Other People’s Stories – Part 5, The End

This will be my last post specifically on this subject. While I don’t think this horse will ever be dead, he sure is tired.
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I recently read an interview with a woman who had won an age 40+ model search. “It just goes to show that you can do anything you put your mind to!” she said. Huh.

Now, at 45, I am sure she has to work out like crazy and really watch what she eats to stay in shape. But I also got the impression that she was a stay-at-home mom whose kids were all OLDER and at school or out on their own a lot of the time. Being a stay-at-home parent is a lot of work (as Mr. Coffee often reminds me) but if her kids were all 14+, as implied, I don’t think she was being run ragged by kids all day. She might be running them AROUND a lot, but she didn’t seem to have that on her plate either. As a matter of fact, I also got the impression that she had a lot economic resources to spend on training, food, and quite possibly hired help. As for the rest – did she put her mind to being tall? White? Conventionally pretty?

This is where it breaks down – she was giving herself 100% of the credit when some of these things she didn’t MAKE happen. Some, she might be able to call blessings, some were simple chances of birth, but she did not MAKE all of these things happen. And I have issues with people taking credit for things like that…
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Before I let the horse rest, a few thoughts about MY experiences with this:

1) Several years back, my life began to unravel as the result of a head-injury that I got when hit by a drunk driver. I am okay now, but for awhile, things were in pretty rough shape.

I was targeted by someone, not incidentally a cult member, who earned my trust over 6 months, and then began systemically picking me to pieces. I believed I created reality, so I thought everything he did was my fault. I lost my job, and my rent was raised to a level that I couldn’t pay, and I ended up with no home – and I thought that was my fault too. And this man, this cult member, proceeded to play an awful game with me, until there was almost no “me” left.

“Friends” asked why I was “letting this person hurt me.” Rather than pointing out that he was being a jerk, it was MY fault he was a jerk. Sound familiar? A woman is responsible for how a man behaves. Hardly “new thought.”

And yes, I think this philosophy is particularly damaging to women – so many of us hold ourselves accountable for other people’s actions. And guess what? So does society (in general) too! So – here is a great way to uphold the status quo, while tearing people to pieces, and be all self-congratulatory about one’s progressive positive thinking at the same time!

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2) A little while back, my employer GENEROUSLY put me in a “Leadership Development” Program. To be clear, I think my employer is great – I think the teachers of this program have serious unexamined entitlement issues.

We were encouraged to do self-reflective work and I had recently realized that I had never mourned the end of my career as a concert French horn player and that I needed to do that. I had first heard the horn in 3rd grade and thought it was the most beautiful sound in the universe. In 6th grade, I had the chance to play the horn and from that moment on, I spent every possible minute practicing – soon spending 5 to 7 hours a day in practice.

Right before I was to start music school (college), I was in a car accident that cut up the left side of my face and shattered several teeth. I have lost count of the oral surgeries I have had in the intervening 20 years, many of which involved peeling my gums away from my teeth and drilling holes in my jaw. I have several permanent caps. They don’t feel at all like real teeth, but they look fine. Externally, the only thing you can SEE as a result of this accident is a crooked smile.

For a long time, I tried to tell myself that it was for the best, but in reality, I have NO WAY of knowing if life would have been better or worse for me if that accident had never happened. All I could know was that it was probably different. And yes, it was time to mourn – 20 years late.

The brilliant responses from our instructors? “You must not have wanted it bad enough.” “You must not have been that good.” AND “Why didn’t you just change instruments?”

The arrogance and ignorance combined in those statements is stunning.

Not wanting it bad enough? A conservative estimate of how many hours I spent practicing before the accident is 38,000. These are business leadership folks who stress that 10,000 hours makes you an expert. What was I then?

Not good enough? Well, folks who heard me play might say otherwise. Plus there was that playing in college ensembles when in the 10th grade thing. And hearing from damn near every brass musician in the city symphony after the accident. If I wasn’t very good, why did all of these professional musicians 10 – 30 years my senior know who I was and care enough to call?

