"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Unexpected Lessons of Marriage


As my husband and I get closer to the one year mark in our marriage, I have been thinking about how quickly time passes, and how much has happened in such a short time. It is hard to believe that we have been married almost a year, and together almost two.

Rarely a day passes when I don’t think about all the times in my life that I have settled. I think that word could describe a lot of my life—settling for some friendships that weren’t good for me, settling for treatment from my parents- my father in particular- that I should never have accepted, and mostly settling for relationships where I wasn’t valued, respected, or even really loved.

I think about all those times now, because I am no longer settling and I realize what an incredible, life-changing feeling that is. I wish I could take hold of all the young amazing women out there and make them realize that you should never settle—not in your career, in your family, and especially not in your relationships. I gave up on finding love because I believed that I had outrageous ideas about what it meant, when really, somewhere along the line, I had whittled down my expectations to be so low, that being generally respected and treated well seemed a far-fetched fantasy.

It still amazes me that at work I could talk to a room full of board members, company officers, and management members, suggesting new ideas that I had come up with, stressing my opinions, and handling tough questions with ease, but in my own personal life, I could not take up for myself when someone was treating me like crap. But, I see it with a lot of women—I don’t know why we sell ourselves short, but we do.

I have also realized in the last year how strange and wonderful it can be to live with someone after more than twenty years of living on my own. I have learned to sacrifice and compromise, not in a bad way, just in a normal co-existing way. It hasn’t been easy as I am stubborn, impatient, and did I mention stubborn? Luckily, my husband meets me equally on all fronts, and has also had to adjust to an unfamiliar new way of life—but one that we both want and delight in.

After a lifetime of feeling that I really could only count on myself, to actually let someone in on the times I am weakest is odd and amazing. I cannot believe how much I am myself now, more than I ever have been—hiding nothing, expressing practically everything, and feeling no worries or self consciousness. It is liberating and a lot of times—amusing. One particular thing, that I can’t believe I am about to share, comes from the freeness of living on my own for so long, with only my animals to witness my antics.

I have this habit of…dancing. Not necessarily to music, not at appropriate times, not expectedly. It happens, oh, when I am standing with the refrigerator door open, trying to decide what to choose for a snack, or when I am loading the dishwasher. It is not pretty or choreographed dancing; it is some Elaine Benes-inspired shaking and spazzing that my husband says he now believes is completely out of my control. It just happens, and sometimes I catch myself, but most of the time Shea will jolt me out of my dancing by saying, “Right here”—to remind me that there is indeed another person in the room. Luckily he finds this endearing, and enjoys my embarrassment more and more each time.

But what this has taught me is how right we are for each other, and how truly comfortable and happy I am with Shea—and with myself in this relationship. It has been startling for me to realize that after twenty some odd years of dating, I have never felt so comfortable, so real, so much myself, and I have never really been myself. That’s scary to realize. For so long, I felt I had to be some ideal person/girlfriend/woman, and molded myself to fit what I thought that was, or what the person I was dating thought that was. It is astonishing that it never really dawned on me to be myself—and that maybe that was enough.

I am sure through all those faulty, short-lived, painful, and doomed relationships I had moments where the real me surfaced, but I know that even in longer term relationships, it never felt like this.

Having said that, we do argue- intensely- usually about the stupid things married couples do. I have never had the foundation I have now. Even within my family, I grew up believing that things were so shaky, that one person might leave at any moment—and more often I just felt forgotten in the struggle. Fighting or arguing scared the hell out of me because to me it meant loss and abandonment. This continued throughout all my relationships as a learned behavior. If a boyfriend and I were fighting, even if I was 100% right and it was something I should have fought or defended myself for, I was so reluctant to stand my ground for the fear of feeling it pulled out from under me. I gave in or panicked and back pedaled often just to make it stop. In the end, all I knew was nothing was really better, and I wasn’t being left or abandoned, but I felt incredibly alone.

In watching my friends go through ups and downs in their own marriages over the years, I have given advice, parceling out strong opinions and shock at how angry my friends could get over their husbands not handling a chore they had asked for, or forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning. Then on the other side of the coin, I would talk to my guy friends about their frustrations with their wives, again lecturing them on overreacting and not appreciating what they had. It is so funny how little you know until you are married. For the most part, we both try to take care of each other, but the little annoyances and grievances are there, and I have thought about my advice many times and chuckled to myself. You just don’t know until you are in it how difficult it can be at times, especially since we both had our first marriage at 40 years old, after a long time of being set in our ways.

