Trying to be Meek

Those who know me personally will tell you that meek is not an adjective they would use to describe me. 

(According to Webster online, Meek is 1. enduring injury with patience and without resentment : MILD 2 : deficient in spirit and courage : SUBMISSIVE 3 : not violent or strong : MODERATE

Okay, I’m trying not to laugh here but definitely not the words to describe me.  But I am trying — impossible as it may seem, I am summoning up the strength to overcome my usually explosive temper and curb my emotional impulsiveness.  So perhaps it is the right word after all.. I am trying.

I’m trying to endure with patience and not be resentful, and more importantly, not to be violent! 

It’s been a relatively easy day, but it’s one of those days when the boss has been easy but the minions of the other big people feel like they are wearing their boss’s shoes.  I throw my weight around, too, when needed, but I have the rank to pull — in the corporate world, I don’t take things personally because as we would say back home, trabaho lang ito, walang personalan. 

I was a rather difficult boss back home — so I know how it is to be on the giving end of the bitchiness.  Maybe that’s why I can take the boss when it’s one of those days when I want to just lock her up in her office and just open the door again when it’s time to go home again.  I was fortunate to be in a relatively safe place close to the uberbosses so I was generally shielded from the nastier of intrigues as we know it in the Filipino office culture.

I made friends with the bosses and was in especially good terms with the small people who were the messengers and the receptionists.  (The messengers in my last two companies before I left for New York were even on my pasalubong list when I went home to Manila in 2002..)  I could be a bitch, but I knew how to be one of the guys. 

Even back then, I already knew to be wary of mixing friendships with professional relationships.  I had my buddies — we would go out after office hours on payday, dance, drink or watch a movie.  But I kept a tight set of friends from outside the corporate world I moved in from 9-5PM as well.  Since I moved to New York, most of my new friends were either friends of Alan’s, or friends from work.  I may be getting picky here, but the friends from work are more like colleagues than they are real friends.  I am close to a few of them but none of those relationships have actually blossomed into real friendships outside the confines of the office.  Not that I expect any to — life here in the US is all about a different set of rules altogether — and the lines are drawn distinctly between work and friendship.  At least that’s the way it seemed to me.

There was a new assistant whom I thought would be different.  As a newcomer supporting one of the VPs reporting to my SVP, I have been very supportive of helping her assimilate herself into the department.  From the start, she got into arguments with the people within her own department and those around her.  She can be rather feisty in a funny sort of way — and is what most of us would refer to as mataray. 

She depended on me to answer her queries about the system in this company and I often went out of my way to accommodate her requests, realizing it takes some time to fully absorb the ins and outs or the protocol here.  We would often chat during lunch and sometimes even take a short ride on the subway together.  She always stressed to me that she didn’t care what the other assistants on the floor thought, for as long as she was tasked to do something she was paid for, even if meant covering for me, she would do it.  And she did it those days I had childcare issues or when I wasn’t feeling well.  It wasn’t out of the generosity of her heart, though, because we all knew that as the assistant to the top boss, I was up in the foodchain and they were below me in the pecking order.  It was part of their job to cover my post if I happened to be out.

There were times when she would even go out of her way to print out materials for my boss even if she knew I had a copy, saying she did so hoping I would do the same for her.  From the very start, I made it clear that I will do that if I had the luxury of time, but as we are often swamped, my focus will always be my boss.  Another assistant who overheard told her that would be nice, but we couldn’t always do that for each other.

Maybe it’s the taray side of her that brought out the taray side of me.  There was a particular week when I couldn’t say yes to the things she was requesting, and I just had to put my foot down because no, I could not accommodate her.  I could see she didn’t like that because she would react whenever I would just refuse the request.  In short, she started giving me attitude.  It came to such a point that I actually asked her what her problem was because I didn’t know how I was supposed to talk to her anymore.  She got back to me and said it was me who was having a difficult week and she understands that  and I wouldn’t even let her finish anything she wanted to say and it was I who was snapping back at her.  It was an arguments with no end in sight so I just backed off.

Since then, she has tried to make peace but things have not been the same.  I can only imagine that just as she badmouthed the people who were getting on her nerves back when she and I were chummy, I must’ve gotten the same kind of flak when things turned sour between us.  That is human nature, I know. 

