© copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert
This is the Twenty-First Century, the Information Age. Wherever we journey people are chatting. They do it online, while in line, and with a Digital Subscriber Line [DSL.] So much is being said, more is not vocalized. People talk though they rarely discuss what they are truly thinking. This is a series of tales about self-doubt, illusions, delusions, disappointments, defeatist thoughts, and perhaps depression.
We all have experienced some of these states; yet, few wish to speak of them. We prefer to presume, and plan with a modicum of information. We pretend to know. However, on occasion we might reluctantly admit we understand very little. Too often, we seem to be wrong, wronged, and wrestling with what is.
Life delivers many mysteries and we muse about each of these. We conclude with certainty, only to suffer from self-doubt. Today, I am flooded with feelings, wonder, and worry. What is not said, though intimated, overwhelms me. A relative, a close friend, a corporation or two, and former Governor, current Presidential candidate Tom Vilsack, are on my mind. They remind me of myself. Each is sharing information, albeit obscurely. I suspect these persons are too busy They are franticly beating themselves up. There is no time for much else. These individuals fear that their own words may give others the ammunition they need to hurt them.
You too may be familiar with that nagging force that drives many of us. ‘If others knew me, if they heard what I truly think, if they knew what I did and why, they would slam and damn my spirit.’ Often, people decide it is safer to stay silent. They say very little, only enough to satisfy a curious soul. I did this. I have been to scared to share authentically, much like Audrey, Gabriel, and Governor Tom Vilsack. I questioned my choices, my worth, my thoughts, and my feelings. At times, the events that led me to query were extreme. On other occasions, the everyday decisions seemed enormous.
Months ago I published a private moment. I presented a scenario that some thought captivating; others found my missive tremendously agonizing, a difficult read. Some of those that felt my distress feared I was exposed. Perchance, they worried I would publicly depict their woes if only I knew. I would not. I cannot. I trust that none of us can truly know another or what is within. Although, frequently, we think we do. I might have thought I knew a former beau; yet, from being acquainted with him, I realized I did not even know myself. I believe few of us do. We define ourselves as inadequate beings and then build on this self-concept.
Years ago I was in a relationship so awful, it did not feel as though there was a liaison. Yet, the involvement consumed me. Troubled as I was, I held much inside. I did what people do. I imagined I was wrong, or terribly flawed. I feared, that if I spoke of my concerns I would surely realize greater rejection. Abandonment was a certainty in my mind. I did not want the person I cared for the most to sense my strife. I withheld my feelings from him, even when he opened the door, slightly.
I talked to others. Any ear was welcome. I sought consolation, solace, and support. However, not from the person that I believed had the power to hurt me. I gave him that authority. I granted myself none. Certainly, I was not good enough. I trusted he, Gary was great. I was wrong and right, simultaneously. I still think Gary is sensational; yet, I realize that he does not recognize that he is. Gary is busy. He is putting himself down as he actively pursues perfection. He postures as though he has achieved the ultimate success. Still, there are moments, when with me he revealed himself. I saw what few have. I realize Gary is my mirror, just as you dear reader may be.
Gary taught me much. He talked about perceptions, assumptions, and love. He communicated while saying very little. I was always wondering, what did he mean. Why does he think this or that? I wanted to understand him wholly. Most of all I wanted answers to these questions. “What am I doing?” “Why are feelings so sorrowful?” Finally, after years of grappling with my musings and hiding what was within me, I wrote this exposé. I reversed the roles, seeking empathy. [I offer an introduction. If you wish to read further, please follow the link.]
Fast Forward; The Story Unfolds. Fade into Feelings
Perception; Assumptions are only Associations.
You meet me for the first time, we talk, talk, talk, for close to four hours. There is so much energy, so many common interests, and infinite seeming similarities. I call you and express an interest in getting together. You telephone me the morning of the day we are getting together, just to chat and share. A man answers my phone. You freeze and hang up.