What I love though, is that we are able to patch things up, usually make each other laugh, and feel stronger after. I know this is our first year of marriage, and this is the “honeymoon” phase. But we have also had to deal with some huge issues- painful, stressful family issues that we shouldn’t have had to deal with- but we have. And I know in my heart that if we can get through this in our first year of marriage, with all of the other “normal” adjustments, we will be fine. For a very long time.

This morning, we went to church for the 11:00am service. I have been honest with my husband about my struggles with religion—what I believe and what I struggle to believe. For my own past pain, for the pain we have both endured in the last year with family issues, for the pain I see in the world, and in my friends lives…for the randomness of lives taken, and repeated tragedies befalling the dearest people… I can’t always make it make sense. I can’t always believe there is a reason or a plan.

But as I sat in a pew this morning listening to hymns sung quietly in the small church where I became Shea’s wife, I knew more than anything that I had no doubts about how solid our marriage is and will be-- no doubts about how beautiful and perfect that November day was when we got married.

And most of all, no doubts about the man sitting next to me.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Loss, Loyalty, and Love


Some photos are so powerful. In one shutter click, a moment is captured that would otherwise be blinked away, and the lesson in that moment lost.

Even as I believe that, I can't remember the last time I simply looked at a photo and cried.

That happened when I saw the photo above tonight.

This was the caption below it:  During Navy Seal Jon Tumilson's funeral yesterday, his trusted canine friend Hawkeye guarded him one last time.

So heartbreaking.

Here is a video capturing the moment live:



To read more about the brave Navy SEAL who gave his life in service to our country, click here.

I hope Petty Officer Jon Tumilson is resting in peace, and that his faithful companion Hawkeye is being given lots of extra love tonight.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Band of Gold


This past Christmas was special for many reasons. It was my first Christmas with my husband as his wife. We married on the one year anniversary of our first date, Nov 13. Holidays have always been a tough time in my family, and although I loved the traditions and spirit of Christmas, I was on my own during that time of year a lot before meeting my husband. Christmas with my family became a boiling point of emotions, and almost always, a showcase for my father’s alcoholism and anger. My mother desperately wanted me home each year, and I tried for many years to be there for her. But finally I realized that my self esteem was getting battered each December so much so that it took me months to recover. I quit going home and took solo trips or stayed on my own for Christmas for the last dozen years or so.

For our first Christmas together, my husband and I planned to enjoy it with each other and then spend time with his aunt and cousins who live here locally. It was special for both of us. Then, my parents announced they were traveling from their home in Florida to NC to visit our old hometown and to spend Christmas with my sister and her family. They said they would like to stop in for the night to see us on the way.

My husband marveled as I was immediately in knots after the phone call. I was worried about how they would interact with us for an extended period of time. I was almost sure the time would be uneventful, as it was only in private amongst our family that my father let loose on me—and a great source of his anger and my mother’s disappointment always seemed to be because I wasn’t married yet. It was odd that they so wanted me to enter into an institution that had seemed to have almost ruined their lives. Their marriage, for both of them, seemed both suffocating and a fa├žade—in different ways. My father was unfaithful and kept our house in a state of tension and fear growing up. My mother lived in denial of all of his faults, but was also utterly dependent on him.

But the fact that they would behave and put on a front (as I saw it) around my husband was almost as upsetting as the alternative. While I have been so honest with my husband about my childhood, my history with my father, and their history together, it always seems so surreal to sit with them when they are on their best behavior, acting like the happiest couple in the world.

My mother later called back to clarify that they would be staying in a hotel nearby and would only really have time for a late dinner as they passed through. I was relieved, but still on an emotional roller coaster until they arrived the day before Christmas Eve.

We met at our house and then drove to a local restaurant. My father, as he always is in situations like this, was utterly charming, engaging and funny. He shared funny anecdotes about my childhood, and lovingly joked with my mother about her growing obsession with germ avoidance, a level of OCD that is quite startling. As he gestured with his hands, imitating my mother trying to avoid a public restroom doorknob, I saw it. A wedding band. On his finger. For the first time in my life.

