Discipline, Fear & a side of #MeToo

I resent that she was right.

She made a tsk, tsk sound and shook her head, “If you leave this job, you will never make that kind of money again.”

That was December 2007. I have yet to prove my mother wrong.

My career field path has been mental health, then leave for money in the corporate world, miss my first loves of mental health and writing, and then go back to mental health. Hubby was supposed to grow his career so I could work in my passion areas, but that didn’t evolve as we hoped, and his body failed. Our plan fell apart. Now we regroup.

I enjoy my current job working with families and children. It is hard work but manageable. When I saw a job posting last week back in corporate, I asked Hubby if he thought I should dive back in for the cash. He texted, “We can ponder and talk about it, but I’d hate for you to sell your soul again.”

He knows me. My skills could adapt. It is my heart that would struggle. I am curious, though, what that paycheck would be like in the #MeToo era.

I used to tell my mom some of the male shenanigans and how few women were at my old job. She would say things like, “Just take the money. You can ignore them.”

This came from a mom who once jumped out of her car in traffic to yell at a man for being a man (and for cutting her off). I begged her to get back in the car. I saw rage in her eyes that was way more about the way men treated her over the years than a driving violation. She felt trapped by men who had no more education, sometimes less, than she did.

My biggest challenges in the business job were not about overlooking some of the men’s words and behavior. What I struggled with most was knowing how capable I was of playing by their rules. That’s taken time for me to reflect and realize. The truth was I could assimilate. I scared myself. I ignored too much.

At my core, I am no Daisy from The Great Gatsby. I am not made to be Reba McEntire’s “Fancy”.

Back then, I read the books Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman and Hardball For Women (now in its third edition) thankful that the authors could give me insight.

The long days were exhausting to navigate, but in my mind I played the Kenny Rogers song “The Gambler” to cope:

You gotta know when to hold ’em.

Know when to fold ’em.

Know when to walk away.

Know when to run…

Practical issues were tough. I had a hard time figuring out how to pay for things necessary to pull off a high level job. Childcare, for example, was expensive. Keeping a clean home with two little ones was impossible; the life size Rubik’s Cube fierce. I learned after leaving that the guy hired to take my place was paid near double what I was paid for the same job.

That part of my journey shows up in my manuscript Martha’s Daughter. The book is fiction with a dose of experience. You read about main character Amy’s childhood secrets at home and school, how she overcomes the cultural lies around her as she matures in adulthood, and how she assesses true love. Will she learn to speak her truth beyond the days of Barbies and mud pies to her days in Corporate America?

I think there is still a lot to unpack about the #MeToo movement. My book takes the reader from the 1970’s/80’s to present day. Imagine a female Forrest Gump, or better, Jenny’s story if anyone bothered to ask her. My favorite part of the book are the Developmental Assets and caring adults that save my character. That is the crossroads where my love of mental health and writing meet.

Think about what women have been through in five decades. Think about the undertones, the unspoken, the rules. Think about how much isn’t obvious. Consider the frustration.

I cheered this year when the Today Show normalized motherhood and women at work. Multiple hosts needed time off for their children and everyone appeared to pitch in and be happy for one another. Savannah, Hoda, Jenna, Dylan, Sheinelle, thank you and the team around you for your fresh example.

I’ve spent too much of my life feeling fearful for various reasons. Right now is the worst.

The Thanksgiving break has been helpful for me to notice my thoughts. I paid attention to my constant worry that something in the house or car might break, that we’ve got to get out of this home before it is impossible for Hubby to crawl up the stairs, or blah, blah, blah, fill-in-the-blank fear after fear.

This weekend I had my first pet sitter side job. Being in someone else’s home energy rebooted me to believe that I can move on to a new energy, a new day, a new place. I do not want to dwell in the fear. It’s time to reset.

Beginning today I am all about discipline over fear. My goal is to get our house back to sell-ready. I want o-u-t! I want to be in a situation that is affordable. I want us to thrive above ALS. This situation will not consume us. I will fight for a win.

I am going to clean, straighten, pack, look for a new realtor, seek financial advice, and persevere.

I have learned so much about discipline with sweat over every penny this year. It’s time to take that discipline further into a new situation. We will pray, turn over the worry daily, and triumph.

Bring on the V8 Energy drink. It’s time to climb further up the mountain.

