29 days to 50.
10 years ago, for my 40th birthday I decided to fly to Colorado to spend the night in Boulder with my sister. I had a fabulous plan. We would go to dinner at our favorite restaurant and spend the night in the famous Hotel Boulderado. I would always look at the Hotel Boulderado and wistfully think, IF ONLY I could stay in such a fantastic place one day. The hurdle was to get my boss at the time, the owner of the company, to let me have one day off the week before a major important baton down the hatches meeting. At first he said we were too busy. When I pressed him and told him it was important he let me go. But this entire journey with my boss, the no then yes was extremely stressful for me. My parents and my sisters found out about my plan and the entire family ended up coming to Colorado to celebrate with me. The restaurant was changed and the room in this hotel I had been dreaming about did not meet my expectations, but it was a great way to celebrate.
So, here I am 10 years later. My mother timidly asked on the phone a few weeks ago if we could maybe get the whole family together to celebrate my birthday this year. I have to say, it broke my heart a little. So I started contacting the various members of my family, who all seem to be thrilled at the prospect of having all of us in one place to watch me blow out some candles. My mother is beside herself with joy.
Once again, it is a busy time of year. The week after my birthday there is another major important baton down the hatches meeting. I have another boss now, so I e-mailed her to ask if I could take one day off. She didn’t answer. I e-mailed again. I get 3 weeks vacation, I’ve taken 2 days. It’s not about the time, it’s about the timing. Today I received an e-mail from her that told me that the day I asked for off is the last work day before this major important baton down the hatches meeting. She closed with the line- “I always want to say yes, fine with me but does this seem possible?”
I hate to admit this but I immediately started to cry. I was on a shared computer. My boss was in the room distracted by something else. I closed out, grabbed my sandwich and went upstairs to try to find a quiet spot to eat lunch and calm down. Our company is so crazy busy that there aren’t any quiet areas. I work in an open floor plan with absolutely no privacy. When I went through treatment for breast cancer 5 years ago I took every private intimate phone call in the the middle of a room with a dozen people listening. At first I spoke in quiet hushed tones, by the end I was blurting out all kinds of awkward phrases- “Radiation Oncologist! Breast Biopsy! Mandatory Colonoscopy!” This was much like the cancer journey itself. At first I was embarrassed to have everyone feel me up, in the end I would drop my shirt for anyone.
I did find a room that was not in use and half cried and half ate my lunch. This should not have been a situation that leads to tears. My boss basically said the timing isn’t good. It really isn’t. I hadn’t explained to her that I realized this or why it is important to me. I was sure when I explained the situation to her she’d be fine with me taking the day. So why the tears?
Because I immediately went to a place of shame. “I’m not good enough. I must be a terrible employee. I must be a bad person. Going to see my family for my birthday is a dream that I don’t deserve.” Then following the martyrdom- “I can’t believe this is the way I get treated after 11 years at this company. I’m almost 50 years old and I am being told I can’t do something that is important to me. I am such a LOSER! I’m going to be asking permission from somebody else for the REST OF MY LIFE! When is it MY TURN to make decisions on my own? Will I ever get to the point when life is FAIR? I want to be treated like I’m SPECIAL. I want to be treated with HONOR and RESPECT. If I ask for something it should just be GIVEN to me. I DESERVE IT.”
Granted, when it comes to my family I can come unglued rather quickly. We all live so far apart and we rarely get together anymore. We chose to separate because our priorities were all so important elsewhere and I know that all of us regret not being closer. The quickest way to get me to cry is to bring up my family. Still, I was overreacting today. I realize this birthday is mocking me. I think I’m keeping it together and doing this great thing by planning my method of attack- spending 40 days Preparing. Planning. Moving Forward.
But really, it’s freaking me out. I realize that the tears were a release of the fear and the trepidation I’m feeling about this birthday. I replied to the email from my boss (which really was not aggressive or mean or cruel) and explained why this is important and I’ve no doubt she will approve the vacation day. The reason I go to that place of insecurity and shame with anybody in a position of authority over me is another story. For now just know that I don’t have it all together yet. I have 29 days to get there. Fingers crossed.