My parents, astonishingly, have been married 50 years. When their last anniversary rolled around, I remember staring at the number in my mother’s email announcing it with much pride. Fifty years. I would never, ever have described my parents as being happy or well matched, or even in love. It has been quite the opposite, watching the fighting, the days and weeks of silence, and the violence on my father’s part. My father has also been unfaithful. Many times. I don’t let myself think how many times or with whom. I fully expect there may be half sisters or brothers out there that I don’t know and might never meet.

But in all the time I have known my parents, from the time I toddled around and inspected my mother’s necklaces and jewelry while being held, until the Christmas of last year, I have never seen my father wear his wedding band.

I knew he had one. I would often sit and rifle through my mother’s jewelry boxes-- she loved jewelry and had tons of costume jewelry as well as nice gold and diamond pieces that she often saved up for herself. I remember several times coming across his band and asking her why he didn’t wear it. I have tried to remember her exact answers. I know she seemed to always give a different one—it didn’t fit right, it hurt his hand, he just didn’t like jewelry—until I felt sad asking her, as I could see it bothered her.

About 10 years ago, my sister found out about a company that would take men’s wedding bands and stretch and mold them into the shape of a heart for the wife to wear as a pendant. Oddly enough, the company most often did this for the wives of deceased husbands, as a way for them to carry that part of him next to their heart, dangling on a gold chain. Although she had the best intentions, my stomach dropped when she told me what she had done. She had told my father about it, sneaked into the house when my mom was at work, and swiped his band to send it off. She thought that my mother would love it as a birthday present, a way to make use of a band that meant so much to her, but that my father never wore.

My mother’s reaction was not what she had hoped or expected. My mother called to talk to me later, and touched only a little on the gift- in her usual way of skirting around anything painful. She only said, I wish she had asked me first. But, to me, my mother’s voice was saying- “he will never wear it now”.  

Even when I was little, five or six, I remember knowing it was wrong that my father didn’t wear his wedding band. I didn’t fully understand the easily identifiable adult reasons for not wearing the band, but somehow, even then, I knew it was wrong. It was false. It was somehow lying.

What no one that cheats ever seems to understand is that you don’t just cheat on your spouse. Not wearing that wedding band was saying to the world—“I am connected to no one”. It was a betrayal of my mother, but also our family as a whole. As I grew up, I quickly learned the bigger reason he didn’t wear his ring, even though no one ever explained it to me- and my mother certainly never shared anything. If I believed her and her level of denial, my father was the best husband and father in the world. And I knew differently. On both counts.

So, as my father finished telling his story, I got lost across the table, and my husband took my hand and looked at me. I snapped back to reality and we finished our dinner with no outbursts or uneasiness. It was a perfectly normal dinner…from the outside.

My mother called on Christmas Day to wish us a good holiday and I asked her about the ring. She joyfully explained that she had bought it for him as a gift for their 50th anniversary. She had been so excited by the tiny engraving on it, the style of the band, and the sale price she had found. She ignored my initial question of why he was suddenly wearing a wedding band now. 

And I am happy for her, that 49 years into her marriage, her husband, who has caused her a great deal of pain, is finally, in some way, honoring their union. I know that in their own way they have settled into getting older and realizing that they have reached the time of their lives where no one is leaving anyone and they are what they are.

But I hate that he has chosen only now to wear his wedding band. It took really having no other options for him to place a band of gold on his finger and say—this is my wife—this is my family. 

And for me, it will always be 49 years too late.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

A Peanut Butter Pie in Memory of Mikey


I have written before about my somewhat irrational fears about losing my husband Shea. There are times when I sit and worry and even cross the line to obsessing about it—which I know is ridiculous. I don’t worry about him leaving me, I worry about losing him to illness, an accident, whatever, I have quite a list of possible ways that I try to keep at bay.
I think part of it is that I waited so long to find this love, and I can’t stand the thoughts of losing this man who is my soul mate, my best friend, and the best thing that has ever happened to me. The other part of it is just life and the constant stories I read about people losing loved ones in an instant- without warning- and it reminds me how fragile and unfair life can be.
Exhibit A is the story behind this food writer’s request. Jennifer Perillo is asking those who read her blog to make her husband’s favorite Peanut Butter pie in memory of him. Mikey Perillo died this past Sunday from a sudden, unexpected heart attack that robbed Jennifer of the chance to say goodbye or make his favorite dessert one last time. In Jennifer’s own words:

I kept telling myself I would make it for him tomorrow. Time has suddenly stood still, though, and I'm waiting to wake up and learn to live a new kind of normal. For those asking what they can do to help my healing process, make a peanut butter pie this Friday and share it with someone you love. Then hug them like there's no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.”

