault. It didn't matter who you were, you were always welcome at this couple's fireplace - even if you weren't expected. Or were a child passing through on their way home from playing with friends. There was always enough to go around. Both food and love.
And Then Things Changed
Reality in the form of bullying aka abuse aka psychological harassment aka small "h" harassment in the workplace raised it's ugly head.
Life was no longer fair or just. It became a long, tiring journey through a mine field which the wife did not recognize and could not see.
For four years, the wife fought against the ever escalating situation in her workplace.
She tried everything she knew to do.
She worked on her issues with a competent (also amazing) therapist. She grew emotionally (unfortunately not physically - I guess the poor soul will always be 5 foot nada - unless she shrinks with old age).
She learned good coping techniques. She "reinvented" not only herself but also her relationships with those closest to her i.e. her husband, her children, etc. She became happier and healthier emotionally than she'd ever be in her life. In short, despite the situation in her workplace, she was thriving.
Which turned out to be a bad thing.
Because bullying is not about the target. It's all about the bullies. It's about how they perceive life, how they think, how they feel, how they interpret things.
It's about their own short comings and insecurities. They target people who are good, competent people. Who are well-liked by their co-workers.
Their goal is to make that person as unhappy and miserable as themselves.
Their goal is not to change, but to keep the status quo.
To see their target continually grow and even be happy in the workplace, to come into work with a smile on her face even in the worst of times, was probably galling in the extreme to these people. In short, instead of a good thing, it became one more log in the fireplace of animosity and conflict.
The toll these things - the stress, the uncertainty - took on me were enormous.
Those gatherings in our backyard became impossible.
I was no longer capable of planning and preparing food.
People scared me.
An open venue such as our backyard fire pit left me feeling exposed and vulnerable - even among friendly people like my family.
So today in this blog, we celebrate another victory, another milestone, on the road to recovery.
This past Saturday, I instigated a neighbourhood barbecue to introduce some new neighbours in the "hood" to the older, established ones. A first on my road to recovery as any outdoor events in recent memory have been spontaneous affairs usually instigated by my daughter and son-in-love. Casual affairs. Any food either brought in by them or purchased at the store. Son-in-love took over the grilling as I wasn't capable of doing that any more.
So even wanting to have a barbecue, even wanting to invite the neighbours, even wanting to go beyond my comfort zone and push the limits was a victory.
I knew I couldn't do it by myself. I knew I still was not completely capable of planning and preparing, let alone carrying through and socializing any event, so I enlisted the help of my next door neighbours who know my story. Who are aware of some of my challenges ... and victories. Who cheer me on with smiles, waves and words of encouragement when we meet outside.
Together we pulled it off. Together we did it.
Another milestone on the road to recovery
Now what can I think of next?
Pushing the limits is both challenging and exciting. I get excited when I accomplish something new that I couldn't do the year before. Yet, I still cope with differing affects. My speech and cognitive skills are still affected. As well, the incredible fatigue which tends to set in after a victory and seems to get worse for a period of time instead of better.
I still have to count the costs and realize that for each victory, there very well may be a set back in the physical realm.
Yet, I'm willing to take that chance. I'm ready ... and willing ... to push the envelope. To see where life goes on this continuing journey of recovery after workplace abuse.
P.S. - Kudos to my neighbours.