Wednesday, August 4, 2010
I Fix Mess
Right after I graduated from college, I worked on the copy desk of a newspaper. Turnover was high; within three months I was #2 on the desk and #1 had a drinking problem, which meant that a 21-year-old kid was essentially responsible for the copy desk for three editions of a newspaper. I held it together.
My next job was working for a large corporation. The first two years were good, and then I got another boss with a drinking problem. I held that together, too.
I didn’t have to deal with bosses’ drinking problems after that, but there came a line of mediocre people expected to do extraordinary things, people making major mistakes, businesses teetering on the brink of disaster, nasty issues, dysfunctional personalities and a few good bosses thrown in for good measure. Even as an independent consultant, who I was for almost four years, my job was almost always to fix the mess. I have a good boss now, and it’s been rare enough that I consider it a special blessing.
But down all the paths my career has followed, there’s been one constant.
I fix mess. Sometimes it’s mess of omission, and sometimes it’s mess of commission. But that’s what has characterized a good chunk of what my career has been about: fixing the mess caused by others.
She doesn’t describe it that way, but that’s what L.L. Barkat has experienced, as she describes it in God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us (Week 10: Self-care): “I’d always been the person who tried to play the part of bridge, who tried to hold things together.”
The bridge metaphor is an apt one – the bridge between chaos and safety, or disaster and resolution. It can be a self-imposed metaphor.
She goes on: “Acting as bridge puts a strain on our souls. Always being the one to handle things, neglecting our needs and dreams to stand in some supposed gap…” I didn’t stand in “some supposed gap” in the lives of family or friends; my supposed gap was invariably work.
In the last year, I’ve begun to muse and ponder about this. I’ve also been writing stories and poetry more.
The two are not unconnected.
I didn’t know the man
I didn’t know the man
but I did, because I
knew his father, who
knew me years before,
another lifetime ago.
My father, he said, spoke
of you as a talisman,
a charm, a rabbit’s
foot they couldn’t lose,
but they threw you away.
I didn’t know that, I said,
but I did.
Chameleon by Laura Boggess at The Wellspring.