I recently went to a foundation benefit where I ran into many of my former colleagues, some I had not seen in almost 20 years. Others, last was at Anthony's funeral. My colleagues (former and current) are very generous people. They give not only to worthy causes, but to each other. I have been truly blessed during my career.
I ran into one of my favorite people, Frank, and the hugs were immediate and strong. He and I have known each other since my first day on the job.
A young, clueless, 23 year old who had a brand new administrative position in a start-up, with no sense of professional decorum or executive presence. He was a 32 year old sales professional with a booming personality and charisma to spare. He was a true force to be reckoned with.
I immediately envied his style. He just had "it". Gravitas, as they now call it. He knows how to make people like, and listen to him. I knew nothing and continued to fumble along, making stupid, and in some cases true career blocking mistakes, however, Frank would take no hesitation to correct them.
"Why aren't you looking me in the eyes when asking me that? You need to look me in the eye or I can't focus on a conversation with you."
Huh? < me of course
"Miranda, I am in front of you, not over there, speak to me."
I never noticed I didn't do that until Frank pointed that out… and it stayed with me, until now. Whenever I try to focus on someone, I can hear Frank in the back of my head.
He often pointed out many things I needed do focus on during our tenure together. All of them simply to make me a stronger person, he wouldn't give that rationale to it I am sure, I probably just annoyed the shit out of him, but he truly guided some of my behavioral growth. I am a better woman today because of his influence.
I have seen Frank pretty much on an annual basis since we stopped working together over 15 years ago. And each time we do bump into each other, he leaves me with a tidbit of professionalism that I can leverage. He makes me think. He has been, an annual informal mentorship experience.
Our encounter this time was no different. It was so good to see Frank I almost didn't want to let go of the hug. Decorum be damned. He was there after Anthony died and here again now.
After asking me how I am, and giving me the standard reaffirmation of his condolences we launched into our annual catch-up Q&A.
Your Wife, son? All good?
Lou, boys, all good?
Frank then asks "ok so what are you doing for you?"
"Well I am very focused on the boys, active with my volunteering and in my church, Lou is…"
Frank raises a finger to stop me… "No, that's what you're doing, I asked what are you doing for YOU?"
Ok so feeling a bit silly and slightly annoyed, I repeat myself…."I said I am mentoring, which I love and…"
"Stop, you're not answering my question. I didn't ask you what you were doing for everyone around you, I asked you what you're doing for yourself?"
I have no answer. He struck a nerve…
"Well to be honest Frank my psychiatrist says this is all helping me make excellent progress…" I say as I can feel a tear well up.
"Look at it, I can see your bottom lip moving. I want to make sure you're focusing on what you are doing for YOU. Next time I see you, I expect you to have a better answer to that question."
I said nothing. I grabbed him into another tight hug.
What the hell have I been doing for me??
It's now 2 days since I started this article, and 5 days since our meeting. I am still struggling to answer this question!!
I workout and meditate, I know those two items count. But is there a quantifiable amount that will make a significant difference?
I am taking care of my mental health. But am I doing enough? I have a terrible phobia of opening up to people closest to me. I feel like I failed as a Mother and a Daughter by losing my son. I feel judged, yet have no judgment, as my doctor says, which I can't confront yet. I sit and wonder, why I can't simply talk. But the thought cripples me.
I still have a pit of doubt in my stomach daily when I wake up. Is it grief that or is it anxiety?
Tears and fear are overwhelming my fingers. Time to stop.
Argh, thanks Frank! Now I have to think!!!!
I always thought I didn't have a true mentor and it all started with looking someone directly in the eye.