You may wonder? When we do see each other, the conversation continues to be stimulating. You discover in the course of this conversation, as I desire to be honest and I am always completely honest with you, what this man means to me. I tell you that he is my best friend, the person I met many years ago when I was most vulnerable. He is physically beautiful as well as a beautiful person. Yes, he has the key to my home and my heart. You are so confused. Why did I ever approach you? I have another.
Soon after, I email you and ask to see you again. You wonder why am I asking; my life is full. There is no room for you. You are puzzled. You question yourself, `Why would you accept the invitation?’ But you do. The conversations are so stimulating. It has been a long time since a stranger has been this interesting.
After writing and reflecting, after revisiting all that was, I acknowledged, I was my own worst enemy.
This narrative may not reflect your reality. You may not have experienced such an encounter. Your anecdotes will be different. Everyday affairs affect your life profoundly; these cause you to pause.
This week a close friend and persons in my family are confronting their demons. While reflecting on their choices, they wonder; might they have been wrong. Were they foolish to trust their instincts, to do as they thought best. Their faith in others is faltering. They no longer trust themselves completely. Each of these individuals is feeling, as we all do at some time, miserable, misguided, mistaken, or merely as though they were wrong. Whatever they might be thinking about themselves, they are as we have been, reluctant to admit it.
These solid souls are depressed, disappointed. They are mired in the dynamics that led them to this state. Placing the onus on others might seem a solution and even apt; however, when people outwardly do this, I suspect, in truth, they, I, we, most of us blame ourselves.
Moments ago, I heard former Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack is withdrawing his name from the Presidential race. I can only imagine what he might be feeling. I watched his campaign and was impressed. However, he received little attention. Personally, I cast my ballot for principles; I seriously considered Governor Vilsack’s candidacy. Still, the majority vote for electabilty. This equates to popularity.
People tend to follow the lead of the famous, the familiar, and the flock. Tom Vilsack, though admirable was not showy enough for some. Sadly, this brilliant man and exceptional Governor could not mount the campaign of his choosing. Contributions, time, and money, go to the select few, the charmers, the charismatic, the compelling, and those with name recognition. Campaigner Vilsack believes he is not a money magnet. He thinks he is the wrong man for this “type” of race or at least his handlers have told him this is so. I strongly suspect Governor Vilsack is questioning himself. His strengths are likely not looming as large in his mind as they are in mine. Might candidate Vilsack be experiencing self-doubt, illusions, delusions, defeatist thoughts, and depression? Yes, we are our own worst enemy.
I suspect we are all willing to believe the worse when it pertains to our sense of self.
Few of us feel as though we are the one, the extraordinarily enchanting individual that people want to be with, work with, or the person that is infinitely important. We are suspicious of those that do want our attention. Are others attracted to our beauty, power, and position, or are they after our money, the dollars they think we have. Most of us are not honored as we wish to be. We struggle with what life offers. Companies, communities, and compatriots often do not serve us well; we suffer at the hands of others. Each of us frequently questions whether we are able to meet our own needs.
In my own life, I have had ample reason to doubt. I could claim insanity, or I might reference being human. My most recent quandary came after much deliberation.
Up until a year ago, I lived in the glorious state of California. I resided there for close to three decades. While I loved my life in SoCal, I was cold. The maritime climate chills me to the bone. I chose to leave my home state and travel south and east.
Initially, I investigated the possibility of change. I looked at crime statistics. I perused the demographic information available to me on the Internet and in public domain documents. I studied school districts and I weighed the pros and cons. However, I knew list making would leave much to be desired. Imagination plays a role in each of our decisions.
As a child, I lived with my Grandparents in South Florida. I spent two months playing in what was then called Miami Beach. I loved the weather and longed to return. Thus, no matter what I read, no matter what the research revealed, I was destined to travel to the land of my dreams. I planned and packed for the move. Still, I feared making the wrong decision. That apprehension has not left me. I waiver; I worry. I wait to feel settled. At times, I wonder. Was my choice wise.
