Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Empty Purple Tool Box

A couple of HR heads ago we had one who used to give out tool boxes – Joe’s Tool Box – at HR department meetings. Each little wooden container held a Home Depot gift certificate. Kind of cute until you realized (it took most of us about 1.5 meetings to realize) that Joe did not necessarily give these boxes to employees the rest of us would consider deserving. For example if Joe’s admin left early one day and someone else had to help him do something he should have known how to do or at least tried to do himself, that would be rewarded by a tool box. They went to those who went “above and beyond” to help Joe – but it had to happen seemingly accidentally, he seemed to want to believe people helped him because they were just that engaged and empowered, not because he was Big Boss Man.

At home, I don’t like Craig’s tool box because it has a weird plastic or rubber smell from some of the older tool handles, when I open the top I get a waft of something bad like 1950s toys stored too long in a hot Texas attic. (This association is based on some degree of person experience.) I finally started keeping my picture-hanging hammer in a kitchen drawer so I can avoid Craig’s tool box altogether. Yes, that drives him crazy – as does almost everything about my picture hanging.

Third tool box example and the real motivation for this blog… Dr. Feelgood, my silly name for the educated and respectable professional who does my quarterly Medication Management (I love that term!, sometimes it makes me think of throwing a drugged steak into a tiger cage) and I were talking about tool boxes at my last appointment. She is not my regular therapist, she does med management only, which puts her in what seems to me the odd position of evaluating my mental health in a 25 minute discussion held every few months. She tends to seize on one thing I say and run with that – a memorable early session was spent discussing Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters in Arkansas. I could tell you the dialogue that led to that topic, but it’s still weird.

While we talk she makes notes with a timing that I can’t connect to my comments or my laughter – is she noting that I’m depressed? manic? Maybe she’s just making notes to remind her of who I am for future. Sometimes between appointments I decide I will ask her next time, “What do you look for exactly in our sessions?” but I never do. Anyway – it’s her renewing the Happy Pill Prescription that really matters.

Well, last time Dr. Feelgood and I met I was venting a bit about work, and she gave me advice on coping with my frustration and angry feelings – not bad advice, it was well-meaning, clinical yet sympathetic, but since she has, frankly, only scratched the surface of knowing Sarah, I had trouble taking it to heart. And you know when you are complaining and someone gives advice and you don’t take it to heart, you tend to feel annoyed by it.

She said, “Why don’t you empty out your tool box when you drive to work tomorrow…” (She meant why don’t I stop doing the obsessive mental lists and rants that have gotten me nowhere) “…and put all new tools in the box.”

Then she asked, “What’s your favorite color?” I said, I like many colors…how about purple... “Well, a purple tool box then.”

Leaving her office and driving back to work, I felt the frustration stuff churning up again but when I flashed an image of an empty tool box – even, or especially, a purple one – it just annoyed me. Maybe that was partly because of the association I make between tool boxes and former SVP Joe. (25 minutes didn’t give me time to delve deeply into the tool box thing with Dr. F., so she couldn’t have known that word alone would remind me of feeling unappreciated as an employee.)

I know there is merit in the idea and I wish I could bring fresher thoughts to it. I want to act calm and positive and mature in the workplace. And really I want to be those things!, not just act them.

However the only activity I have managed with the concept to date is making fun of it. For example, when bouncing ideas off my cousin I joked that I could put a loaded firearm in my tool box, but of course I would never do such a thing and I’m not even comfortable typing that in my blog. (REALLY.)

My cousin and I talk about dogs a lot (our dogs, TV dogs, dogs who have died, dogs we saw while driving somewhere, do dogs go to heaven?, etc., etc.) so I suggested I could put a puppy in my tool box.

My cousin has a puppy who possesses the power to stretch and relax In The Moment, to an incredible degree. In fact before I get my blood pressure checked these days I spend a few minutes looking at cell phone photos of that puppy stretched out and snoozin’. Even a tiny cell phone photo lowers my systolic and diastolic numbers, I swear.

Similarly…I could put a blanket in my tool box. Aaaah – another great nap idea. Think relaxation…

Jack Daniels? Yes, I really suggested that to Cousin but I wouldn’t really do it. Alcohol is not for during work – after work is soon enough, and enough in general.

I didn’t get much farther than these ideas but there is surely more to be thought and said about the empty tool box - no, not empty, ready to be filled with better stuff.

Seeing it as purple seems silly – but it’s silly anyway, so purple might be right.

Do I have a bad attitude? Quite possibly.

Do I need more medication? Maybe...

No comments: