Thursday, July 12, 2012


It is hard working with young girls, because they are a clique. Because their relationship to one another is far more important than clients. Because their lives are so very dramatic. Because it is all about being cool. Cool clothing. Cool haircuts. Cool shoes. Because they are so very excitable. Because once one is agitated, they all are agitated.

I am 55 years old, and I. Am. Simply. Too. OLD. For. This.

My hair is not cool. It is growing out, and for me that is a very life affirming decision. It means that I have stopped being so fearful of cancer's return that I, once again, have long hair. Well. By 'long' I mean longish. It's getting there. It is at that awkward stage, so I keep it pinned up, mostly, and stray wisps escape because it is not THAT long yet.

My shoes are not cool either. My shoes are comfortable. I need comfort. I am walking daily, walking LOTS, actually, getting my 10,000 steps in with no additional effort required. I walk to town. I walk virtually where ever I need to go. I don't use my car for much more than to get to work and back. It would have never entered my mind that I'd be able to do this. Last winter at the Tractor Supply, I was in agony at the end of a shift. Now I'm walking all over the place. I'm pretty amazed.

I dress to be able to move and to bend, and to work. Jeans and a teeshirt are apparently not all that cool.

My life is quiet. Tim and I don't have arguments to disect at work. I wouldn't anyway. Who knew THAT was not cool?

Last night, a client came to me and said, "Go for walk?" I was speaking to someone else, and held my hand out to him, but he reached for my chin, and he turned my face towards him. "Go for walk?" Yes. We went for a walk. Our second one of the night. I think that the fact that he is communicating with people is cool.

Later I was rubbing lotion on the arms of another client. They say that he has the IQ of a nine month old baby. He screams. A lot. But I have discovered a lot about him. One thing is that he loves the sensation of lotion on his hands. That amazes him, seems like, the way that my fingers slip around in his hands as he tries to grab them. He quiets. Last night, after his shower (which also quiets him down), I began to rub lotion on his hands. Then experimentally, I began to rub the lotion on his arms. He holds his arms out, sitting quietly in his chair. I notice that he is looking at me. Square in my face. He studies me, and his gaze does not waver. He is following one step commands: "Your OTHER hand" and "Lift your foot, please". Encouraged by that, I begin to rub lotion into his legs. He likes that as well, and he vocalizes. It is not a yell, but something quieter, calmer, and it almost seems like it would have a question mark after it if you tried to write it. One of his goals is to get him to look you in the eye for five seconds. Our gaze locked steadily for several minutes. It was a powerful moment. I thought it was very cool.

One of the girls walked in. "You pamper him." It was an accusation. I have been accused of making him worse, that because I 'spoil' him, he yells louder. I just keep on doing what I am doing. I've countered this talk before with the undeniable fact that he's been yelling long before I got here. I've tried to reason with them, pointing out that when they leave him just sitting, screaming, it only makes matters worse, that he CAN be redirected, with a walk, or with motion, or by being placed in a bean bag chair. Other shifts have made suggestions to stop the yelling as well, good ideas. Our girls simply don't. WON'T. It's frustrating to me, because I am old, and I don't have the patience for a lot of unnecessary noise.

It's a conundrum, isn't it? That I should be so fond of what I'm doing, yet struggle so much with the issue of co-workers. It makes me feel like a difficult person, a misfit. Yet, I wouldn't change it, because in the end, the ability to bond with, and to reach a client will be the thing that makes me great at what I do.


Snoskred said...

Oh jeez.. this post really yelled at me. It makes me want a magic wand to fix it. :(

I work in a workplace with an opposite problem - some older ladies who have been there a long time and do not really want to be bothered with any of the "new" people. I've been there for a year and a half and am one of the "older" newer people, but it won't matter how long I stay they will never consider me as one of "them".

And I struggled with it, and fought with it, partly with my fear of being "me" because that has not worked out well in the past,and most especially with my own apparent need to be liked, until one day I just thought hey, I like my job, I like the majority of the people at my job, and I am sick of trying to be someone these people are going to accept. I am who I am, and they can like it or not, and whether they like it or not is not going to change who I am or how I do my job.

I'm not saying it doesn't annoy me. It seems like I'm not at a place yet where I can stop it from annoying me. But I can start down the path of accepting what is, accepting what I cannot change.

You can't change young girls. Heck some of them probably still think that by the time they are in danger of dying a cure for death will be invented. They are not fully formed people yet. All you can do is try to be you and hope that maybe they can learn something from it.

Believe me you don't wanna be cool. I think the biggest compliment anyone could give me is something one of my team leaders said about me one day - I am eccentric and quirky. That is what I am aiming for. I don't want to be another cardboard cut out. I want to be someone where they never quite know what I'll do or what I'll wear or say or react.

But I will say this because I think it might help your patients - jeans and t-shirts are great and comfortable and helpful to you in doing what you do, but I would hope they are colourful. At least the t-shirts anyway.

And I would also suggest brooches if possible, something bright and sparkly with interest - something different each day but maybe something for each day of the week, so they know if they see x brooch it is x day right away - it is probably the safer jewellery item in your line of work and it can be something that your patients can connect with. And maybe something the young girls can begin to connect with too. :) Just an idea.

The other thing to keep in mind is - a lot of people don't like what they do. They do it because they have to, because they have not found that thing that ignites them yet - like you have been lucky enough to. Therefore they deserve great compassion and pity. :) At least they would if they weren't such beyotches. :)


Debby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debby said...

Lots of bright colors, Snoskred. I try to incorporate colors. I do not wear jewelry (beyond my wedding ring and earrings), because it would not be sensible in our environment. Days are beyond all but two of them. They are mostly nonverbal. If I wore sparkly things on my chest, my chest would be grabbed at. All the time. Because they don't understand that they shouldn't. But I think that you are right in that it is important to be bright and cheerful looking

BUSH BABE said...

I feel your pain... but I also wonder if you can use that life experience of yours to help get these girls on your 'team'. After all, they can be either assisting or undoing your good work when you aren't there. I always find a little (sincere) praise wherever there is good work by a fellow worker encourages in improvement in a team environment. There are lots of differences between you sure, but there must be some similarities too?

Just an idea.

Love how you get such joy from your work. Hope the teamwork lifts to the same heights.

Anonymous said...

Always be true to your own principles and do what you feel is right I have found to be better than trying to 'fit in' with attitudes you find uncomfortable. Bearing in mind that maybe sometimes others do good things that can be a take-home message. With your work, I think whatever works and is kind and keeps your charges happy and safe, within sensible boundaries of course, cannot do any harm and will probably slowly do good.
I can remember sometimes when I was very young thinking I knew better than others and then with hindsight much later when I had much more experience cringing at my attitudes I took in my ignorance and lack of experience then.
You may be the last one on the 'team' Deb, but you have a wealth of life experience that you draw on.
Lets hope that time will bring a different perspective to your critics. And they not all be criticising in their hearts. What they may learn may take a while to surface. They may also not have had the life example of what kindness can do. They are more to be pitied that anything.
Good luck and keep on keeping on! You are doing OK. OK? Love Barbx

jeanie said...

I too am in a new job Debbie - and while I don't have the young girl clique to deal with, it appears that there is a focus on negativity and sniping about whoever is not in the room in epidemic proportions.

I use teflon coating - I know that the odds are, when I am not in the room that I am getting a working over, and I know (because it has been said in my earshot) that certain people may tell the bosses x or y or whatever whine they are employing on the day - it is a pity that they can't read minds, because I figure they would better utilise their time telling the bosses whatever they are griping about, but I stay stumm and learn - but a very different animal, the softdrink export department and your workplace. The ginger beer never complains!!

I am finding (or making) a picture tonight to put up in my workspace - one that emphasises positivity.

(On my search I just found the below:

Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive, because your words become your behavior.
Keep your behavior positive, because your behavior become your habits.
Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.

MAHATMA GANDHI, Open Your Mind, Open Your Life: A Book of Eastern Wisdom)

Bob Barbanes: said...

How very, very fortunate you are to have found your calling. Some people never do. I'm envious!

Debby said...

I do feel very, very blessed Bob. I don't think that I will ever take that for granted. TSC was a great place to work and I loved the people. Here, the people need me. Since they cannot talk, I have to study them to figure it out. I love that moment when you understand. You can see it in them, the way their faces relax. And it never fails to make me so glad that I am moved nearly to tears.