March 11, 2012

The Reverse Cassandra Curse

As regular readers know (if there's such a thing as regular readers to such an infrequently updated blog), I take anti-depressants. Long before I was diagnosed with depression, I recognized my tendency toward pessimism. It has taken years for me to teach myself to think positively, to count my blessings, to view the glass as half full, etc., etc., etc. Now I can be so optimistic that I'm practically a Pollyanna. Unfortunately, this approach seems to be backfiring. Every time I say something positive, the opposite happens. Scott and I first noticed this phenomenon several years ago when we were driving somewhere with young Ferris in the back of our vehicle. I remarked that we were fortunate that Ferris was never car sick. Barely a second passed before Ferris vomited. Scott blamed me. Since that time, it feels as though the majority of my optimistic observations have been immediately contradicted by reality. It has come to the point where Scott will scold me whenever I make a positive remark. I feel like I have some twisted version of Cassandra's curse.

Cassandra n.
1. Greek Mythology. A daughter of Priam, the king of Troy, endowed with the gift of prophecy but fated by Apollo never to be believed.
2. One that utters unheeded prophecies.

This reverse curse of mine doesn't apply only to things I have spoken aloud but even to things that I have blogged. Take my last post, where I cheerfully revealed that Kai's daycare dilemma was solved and that he was with a new care provider whom he loved. It wasn't long after I clicked "Publish post" that the provider announced that she will be switching careers. I now need to find poor Kai his fourth childcare placement. I have been having very little luck.

Another example regards my career. I was excited about the upcoming relocation of my workplace to an office closer to my home. Most of my coworkers were dreading the move, as the new building is in an area with few amenities. I tried to cheer them up by pointing out the positive aspects of the new space. I was also concentrating my daycare search along the route to my new office. While I was still unhappy that Kai was going to have yet another change, I was trying to view it as an opportunity to find a more conveniently located placement for him. My positive thinking was punished by the recent announcement that I was not, in fact, going to be moving along with the rest of the branch. Instead, three of my colleagues and I are being separated from our team and being redeployed downtown to the (sorry -- retching a little here) legal department.

I can't express how upsetting it is to be torn from a warm and fuzzy social-worker-filled team and thrown into a group of... of... I can't even type the word. Let's just say that there are many, many jokes about people in that particular profession. After our director delivered the news, she stood up and said, "I'll leave you to be together now; it's what you do so well." She left the room hurriedly before the tears welling up in my eyes could spill down my cheeks. I looked around and discovered that I wasn't the only one crying. My poor supervisor was in even worse shape than I was; she had been sitting on the news for two days and hadn't been able to say anything to us.

While all of the work groups under our employer are called "teams," ours epitomizes the word. We are close and united. We are a very small group that for many years has gone unnoticed by the 900 or so other employees in our organization. We were quite happy that way. Without going into too much detail, I will say that we provide a service that is extremely valuable to our clients, and that we deliver sometimes very difficult information in a sensitive, humane manner. A few years ago the government drafted legislation that we feared was going to negatively impact our clients. We were vocal. We contacted our sister agencies and we mobilized. We advocated. We made presentations to government representatives. We felt like we were making some headway, and as the legislation developed we noticed that some of our concerns were being addressed. Our two-year battle was paying off. I was feeling optimistic. Stupid me.

On the very day the legislation was to be enacted, it was repealed due to a court challenge. The act that eventually replaced it had a few improvements, but overall it was a disaster. To make matters worse, it was so vague that none of the agencies knew how to interpret it. We asked the government. They told us to consult our legal departments for interpretation. Unfortunately, we did. That put us on the legal department's radar, and it all went downhill from there. Now they are absorbing us and, we predict, stripping us of our warm and fuzzy social-worker-influenced approach to our jobs. There are many motives at play, some political, some budget-related, some strategic. The official justification purports that the change will streamline certain services, but my teammates and I do not believe that our clients' needs were taken into consideration at all. We certainly weren't consulted, and with decades of experience between us we know our clients very well.

After the initial shock of the news wore off, I began trying to view this mess in a positive light. Given my curse, however, I realized that optimism was probably the worst approach. I decided to embrace my disappointment and anger instead. At our very last staff meeting as a team, I was responsible for bringing treats. I was bitterly happy to do so.

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I might as well use humour while I'm still permitted to do so. I have visited the legal department; it is quieter than a library and as solemn as a morgue. The staff sit silently in their cubicles and offices hunched over their keyboards, not looking up to greet visitors or even to offer a smile. On the upside -- no, I'm not going to make that mistake. There is no upside, there are no advantages, nothing is good, everything is awful, and my life is doomed. (Now can something go right?)


Rob K said...

Oh, Jen, I'm so sorry to hear about your troubles. When things go wrong I tend to think that I'm cursed (I am half-Italian after all),but I know in my heart there is no such thing. You're in a tough spot now and all you can do is keep moving forward. I'll be cheering you on every step of the way!

Calamity Jen said...

Thank you, Rob. You're a great paisano.

Anonymous said...

You can say you love your parents and they love you. Saying it will not change those facts. Scott should not be scolding you unless he is as superstitious as you are. Good things happen, bad things happen. Don't go all horoscopy about it.

Anonymous said...

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

- Margaret Mead

The legal department has no idea how things are going to change when your team moves in. Even a flap of a butterfly wing can change things...........
Who knows maybe that crew is just dying for things to improve. I am betting on you and your gang to make a positive difference.