Triggers

In the article below, asking interview questions from CEO’s that vary from the norm, Michelle Peluso, CEO of Gilt Groupe is reported as asking:

MSN 17 Interview Questions

“OK, I’ve interviewed an eclectic crowd about you: the guy who delivers your food, the last people you worked with, the person who can’t stand you the most, your best friend from high school, your mother’s neighbor, your kindergarten teacher, your high school math teacher who loved you, and your last boss.” Then she asks: “If I were to say to them, ‘Give me three adjectives that best describe you,’ what would I hear?”

Peluso says if the candidate gives her three glowing adjectives, she’ll remind them that the hypothetical group includes a few people who aren’t particularly fond of them.

 Interesting, yes? But as I think about her list I am increasingly disturbed. Kindergarten teacher? I only recall her being mean, or frustrated with me, yelling at me after I got pushed under the merry-go-round while it was spinning madly away. I was hurt and she had to clean up and bandage my knee. I just remember being hurt and puzzled when she blamed me for the incident. I remember shame.  This is one of my very few memories from kindergarten.  What did that teacher think of me?  I don’t know.  In that moment, she thought I was stupid, or that I didn’t know my place, or something.  I don’t know what she thought of me honestly, but if my memory is an indication, she found me frustrating.

It’s strange how disturbing I find it to reflect on that memory after all these years.  I feel that shame flooding through me, even though adult me knows that I did nothing wrong.  There is nothing wrong or even odd about a child wanting to ride the merry-go-round, even if the kids on it are older.

She also asks about the person who can’t stand you the most. Whew!  Who is that?  I don’t generally think that people can’t stand me.  I don’t think my in-laws were overly fond of me, but I don’t think it rose to the level of contempt. The only person I can think of is someone I had to report for failure to report to work, or the person I had to fire.  They would say that I was difficult or worse, but I don’t know what a single adjective would be for that.

Thinking about this is rather distressing. I am reviewing my life to see if there is someone who can’t stand me. Is there someone out there who I have hurt to the point of contempt or fury? Is there someone out there who actively hates me? Perhaps, but I don’t know.  I’m not certain I know how my actions or words are seen from the other side of a situation or a conversation. I have to wonder what my kindergarten teacher was like as a whole, as I can only remember the one incident.  Was she generally kind, but frustrated?  Was her intent to teach me some lesson that would keep me from getting hurt?  I don’t know. I still don’t think I did anything wrong.  And maybe she didn’t either.  Maybe I am remembering her completely out of context.  I have to remember that.

The guy who delivers my food would say he’s glad I came to the door because I’m a decent tipper.My best friend from high school would say…fun?  Loyal?  My mother’s neighbor…I don’t know any of her neighbors in the apartment they moved into recently.  I live halfway across the country, so they would scratch their heads and say, “Absent?” The high school math teacher who loved me, would call me smart, hard-working, dedicated.  My last boss was a woman I never met, as I was working for a temp agency.  She would likely praise me for being someone that made her money.  The last people I worked with would say I was nice, quiet, hard-working.  So what would that tell a person?  Would it give anyone a full picture?  How do you decide whether to hire a person based on those questions?  It’s an interesting question.  But thinking through the question has triggered a lot of memories and emotions that are both pleasant and unpleasant.

How would you answer that question?

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Speak No Evil

So the vocal pathologist tells me I don’t talk enough. I don’t actually use my voice enough, and that to be able to regain the strength for my singing I must talk more. I’m laughing because when was the last time you heard anyone tell a woman to talk more? I’ll grant you, I don’t talk much. It’s not the first time I’ve been told that. My words are usually either written or sung. Written because…well…backspace and erase keys are my friends. Talking means forgetting yourself a bit and being less careful with sentence structure, and the possibility that some of the ugly inside will get out. And once the ugly is out, spoken aloud, there’s no denying it and there’s no way to undo the hurt or harm that might be caused by the caustic stew, and aren’t people worth more than that?

Trust me, I’m thinking of you when I hold my peace. I’m thinking of all the times I’ve said the wrong thing, misstated things until someone is angry and hurt and it wasn’t even what I meant. And the times when someone is hurt and angry and it was exactly what I meant, but the minute I’ve carved someone up with my words, I am wishing I could take all that ugliness back.

