Meredith is a 42-year-old welder working at the municipal bus company. She had always enjoyed working with her hands, and felt a sense of satisfaction when she could easily see the outcome of her labor. While working at the local bus company, she had typically kept to herself. She worked in a mostly male environment, and other than Rachel, the female dispatcher, she was surrounded by a sea of male co-workers.
Meredith knew that Morton was a weak employee. He was lazy, complained often, and typically asked others to complete his assignments. Morton was pals with the Senior Manager Jory, so it was unlikely that Morton’s lazy behavior would cause waves with the big boss.
Meredith was convinced that it was Morton’s friendship with Jory that led to his promotion. There was otherwise no way this disrespectful, procrastinating oaf could have become her boss. Meredith knew that the relative quiet she had enjoyed in her job, would be coming to a crashing halt, now that Morton was her direct supervisor.
Meredith did her best to avoid Morton. She tried to park her car at a different entrance, and schedule her coffee breaks when she would not interact with him. Morton seemed to take immeasurable pleasure in finding her anyways. One day he told her that her uniform was too loose. Another day he yelled at her publicly for forgetting a screwdriver in the cafeteria. Meredith overheard Morton saying that women should not be doing a man’s work. He heard her tell Rachel that Meredith was a weak employee, that she was lazy and sloppy.
Meredith began to feel more and more down, and eventually asked her doctor for a leave from work. She just could not believe that this jerky supervisor was accusing her of being lazy, when Morton was the biggest procrastinator on the planet. Meredith could have gone to her union representative, but she felt that the union rep would take Morton’s side. She felt that women really were not welcome in this man’s world. She preferred to avoid conflict altogether.
Meredith began to avoid everything. She avoided taking the medications her doctor had prescribed, and cancelled most of her counseling sessions. She hung out with her dogs, and avoided going to the grocery store where she might encounter any neighbors. Avoidance is a very old friend to Meredith. She had relied on avoidance as a way of managing many of her life challenges, particularly her mother’s angry outbursts and threats when she was a child.
When Meredith began to write in her moodminder, the word avoidance did not appear. Most of her negative thoughts were about Morton and how mean he is . She wished he would evaporate. The positive thoughts were about being alone with her dog. Though Avoidance was not spelled out , the wish was to avoid and withdraw to self soothe.
Avoidance is a very familiar defense mechanism to most of us. We learn to avoid, when feelings come up that we do not have the skills to manage. Meredith could not manage her sadness and fear with her mother, so she would avoid. This showed up as excessive partying as a teen, and running away when she was 17.
The Teacher is that person or experience who brings us back to our weakest place, so that we can change our behavior and grow. The Humble Tiger teaches that Morton is our teacher. He is mean and unfair, and pushes Meredith back to her old defense patterns. Meredith will now have to work through her sadness about her abusive mother, in order to come back and share her wisdom.
Meredith must find her voice. Meredith did not have a protector when she was young, and now she feels, in the face of a workplace bully, that there is nobody on her side . Meredith must work on finding her voice, so that she can tell Morton that he cannot treat her with disrespect. Meredith must assert herself, and become her own best friend.
Meredith will find her voice, and come back to teach what she has learned. Women can work in a man’s world, or in any world for that matter, but women are responsible for their voice. Meredith will teach that a woman’s voice is her greatest friend. Meredith may start a Womens’ Welders Meet Up group in order to share what she has learned.
Meredith has learned that the teacher will always show up. The Humble Tiger welcomes that teacher and shares the healing truth.