Crazy Stalker Ex Girlfriend and Collections

I’m doing my job by being the crazy stalker ex girlfriend that really doesn’t work anywhere else. I’m a Billing Specialist.  It’s a hybrid position that was created as an idea.  I was put in place and it has kind of evolved into what it is.  It’s client facing finance.  It’s customer service.  Whatever it is, for this company it is me and I love doing all of the things a crazy stalker ex girlfriend would do.

Reviewing the Contracts

We look over contracts and want to make sure what they have paid covers the cost of what we offered.  We want to see if there’s wiggle room to maybe reduce services and lower costs.  We want to see if it’s worth the time and effort to really go after someone for the debt.

You promised forever and you are going back on your word by taking the love that was promised.  I usually take this moment and try to remember the real moments of love and connection.  I want to remind myself that it was really special at one point, so I don’t get bitter.  I like to push them away but let them leave. I don’t want to be the one to end it because I want to know that I did all I could until the very end.   I’ve learned that about myself.  I can’t be another person to reject them because in the end I still care and love them, but maybe it’s not enough. Maybe I hold too tightly to the good and purposely ignore the bad.  Most of the time the bad really is terrible.

Stalking

I get to call customers repeatedly.  I get to leave messages and voice mails.  I send emails. I’ve faxed and mailed invoices.  Every day, until we’re paid, I get to reach out and make myself known.

Sometimes it’s about an outdated contact.  In those cases I do a Google Search or check LinkedIn.  I’ve texted someone from my personal cell phone. I’ve even checked someone’s personal Facebook profile to make sure they’re still around all in the name of getting a payment.

We all want to know, right? Where are they? Who are they with? Are they just as heartbroken as we are?

Begging

I’m not asking anyone for love or validation, but I get to beg them to pay us.  I ask repeatedly for what was agreed on.  You signed a contract. We gave you what we promised and now you owe us.

I suppose this could also be about getting closure but I’ve learned you can’t get that from an ex.

Record Keeping

In collections, you document each interaction.  You want to know when you called and what efforts were made.  That way, when you enact your collections leverage, you are justified.

Toward the end, the good and the bad are measured and weighed.  We want to know when the scales tip and it’s no longer worth the effort. We want to know what was good and what was accepted because of the good and is the good still there? Is it even enough?

Your Lesson Here

The lesson is this stuff works in collections, but not love relationships. I’m at a point in my latest relationship where we’ve pulled so far apart that I can’t imagine being able to fix it.  I’m seeing that I need to acknowledge and cherish the good but let it go and move on. I’m back in self care mode, and it looks like the perfect time to be the crazy stalker ex girlfriend, but I’m trying to keep that focused and restricted to work. I’m trying to not keep dibs but I want to know where he’ll go from here.  In quiet moments throughout the day since we last parted, I keep telling myself not to do all that I want to because that will drag out the pain instead of healing it.  I keep picking up my phone to read our last texts and start texting something new, only to put it down and remind myself that I will be okay when I decide to let go and move on.

I will hold each cherished memory and balance it with the bad times.  I’ll take the masterpiece of who he is off of my pedestal and strip away layers I added to see the truth of who he was and areas I need to work on that I could only see in the hindsight of my relationship with him.  And I’ll be alone for that healing and recovery because that’s also part of honoring who we were and the memory of the babies we shared and lost.  I don’t have to stop loving him yet.  He doesn’t have to be here to experience that either.  I can release him moment to moment and day to day.

I suppose that lesson for you is more a lesson for me. Tonight there will be whiskey and a cigar on my porch. I’ll read old texts and have a good cry. Maybe even watch some of the shows we watched together. And tomorrow will be a new opportunity to remember to love myself in spite of what I might be feeling. 

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Being a Working Single Mom and Separation Anxiety

The phrase “working mom” is complex in itself. Moms work. Nonstop. From sons up to sons down and later still because some things can only get done after they are down.

For most of my marriage I stayed home or went to work or school a few hours a week. For the most part I was home with the kids doing chores, finding hobbies, baking, crafting and carrying babies as a surrogate when I wasn’t earning scholarships as a student. Most of this was concurrent multi-tasking.

Life for my 10 year old hasn’t been okay since the separation started two years ago. All three still haven’t smiled like they used to. I can see it in their eyes and the way it feels forced and fake. It’s not obvious unless you have known what it is to fake happiness for someone else. I just had another talk about depression the other night and Kid2 admitted he still struggles.

