Nov 8, 2009

Run To The Battle

Thoughts on being who you are:

Behold, my Angel, my Precious Pup, my darling Pepper Dog. . . being her Alpha Bitch self.

Pepper never picks a fight, but she loves to run to the battle if one is breaking out. She wants to pull down the biggest bully and bring him to heel; to the Blue Heeler Way of How Things Should Be.

Like the profile in Bill Whittle's essay regarding Tribes
, Pepper is of the Sheepdog tribe. She is a perfect angel at home; calm, laid-back, obedient and harmless. Out and about, she is friendly to all, and sees nothing to discriminate against in 99% of the people and pets she meets. But when a fight breaks out, she wants to be there. It's almost funny to watch this sublime slacker get all het'up and hear her teeth clicking as she goes after her quarry's neck. Almost. "Stay!" is the only word she'll heed, if she can hear it in the thick of the rumble.

She gets back home and howls at us to let us know how righteous and good it felt to get out and mix it up a bit, even though she was mostly perplexed by the large number of silly, playful dogs at the bark park. She really, really wanted to play but wasn't very good at reading the signals of play, and besides, she was pretty sure she needed to bring order to the chaos. It's who she is and I can't change it. I wouldn't want to.

At my new place of work, the transfer went smoothly, mostly. I am referred to as, "hey, Florida!" and have fallen amongst a pleasant group of people who are very accepting. Indeed, moreso than the rough-and-tumble scratching that went on in J'ville, the Charleston group is a bit happier because they have a stronger authority figure, who is quite human, for a manager. No overt pissing contests or jockeying for position amongst the AMs; still, the sh*t flows downhill as you'd expect in retail work. Everyone knows their place and the signals are clear and unmistakable.

For me, that's helpful. I am of Pepper's tribe and I can't change it. If I see weakness in leadership, I can barely tolerate it. I have difficulty hearing the command, "Stay!" and will open my mouth and point and say, "Look, this does not seem right or reasonable. I can accept an explanation that makes sense, but I will not accept that it has to be this way simply on passive acceptance of the practice." Like Pepper, I must challenge the rights of leadership when confusion is breaking out unabated.

The main Assistant Manager is very nice and mostly equitable, but he needs to assert himself by small demeaning comments based on his knowledge of things he actually can't know. You may know the type: he calls the cashiers, "girls," as a group. (Yes, he is a former grocery store manager, why would you think so?) But he's a valuable asset to the order and smooth-running of store operations. He's okay just as he is, and not a serious existential threat to me. "Stay!" I tell myself. I'm getting the hang of playing well within the pack.

One of the long-term cashiers is smart enough to lead, but her personal insecurities practically shout to all, "love me." It's a sad and painful-t0-watch endless dialogue of what she knows, how many customers love her, want to marry her, bring her gifts, are stalking her, etc. And that was just day one with her. She's not a petty person, as that would require too much attention to others, so I take her as she is. She's a valuable asset to the customers and pulls more than her weight. She's okay just as she is. "Stay!" I tell myself, and we laugh together and I defer to her because it costs me nothing. "Good girl!"

I need strong leadership in my life, at every level. Very few women can provide that to me, though several have been a pillar of support and a wise counsel to my headstrong--okay, hardheaded-- way of conducting life. Many years and tears and prayers for God to change me and make me a sweet and seemly consort for my long-suffering husband have gone unanswered and I'm beginning to understand why: because they were misguided.

Yes of course, we all have personal work to accomplish; to be less selfish, to be more patient, to grow thicker skin in the rough-and-tumble of life. But wanting to be other than what we truly are is to call down a world of discontent and woe into one's life.

I was always into track sports in school and would enjoy the primal sensations of poising for the start, stomach in a knot, nerves tingling, mind focused. . . blam!! I was too short to win the longer stretches, so I made it a point to be first out of the blocks at every start for the shorter sprints. Nobody beat me out of the blocks and I never pulled a false start. It was my best shot at making a difference and perhaps winning a point or two for the team meet. I was lightning quick and attentive, ready to run to the battle. How I love that feeling even now!