A relative of mine has a similar quandary. She took a leap of faith and now, recognizes that her transition was not what she expected. This brilliant woman says little about her situation. She seems embarrassed, unable to discuss her decisions. Perhaps she believes people will judge her. Accidentally, I discovered days ago, she thought I was certain, settled, and pleased as punch with my move. While Audrey was working through her own quandary, she did not discuss our similar circumstances. She just assumed, as persons often do. We think others are living a life of bliss and we, once again are wrong.
I understand what Audrey is feeling. My sentiments are similar. From her silence, I can only surmise that Audrey takes for granted I will be critical of her change of heart. Oh no, dearest Audrey, I empathize. I even understand that voicing internal dialogues leaves us feeling vulnerable. If only we knew, we are our own worst enemy. Others will not judge us as harshly as we judge ourselves.
Fantasies are the fabric of our lives. At times, our whimsy does not involve friends, family, or familiars. The workplace causes our heart to palpitate. The marketplace can stimulate sensations. Our fragile souls are easily shaken. Our sense of self can be destroyed. Any moment can weigh on our minds. Our sensibility is often pulled in every direction. We engage and encounter influences outside ourselves; these too cause us to question our choices and understanding of ourselves.
Today, as I pondered my family member’s situation and remembered my own, a close friend telephoned . Gabriel too is in a quandary. He wanted to discuss his concerns; yet, he barely said a word. He was busy, beating himself up. Apparently, he has been engaging in self-criticism for days. Gabriel knew he was wrong. He wanted to be punished for his errors. Evidently, Gabriel did not trust that anyone else would sufficiently slam him and damn him. Therefore, he took on the task himself.
Gabriel Bell made a multi-million dollar investment, or at least has taken steps to solidify what he sees as his mission. This gentleman is a feeling soul. Gabriel works to serve others. He is an educator and an entrepreneur; mostly he is hugely empathetic man. Gabriel Bell feels deeply. Money may be involved in his dealings; however, for him the dollars are less relevant than the prospect of bring joy and wisdom to others.
Years ago, Mister Bell discovered a philosophy that spoke to him. It is people centered. Gabriel imagined offering this program to schools. He wanted to serve the public and pupils well. Mister Bell endeavored to connect with the company that sold this service. He was certain he had; only to realize that business is brutal. A corporation that professes altruism, communication, and compassion, has none for those that they depend on for income. Practically speaking the business managers and attorneys representing this organization do not trust others; yet, they expect others to have faith in them.
Mister Bell is fighting for supplies, a reasonable commitment, and all he receives are requests for cash. What might have been a pleasant and prosperous undertaking is now the source of much pain. Gabriel is crushed. Schools and students are not benefiting from this prolonged legal process. Nothing is going as planned. Giving gracefully has become a battle of wits. Gabriel Bell blames himself for his innocence, naivety, and credulous demeanor. He might dismiss his disappointment, his disillusionment, and relieve his depression by stating, ‘That is the way corporations works today.’ He would be correct.
While voicing ones feelings does not eliminate the real emotions that reside deep within us, it helps the healing to begin. Yes, we are still able to cast the all-consuming shadows of self-doubt. Nevertheless, when we honor ourselves and share what we sense so much can be resolved. Remember Gary, Audrey, and Gabriel too who is now speaking out, sharing his secret concerns. Mister Bell is hoping to create an alliance once again. He is working to coalesce with a company whose philosophies he once admired. He will, if their own self-doubts and illusionary suspicions do not remain their guide.
Conglomerates, comprised of sensitive souls, are much like individuals; we are all our own worst enemies. If only industry and institutions recognized this. Businesses are busy; they too doubt their decisions. They simplify, so that the may reach the bottom line. They stay silent when speaking would be better. They fear the numbers may leave them vulnerable to the stockholders that support them. Corporate establishments slice their own throats in hopes of remaining safe. These actions cause them to suffer unduly.
