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On quitting and starting: a lesson from my boss

When I interviewed for the job, it seemed too good to be true. Perhaps that should have been my first red flag. The negotiations during the hiring process should have been the next red flag. I ignored both in favor for economic safety and security for my family.

At first, what had been promised were ignored or resented almost nonchalantly. Eventually, passive aggressiveness and contradictions became the norm. Unfortunately, that behavior was something I knew far too well.

It affected my attitude. The wounded, petulant parts of me took over. Unhealthy, ineffective default modes in which I had learned to cope took over. I was miserable and drained every day, thrilled when Friday arrived and almost in tears every Monday morning.

“Why is this happening?” reverberated in my head until one day I realized there was a deeper lesson being presented. I started exploring where I had seen a similar situation in my life. As the examples started filtering in through often painful memories, I found myself wanting to stop the exploration process. It was certainly not comfortable to just sit and observe with curiosity and wonder, not trying to fix, change, or judge anything. Yet, the more I was grounded and present with the process, the faster and more vivid the answers became.

Eventually I could see when and why these old default patterns started in the first place. While they certainly weren’t the best way to act, they met my needs at that time. I did the best I could with what I had available to me. I was four when they began. But I am far from that age now and this was my boss posing the challenges, not my family.It was time to do some deep work.

I don’t believe in forgiveness in the way most of us know it. I believe we experience situations that allow our consciousness to expand. From that perspective, while the experiences may be difficult and painful, there’s nothing to forgive. We’re all just guiding each other home, even through pain, frustration, challenges.

Every painful situation is an opportunity to heal, love, transcend. Easy to say when you can look at it from the 10,000 foot view, far more challenging when it’s closing in on you. In the process of challenges, it is difficult to think straight, the fight/flight/freeze/submit part of your brain takes over and nothing is logical.

Where I think forgiveness is helpful is in recognizing the humanness and divinity in all of us. Forgiveness is for letting go of the blame, shame, and guilt. Forgiveness cuts us some slack. It helps us say, “Yep, I was an ass, they were a jerk, neither of us showed up as our best person, but I am not going to beat myself up or hold this over them for one second longer. We both were doing the best we could with what we had available at that moment.”

This is not about excusing someone else poor behavior. My boss showed a lack of leadership, integrity, and respect. How I reacted to it is my responsibility and I, too, responded disrespectfully, angrily, with plenty of passive aggressiveness.

Far easier to focus on all the bad about a situation or the people involved than it is to find that one speck of light and focus on that, continually, diligently, until that speck begins to grow. The ego will try to bait you into going down the path of woulda, coulda, shoulda, shame, blame and regret. But if you’re willing to simply say (and keep saying), “No thanks, I am choosing to forgive instead,” eventually the ego gives up.

When I resigned, I immediately started focusing on forgiving myself, my boss, the situation, previous people whom shared similar situations with me, including my family. It was hard. My ego fought it, bringing up every inequity over the tenure of my job. I repeated forgiveness like a mantra, refusing to take the bait.

The internal work is far from complete. Rewiring the brain to new default patterns takes time and commitment. Every single day, I realize how much happier I am and how many opportunities continue to present themselves. I don’t think that is a coincidence. While I would never recommend anyone working for my former boss, I am grateful for the (albeit painful) opportunity I had to change myself.