For Kid3, his identity was the youngest in a family of five. When the family of five shifted to four, who he is became a fluid identity in a sea without a stable anchor. Add Mom and Dad living differently and having new relationships and he hasn’t felt safely attached for a while. Not safely enough.  He’s been struggling since then with what is normal.  He’s seen a therapist.  I try to do things with him around the house. Actually, projects and catching up on housework on weekends because I spend most of my week at work or driving are my new normal.  I leave at 7:30 in the morning and don’t get home until around 8 at night.

My latest project was to update my pond.  Pictured is Kid3 several years ago. As for the pond, it’s still evolving.

 

Yesterday morning was a hard one for Kid3.  Honestly, it was a rough continuation of my day before.  I left for work at 7:30 a.m..  I left work early at 3:30 that afternoon, then drove through traffic so bad over about 20 miles that I didn’t get home until 5:45 where I picked kids up for an Awards night at my older kid’s school, not arriving there until 6:15.

We sat through the ceremony, took a few pictures, dropped the boyfriend off at home where he could decompress, then drove around a little more before landing at a new family favorite ramen restaurant. We got home and the meltdown started.

There’s a pattern.  On days when school starts or they’re going back to their Dad, my little one’s separation anxiety ramps up and he refuses to go to school, begging instead to stay home with me.  Yesterday morning I was trying to rush out the door and take a phone interview on my way to work (yay me! I’m over qualified for this entry level position and he’ll keep me in mind if any senior positions open up that will pay more).

Kid3’s tantrum was so bad that I was now 40 minutes late for work, but I had him sit in the car as I finished the interview and hung up.  Tearfully, he told me he didn’t want me to work. He wanted to get me fired. He was willing to leave because calling his Dad for support resulted in a threat to go back to court for custody.   As tight as money is when I’m not working, he wants me to stay home with him.  It feels good to be that wanted.  At the same time, this tells me I’m neglecting his emotional needs and his separation anxiety is a symptom of him not feeling safe enough attachment to me to want to be independent.

That’s heavy.  That last sentence is full of density and I’ll unpack it.

When my kids were little, their needs were simple.  Help them rest when tired.  Feed them when hungry.  Keep them clean enough to be comfortable but dirty enough to have fun.  As they’re getting older and more physically independent, their emotional needs are shifting and they need more support.  I need to help them feel so surrounded by my love that they feel it even when I’m not around.  My youngest doesn’t feel that right now.

A couple of years ago I read the 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.  It explored the five ways we can express or feel love.

  1. Gift giving – He often asks me to buy him things.
  2. Quality time – He likes playing board games or being with me to watch movies or throw a ball around.
  3. Words of affirmation – He needs to hear that I love him and that I value what he says when he’s telling me about his day.
  4. Acts of service – He often asks me to brush his hair or help him with personal hygiene. When he’s happy, he’s willing to do things for me.
  5. Physical touch – He likes belly massages and bear hugs.

He actively asks me to do or engage in these things on a regular basis. So basically my son has shown and told me that he needs all of his emotional love needs met and he’s starved for love.

The greatest lesson about the book is that it taught that the way you show love isn’t necessarily the way others need to receive that love from you and love means finding out how to fulfill the needs of someone else, rather than assume what works for you is good enough in the way most of us selfishly do.

In doing projects I choose and having him join me, I assumed he was getting enough love in the time together, but over the last few days he was showing me that he was not.

At the end of the day, my relationship with my son is a relationship.  I can’t assume what I’ve always done will always be enough because as he grows and walks in independence, his needs change and evolve.  I want to be the parent he is willing to talk to. It’s a relationship that needs time and attention to detail . . . Just like any other relationship.

Startup Culture as it Relates to Motherhood

I’ve been temping at a web startup in Santa Monica and I love it.  Mostly it feels like slipping on a comfortable glove, but only because I have the perspective to see it. It looks like the push and hustle that comes in the early days of motherhood when all you came to expect as normal is shifted for the little one that flips things around for you.

Identity

All startups want to first define who they are.  What are their values? What matters and how will they make their impact? As a new Mom, I had to figure out who I am.  Do I copy the mothers I watched on television? What do I want to take from my parents and grandparents? What is something I want to distance myself from?  How do I identify as a mom, or as an individual? What about my children’s identity? It took many years to accept that my children were separate from me.  They had their own personalities and ideas.  They were going to need to do things their own way and all I could do is guide them from where I sat as Mom.  It was about defining us and setting boundaries that were flexible enough for who we were and wanted to be.

