December 28, 2013

In November came the realization I would not have a Christmas Tree…watching funds carefully, I chose not to rent a car for the trip to storage to get box upon box back to my house where- because of the pain in my hands and the growing trouble with my right leg- I risked not being able to accomplish the task at hand and may not have the strength to set the tree nor the stamina to decorate it.

Instead, with a ride from my niece, I was able to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Rochester – not totally penniless…hoping my efforts in October and November with a client’s MSA, SOW, PO and Invoicing process –along with a new twist – an agreement to pay them back 2% of our fees if they paid invoices within 10 days-would indeed insure a timely payment.

In December, with discretionary funds dwindling rapidly, to conserve funds, I cancelled traditional holiday gatherings with friends, sent no Christmas cards and held off on purchasing Christmas gifts-resigning myself to fact I’d be caught in that mad rush of last-minute shopping-once we got money.  Nevertheless, I had my lists ready, cards written, and car reservations booked for the trip, and was ready to dispense funds to the team at the last minute.

Each day I anxiously checked my bank account and mailbox-just in case funds were coming via snail mail and not wire transfer – but it was all for naught.

By December 19, I realized the “Grinch that Stole Christmas” had targeted us this year…I received word that “oh dear, the system failed; the invoice got hung up; my contact would now be out until January 2, and oh yes, I could expect payment sometime in January…and… Have A Merry Christmas!”

I cried.

Yes, I was sad for me, but at the same time, I knew my family would help as best they could and I would survive, but I was sad for my team. I had failed the four people who were counting on me to help them make Christmas “merry and bright” as well.

In all my years of responsibilities of leading a team, there certainly have been times when “employee wants” did not mesh with corporate thinking or timelines, but never in my career have I had to tell people who had contributed time and effort for 2-3 months that they would not be paid. So I was sad for my failure; and sad our world here in the US where corporate profits-even those gained by cash flow management- trump human dignity.

Fortunately, on Sunday I joined Julie Stevens and Jan Brown for some spontaneous holiday cheer at the Local that saved me from total despair; and thanks to my sister, I took the shuttle to Rochester Monday.

We had a nice dinner at Ray’s on Monday where fortunately, last year we determined we would no longer exchange gifts; I then headed to a second brother’s-empty-handed-for Christmas Eve.  No one mentioned “no gifts from Cheryl”; and I caught a ride the next morning back to Minneapolis where I spent Christmas Day alone “processing” my sadness and reflecting.

Christmas of 2013 will not be remembered fondly, but at least I was surrounded by love and well-wishes of my family on Monday and Christmas Eve. Nevertheless I missed church on Christmas Day as with cold and blowing conditions, a misplaced walking stick, and no money, I did not make it to church – the reason for the holiday in the first place.   

This season I also missed a tree, and caroling, and the satisfaction of “giving” but the forced-upon-me “quiet time”  allowed me to give myself a gift of “letting go” of the anger (I think) and beginning of thoughts of how to move forward . And being home alone with no food in the house, certainly saved me from over-indulging for a third day in a row!

So, I will spend the next few days giving thanks that this awful 2013 is almost over; and concentrating on an attitude adjustment so that in the end, this client will not rob me of my professionalism and bring me down to their level.  We committed to a plan to assist them and we are obligated to meet those parameters – but we are not obligated to give them one thing more. 

They cannot be my priority for the next five months; I need to be my priority as I continue to work through how I close the door on Corporate America and what it has become and continue the search for my “third” career.  

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