For My Sister: What I Can’t Say Today

I know that today you don’t want to hear how lucky you are.  I know that today, of all days, the day after your boss drove from Wisconsin to sit across your desk and tell you “this is purely a business decision” you don’t want me to say that you’ve been given a gift. You gave years of your life to promote malls in three states. You secured corporate funding, marketed mall programs, calmed angry customers and mall tenants. You traveled the region. You gave extra hours, weekends, late nights.

I know today you are angry (and you will be for a long time). This wasn’t The Plan. Your boss praised you in that conference call last week, so how could he, after a decade of service, let you go for “not meeting expectations”?  You call Human Resources asking for an explanation to which the representative says, “There’s a whole list of reasons, but you’ll argue every one.” Of course I will, you say. Your mind cycles question after question. How can I get a copy of that list? How can my work be over without any warning or documentation? You imagine what co-workers must have said when you weren’t in the room. You blame yourself: I should’ve said yes more, I should’ve kept my mouth shut more, I should’ve been what they wanted more.  But then you ask, what the hell did those corporate “boys club” boys want?  I gave them everything.

You’re worrying about the mortgage today. You’re worrying about how you’ll pay that credit card bill and thinking, damn, maybe we shouldn’t have re-done the family room last month. You’re worrying about the cable bill, thinking it’s time to cancel those sports channels. You still haven’t fixed the dent on your car and wonder if you’ll ever again have money to spend at a body shop. Your daughter has upcoming medical appointments; she needs surgery.  You’re thankful she’s covered under your husband’s insurance. And thankful he still has a job.

The Good Wife (TV series)I know today you want to punch the sheet rock. You want a savvy lawyer like the ones on The Good Wife to win you a wrongful termination settlement. You’re bummed to let the nanny go, since she’s been so wonderful to your eighteen-month-old twin daughters and if you ever find work again, will she return?

You want to go back in time. You want control. Like the rest of us, you believe we have a say in our future. You want to slap your boss with a loud smack for his by-the-book speech that left you packing boxes and driving away from a place that made you, quite frankly, unhappy. That part doesn’t matter.  You still want to smack him.

I’m happy you no longer have a thirty-minute commute to an office with its oppressive mauve walls and no windows. I’m happy you’ve been released from the burden of being alone. You love people. You love to collaborate. You don’t need peers who watch, who keep score, who gossip; you need other professionals who like themselves enough to notice your brilliance.

I’m happy that, for now anyway, you don’t have to be anywhere. You can watch Live with Kelly & Michael. You can wear pajamas until 10 a.m. You can play with your daughters who are saying “cracker” and “sister” and are discovering snow. I’m happy you can slow down for a bit—even though I know you won’t.

I know you’re not celebrating the blessings I see. So for today, I will listen as you talk via phone. In my silence, I will wish you were closer so we could meet with a tight embrace in the lobby of that Mexican place and then eat chips and salsa and drink many, many margaritas.

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