While I don’t consider it a big loss, I find it sad that things turned out this way.  Now there are times when I try to tell her something and she cuts me off.  A case in point is this casual conversation:

“I don’t know if it was triggered in the system or..” I began, and she says “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” 

I stopped a second and continued “I know you don’t know, that’s why I’m trying to tell you that I don’t know if it was triggered in the system or there was a systems glitch, but my boss shouldn’t be the person approving your requisitions, it should be your boss.  Maybe you ought to have the systems people check that out.” 

I think she realized she cut me short because she suddenly looked all mild- mannered after she let me finish my sentence.

Five years ago in Manila, I would’ve come up with some catty remark and she wouldn’t even know what hit her.  These days, I take it all in stride and just take it as being part of the job.  It just gets to me that for someone whom I thought could be a friend, this lady doesn’t seem to know how to separate work from camaraderie. 

Work is work — as we say, walang personalan.. trabaho lang ito.  Just because we’re friends doesn’t mean I will always go above and beyond to accommodate your requests at work — if I can, I will — if I cannot, you will have to accept my firm no.

So as I said at the start of this post, I’m trying to be meek.  I’m resisting the urge to fight back and make taray — when you have so many other things to do, I’d rather let it all out here in my blog and then as we New Yorkers say, forget about it.




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Here’s Leen-leen’s response to my response:

gee, that was some valuable enlightenment you shared with me. i realized i have so much to learn about blog posting and being “heard” and having one’s presence felt. but i’d like to clarify that i was not really searching for filipino/a blogs. i just wanted to know how one’s blog can be included in the search engines since i see a lot of blog sites when i type “”. then i tried to find a friendly sounding blog site whose owner i hoped would be patient enough to answer my question. and voila! there was your blog which caught my attention since you announced you are a pinay. i am glad i found it, serendipity at its finest! you are an alumna of st. paul too! i wanted to communicate with you soonest. i was just wondering you havent mentioned our alma mater in your response.

i love to write and read and watch my favorite tv shows and movies but i think i havent mastered my time management skills to be able to do all these things. i hope to have the confidence you project in your writings. you seem to have an enviable control of your life. it feels good to know you, even only in cyberspace. i pray for your continued abundant health and happiness and those of your loved ones. – Leen-Leen

My response:  Time management is an alien concept to me, more so now that motherhood has me wishing there were 36 hours in a day!  (More so when blogging takes up a chunk of my time.. but just can’t keep away..)  Confidence — I just speak my mind out.  I do edit myself sometimes but I treat this blog as my personal sounding board, so not that I have a devil-may-care attitude about who gets hit with what I write, but I do speak as frankly as I can. 

If I have given you the impression that I am in control of my life as you had written above, let me just point out that I don’t believe I am — I just go with the flow better than most people.  I guess it’s the spontaneous side of me.  At 39, I’ve come to realize that not everything is within my control.  To paraphrase a well-known prayer– (Lord,) I try to change the things I can change, accept the things I cannot and I pray that early on, I find the wisdom to know the difference. 

I don’t know if it’s age or just the lessons of life which have taught me that rather than try to control things, I would do better to deal and cope with things.  There is much that we can make happen if we put our minds to it, but that is only possible if we are able to pull our resources together and if we can adjust to what is there for the taking.  Like I am in what is supposed to be one of the best cities in the world, yet my heart keeps pulling me back to Manila.  But I have long accepted the fact that this is my world now — and this is where I will raise my son.  I may not have control over what happens to him outside the four walls of my home, but I can prepare him for that as best I can.

Don’t I wish I could spend a month in Paris — but I can only alot 4 days because I cannot bear to be away from my son longer than that, and to stay away longer might mean a major struggle for my Mom who will be left in New York to take care of him.  I have Bill Clinton’s MY LIFE, Queen Noor’s autobiography and at least a half dozen other reads waiting for me on my book shelf– (I never even went beyond chapter 3 or 4 of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell!)  Movies need to be planned — I haven’t even watched the VCD of Mano Po 3 (My Love) which has been collecting dust by the DVD player..

So many things I want to do but just can’t seem to do — but I try not to sweat it.  If it gets done, it gets done.. some things are just beyond my control.