Thursday, September 23, 2010

Chip On My Shoulder

Perfect Balance Boulder, California Desert

Today I came to the realization that I have developed a major chip on my shoulder. I was sitting down with the Human Resource specialist for my new job. There were four of us new employees being walked through the final paperwork needed. Very quickly in each document we were being asked to designate whether we were married or not. I asked the specialist why we were being asked this. She didn't seem to have a complete answer, and just responded that it is what is requested. This response kind of put me off.

I sat there looking around the table, and at the other three employees. They were all young women. Two of these young women were sporting beautiful wedding rings. They both smiled, and responded that they were married. The third young woman quickly stated that she was single, and I just sat there feeling very angry.

I could tell that the group didn't quite understand why I was questioning this, so I just check the box that said unmarried, and handed the document over. We moved to the next document, and once again I was faced with the same issue. The two married women began talking about their husbands, and I was asked to please check the appropriate box. I felt more anger brewing.

By the next document I could feel that I was steaming. I am not merely an unmarried man. I was married, and do have a husband, or I mean, I did have a husband, and I would like to talk about him as well. Why is it that because at this moment in time, one year out, I am now unmarried, so there are no questions about my spouse?

Next we were asked to list who we wanted listed as beneficiaries of our benefits in the event of our death. We were told that if we were married, this person would automatically be our spouse. The specialist then looked at the two of us "unmarried" and asked us to select someone else. Steam was flowing out of my ears, and my posture began leaning toward the right. That chip on my shoulder was growing exponentially.

Next we were walked through the various benefits, such as vacation pay, sick pay, then bereavement leave. One woman asked how long we were given for bereavement, and the specialist responded with "three days," as if it were quite generous. It now took all my inner strength to keep myself from falling completely off my chair to my right side. That chip on my shoulder had now become a boulder.

I couldn't wait to get out of that room. Why does all this get me so worked up? Nobody was doing anything personally to attack me, or to try to make me feel excluded from anything. None of these people could possibly know that I was married, or that I am a widower who had a wonderful loving husband, or that I have a set of two beautiful wedding rings sitting next to a beautiful urn in my bedroom.

I just need to get over it. I need to stop feeling sorry for myself.

With that out of the way I was able to go to my assigned office to begin my work. One of my colleagues was assigned to take me out to visit with one of her clients, and to participate in a family meeting. She was very nice, and filled me in on who the various people were in our unit. While we were driving she told me who was married, who had kids, who was single, and who was widowed. At that point I decided this was the perfect, and natural, time to self disclose about my own status. I stated that I too was a widower.

My disclosure was met with such sweet acknowledgment of my loss. She immediately asked how I was doing with this, and let me know that she was a person who wanted to know of my loss and support me in anyway I needed. She later treated me to lunch, and gave me the opportunity to share about Michael. I couldn't have felt better.

Later in the day, I realized that most of my coworkers had left for the day. One of the women came into my office to see how I was doing. She invited me to her office to show me a picture of her son, and then went on to share a bit about herself. She explained that she had recently returned to the job after leaving for a short time. It was then that she picked up a framed picture and introduced me to her late husband. I turned to her and shared that I too was a widower. That look of complete understanding came across her face. She then asked how long ago my spouse had died, to which I shared that it was a year ago last week. Her response was not in words, but in a tight embrace. She held me in her arms for a good long time. She let me know how hard this must be for me, and acknowledged that one year was not very long at all. A second embrace was followed.

a chip on my shoulder

As we talked we found that we both chose to move away from where we were living at the time that our spouses had died. I saw that she had a lotus tattoo on her arm, and that the picture of her husband showed that he had a Koi tattooed on his arm. I pulled back the sleeve of my shirt to reveal the multiple tattoos on my arm. She then pointed out the Buddhist imagery that surrounded her desk. A third embrace.

I said goodbye, and headed for my car.


Wonderful, heartwarming tears.

The chip on my shoulder began to lighten up.


  1. Wow! What an amazing outcome to your day.

  2. oh Dan. How incredibly beautiful is that. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. The world sure opens up when there is a kindred spirit about.
    What I hate is when you say or write that you have lost your One & Only, and they just move on to the next question. Sorry people, it's just not that simple!

  4. i am glad you have found understanding people at work.

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  6. Wow Dan. What a day! I'm so glad you've found a person who gets it at work. What a wonderful gift. I totally understand the chip on the shoulder feeling. It's hard not to take every little thing to heart when it all feels so personal (even when people don't know or realize what is going on in our lives). I'm glad the load is lifting. Have a nice weekend.

  7. I'm so glad you found loving people who understand...