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A Reflection, of a Sort

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This has been a long, bad week-end, possibly one of the worst in my life, and I’ve had a couple of doozies.

And at some point, I will write about this in detail–in fact, I fully intend to, in escruciating detail–but at the moment I’m not sure I should, and even if it doesn’t matter, I don’t feel like it.

But thtere’s something I  can’t stop thinking about that has been going through my head for all this time, and I want to say it.   The only problem is that it’s going to sound very cryptic.  

I’m going to say it anyway, because what the hell. 

I tend to become deeply and thoroughly committed to people, places and things–well, organizations, that kind of thing.

I tend to love things absolutely or hate them absolutely.  And when  I love something, I’ll do pretty much anything for it. 

I have come to the end of my relationship to a place and an institution, one I’ve spent the last fifteen years of my life putting in considerable time and effort, blood and sweat and tears supporting.

In doing this,  I’ve known a small set of people connected with this place on an ongoing basis, some of them since before the fifteen years.

I was thinking today about the first time I saw it, and how incredibly overjoyed I was to find a place that was so perfectly suited to who and what I was, and Bill was, and our then only son Matt was–how perfectly suited, after months of looking at places that weren’t suited at all.

And the thing is,  I’ve known for several years now that this place is not the same as it was when I first got there.  People whose involvement there was near the top of my list of what made this place great got fired, and the people who came in were of a type and a set of personalities I’m not very comfortable with.

Possibly the worst thing has been the change in the avenues of communication.   When I first got to this place, if there was somebody I needed information from, I went and talked to them directly.  If there was somebody who had something to tell me, he told me, also directly.

For some years now, this procedure has changed so that, if there is something somebody needs to say to me, he says it not to me, but to an administrator, and the administrator relays the message.

But the administrator doesn’t necessarily say anything to me about who made the comment, only “concerns have arisen” or “several people have come to me.”  

Sometimes I get the feeling that there are no such concerns and that the “several people” are actually just one, or maybe two.   And this feeling has not been diminished by the fact that the one time  I did manage to make an end run around the administrator to talk to some of the people possibly expressing the latest “concern,” those people did not back up the report of their feelings the administrator gave to me.

The result of all this, added to a natural shyness–I’m about the least social person you will ever meet–has resulted in the fact that, with all these new poeple coming in, I’m known as an actual person to nearly none of them.  It’s possible to say anything about me to anybody at this place these days, because nobody knows me well enough to counter the portrayal.

And that gets down to something I can never quite get over–and that is the extent to which some people are willing to simply, bald facedly lie.

I’m not saying I never lie at all.  Of course I do.  It was worth my life to tell my mother what I really thought of her taste in clothes, and I’ve made enough polite little noncommittal noises to get out of things I haven’t wanted to do. 

But I find it absolutely startling that there are people out there who will say things about other people that they know are untrue, that are damaging to reputations and more, and that they intend to cause such damage.   I can’t imagine doing it.

And I keep thinking about that line from T.S. Eliot I quoted near the beginning of this blog, “All bad things are caused by people trying to be important.”

Or something like that.  I keep forgetting the exact wording.  But at the base of what has just happened is a woman whose only driving force in life is her rock-hard determination to be the most important creature in any room, or situation, or organization.  

I wish I could write a character like this–write it so that the full fury and meanness, the depth of arrogance, the endless sense of entitlement-to-power would come through, a character who would be as thoroughly frightening as this woman is in real life.

Well,  I’m really not a genius.   I can’t seem to do it.  I always make the character more rational than the person is.  I always fail to anticipate the ingenuity of the cruelty.

Whatever.  It’s not the woman I’m minding so much, as it is the fact that the institution of which she and I are a part has apparently bought into the entire game she’s playing, or at least decided that it wasn’t particularly important to stop her.

Ten years ago, I would never be sitting where I am now, becuase half a dozen people would have come up to me to report onf what they’d heard and ask me what the real scoop was.  I’d have known anything, and nobody would have considered it acceptable to assume that what I thought and what  I did was what somebody else said it was.

Last year, a set of incidents occured that, had they occured at any other place, would have sent me straight for a lawyer.   As it was, I came very close to making what would have had to be a criminal complaint against this woman, and then I stopped myself. 

It seemed to me impossible that I would ever involve this place in a lawsuit, never mind a matter for the police–my God, what would something like that do to its repuation?  How could I do that when it had been so good to me, and to mine?  I could destroy the place, or seriously hinder its continued existence.

Now that entire mental pathway seems quaint to me–I’ve been looking through the window at an Ebola virus and thinking it musts be a fawn.

