Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Losing my mind

A friend has pointed out that he is…well, difficult…whenever his collection of technological devices fails to operate in perfect synchronicity. Those are the times, he says, when his wife finds him contrary, and his co-workers keep their distance. I wonder.

My entire staff, consisting of two older ladies sharing a half-time job, recently resigned in protest over my failure to appreciate them. My suspicions of their hidden intent must remain unspoken and unblogged. In truth, I did appreciate them, but my approach to professional relationships may be somewhat chillier than many other people choose, and more than many people presume of me, given my warm and enthusiastic social mask. Let’s just say that I have been burned on the office "friendship" front in the past, and I choose to keep my friendships quite separate from my working relationships. I love my friends, and I appreciate my colleagues, and I know the difference, thank you very much.

But maybe my long term distress over Dell’s abysmal customer service, persisting in multiple iterations since late December—are we into our fourth month of repetitive disaster? did I mention that the power supply failed over the weekend?—maybe that distressing sequence of experiences has taken a toll on how I interact with humans. Maybe I have also been…difficult, contrary. Perhaps my casual reference to offline storage of my thoughts, experiences, memories, even my emotions have their being in the bits and bytes of hard drive and web server. Maybe more of me than I suspect exists offline. Outside my pitiful brain. In laptop and desktop, in e-mail attachments and shared files. My self might exist in mechanical objects that have become distressingly vulnerable to the ravages of power spikes, dust, and mechanical failure.

What a hoot! I have often celebrated the miracle of offline storage and the way it demonstrably expands my mind. But my personality? Can I really park bits of my very self offline? And if I am deprived of that opportunity, do I lash out at people who stand between my self (the real and central me) and my ability to access those bits that are stored offline? I would like to think that I retain some distinction between the parts of me that are really me and the parts that are outside, but I just don’t know.

Now if I can just shed the image of being someone who tortures little old ladies for the fun of it, which surely was never my intention. But actions are the mere shadow of our intentions, which pave the road to hell. Actions are what make the difference in our lives, driving regret and renewed resolve to make it all better next time. Actions are the residue of the moment, leaving in their wake all manner of consequence, which shape the moments of tomorrow, the field on which we play out whatever it is that comes to us next.

Business school was most liberating for me, a child of excessive responsibility, and one of the most critical things I learned was to accept the lessons of each day, but then to move on with the rallying cry, “Next!” Time to stop beating my breast. I did in fact appreciate my staff: I honored their efforts even as I pushed them to improved performance that did not excuse them as old ladies. To have done less would have been to diminish them. And yet, I confess my fault that I was unable to lead them to yet another triumph in their lives of many such. And having recognized my failure, I turn my face to the spring sun and cry anew, “Next!”

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