Wrecking Balls & Leg Peeing

I think we all have that one colleague (the one where you cringe when calling them “colleague”) who will destroy everything that has been nicely situated in order to take the stage with the sole spotlight and megaphone. My wrecking ball is a man who is way past retirement age, who is still sharp and active, and is still as egocentric as ever.

Do you remember Judge Judy? She wrote a book with a clever title that I thought was funny back then–“Don’t Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining.” Never did I envision that this quote would often run around my head in nearly every contentious adult conflict I would have. It perfectly encapsulates the idea that certain individuals create situations in which they come out as a hero and you are damaged, AND they think you are dumb enough not to see the trail that led to this point. But in fewer words. She’s a wise one.

In academia, especially in healthcare education (frankly, I can only speak for my experiences, not everyone’s), there tends to be specialization leading to isolation leading to a sense of superiority. Now, I’m not saying this of everyone. I work with many lovely people, who help me out, engage me, mentor me, who look to me for help, but there are a few I could do without. Those few tend to grapple the reins from the people whose job it is to manage the reins, and take the horse into a U-turn–not usually successful, rounds up a lot of dust, blinds and chokes everyone around–but the maneuver certainly looks impressive, initially.

Let me move this point along. I don’t deal well with egos. I should be able to since I’ve dealt with them most of my life. I stand my ground, often already 12 inches lower because I have the opposite problem–an inferiority complex–and I argue my point. Sometimes I’m successful or I can leave with dignity even when I do not win. However, sometimes I am not successful because the ego is also a very stubborn older brother, or in this case, a 75 year-old *cringe* colleague.

In an effort to leave out specifics, I will try to give the jist of things by using a long-form metaphor that is not very well developed.

He and I happened along the same trail–his side was designated the “expert” side, and mine the “learner” side. Along my side of the trail, I wanted to give students an opportunity to learn and to independently lead and to share with their fellow students. On his side of the trail, there are simply a series of megaphones and free lecture blocks. On my side of the trail, there is one great opportunity for a student to shine, to take all the credit, and to secure the support of sponsors. On his side there is him with megaphones and authority to overshadow the opportunity. And then there is the depot where the administrators work. They tell him that if he wishes to use those megaphones, then we’re going to have close the trail. He is okay with that because he still has his megaphones and lecture periods; whereas, I’m left with no trail, students are left with no opportunity, and the sponsors back out. He is okay with that, but it’s such a shame that he, I mean, the sponsor couldn’t support my endeavor anymore. Yep, that’s right. He’s on the board of directors of the sponsor.

Judge Judy, I wish you were here now. You’d know exactly what to say, and I could stand behind you, smirking and shaking my head in agreement.

Well, this scenario hasn’t exactly played out as described. We’re still in the middle of it, but my role as an educator, implied mentor, and faculty advisor is to lift students, not myself. I will work hard to make the opportunity as enriching and rewarding as possible, speaking volumes over those megaphones. The sponsors will not leave, and the wrecking ball will be retired or will at least have to share the trail.


The Third Side of Dying (a prologue)

It’s taken me awhile to write this post. Even as I type out the words now, I’m not sure how to proceed or how much to divulge. I suppose I should set the agenda by saying my dad died a little over a year ago. He wasn’t the first loved one’s death I’ve ever experienced or even the most premature. His was one that was tragic, and not in the platitude sort of way you might say about a young man who crashed his motorcycle into oncoming traffic. At least in that scenario, actuarial tables would tell you the death was fairly precedented and in no way unexpected at any age.

No, my dad’s death was the lesser of two evils and an end to suffering. It was the dying part that was tragic. Unbearable. Undeserved. For all of us.

What I want to describe is how losing a parent, experiencing the process of dying, begging for it all to be different, and how being the caregiver to a hospice patient slapped my head around 180 degrees–how all of this that I have observed, taught, counseled, cared for in my professional role–rushed over me this time like 50,000 tons of water breaking free from a dam. I am drowned yet alive.

So, maybe I’ll stop there for now. Consider this an introduction. It’s not all gloomy–some will also be downright aggravating (Can I just cancel his cell phone, please?), some will be ironic (funeral food to the rescue!), and some will just soothe (she’s turned into a hugger).

I’ll end this post by resolving how I began. This is merely an intro, a prelude…or simply a map to areas yet to be defined. I will stick with it if you do, following the water where it leads.