I have been the villainous Nurse Ratched more times than I care to admit. Efficient, superior, and unbending. I have exploited power by harshly enforcing those deal-breaker “policies” like Visitation 600.29 when it suited me. I have been demanding and downright intimidating to some coworkers. I did all of this under the immature guise of leadership. These behaviors served me. I was given more responsibility, known as a dog for the details, an agent of change. I can’t help but wonder how many nightmares was I the monster or the topic of employee’s therapy sessions?
Some of these behaviors were a result of my upbringing, messages/expressions that I’d heard growing up, familiar to me without negative consequences. For example, I was the PCC on the evening shift. The Unit Secretary was a young single mother with a host of social problems. She could perform well one day but not the next. Her trips to lab often resulted in her being AWOL or chronic tardiness from breaks. She was inconsistent in taking and communicating messages and she always had an excuse.I’d made what I thought was a decent attempt to be clear about directions and expectations. But our dance was often one step forward and two steps back. Alone in the formula room and she said something that got on the last nerve, sent me to the nth degree. Exasperated, I said, “Sometimes you make me want to throttle you!”
She cowered in a small child defensive posture with her arms covering her head. I was stunned like being punched in the gut. I asked, “What’s wrong?” “You scare me.” she said. I didn’t consider my words threatening. I only was expressing my own frustration. At my house we didn’t fear physical harm, never experienced it. This gave me much to think about, adjust, amend and study. I didn’t know her story only mine.
She taught me that I am responsible for both the words said and how they are delivered. I had to adjust my habit of immediate reaction and pause, breathe and consider before responding in situations. I don’t like that but I try and do so more consistently. This experience taught me to be slightly more compassionate. The biggest lesson of this story is the lesson of forgiveness.
I made a big mistake, likely many with this person and employee. It ate at me. I had to forgive my ignorance over and over. Years later in line at a grocery a woman turned and introduced herself. It was young woman I had wounded with words. I smiled and asked if she was well. A little forcefully she announced her educational accomplishments, marital status and ages of her children. She was standing proud and reminding me I was wrong. She’d done some growing up. We both had. I told her that I was happy for her and to be well. Later, I needed to forgive myself again. Lack of knowing or mistakes happen to us all. I believe “That we are only as sick as our secrets.” Shame, resentments, regrets fester if not shared. My mean and ugly needed the light of day to be exposed and examined healed.