fade or journey

The topmost layer of paint had begun to fade and underneath the outline of long forgotten words took shape.  They had been buried, hidden in an attempt to wipe them away but time, wind, rain, friction, stripped away the covering to expose them again.  They weren’t quite readable yet and perhaps never would be but they were there all the same.

Such it is with most things in our lives.  Try as we might to hide our pasts, the truth remains just below the surface, beneath the flimsy walls we raise to protect ourselves and those around us from our missteps.  Eventually, the walls will chip, wear thin, and splinter, and the memories hidden beneath will be exposed.

Some walls are stronger, some are weaker, and all are prone to the same ravages of time.  We are only human after all.  We cannot attain perfection.

That doesn’t mean we should wear our past on our sleeves, chips of pride and patches of past sins.  We don’t need to revel in the mistakes that have been made.  Rather we should embrace the lessons that were learned because of those mistakes and we should look for the same in others.  Do not judge those who have fallen.  We have all fallen.  Applaud those who stand up and learn to place their steps more carefully.  Lend a steadying hand to those who try.

Or we can just keep stumbling around, with our fraying layers attempting the impossible…

In all honesty, I have no idea how we got here.  This started as a post about the neglected aesthetics of my office.  It was a red curb in desperate need of paint and beneath the red I could see the outline of words that had been written on top of a previous coat.  Noticing that helped me notice other things here and there that were in need of a fresh coat, a minor patch, some stucco, a complete overhaul…

And then I started typing, and as is so often the case, the words took their own journey.

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knowledge

It was a master class in corporate double speak where the only contradiction was hidden in the words left unsaid.  Questions were asked and answered, often at length in a meandering yet captivating tone, that left the asker satisfied but not better informed.  Only a truly charismatic individual can command a room of intellectuals to that extent.  Or perhaps the audience was not as smart as previously believed.  It was likely a combination of both…

When enough time had passed, he finished speaking and announced lunch was ready, with a joke and a smile, and all sins were forgotten as we gorged ourselves on a buffet of multi-cultural delights, though none were Turkish.  Not all sins were actually forgotten though as the contradictions of the hour festered beneath the surface.  We weren’t as stupid as we let on.  We just knew that nodding and smiling were our part of the charade, the corporate game.

You flew across the country, all the way from New York City, to say hello.  You flew across the country to tell us that our recent transition, reduction in force, layoffs, firings, were hard, yes, but they have come to end and we have been right sized so there is nothing to fear.  Yet there you sat, on the wrong coast, surveying the carnage and calculating the next ten moves that need to be made because the problems that existed before still run rampant and everyone knows that chopping and shuffling are the fastest way to get results.  So, claim all is well if you will but we know better.

round and round

Empty chairs at empty cubes and the memory of footsteps echo down the deserted hallways.  So few people now fill the large space that their presence seems more out of place than the absence of all who used to join them.  They are blemishes.  They are the joyous and guilt-ridden, having survived yet another round of layoffs.  There turn will come, though, and the weight of that knowledge hangs over them, growing heavier with each ticking second.  Tick.  Tock.  Tick.  Tock.  Tick.  Tock.  In this industry it is only a matter of when, not if, they too will be ushered to the door and sent looking elsewhere, for no other reason than it looks good on the balance sheet to have a smaller headcount and new employees are cheaper than the experienced ones.

So the revolving door goes.

Eventually the chairs and cubes will fill up again and the building will be bustling with activity.  Chatter, pings, squeaks, and the constant clacking of keys will add to the ambience of real steps passing through the corridors.  Then, in a reversal, the few stations that remain empty will stand out as the blemishes, as the reminders that this level of enterprise is only temporary and will be short-lived.  The enthusiasm of workers tackling new roles, sharing ideas, improving processes will flounder and stall.  Then the cubes will begin to empty again, sometimes in trickles and sometimes in floods of people being shown the door until once again only a few remain.

So the revolving door goes.

No Real Mystery

It stank of stale piss and competing colognes
And, not for the first time, I wondered why I worked there.

I’d been made to feel stupid again
Before the day had even really begun
And, not for the first time, I wondered why I worked there.

Where is the value in clicking buttons,
Attending project meetings for years on end,
Filling out performance evaluations that have no meaning?
And, not for the first time, I wondered why I worked there.

Gone were the days of arrogance and confidence,
Those highpoints of my early twenties.
They thinned with the hairs on top of my head
And weakened with the color in my beard.
And, not for the first time, I wondered why I worked there.

But then I went home.
The home the Queen and I built together,
The Kingdom for our two little princes, who aren’t so little anymore,
And I helped put dinner on the table, and I listened to the boys giggle,
And I read them books and sang them songs and brushed their teeth,
And, not for the first time, I hoped I would continue to work there…

Because what I deal with for my nine to five
Is nothing really in the grand scheme of things,
In the pursuit of what is best for those I love.

a day in the life

Image Credit: OnConference.com

The restroom smelled of acrid decay, mostly emanating from the pools in the corner, and I instinctively stopped at the sink to wash my hands.  I could feel the stink of the place on my flesh.  When I looked up, the wizard in the mirror said, “The trick is to believe you are where you want to be.”  I blinked and he was gone.

I long blinked again and then held my tired lids closed and imagined the smell of sea spray filling my nose while the crash and roar of the tides echoed in the distance.  I wasn’t surprised to find myself in the same dingy bathroom when I opened my eyes.  I could see where I wanted to be.  I could hear it and smell it.  However, I never truly believed I was there.

The level of faith and trust required to truly believe in something had never come easy to me.  My mind worshipped logic and my heart beat to the rhythm of mathematics.  One of the yellowed iridescent bulbs over the sink flickered in response to my distracted lingering and I turned off the faucet and carefully stepped away in search of a towel to dry my hands.  The wizard winked at me from the air blower by the door.

I wiped my hands on my pant legs to avoid that germ fest and used my back to push open the door.  I considered the cost of the shirt I was wearing and briefly debated burning it rather than throwing in my washing machine when I got home.  Sound reasoning, however, swayed me quickly to the side of soap turned to sounds through mechanical agitation.

The hallway was lined in copies and bad knock-offs of famous paintings and I shook my head in disgust at the ruse of our dying culture.  It reeked of desperation to fake high society rather than own the truth of our reality.  The wizard stepped in to replace the screamer and whispered, “The trick is to believe you are what you want to be.”  I ignored him and carried on down the hall.

I walked purposefully, holding eye contact with those I passed, and projecting confidence and an exuberance for the mundane rituals of our pointless lives.  Again, though, I was not immediately successful or happy.  I knew what it meant to be both.  I knew what it took.  However, I did not believe I was worthy of either.

The office smelled of futile decay.  A sea of cubicles, awash with wasted life, drifted with the tides of change.  Eyes shifted above glowing screens to mark my progress across the floor.  I could hear their thoughts, a cacophony of pleas for freedom, and the weight of their cries slowed my steps.  Laughter, cruel and low, caused me to turn and see the wizard staring at me from a nearby computer monitor.

I hated him.  His mocking promises and half-truths had haunted me since I first began to understand what it meant to be a contributing member of society and the shiny gloss of a child’s dream of adulthood quickly wore away.  I knew he was a figment of my stifled imagination, logically, and I would never be free of him, but his demand for faith was something I could never supply.