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Archive for April 23rd, 2019

There is some indescribable place inside me that is emotionally stirred by the sight of clouds on a not-quite-rainy evening.

The dark swirling into the light. The foggy grays that shine like rainbow moonstone with the setting sun behind them. A peek of light at the horizon beneath the blanket of storm. Heavy, lowering, but not menacing.

It is almost a Northern sky, but not yet intense enough.

I once spent an entire three-week vacation in the wilds of Scotland photographing the Northern skies. Trying to capture the unattainable essence of light and color and shadow. Yet… the photos, beautiful as they are, do not stir in me the feelings I felt while under those Northern skies.

The feeling that water was near, that sunshine was slanted, that color was redefined. The knowing that there was a language I didn’t speak in those clouds. An understanding that light was something new I had never encountered, but could feel in my bones. I could imagine a painter trying to capture life in that light. Trying, but never succeeding.

Perhaps those Northern skies stir a bone-deep memory in me from a time when my ancestors would have been in communication with the sky as they were with the land. Reading the messages in nature. Knowing the language of time.

Were they perhaps enthralled by the sight of clouds, as I am?

 

 

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In 2004 I was tasked with delivering a very big project at work. Very big. At the time, I reported to a leader who did not know how to deliver, but knew how to maintain. There is a huge difference in the way one must lead to maintain applications from the way one must lead to deliver new applications. I was new in my position, having just been promoted to lead folks I had been working with prior to the BIG PROJECT. Then the folks who could have helped me deliver that big project were moved off my team and off the project. I was left with a development team that was woefully understaffed, no test team to speak of (two people who also provided production support do not a test team make), and a project manager and development manager who both worked very hard to sabotage my efforts at every step. As I mentioned, this was a big project with a lot of visibility and demanding customers who were looking for the impossible on an unrealistic timeline.

I’d like to say I overcame all obstacles and succeeded anyway, but that did not happen. The due date came and went with only a tiny fraction of what was requested completed. Even after being called to the CIO’s office and asked which delivery date I would bet my job on, both of which were impossible to meet with the tools and resources at my disposal, I would like to say I was smart enough to say neither date could be met, but I didn’t. I chose the later date that I knew when I said it would never happen.

At the time, I had worked for the company for nearly 10 years. Until the Big Project, I had really enjoyed my career and found the work I did exciting and fulfilling, even with the stress, weekends, and long hours that IT work required. Even when things were at their worst and the CIO had sent his minions in to ‘ensure’ we were working hard enough by sitting in the cubicles of the poor contractors that were eventually brought in to help us deliver asking them if they were done yet, and I was in the office (in another city and away from home) for 18 to 20 hours a day, crying on the way to work in the morning, and crying in the bathroom at work with the frustration of it all, I didn’t want to quit. I wanted to succeed. I was so caught up in it all.

And then I wasn’t.

They removed my boss (who couldn’t lead delivery out of a paper bag), and the project manager (who was only capable of doing what our boss told her to do), and me. I was replaced by the good guy they had taken away from the project in the beginning and he was able to negotiate a delivery schedule that would get the project on the right path, delivered in piece parts, and with a much diminished functionality than the customers were asking for. But it was the right way to do it and the right thing to do.

For me, I learned about the sabotage by my development manager who eventually left the team and went to work in another organization, and watched as my boss had her responsibilities stripped away and given to other Directors. After a couple of years, she was forced to retire. I stayed in the same organization, and for a time, didn’t have anything to do. I would go into my executive director’s office and say, “Please give me something to do. I don’t know how to not work like this.” His response was, “Take a break, you deserve it. You’ve worked hard for a long time and you didn’t deserve this to happen.” He was the one who told me about the sabotage and also told me he was not going to fire me.

Within a short period of time, I was approached to start up another team to help us write requirements for delivery projects. I was grateful for the opportunity and grateful to do something new, but still get to work with a lot of the people I knew and cared for.

So how did this failure change my life?

Well, it was the first time in my long career in IT that I wasn’t working 12 or more hours a day but barely in the office for 8 hours. I had a lot of time to think and process what had happened. It was the first time I looked outside work for fulfillment. That changed everything for me. I began spending more time at home, finishing the remodeling that my partner and I had started on my house while I was away traveling so much with the big project.

It was the first time I realized the company was not going to fulfill me. The company was not going to take care of me. The company didn’t value me. I had to do that for myself.

I had time to begin looking for community for my spirituality. I had been a Witch for many years but had little time to practice in a big way. I began taking classes and attending public rituals. I began looking for a Coven. This led me down a path and on a journey that I am still traveling. This is where my joy is found.

But that is another story.

Without that failure, I would not have had the time or inclination to want to practice my chosen path in my daily life. I would not have begun searching for community and would not have found the Coven I would eventually Initiate into or become the High Priestess I am today. Without that failure, I would not have found this joy that I live each day.

I am so very grateful for that massive failure and for all the work I’ve done since then on my own personal growth as a human being and not as a cog in a wheel.

As the famous poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost says,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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