And there are days when I feel like I'm still picking up the pieces.
Have you ever worked somewhere that was run by a bunch of hypocrites? Crisp business suits. Specific job descriptions. And the inability to sincerely thank those making them look good. You are never good enough. And you are told so every time you don't meet their unrealistic expectations. And to make it even better, you work for the church.
It will destroy you, from the inside out.
Each little word.
Each little reminder that you aren't good enough.
Each tiny mistake enlarged for all to see.
And you try. You try so hard not to let it get to you. You try to have that "tougher shell" that those who inflict the pain insist you need to have to survive. Except it doesn't work.
Because you are a sponge. You take in your surroundings. You put your heart and soul into what you create. So when your superiors find fault with your work—it hurts. But if they just critiqued your work without making it personal—you would be tough enough.
And because you are a woman, you are continually passed over for raises. Because you are a woman you are shamed in meetings. Because you are a woman, if you do stand up for yourself—you'll wish by the end of the day that you hadn't.
In college I chose art as a career. There weren't many girls in that career path when I was in college. Which made it a delightful challenge that many of us embraced. Looking back if I knew what I know now—would I have still chosen that career?
The work loads got bigger, and those left to keep things running began to crack under the pressure. The church politics loomed over our heads and things became less business and more personal. It became a game of survival—church style.
Each little word would end up cutting a little deeper—a bit more personal.
Each little reminder would cost you a bit more of your soul.
Each tiny mistake would be used as blackmail—until you yourself began to doubt your abilities.
And those are the pieces I'm sifting through.
Which words were a product of a bad day.
Which reminders had more to do with church politics and less to do with the job.
Which tiny mistakes were just a reason to get even.
There are a lot of pieces. I worked there for five years. It will likely take awhile to sort through them all.
The pieces that were a product of a bad day are easy.
You just toss them out and forget about them.
The pieces that dealt with church politics are more difficult.
You can't just toss them out. As much as I wish you could, you can't. Each piece contains too much of your soul. It may take weeks, months, or even years before you can remove one piece from the pile.
The pieces that were used as blackmail revenge are both difficult and easy.
The use of blackmail worked when status actually mattered. And now that it doesn't, you can be cheerful around them without being thrown under a bus for mistakes that weren't your own. And the best part is—it annoys them. At which point you pitch the pieces. They weren't worth keeping anyway.
The healing process is still in progress. Five years is a long time. But maybe when I am done with the sorting, the pile will look more like this:
Pavement Fractals, 2009 by Cynthia Fisher