As for changing instruments, that’s like saying “Gee honey, I am sorry your fiancé died on the way to the wedding, but there were a lot of other nice men around – why didn’t you just marry one of them?” Because this sort of thing is THAT kind of commitment.

But you can’t SEE my injuries, so they must not be real, I guess. I wonder if they would have said the same thing to a minor league pitcher who, on his rise to the majors, lost his arms in an accident? See, because having my mouth muscles and teeth destroyed was the same sort of career-ending injury. And I wasn’t looking for sympathy; I was just trying to deal with a loss I’d spent too long denying. But these folks were too arrogant in their beliefs to realize that they were talking about something they knew nothing about…

This is the kind of callousness and arrogance that results from the philosophy in question.
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I can’t say I’ll never talk about this again, but I am going to tie up the horse and get him some water and oats now….

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15 thoughts on “Other People’s Stories – Part 5, The End

  1. Denise

    The most beautiful sound in the universe is the bassoon AND the french horn. Ok, I think it’s just the bassoon but I’ll give you the french horn, esp the way you played it!!!

    Did those fancy smancy business people go to the same ‘school’ of positive thinking as my old bassoon teacher?? Sounds like it!! Nice.

  2. rjjs8878

    I had no idea you had been in a life changing accident. I had no idea you were a concert French horn player. I guess I only know your recent history.

    I love the statement about “unexamined entitlement issues”. It reminds me of several men I’ve met who work for your employer. I think the company has a split personality. On one hand the leadership can be caring and supportive and on the other it seems like a patriarchal mess. One example is the poor handling of the recent HR disaster. The man seems to have survived without a reprimand and the woman was paid to leave the company. All blame fell on the woman. The man who has always been a backstabbing prick cost the company a large sum of money and put the company at risk of a lawsuit yet he kept his job. No matter what they say it’s a good old boy network even if most of men are Indian.

    I’ll tie my horse up now.

    1. I am happy to say that I don’t know what the mess is (sometimes ignorance is bliss)! But – you definitely have a point.

      After 20+ years working in the sciences, I have yet to see any high-profile aspect of this work (from any company) that doesn’t still weigh heavily towards the “old boys.”

      Many of the new boys give me hope for a more equitable future though…

    1. Oh – that’s not what happened, though I understand why people think it did. But I can’t really talk about that here…

      Though, I’m sure the outcome would have been the same if that were the case. We women are soooo wiley, you know. ; )

  3. ALSuperMom

    I had no idea that you were so talented and then so badly injured! I think the instructors at LDC were so mistaken! Your analogy was correct.

    As for the employer you speak of, yes, there are problems pertaining to some so-called “leaders” who are going to mess things up. Some take “friendship” too far and refuse to kick deadbeats and ne’er do wells off the bus! Instead, they get rid of others.

    I am happy that I am working for a wonderful young lady!

    1. I am happy for you. You know what I think about at least ONE choice my employer recently made, but I hope it will be for the best for YOU.

      The leadership thing is definitely NOT benefiting this employer. It is reinforcing the status quo and innate biases. That’s where we (all people) need to be examining ourselves, NOT patting ourselves on the back!

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  5. I liked post because it revealed a major event that made you who you are today. It’s not fair the accident happened, it’s not fair that people are insensitive jerks, but sadly, this is what life is: hard and unfair.

    Picking up and moving on with a life you didn’t plan on having is what sets you apart from the crowd. I have known people who stumble and then let themselves go into a downward spiral (often with the help of alcohol) until their life really was as miserable as they thought.

    1. Stumbling and spiralling down can happen to anyone. Denying grief can be damaging as well. Honoring one’s real feelings can be hard – I think both come from a failure to honor and LIVE through our emotions. Alcohol can definitely assist in keeping one down…or disconnected or in denial. I have been amazed to realize that alcohol addiction can look like cocaine addiction and be equally ugly. I didn’t grow up watching people do these things, so it was ALL eye-opening (and heart-breaking).

      Something touched on only briefly in this post (the cult-targeting) nearly killed me…I wish I had the words, but I do hope that someone, somewhere, stumbles across this and realized that accepting that many things in life are NOT within our control can be a healthy and liberating thing.

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