Home Depot customers and shareholders are questioning their commitment. They too have reason to reflect and realize that they are not at fault. Home Depot profits are slipping. Employees treat customers as they are treated, badly.
Home Depot has delivered superb financial numbers in the past five years, with total sales growing an average of 12% per year and profits doubling. But the share price has dropped 24% during the biggest home improvement boom in history. And shoppers are getting grumpier. The University of Michigan’s annual American Customer Satisfaction index shows Home Depot slipped to dead last among major U.S. retailers, 11 points behind Lowe’s. Home Depot employees, who were encouraged to “make love to the customer” under co-founders Bernard Marcus and Arthur M. Blank now sometimes treat them like bad dates. “I don’t want to say one bad apple spoils the bunch,” says Curt D. Bridges, an electrical engineer from Decatur, Ga., who used to be a die-hard Home Depot fan. “But sometimes some [store clerks] almost blow you off.”
Nardelli’s strategy to expand into the contractor supply business, while cutting costs and streamlining operations in 1,816 U.S. stores, has pushed customer service down the company’s priority list. Many full-time workers have been replaced with part-time employees, who now make up 40% of store staff. Meanwhile, workers’ incentives for good customer service have dwindled, too. The profit-sharing pool for workers shrank to $44 million, down from $90 million the prior year, despite record sales.
The customer service fumbles have been exacerbated by the emergence of newer, more customer-friendly Lowe’s stores. Sales at Home Depot stores open at least one year rose 1% in the first quarter, compared with 2.1% in the same quarter last year, according to analysts. (Lowe’s jumped 5.7%). Home Depot compounded Wall Street’s angst last month when it announced it will stop reporting those figures. That’s an unusual move for most retailers, let alone the second-biggest in the U.S., and has analysts wary of more bad news ahead.
People prefer to go where they are well cared for. They want to know the truth, hear the facts, and feel the energy that makes us all uniquely human. Yet, as I concealed my emotions and apprehensions, as Audrey hid hers, as Gabriel veiled his voice, Home Depot does the same.
Each of us tends to castigate ourselves; we need no assistance to feel awful. We stay silent, or simplify the dynamics of a scenario. We do not allow ourselves to experience others as we might. Humans are so busy protecting themselves from great pain. They do not open their hearts and minds to communion. Sadly, we are our own worst enemies and continue to be so.
Humans crave an authentic connection and severe the possibility. Home Depot wants a strong, loyal customer base; yet, their policies destroy what brings people to them. Individuals, such as Gabriel Bell, want to be more than a source of earnings. He hopes to be meaningful; that is his deepest desire. Yet, his silence seared a significant connection. Audrey hopes as we all do, to be admired and appreciated; however, her lack of sharing does not make this possible.
Tom Vilsack wants what we all yearn for, recognition of his innate worth. The former Governor humbly prefers to be perceived as a magnanimous person, a man that can create unity. He has no interest in being a political pawn playing to the masses. The nature of a society satiated in image offers little opportunity for authentic sharing. Even when we want to be open, self-doubt, illusions, delusions, disappointments, defeatist thoughts, and perhaps depression lead us to question ourselves. Oh, don’t I know this!
Benevolence is beckoning. We can continue to defend our hearts in our feeble attempt to deliver ourselves from evil, or we can emerge and engage. My own experience is when I share my secrets, tell others what is bothering me, and confess to my own shortcomings people are open, loving, giving, and great.
Might we extend our hands, voice our fears, and find a friend in others.
References . . .
Fast Forward; The Story Unfolds. Fade into Feelings By Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
Ex-Iowa governor drops 2008 presidential bid. Cable News Network. POSTED: 2:10 p.m. EST, February 23, 2007
Home Depot: Last Among Shoppers . Business Week June 19, 2006