I’ve got no idea how many of the people in this place know what’s going on, how many approve or disapprove, but I find myelf not really caring.  There are limits beyond which decent people do not go, and this is well past it.

So I’m sitting here, you see, mourning it–mourning this place, and what it was.  There was a time when it was one of the truly great places I had ever known, and one of the truly great organizations,  and truly great at what it had set out to do.

And now it’s not.

Requiescat in Pacem.

I have to get lawyered up.

Written by janeh

February 22nd, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses to 'A Reflection, of a Sort'

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  1. You owe loyalty to individuals, not organizations. People can’t leave your trust and loyalty to their successors like the keys to the supply closet, and the good ones wouldn’t want to.

    I’ll steal from an author you won’t read here: your reputation is what others believe to be true about you. Your honor is what you know to be true about yourself. Of the two, guard your honor.

    Non illegitimus corborundum.


    22 Feb 09 at 8:23 pm

  2. I hope that your troubles are less than you fear in the immediate aftermath, and more easily resolved in a new day.

    Lean on those who are truly loyal to you. Remember that anyone who truly knows you will not believe lies, and those who do believe lies don’t matter.

    Since you need a lawyer, I hope you find the absolute best.


    22 Feb 09 at 9:47 pm

  3. I hope that the situation works itself out in a way that you can live with, even if it means putting the memory of the institution-as-it-was away safely and cutting ties with the institution-as-it-is. And that means mourning what was and what might have been.

    I don’t know if power is the only thing that motivates vicious backbiters and gossips and manipulators; they frankly baffle me. And they do a lot of harm without ever appearing to realize what they are doing. I think sometimes they know what they’re doing but they don’t care. Sometimes you can walk away from them and the situation they dominate; sometimes, they are so damaging you have to go further. Like Lymaree, I hope you get the best lawyer around.

    Living well is the best revenge. Keep going, get through this and live well.


    23 Feb 09 at 7:13 am

  4. My heart goes out to you. Not long ago there was a woman who was, I see now, determined to get rid of me (get me out of the field we were working in). One of the mysteries to this day is why she wanted to do that; there was plenty of money, work and fame – if you want to call “fame” being recognized at obscure conferences attended by a tiny group of specialists. But she did, and she lied about me to bosses who were two or three levels over me. The lies just made be gasp. And the thing was, she did it so cleverly that there was no way I could get to the big bosses and set the record straight. I had the famous “paper trail,” but paper trails are only useful when you are confronted directly and asked to produce a paper trail. I couldn’t write to someone I’d never met and say, “It has come to my attention that X told you Y, but in actual fact that’s not at all true.” I would have looked like an idiot. I tried to protect myself with copies of emails to higher-ups, but this woman just lied about things that were not covered in emails. She was a kind of genius at deviousness – I could never anticipate or protect myself. In the end she succeeded and getting me out of the field and sullying my reputation. Robert, you write that “people who believe lies don’t matter,” but that isn’t my experience. A lot of people who matter a great deal easily believe lies about people, or they believe that “there isn’t smoke without fire.” And they don’t call you up and ask you what happened, so you never ever get a chance to make your case or defend yourself.

    I wasted a long, long time obsessing about her and the situation. I just couldn’t understand why she had done what she did. I mean, she won and got to be Queen, but she was Queen of such a tiny little world – why would anyone put such effort into that? And risk getting caught? Maybe you’re right – she did it to be Important.

    Don’t you wish a lightning bolt would come down and smite these people? It makes me long for the Old Testament God.


    23 Feb 09 at 8:09 am

  5. Praying for MAB’s lightning bolt. :-)

    Hugs, Jane.


    23 Feb 09 at 8:41 am

  6. I agree with Robert. An institution is a name and a set of buikdings plus the people who belong to it. It changes when the people change. What you have now is not the same institution you had 15 years ago.


    23 Feb 09 at 3:07 pm

  7. I have no idea of the particulars of your circumstances, but it does put me in mind of what I’ve been going through for the past year-and-a-half (and you do know some of the particulars of that).

    Idiots abound! Unfortunately, most of them left their identification cards at home and leave it up to discerning people to discover their driving motivations. If you’re a person who tends to take others pretty much at face value, you can be in pretty deep before you realize what’s really going on. The worse half of this problem is that you may be the only one who either recognizes the problem or is willing to take a stand against it, irregardless of cost.

    And that’s what gives these idiots confidence! They manage to put others in a situation where the others have to count the cost of the fight in realistic terms and then decide what to do.

    If you’ve lived all your life without having encountered anything like this, you are truly blessed. With all that, my prayers are with you. I do know the kind of stress you’re under.


    1 Mar 09 at 7:03 am

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