Relationships

There’s a lot of gentleness towards co-workers and inclusion through activities in a startup.  There are company-wide meetings and training with applause and congratulations.  There are company provided weekly meals and happy hours.  There are ping pong tournaments, though I’ve never seen anyone touch the Foosball table. The point is we want to like each other and I really feel we do.  In mothering, I want my boys to get along with each other.  One day when I’m gone, I know my kids will only have each other.  I often remind them that when they end up in therapy as adults, the only people that will understand exactly what their parents put them through is each other.  Without relationships, you can’t rely on others, and being unreliable and unwilling to trust is a weakness.  Relationship matters. This is taught and encouraged and part of the fabric of startup life.

Collaborative Environment

We work together.  Every opinion matters and we keep asking for it. This isn’t reflective of all mothers, but it’s how I run my house.  I try to get my kids to tell me what they think, know and feel.  If I don’t encourage them to see and understand the value within them, I can’t expect them to stand on the security of who they are.  If I don’t trust the boys I’m raising, how can I expect them to trust themselves?  Startups try to hire the right people so they can trust them with their ideas and know they’ll try to make the company successful.

Communication

Documentation and communication are everything in a startup.  It’s how we track progress and see where we came from.  Everything is written and talked about and brainstormed.  It’s about sharing what is in our heads so we can create something bigger together.  Mothering requires diligent communication.  Specifically, you have to be able to read your child’s language as well as their silence.  You have to understand how their bodies move so you’ll know when they aren’t moving normally.  It’s not enough to speak but to listen actively.  As a special needs mom and advocate, documentation is what gets the services you need. It’s a skill that flows fluidly between motherese and Salesforce.

Self Care and Care of Others

I’ve noticed that those in startups rarely take care of themselves.  Give them a job and they’ll do whatever it takes.  There’s a fluid ability to flex your reach into things outside of what was originally defined for you.  Give a person a problem and they’ll analyze several possible answers into solutions.  It’s a gift that is part of mothering.  You do whatever it takes for your child, but with both, there’s an inability to take care of yourself.  In these startups, you’ll have fully loaded kitchens to nourish your body, machines to keep you caffeinated, games to keep you agile and relieve stress and drinks to take the edge off in a grown-up way. In the office I’m currently in, there are even dogs that sit with their people and follow them to meetings. These people consistently put others ahead of themselves.  They are natural at caring for the world outside of themselves.

Focusing on the dogs . . . They are so loved and pampered.  They have neat haircuts and trimmed nails.  Their coats are glossy and well groomed.  They go on walks throughout the day. These dogs make their people go on walks and care for them.  (Much like children.) On Fridays I’ve noticed far fewer dogs in the office.  Their people work harder and will work through lunch or run to the bathroom because they have put their workflow ahead of their bladders.

It’s like being a Mom.  We’ll do all we can to care for our kids and our self care often looks like putting their needs first and getting the latent benefit of our sacrifice.  It’s that same drive and personality.  Self sacrifice and hard work is the default setting. Self care is secondary.  But unnecessary.  If your company wants to make you happy, they understand and want to honor your commitment.  They also understand the value of your contentment means they can pay you less but make you feel like they want you to stay because of the many perks. It’s like the harder exchange that comes in chasing toddlers and changing diapers.  It’s exhausting and hard work but the rewards of a happy child make you forget the frustrations.

Growth Strategy

As a startup, the goal is to grow and be so amazing in the world on it’s own that other companies will want to buy you.  So maybe it’s terribly creepy if you are trying to sell off your child, but really, the goal is independence and that comes from exponential growth and secure development. In that way, startups are exactly like motherhood.

Self Care and Who is Taking Care of You if You Aren’t?

One of the best perks of working through a temp agency is you get placed in really amazing companies.  I’m offered opportunities I would never have on my own because my placement means I’m disposable.  They can bang out a project and send me on my way without the work involved in a typical onboarding process.