This video on her blog of him dancing with his daughter brought me to tears this morning.

So, today I am going to the grocery store to buy condensed milk, peanut butter, cream cheese, and all the other things I need to make this pie. And I will hold my husband a little closer and give thanks for another day with him.

Hug those you love, and visit Jennifer’s blog and send her some love, and jot down the recipe and make this peanut butter pie for Mikey.

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There's Something Wrong with Aunt Diane



On July 26, 2009, Diane Schuler was driving a minivan with her two children and three nieces inside. They had just left Hunter Lake Campground in upstate New York to head back home to Long Island.
They never made it home, and what happened on that trip is a horrible mystery that ended in the deaths of eight people.
Diane drove on the Taconic Parkway in the wrong direction for almost two miles before crashing head on into an oncoming SUV, killing herself, her daughter, all three of her nieces, and the three men in the SUV. Her five year old son was the lone survivor.
Several calls were made from inside that minivan before the crash. One was from one of Diane’s nieces who called her father (Diane’s brother) frantically telling him, “There’s something wrong with Aunt Diane”. Everyone in the family was panicked, trying to reach Diane, trying to get authorities to locate the car. Diane had previously called her brother and his wife, once that morning when things were fine, chatting about day to day things. Only twenty minutes after that last “normal” call, everything changed.
Calls after that from Diane were nearly incoherent, with Diane sounding disheveled—not making sense. It seemed as if she was having some sort of medical episode.
After the crash, an autopsy was done on Diane Schuler. It was revealed that her blood alcohol level was almost twice the legal limit (equaling about ten drinks), and large amounts of marijuana were found in her system. Family and friends were shocked. By all accounts, Diane Schuler was a responsible, intelligent woman; an excellent mother, and a beloved aunt, wife, and sister. Her nieces adored her. She had a job making $100,000 a year, and was well regarded and respected by her coworkers.
The pieces just didn’t fit. How could this have happened, and what really happened?
I learned about Diane Schuler’s story by watching the HBO Documentary, “There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane”. I actually ended up watching it several times, and making my husband watch with me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This was a tragedy on so many levels.
Diane’s husband Danny was featured in the documentary, and he and his sister-in-law Jay were the most prominent faces in the film. It has become Jay and Danny’s mission to clear Diane’s name and to try and find out more about what happened that terrible day. Both believe something medical happened, as the Diane they knew was not an alcoholic or a heavy drinker. They both admit that she occasionally smoked marijuana. But Jay denies that Diane would have ever done anything to intentionally hurt the children- her own and her brothers-that she loved so much.
In the documentary, a full portrait is painted of Diane. At the age of nine, her mother left her family, and Diane became the “mom” in a house full of brothers. Maybe because of this early trauma, Diane became a typical “Type A” personality, needing to be in control, to have things planned and in place. Almost everyone interviewed that knew about Diane mentioned her needing to be in control and being incredibly organized—almost obsessively so. But she wasn’t neurotic or distant, she created a warm, wonderful world in all her plans and organization, and was deeply loved by her husband, children, brother, sister-in-laws and her nieces—who were especially dear to her.
The events of July 26, 2009 and every moment of Diane’s life leading up to that day are a complete contradiction. This is obviously a passionate issue for those who lived in the area and remember the crash, and even for people like me that are just learning about this via the documentary. People immediately demonized Diane as a “drunk” and a “monster”. The documentary shows comments people made on websites, underneath news stories about the tragedy. Diane is called horrible things, damned by those who maybe only know the sound bytes or headlines surrounding the case.