Somewhere in 11th grade I began to fight that. I didn't want to be a competitive person because I found myself mowing over lesser mortals and hurting their feelings. I was crushed to see what my normal sense of playfulness and competition did to those who only heard snapping teeth at their heels. I never saw myself as powerful or stronger than those around me. Like Disney's "The Ugliest Dachshund" my sense of myself was built in the litter of eight, as the scrappy little runt. But in reality, others saw me as a leader. And likely not a good one.

Nothing is worse than a natural leader who is insecure and unequipped for the task, and so I took a more demure route of leadership by being a good follower, an excellent employee, a Team Player. Well, I tried, anyway. It's what I wanted to be because it would make me more acceptable to others. I wanted to be liked more than I wanted to be respected, and like my poor, perplexed pup, I mostly stood to the outside of the circles and stayed close to the Alpha dog.

Fortunately, at some point the You in you just rises up and says, "screw this!" And that's when the trouble starts anew-- and the You wants to blog or twitter or write or sculpt or whatever. If we're not careful to cultivate it, life will just keep intruding, and mortgages and bills and cares upon cares will swallow up who we are, and gobble up life's open opportunities to be what we were meant to be.

I am a lowly cashier by day now; no longer even in an exciting or unique career and nothing to recommend me socially amongst my peers. But deep in my Joan of Argghh! heart of hearts, I am a poet, an artist, and a warrior who longs for the battle. This blog is just a little attempt to find a place for all that within the mountain of cares and time-thieves that would daunt my spirit.

Perhaps you will notice that, unlike my Patron Saint, the voices that I hear are usually just the roar of my own prattling thoughts, signifying not much, really.

But it's okay. I'm alright just like I am, and that group of so-called leaders up in Washington needs to hear my teeth snapping at their heels.

Amidst the cries for moderation it's gonna be hard to hear, "Stay!" in the coming battle.


Yabu (EOTIS) said...

Damn!!! Great Feeling!!!

julie said...

Fortunately, at some point the You in you just rises up and says, "screw this!" And that's when the trouble starts anew

Oh, is that ever true. More and more lately, I think the hardest thing in life is figuring out how to reconcile the You that is calling with the life and circumstances in which we find ourselves at any given moment. Some days, I don't even know if that's possible. But we have to keep trying, on pain of living death, once we've heard that first siren call.

For what it's worth, Joan, I've always liked you just as you are (or as you seem to be, since I only know you online) - especially when you're snapping at heels that need a major nipping.

pamibe said...

So very true! I need strong leadership as well, [and this may get me shot by the NOW gals] even in a husband. ;)

Great seeing the Pepper Dog mixing it up!

PeggyU said...

LOL! You are one with the Pepper Dog!

My kindred spirit, unfortunately, is this fatass lazy tuxedo cat lounging here ...

Jean said...

I hope you never let you go anywhere without you.


GUYK said...

"I took a more demure route of leadership by being a good follower, an excellent employee, a Team Player."

One of the many valuable things that I learned during my military career is that one has to learn to be a good follower before one can ever be an effective leader. I think you are on the right see, we all have a boss...even the store owners have to follow what the customers want...

og said...

When comes the battle, I will plug your ears that you never hear "Stay". And I will smite he who says it. I've always got that you're a "lite-fuse-and-get-away" person, and I love to see them in action.

jwm said...

Fortunately, at some point the You in you just rises up and says, "screw this!" And that's when the trouble starts anew...

Julie picked this one out too.
Ah, Joan, thanks for this post. There are many similarities in my own story and situation. I have a post very like to this one waiting on my lazy ass to write it down. Check that. I'm not lazy; I've been working my ass off, and I'm goddamn tired. And the unposted blog entry is laced with enough anger that maybe it should stay off line. Just like the speech that should not be given to the boss...We'll see. Carry on, Joan.


Van said...

"Fortunately, at some point the You in you just rises up and says, "screw this!" And that's when the trouble starts anew-- and the You wants to blog or twitter or write or sculpt or whatever."

pant... pant... pant... [ears perk up... slant back... fangs bared... rises up onto haunches]
[crouches ready to leap...]

(Just trying to paint the word picture the typical mis-leading purveyors of aimlessness see on coming into contact with Joan of Argghh!)

hoosierboy said...

I swear you are my twin.