Company hopping means I have had cubicles but I’ve also worked in open floor plans with sparse desks that lack personality.  I’ve had standing desks that lift with the touch of a button. (I miss that desk. We were friends.) Right now I have a laptop computer that opens up with recognition from my fingerprint.  I’ve had touchscreen laptops, dual monitors, touchscreen phone systems and noise cancelling headsets.  I’ve been to kitchens that were stocked with healthy free foods and insane amounts of junk to gnosh on.  Some companies regularly cater lunch on some days and others offer free products that they work really hard to sell to the public. They stock half and half next to the almond or coconut milk. There are touchscreen coffee makers that use Starbuck’s coffee or machines that will brew a triple shot espresso and in the next cup you can have a mocha latte or vanilla coffee.  On the way to my desk I’ve walked next to ping pong and foosball tournaments, full indoor basketball courts and dogs that go to work everyday.  I’ve been offered margaritas on the work patio or kombucha and beer on tap.  I’ve avoided monthly emergencies with a bathroom fully stocked with feminine products for free and unlimited Bath and Body Works soaps and lotions.  I’ve been next to co-workers on balance ball chairs that bounce and move as they type or handle calls. I’ve seen showers and a lactation lounge and heard about Summer flex days where 3 day weekends are expected and paid.

These companies treat their employees like they want them to stay.  They remind them to take breaks and stand and snack or relax.  Consistently, I have been in conversations with people at all of these companies where I wonder, if you’re not going to take care of yourself, who will?

I see (usually younger people) working through their lunch and forgetting to eat.  On a great day, I do it too.  There’s a zone where purpose meets drive and productivity babies don’t even need to be burped or changed. But I also make it a point to take care of myself.  I still treat myself like I love myself.  I act like I need to care for the toddler in me.

In my first week with this new company, I kept hearing complaints about the snacks.  The company was moving toward healthier snacks without bothering to focus on internalizing the ideals of healthy foods.  The masses revolted and complained.  I was on the elevator one day, and laughing at the outrage.  I mean, I used to love rolling out of bed for a cold Tommy’s chili burger for breakfast after several hours of too many drinks, too little water, and feet that were tortured in pumps on a dance floor all night.  A few years ago wheat sensitivities changed my ability to eat anything crusty, flaky or relatively cheap.  Earlier this year my gall bladder was taken out, changing my ability to handle fat.  My age has made changes necessary, and they were complaining about food I can no longer eat, while sitting in the same spot at their desks all day.  It was almost funny.  They were abusing their bodies, not knowing that age will take care of the rest one day.  I mean, if you refuse to take care of yourself, who will take care of you?

Self care is so important.

Rest when you need to.  Eat when you need to.  (I only put in my mouth what will make me insanely happy. Good food is a necessity.) Eat foods that will make you feel good.  Play.  Enjoy sunlight and laughter.  Cry when you need to.  Scream when you need to.  Say, “no,” when you need to. Commit to what will make you happy.  Take care of your body and your heart.

Seriously . . . If you refuse to take care of yourself, who do you think will do it?

 

Hold Up a Minute or Why You Should Slow Down and Step Into Self Care

I’m temping with an ad agency right now. It’s been fun though not exactly a wild ride. It’s work and I’m doing it with the accounting department. I’m loving the pace I’m setting and enjoy the stacks that slowly fade away throughout the day.

One of the many perks is one of the many kitchenettes where I stop for coffee, tea, cocoa, and juice with fresh fruit and popcorn breaks. It’s a dog friendly office so there are breaks for walks with friendly barks, the tap of nailed paws kissing concrete, the dog moms speaking motherese to their pups (wait here while mommy grabs my lunch) … There’s the sounds of ping pong tables getting pelted with plastic balls as they’re hit with paddles and guided through laughter, and basketballs hitting the backboard with a squeak of tennis shoes on polished wood.

In the bustle and push of everyone getting it done, we’re consistently invited to slow it down and be intentional with the moments we take to care for ourselves. I’ve noticed more often than not, a solid rush to grab coffee and go. There’s a self directed push. I hear, “excuse me, am I in your way?” as if any one person could be valued less than the next in the spaces we occupy.

Tables and couches or chairs dot the building in spaces to sit and talk and breathe. There are offices and conference tables and long tables without partitions. We are invited to communicate and engage while we share and learn.

I step back and let the rush flow around me. I smile in kindness and offer quiet when the sounds crashing in the heads of others force a staccato completion of each task. I fill my cup and smell the aromas I’m brewing. I hold the warmth and allow time to pace my sip and save the scald for those who will not wait,  those who see their time as a borrowed commodity for a company that invests so much for a workforce to slow down.