No one will ever know what happened. You cannot deny the alcohol and marijuana in her system- the autopsy was repeated and DNA tested twice. But, the story is not that simple. If Diane had a history of erratic behavior, drinking heavily, or irresponsible activities, perhaps there would be more blame to place. It makes me so sad that someone’s life is reduced to a moment that we will never know the full truth behind.
I cannot imagine the pain that Warren and Jackie Hance (Diane’s brother and sister-in-law) have endured—in one moment, they lost all of their children, three beautiful girls. It pains me, and I have thought of them every day since first seeing this documentary.
But Diane Schuler was not a monster. I believe something happened that morning, and she made poor choices, perhaps not in her right mind. It is maddening to watch the videos of her less than an hour before the crash, stopping at a gas station, looking normal, and in no way drunk or even confused. She stopped at a McDonalds that morning to get all the kids breakfast, and the staff there remembered her, and were certain she wasn’t drunk or acting unusual or erratic. And she was completely normal at 11:37am when talking to Jackie Hance on the phone, and did not give Jackie any signs of alarm. Only 20 minutes later, that all changed.
In the documentary, Danny Schuler, (Diane’s husband) doesn’t do himself any favors. He comes across as defensive and distant, angry and defiant. As he and Jay search to try and clear Diane’s name, their inability to do so only causes his frustration level and defensiveness to rise. But, as people in his community and across the country demonize his wife, and attack his family, I wonder how this has contributed to who he is now. His choices recently (and after the documentary was made) don’t help matters, and I can honestly say I have been disgusted with his latest choices- which include suing Warren and Jackie Hance, as Diane was driving their minivan that day- the day they lost all three of their daughters.
I felt so badly for Jay Schuler—Diane’s sister-in-law, who was trying desperately to clear the name of a beloved family member that she truly did not believe could have made the choices that led to the accident. Jay was certain that there was going to be some medical explanation, but there wasn’t. I believe Jay’s only motivation was to clear Diane’s name for the family, and for her surviving son Brian. Watching Jay read the horrible things people said about her late sister-in-law was heartbreaking.
Whatever happened that day, I do not believe there is any evidence that Diane did anything intentional to hurt the precious children in her car, or the three men in the other vehicle. A terrible, horrible, unthinkable thing happened, but this should not the only legacy for a woman who led an otherwise normal, beautiful life.
I have been guilty of reading articles over the years and making snap judgments. It’s easy to become enraged over the acts and coincidences that happen, no matter how unintentional, that take the lives of others, especially when there are children involved.
Watching this documentary, I want so badly to turn back time. I want to stop the tape and rewind it, get those kids out of that car—get Diane out of that car—stop it all from happening. I cannot imagine what the close family members go through, what they wish for, how they are haunted. And not knowing the truth, not having that closure, has to be maddening.
Somehow, Diane made poor choices that morning, horrific choices that led to a disaster. Perhaps she had a hidden drug or alcohol problem. Perhaps her husband even knew more than he is saying. But, it doesn’t matter. It truly doesn’t. The blame is hers- she was responsible for what happened that day. But we are all so much more than our worst moments, our worst choices. Diane Schuler is gone, and the answers went with her. Eight lives were lost. Nothing can bring them back. But in the days leading up to that accident, in all the days, months and years she was someone’s wife, someone’s mother, someone's aunt, someone’s sibling, someone’s child, someone’s best friend…she was loved, respected, and today she is missed. She was more than one day, more than a bad choice or choices. 
And I for one hope she rests in peace.
Please read this beautiful article by Jackie Hance written with so much grace and strength.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

