Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I’m fine.

An acquaintance asks us how we are and the automatic answer is, “I’m fine.” It’s the polite and socially acceptable response. I’m fine, you’re fine, we’re all just fine! People don’t even really hear it because that’s what they expect. Sometimes it’s true, but often the truth is much more complicated than the innocent reply.

Saying anything other than, “I’m fine,” can throw people totally off balance. How do they reply? Are they supposed to ask more questions? Does this mean you want to tell them your problems? Some people will react this way. They’re interested or concerned and want to know.

Others will either pretend not to hear you, or just say I’m sorry and look frantically for the nearest exit. It may not be a very supportive response, but life is difficult enough for some people without taking on other’s problems.

So, when you’re not fine how do you communicate that? You blog about it!

I’m not fine! Stop reading here if you don’t care why.

First, I’m having some health problems. It’s nothing serious – just some back pain, a pinched nerve and headaches – mostly due to the weather and my aging body. It’s high pollen season around here and sometimes I think I’m Superwoman and forget basic body mechanics. I got a steroid shot in my spine the other day and that helped somewhat. It’s tedious that all the health things happen at once.

Second, my girl Rosie hasn’t been feeling well, so we went to the doggie doctor and discovered she has bladder stones. It cost $275 to discover this and will cost another $1,000+ for the surgery to correct it. Since she’s 14 and has other health problems, this has been a very difficult decision. I love her dearly and don’t want to lose her. The doctors assure me that after the surgery she will be much better, so she will have the surgery. But I really didn’t need this financial hit right now.

Third, I have a great job and work for 2 wonderful guys. Most people would fight to be in this position. But I’m not happy. We sold 1/3 of our portfolio last spring and let 1/3 of our corporate staff go. The problem is, we kept all the higher salaried people (because we wanted to keep all the talent to continue our future expansion) and we released all the people who did all the tasks the people with higher salaries don’t want to do anymore. In other words, we now have too many chiefs and no Indians.

Every Thursday I relieve the receptionist for her breaks and lunch. I worked my ass off for years in low paying jobs and studying for my master’s degrees. I answered all the phones I ever want to answer. I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t think it’s beneath me – I just don’t want to do it. Plus, the woman in charge of the front desk doesn’t like me. She’s been here 6 months longer than me and has never liked me or treated me with anything other than disdain. Since this is the way she treats most people in the office, I’ve just let it roll off me. But now for 1 ½ hours per week I have to work for her. I HATE this!

To top it all off, last month I was given one of the monthly service awards. Normally when they announce the awards they give a glowing report of why you’ve been nominated and received it. All they did was say my name. I thought it was odd, but was pleased to be recognized. Then the e-mail went out to the entire company about the awards.

For perspective, I’m the assistant to the president and the chairman of the board. I arrange, prepare materials for and take minutes for all board meetings. I’m in charge of our annual convention including finding the location, negotiating with the hotel, arranging the travel and all the banquets and preparing all the presentations. I handle all the big special projects including office moves. I am privy to all the confidential matters in the company. I have a varied and somewhat important job.

The e-mail said I had been recognized, but the only specific thing mentioned was for keeping the break room clean.

I was so pissed, I sent an e-mail back to the VP of HR and the president and told them that after 7 ½ years of service, being recognized for keeping the break room clean was both humiliating and discouraging. I tore up the certificate.

They both sent back responses assuring me there were many other reasons for the recognition and that perhaps the e-mail had been poorly worded, but the damage was done. That night I updated my resume.

I know I can stay here until I retire in 6 or 7 years. They’ll keep me on and continue giving me raises and bonuses. It’s an easy job because I have a routine and know all the shortcuts. I’m good at what I do. Until about 3 months ago, I was content to stay here until I retired. Now I’m unhappy and unsure.

But when people ask me how I am, I smile and say, “I’m fine.”


Merry Jelinek said...

That sucks. I'd say 'I'm sorry' which is the thing you're supposed to say to someone else's grief, much in the way 'I'm fine' is the general response when people ask how you are - but I HATE hearing 'I'm sorry' from other people. Unless you did something directly to offend me, I don't want you to be sorry.

It's okay to be not fine, by the way. Most of the 'I'm fine's in the world hide a myriad of aches and pains and worries because the old adage of 'Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone' rings true for most people you deal with daily, except for the real friends.

Thankfully, here in blogland, you can dodge the polite chatter and be real. Those of your readers who don't want to be bothered will simply stop reading and come back later. Most of us have been there, or in similiar situations.

So I will say, that sucks, and I hope the new job which you will surely land immediately makes you happier... and that your pooch feels better and back to her old self after the surgery.

SzélsőFa said...

The 'I'm (just) fine' and 'everything will be okay' are just plain lies, for most of the cases.
People who don't know, or don't wish to know more about the other fellow being reserve these lies to mask basically anything.
When in good company, among friedns or close family members, such answers are inadmissible, in my book.
A friend is a friend to suffer through hearing all your troubles.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Maybe it's time to shake things up for you, eh? I'm sorry. Hope everything works out.

Bernita said...

And the bastards made no offer to rectify that by a follow-up e-mail?
Their staff skills suck along with that!

Ello said...

I would be so pissed off! I don't blame you for looking around. If management isn't going to recognize your achievements and you are unhappy in your job position, and if they don't do anything to rectify your concerns, you need to move on.

With acquaintances I might say I'm fine. There is no reason for them to know all the details of my life, and I doubt they want to hear it. But with close friends, I always speak my mind. And like you, I am more apt to be honest about my feelings on my blog.

I hope Rosie recovers quickly. I completely understand your worry but I think you absolutely made the right decision.

Good karma will come your way soon and those jerks will regret not appreciating you better.

Anonymous said...

You need a vacation.

Anonymous Sister of Anti-Wife

The Anti-Wife said...

Sometimes life just sucks!

Good friends are a precious gift.

I'm getting kind of tired of all these volcanos erupting.

Amen to that!

I'll take some good karma and a side order of happiness.

Anonymous Sister,
Disney World perhaps? Of course, with Rosie's surgery I won't be able to afford to go anywhere for a while!

wordtryst said...

I even say I'm fine to a close friend or two when I'm anything but fine. Sometimes I just don't want to get into the negatives in my life, so I say what's expected and the conversation moves on. It's a way of saving face too. I have a problem with 'oh, poor you' vibes, even from people I'm close to.

One of my friends is never fine. Every time we speak (this is for the past fifteen years at least) he gives me every agonizing detail of his misery, and sometimes - often - it's just too much. He even details his bowel movement problems: "I'm in the bathroom now. The usual problem. Constipation." I long for the day we chat and he says: "I'm doing just fine, honey. Just fine."

Blogging is definitely good therapy. I can bitch and moan, and I know when sympathy is offered there are no complicated emotions along for the ride - just simple fellow empathy. And that really helps to lift my spirits.

I would have been floored by that e-mail as well. And I would be the last one to suggest you stick with the good job because the unpleasant feelings will pass. If you don't look forward to the next 7 years of being in the place, then maybe life has something better waiting for you if you want it. Go with the gut.