How to speak without ugly, that is the problem; how to say good things and not harmful things, how to speak grace and forgiveness and blessing into someone’s life and to keep my own sinful heart from spilling through my lips, that’s the struggle.

Sadly, some people take my silence as accusation, as criticism, as harsh. It’s exactly the opposite, I’m afraid. My silence is protection. I’ve tromped over tender hearts too often, angered sullen teenagers, hardened hearts, made things worse instead of better.

So…how to speak more without spewing forth, and maybe doing my heart some good in the meantime? How about speaking forth Psalms, prayers, scripture? How about reading aloud the services of the church? Now there’s a plan!

The Art of Living Like Edith Bunker

I imagine that in one form or another, everywhere there is cable television anywhere on the planet, there are reruns of “All in the Family”playing. It’s just a guess. What was cutting-edge when it was aired almost seems anachronistic now, the racist, bigotted, mysoginistic Archie, who works at “the plant” on “the loading dock”, but is King of His Castle at home, waited on by his sweeter-than-honey “dingbat” servant of a wife who never seems to take offense at anything Archie says, Edith Bunker.

Edith used to drive me crazy. How did she put up with the things Archie said to her? Why was she always running to bring him a beer, or to make sure his dinner was perfect? Why did she never, ever ask for anything for herself, including respect?

When I was young, Archie and Edith Bunker were so foreign to my experience that I thought it was complete fantasy. Funny, yes, but fantasy still. I was eighteen when I met my father-in-law for the first time and I remember thinking clearly, Oh, my God! Archie Bunker is FOR REAL!!! In that instant, my mind opened to the possibility that much I had read and seen may have been based upon Real. Life. People.

I had only known my own kind, I suppose you could say. What that means, exactly, is hard to say so many years later. It had little to do with race, though probably a lot to do with a combination of my neighborhood, my private school and my church. I assumed that we all lived pretty much alike and that we all believed pretty much alike and that we were…the same. It’s hard to describe how I could feel so different, and yet think that we were all the same. It’s as if I came from a carton of eggs, all from the same farm, all the same shape, size and color, except that I was a blue egg, and unaware that not only were there other farms and other chickens, but other species that laid eggs as well. This blue chicken egg from Colorado, came up against an ostrich egg from New Jersey.

Edith Bunker is a good egg. She is unfailingly kind, loving, generous, caring, hard-working, and grateful. And she is totally in love with her lout of a husband, Archie. Please understand, Archie isn’t all bad, but he has been raised to see the world a certain way, and he is afraid that the changes will push him out of the way. He served his country and has worked hard his whole life with little reward. He lives in a row house in Brooklyn with old and fading furniture which he can’t afford to replace. He is a faithful but inattentive husband who gets little respect in a world which raised him to believe he should be respected for being a man, a soldier, a husband, a father and a hard-worker.

Edith, on the other had, must have been loved unconditionally as a child, for she doesn’t take any of Archie’s grumpiness or snipes to heart. She has a sunny disposition and lets the bad stuff roll off her. They could have an unpleasant home, filled with arguments and quarrels, but they don’t. Why? Because Edith. Completely sunny, lovely Edith. Why does she put up with him? She loves him.

Don’t we all want someone who loves us at our best, at our worst and everywhere in between? Don’t we want someone who admires us even when we know we aren’t that wonderful? Don’t we want someone whose trust we would hate to lose? When the world kicks us in the teeth and shoves us down in the mud, don’t we want to come home to someone who will bind up our wounds and make us see ourselves as brave and good? Even better, what if I was that person? What if my children knew me as their champion, their fearless defender, the one who saw only the good in them? What if my husband knew me as someone who only saw him as a good man, a worthy man, a man to respect? What if I did not let petty insults, grudges or irritability get in the way of seeing the goodness in that person? And what if I saw people as better than they are in such a way that they would want to live up to that? What if I became that person who was always happy to see you and let it show, unabashed, unashamed, complete love and adoration.  Wouldn’t you like that?  Isn’t that why so many of us have dogs? (I’m NOT comparing Edith to a dog.)

If there is one lesson I want to learn from Edith, it is to greet people as I really feel, with unashamed, open arms that say, “I’m so happy you’re here!” Thanks, Edith. It has taken me a long time to realize what an amazing person you are.