The True Cost of Corporate Bullying


In 1998 when I packed my belongings and moved to California, I really entered Corporate America for the first time. I had worked sales jobs up to that point, but this was the first time I was given a lot of responsibility with a company that was growing rapidly and had a true corporate atmosphere. We were a small-ish start-up in the San Francisco area, and it was and is still my favorite career experience. The company grew, as did my career, and I learned more there in a short time than I probably learned anywhere else. I loved my coworkers and looked forward to every day I worked there, even with some struggles with strong personalities along the way.
As I moved on in my career, climbing the corporate ladder, I progressed to new companies-with a higher salary each time, and more responsibilities. I was managing departments, hiring and firing direct reports and overseeing marketing for entire companies- something that was so hard for me to believe at times. I remember so many times looking at my paycheck and being astonished at what I was making…not because I didn’t work hard for it- but just because I had never really believed in myself enough. If I counted the hours I was working and the pure passion and worry I put into everything, even my highest salary wasn’t enough.
From the years of 1998-2009, I lived inside the corporate world. Through layoffs and promotions, moves back across the country and up and down the east coast, I kept finding positions where I had a ton of responsibility and was able to use my creativity and marketing smarts to my full potential. At times, I felt like I had accomplished so much, and was at the top of my game. At other times, I could be reduced to rubble, feeling low and as if my contributions meant nothing. A small part of that was my own self doubt, but most of it came from working with some challenging people—a lot of them my bosses. Many of my coworkers and I would throw the term “bi-polar” around when describing some of our superiors, and we were only half joking.
There were several jobs that I held where the people I worked for drove me to hate coming to work, and eventually, drove me away from the company. Recently, an article from NPR was circulating, A Psychopath Walks into a Room. Can You Tell?, and in reading it, I could completely relate. Basically the article states that “you're four times more likely to find a psychopath at the top of the corporate ladder than you are walking around in the janitor's office”.
Many of the troubled bosses I worked with were extremely manipulative and verbally abusive, as well as living in some combination of arrogant and insecure that I can’t adequately describe here. But a day at the office with someone like this can be pure hell. What I started seeing as a pattern in almost all the places that I worked is that people with this type of personality were promoted again and again—and held high positions in the company. Sometimes it seemed as if they were promoted because no one knew what else to do with him/her. Giving him or her a title and an office seemed the last best choice, while other employees most more qualified, and all better equipped to lead- were left in the lower to middle management roles, trying to hold everything together- including their sanity. I have watched as entire departments cleared out based on one person in management, and no one seemed to care to make a change. And while a few people would report to HR what was going on, most people didn’t out of fear, and instead would leave the company without saying a word.
Still, I loved the work I did, loved marketing, loved being a part of a team. I loved managing and mentoring my direct reports, and I loved the intellectual and creative challenges. I worked nonstop for many years, traveling constantly, rarely sleeping, holding myself to incredibly high standards for my work, and worrying over all the details. So, for about ten years, work was my life. I was ok with that. But the truth is, no company, no matter how wonderful, is ever worth that kind of sacrifice.
In my last truly corporate job several years ago, I was heading up the marketing department—which I had really helped build. I did my best work here, I truly felt I changed the way the company was seen in the marketplace, and the literature and events I created and managed are still some of the best work I have done- especially considering the workplace I was dealing with.
I lasted for two years, and looking back, I don’t know how I did it. I am not exaggerating to say that every single day in the office I received emails laced with profanity directed at me in such a hateful way, I was constantly shocked. And for those of you that know me, you know I curse like a sailor, and am not easily shocked or hurt by anything. It was above and beyond what anyone should deal with. Every accomplishment was met with degrading words from my supervisor and others in the company. I had some supporters, but they weren’t at a high enough level to bring about change. Expressing my concerns to HR only seemed to make matters worse. I tried to tell myself that my very large paycheck was the price I was paying- that to make that much money, things had to be tough.
But after two years, all parts of my life seemed to crumble. I wasn’t making good personal decisions, and frankly, I was mentally exhausted. I can’t blame my job for everything bad that happened to me, but with some hindsight, I now really believe that my work environment, plus the insane hours I was working and the constant travel, led to an emotional breakdown for me in all areas of my life. Something had to give.
I hated myself for being so weak that I couldn’t handle the ridiculous work environment, no matter how abusive or inappropriate. When I left, I didn’t have the satisfaction of feeling I had made a strong decision, it instead felt like I had failed and was crawling away.
I was actually out of work for a bit, and struggled to pay my bills. I honestly had days where I couldn’t eat, and were it not for my friends helping me, I would have gone under. But even in those moments of terrible financial worry, even on the days I worried about ever getting my life back together, it was better than the days in my office at that last job.
In that time, I discovered that I needed to get a life—have real time to dedicate to friends—and to myself. It took time, but I did just that.
I decided I would never take another job with that much responsibility or in a corporate setting. In doing that, I have had to readjust my priorities and my lifestyle.
And to me, that’s sad. I know that I have expertise to bring to a company; I know I was really good at what I did. I am sure there are great companies out there where the atmosphere isn’t like the ones I dealt with. But several of the companies I worked for had these issues, and I cannot count the number of friends that have gone through the very same thing. A healthy work environment seems to be more of the exception than the rule.
I am so thankful for the experiences I have had -both good and bad- in my career. I have learned so much, and have done things and gone places I would have never dreamed were possible for me. Part of all this was me realizing that I could be a workaholic, and I needed to find work where I could keep that part of myself at bay, and concentrate on having my life, love, and happiness first.
And although I sometimes miss the paycheck, the benefits, and the frequent flyer miles, my sanity and self worth are far more valuable. I just hate that it took me ten years to learn that lesson.

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