Waiting on My Miracle Between Jobs

Everything in life happens exactly as it’s supposed to in the time and manner that it is meant to happen in.

A couple of weeks back, the person taking the company reigns had a town hall meeting.  He encouraged discourse and I asked about the temps.  I asked what was going to be done for the many people that they had invested training in, that they were losing in a company exodus to other companies.  His answer inspired hope, and I emailed my gratitude, and then applied for an open position that I never heard back from.

Fast forward to Thursday when I sat alone at a table during the holiday party.  I was joined by strangers in Sales that told me about a position they were looking to fill.  I was asked for my email, and typed in my work email address, with anticipation and excitement.

Work resumed Friday and I plugged through, with my Dad’s heart surgery on my mind.  Saturday afternoon, I received a catalyzing call.  My contract was terminated and the Friday I had worked was my last shift.  My things would be boxed for me to pick up from the agency.  I would turn in my badge, and I was asked to not contact the company.

I made friends and met people I really respected, and a farewell isn’t a courtesy I can offer in my gratitude.  I only hope showing up authentically was something I did consistently, and that they saw my love and admiration in our interactions.

It’s not even two weeks until Christmas.  I’m a single mom that doesn’t get help from my kid’s Dad.  I get to figure this out.

My first step was to apply for unemployment.

The next was to reach out to friends that may know of an opportunity.

The step after that was to start searching for a job.

The one that came next was to realize the gravity of the gift that I’ve been handed.

I spent the last few months at a company that paid me like they didn’t care to keep me.  I had been passively looking for a better opportunity.  My kids are about to be on vacation from school.  My Dad will need more support since he had surgery, and I will be okay because everything happens the way it’s supposed to at the perfect time for it to.  I will need to be available.  Unemployment won’t cover all of my needs but it will do enough that I will be okay.  And I get to expect to receive better than I had accepted.

I felt gratitude for spending months around people I genuinely liked and powerful business women I admired.  I had a moment of quiet reflection on the men that worked there that gave me pleasant moments of eye candy admiration.  I may even miss those moments of turning a corner to almost crash into Mr. Insanely Tall and Beautiful.  (Really, a girl can’t always handle that much hotness on such short notice.) I felt a little sad that I never told him that his fan club prefers it when he doesn’t shave his face so cleanly.  I appreciated the fact that while it was normal to walk in on someone crying in the bathroom from the stress, it was never me.  I genuinely loved what I did and that’s not something everyone can say.

Day 3 Dawns early with getting my older two off to school.  I get back in bed to snuggle my youngest and breathe in the soft smell of the tear free shampoo we still use.  Waves of anxiety and peace wash over me and the result is an exhaustion that settles over me throughout the day.

I don’t have a job.  My Dad just had heart surgery.  My artistic/autistic son wants me to spend about $200 on 24 gray Copic markers and I choose to do whatever it takes because I want to support his dreams.  Existence is exhausting.

I finally finished decorating my tree and pulling out my little Lemax Christmas village.  I’ve already unwrapped that latest present to myself.  I clear away the tiny snails and algae that was stopping the flow of water in my pond, and I look at the rose bush that hasn’t had the pruning or deadheading I was planning in the spring, but also neglected this fall.  And then there was the sunset.  I worked through the season change in a room without windows to easily look out of, and I was only catching sunset with intention on the weekends.  Today when puttering around the house I’ve neglected for work, I was caught off guard by the sun setting in the west toward Dodger’s Stadium. I stood still and felt my chest rise and fall with my breathing.  I watched the sky shift from yellow to orange and red, then inky blue.  I straightened my posture and the feel of it reminded me that in the last few weeks, I had been slouching again.

I loved what I did, but I was often working through meals and rushing along hallways.  I wasn’t stepping in the authority of who I am, but lost to the movements of a zombie with too much thought in my head to intentionally engage outside of myself. That’s not how I want to live and it’s only now that I’m not, that I can see how I was.

Job hunting has resumed.  I am taking it on like a job, and soon I’ll be back to applying from my phone at the beach or on a trail, or in a museum. Throughout the day I was clenching my fist, to then look at my open palm.  It reminded me that I can’t receive when I refuse to let go, and holding onto nothing only left crescent shaped nail marks in my palm.  You receive nothing new by holding on.  You cause more pain in refusing to release.  I held my palm up, as if waiting to receive. And I expect to find that miracle.  There aren’t any other options.