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…for God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:7

#MeToo and the Christian Woman

Before I hit “send” on the type of email that 99.9999% of the time you should not send, I shared it first with my new boss.

Within minutes the office phone rang.  “Come see me please,” he said.

My boss looked me in the eye and expressed with stern lips, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“I’ve counted the cost.”  It’s a hill I’m willing to die on.

He nods, “Ok.  Good luck.”

I proceeded to send the email to the head of the company and Human Resources.

~~~

I’ve been asked a few times what I think about the #MeToo movement.  The experience I describe took place a long time ago, way before #MeToo.

Once upon a time I spent over a decade in the corporate world.  It was clear that some men abused power or said whatever crude thing they wanted with little consequence.  I wondered why I was told as an adolescent that girls can do anything we set our mind to do, but once I was in the business world somehow, I, a woman, often felt “less than” or “used” in some way.

There were many examples.  I entered a meeting where a client raised an eyebrow and said to the men with me, “Well, I’ll sign the contract since you brought this.”  I was a this?  One year I spent every work day at 5pm being critiqued by a boss for my performance beginning with how my hair, clothes, and makeup looked that day.  A year.  Every day.  He thought he was helping me function in a man’s world–that’s what he called his pacing and instructing while I sat wanting to go home.

I’ll spare you the long and varied list of inappropriate moments.  Not all men behaved this way.  Men who were spiritual or had a personal growth mindset were respectful.

~~~

Back to the email sent with no turning back.  Times were tricky.  An executive woman had been fired and then settled a lawsuit.  I knew those in charge were on edge.  I had asked for months to increase pay for my staff as well as provide equal pay for males and females.  My request had been dismissed multiple times.  It bothered me when females with similar qualifications were hired for less salary than a man for the same job.

So, I wrote key bullet points of concern and asked to meet with the head of the company and HR every Friday at 1pm for about 20 minutes.

“What do you want?!” The head of the company bellowed at the first meeting.  He had invited another male executive who was known to be threatening.  I knew first hand because he had threatened my family the year prior when I pointed out something else unethical.  Specifically, “It would be a shame if your boys grow up without a mother.”  The Holy Spirit reminded me of David and Goliath.  I wasn’t afraid.  The HR representative brought two pens and a yellow writing pad.

“I want to discuss an example or two each week of things that have been said or done that involve discrimination.  I believe our company can treat people better.  Twenty minutes each Friday should do it.  I believe we can work together for healthy change.”

“For how many Fridays?” his nostrils flared with suspicion.

“As long as it takes.”

And so, we began.  I brought weekly succinct topics or situations and explained why you can’t say this or that about women, or make fun of people in general, or discriminate against minorities–conscious or unconscious.

Outside of these meetings, a nervousness grew in the boardroom.  The leadership group said cursing was no longer permitted.  Jokes were shut down with side-eye looks before punchlines arrived.  My department’s pay raise was approved after six Fridays.

I think the men began wondering what in the world I planned to say next each week.  Eventually I offered an ending, “I think we’ve covered what needed to be said.”

HR put down her pen.  The threatening guy yawned.  The head of the company snorted relief.  We almost had become comfortable in the muck.

That was a time and place where I chose to go uphill alone after deciding I could accept potential negative repercussions.  One thing I like about #MeToo is that people are saying you are not alone when discrimination happens.

With or without such a movement, God gave us road maps in the Bible to address wrongs peacefully.  Actions are not to be taken lightly.  Here are steps I followed:

  • Consult scripture.  [Matthew 18:15-17,  Galatians 6:1]
  • Pray.
  • Go to the person directly.  I had with no progress.  That’s why I moved on to request the Friday meetings with HR present.
  • Seek wisdom and/or wise counsel.
  • Think about timing.  My guess was it was a time when the head of the company would listen to me whether he liked what I had to say or not.
  • Consider chain of command.  My new boss learned my intentions from me first.  I had reason to believe based on his professional behavior that he would be supportive.
  • Count the costs.  I remember thinking of the best and worst scenarios that could happen and accepted in advance that the outcome could be good, bad, or something I couldn’t imagine yet.

~~~

Down the road after the head of the company left the organization and later I had too, I saw him one more time.  He wanted me to work on a project with him.  I asked why would he want me to do that?  His answer, “Because you taught me about love.”

I didn’t see that coming.  But it made sense.  God is love.