11/6/14

Life Is Short . . .

A colleague of mine died on Tuesday night. There's no reason to sugar coat it or put beautiful, majestic language in the mix. She died. It is a horrible, senseless death but it happened.

I won't get too much in to biography (her family deserves their privacy) but I'll say this about her . . . she was a wonderfully hopeful and optimistic woman. A true searcher who believed the best stuff in the world could and would be found. A perspective truly different than mine in most scenarios.

If I'm being honest, she wasn't just a co-worker or cube neighbor. She was also a friend. 97% of our shared time was positive. We would laugh and joke. We'd complain about the things we both disliked about work or life. We'd commiserate over love and relationships. We'd banter, in good nature (typically) about religion. We'd go to half-price pizza night and just have a good time. I adored just about everything about her.

Recently something changed. Not in a bad way, candidly. A colleague - who I admired for her interest in and comfort with numbers and data and analysis (something most sales and marketing people love only enough to help us be better at our jobs and that we, typically, use only to help us in doing our jobs) - had stopped really loving the numbers and the work. She had, you see, fallen in love. Not just with a man but with the idea of building a life with him and that meant leaving her job, when the time was right, to be with him.

I get that. It is something beautiful and natural.

Yet, candidly, I didn't really appreciate it in the moment. There were moments and hours and days and even weeks where I was not able to get as much done because either I was not being supported or, in rare moments, I was being distracted or our colleagues were being distracted, by her distraction.

Why am I telling you all this? No. Not to disparage a woman I cared about within a few days of her death. More over to criticize me. You see, dear reader, I'm going to carry to burden about how much I let the distraction get to me for a very, very long time.

You see the last conversation I had with this woman - who I admire (present tense) in so many ways ended with these words . . . "Get the f*ck out of my office." and they came following twenty minutes of screaming, yelling, and arguing over something so completely irrelevant and insignificant - you'd all drive to my office and wait in line, for maybe hours (there would be so many of you) to punch me in the face over. I lost my cool, she lost her cool, we lost our cool.

The pops and buzzes are irrelevant but here is the takeaway - there were three different times, during the conversation (I'll call it that to take the edge off my self-loathing) where she pointed out that I was not being fair in my insistence that our personal relationship and my professional frustrations not mingle in the argument we were having . . . and she was open and honest enough to acknowledge, several times, that her personal life had come in to her work life and that she was aware that her work, of late, was not as solid and focused as it typically was (she thought, and probably rightly so, I was making more of it than necessary).

Here's the thing . . . we had 27 more hours that we could have tried to talk again. We could have tried to cool down and focus and try it again. We could have at least said something to each other that would have maybe, just maybe, let us if not bury the hatchet - put the sheath back on it. We didn't.

We didn't speak the rest of the day Monday or at all on Tuesday. Even Tuesday evening, at a table full of colleagues who I consider friends and, with a few, good friends - we were at opposite ends and we shared nothing more than two passing instances of eye contact and a smile and laugh when someone made a joke that involved both of us.

I'll never see her again. We'll never chat again. We'll never be able address personal, professional, the blend, or something bigger or better or more important.

I should have listened to her. I had the chance 100 times in the moments we spent arguing. She was there . . . making a simple and admirable point that life is what it is - a mixture of work and personal, ups and downs, good and bad, happy and sad. It is about what we are handed and what we do with it. It is about how we treat each other and ourselves and how we do (not) allow other people to treat us.

It is about listening more than we talk and it is about (if ever a lesson could be imparted on this stubborn, dull brain of mine) not wasting 20 minutes or the 1,620 more that we had available to us - mad at someone, in silence with someone, or assuming you'll get another minute to make right what you have done wrong.

I don't beat myself up for the argument. I stand by a good chunk of what I said. I hate that it ended in such a venomous way and I hate that I was so selfish as to not bother to try to reach out - even when we did share eye contact or the quick smile and laugh - to let her know that I was (and still am) very sorry and that I appreciate so very much about her and all the ways that she was different than me.