Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Trusting My Inner Spider

My son's best friend, my favorite "adopted" child who was my first employee when I started my business and who is the smartest young man I know calls his intuition his "spider senses". When he's teasing me he'll call it his "spidee". I've always felt I have really good instincts about people and situations. My former bosses of the "Evil Empire Corporation" promoted me to the board in part due to my "spot on gut instincts" - I've always hated the term gut instincts - so blood and gore - plus it makes me feel fat.

I always regret not listening to my "inner spider" - I've dated real jerks even when I felt from moment one that I should walk away, I've taken on horrid clients not worth the paper their checks are written on when the first e-mail they sent me screamed stay away from this lunatic, I've spent too much money on important purchases all the while telling myself not to trust the salesperson. The saving grace is that I usually trust myself sooner rather than later. I tell the jerk not to call again, I turn down the second project from the crazy client, I keep all receipts and return the crappy product.

It is rare for me to consistently ignore my "inner spider". I'm always sorry when I do ...

While on the waiting list with Big Brothers/Big Sisters I responded to an ad run by a similar agency. Big Sisters had approved me but there were no girls waiting at the moment - the boys waiting for Big Brothers outnumber the girls 3 to 1. Sad statistic since there are more female volunteers than male. The agency running the ad is part of a huge religious organization and although the ad clearly stated that the charity was secular I had my doubts (spider sense 1 ignored). I was anxious to be a mentor so I signed up and, after background checks and interviews, I was approved.

I had my assignment interview with the social worker in charge of the program. She was abrupt and glib and I disliked her instantly. (spider 2 ignored) - I told myself that social work was difficult, surely she was overworked and would be easier to deal with once we knew each other.

Right before meeting my mentee I attended a training session - all the other mentors were from the church right across the parking lot from the office, they were all bitchin' and moanin' about "their kids" and I stopped counting the politically incorrect remarks - (spiders 3 - 5 ignored). The training itself was disorganized. The keynote speaker was a hack lawyer from the church who sounded more like an insurance salesman than a social worker and the program director took abrupt straight into rude. (spiders 6 - 8 ignored)

I told myself it was the kids that mattered and arranged to meet my mentee. She is the oldest of 4 children (as I am) - she is often used as surrogate Mom (as I was) and she needs an adult to have some fun with and get some guidance from (as I did). Things were looking up.

Before meeting my mentee the program director who is also her social worker told me that my mentee never did any fun things - her greatest wish was to go to the local amusement park. She had no outlets - she was bright and needed some stimuli. Things were really looking up.

The girl I met was sullen, she did not seem at all interested in having a mentor. She appeared angry at the match (as they call it) and was very resistant to making plans. She was also 12 and from a struggling, dysfunctional family. I remembered my 12 year old self and thought I understood. Over the course of many weekly get-togethers I discovered she only enjoyed sports - all the interests I had listed on my lengthy application were "stupid", "boring", "a waste of time" to her. Sports had been one of my lowest rated interests on the application. I'm 50+ with a bad back - bowling sends me into traction. (spider 9 ignored). I thought that with some persistence and patience I could open her mind a bit. And I could enlist the help of my son and his wife for the physical stuff.

We plodded on - spending days at the dreamed of amusement park, buying T-shirts, CDs, DVDs - weeks go by and I start to realize I'm a glorified ATM machine. I also discover that she has been to the amusement park dozens of times, she's also been on a cruise and is a member of several organized (and expensive) sports teams. I try to discuss this with my mentee to the typical deaf ears of a teen so I ask her social worker for help with managing financial expectations and for advice on how to establish better common ground. I am shocked when my mentee tells me that the social worker admonished her to "stop expecting Dianne to spend $100 every weekend" - (spider 10 ignored). Clearly none of my conversation was truly absorbed. While attempting to sort out this miscommunication with the social worker from hell I am lectured on not sending in my stats on time (stats = funding). (spider 11)

I've lost count of how many of my "inner spiders" were ignored during the organization's community events. Let's just round up to 30. The picnic where I offered to clean up and was told no thanks, only to hear later that I thought I was better than the others by leaving while there was still trash to collect. The Christmas party where I was told to mind my own business when I questioned why another mentor was punishing his mentee for a silly infraction. We have been trained to not be parents and to not punish - especially for something as silly as playing with the front door - during a party! I was told that mentor was "a long time deacon in the church" (oh "we're a secular group" spider, why didn't I listen!?) and that his "standing with us isn't questioned" - Oh and I learned he donates a ton of money and equipment. The last event I tried to be part of was the "Cultural Luncheon" - our written instructions were to pick an aspect of our mentee's heritage and cook a dish and make a little presentation. Imagine how I felt when most of the mentors decided on hot dogs or cookies. No costumes - no handouts - nothing from the instructions. Me and my mentee were like science geeks, history dorks. And she had been so resistant to the exercise to begin with. She absolutely gloated when her brother's mentor told me their heritage was "American" so they hadn't bothered with foods or presentations from other countries. No one was amused when I remarked that I hadn't realized everyone was a Native American. I could have sworn my mentee was Puerto Rican and Irish.

In the interest of my peace of mind and still wishing to be a positive influence in this girl's life I just let go of all the nonsense. I delivered my stats on time and ignored the rest. I read about children in crisis and developed my own skill set. We had been together for over a year when I hurt my leg and back this past November. Working 2 jobs had already cut in to our time together, now it was up to my mentee - we could spend time together at my home. I could rent movies, make dinner, teach her to cook, teach her the computer - we could watch sports but the days of running around amusement parks and bowling alleys were on hold. It saddens me to report that she doesn't call me back. It angers me that the social worker's response was to suggest "ending the match" and assigning me a new kid. And could we do this before the "next funding cycle"

All these "inner spiders" later. Had I listened to them I would have waited for an organization that has the same goals as I do. An organization that reflects my philosophy and values.

I'm also left in a limbo of my own creation. I was so overworked and overwhelmed with 2 jobs and my health concerns that I just never returned the social worker's calls or e-mails. Now - over two months later it seems too late to even try a conversation with someone I could never communicate with. If I don't though I'll always feel like I let my mentee down. I think we were both victims of a bad charity. Hopefully my spiders will talk to me soon. I don't think I can leave the situation as is.

On a closely related subject - check out Gavin de Becker - I've linked his bio. By some ironic twist of random karma he was on Oprah's show today just as I was finishing this post. I've seen him interviewed a few times - I'm impressed with how calm and knowledgeable he is, especially when it comes to women protecting themselves by trusting their "inner spiders". He also has some interesting and comforting things to say about the real threat of terrorism to our national psyche.

Gavin de Becker


Jeni said...

Great post, Diane! My "inner spiders" usually never seem to kick into gear on me until I am close to going over the wrong edge. Or maybe they do kick in earlier but I, being the stubborn, headstrong, individual I am, turn a totally deaf ear on them early on. I do much better with my "inner spiders" when it comes to people/things my kids have opted to associate/affilate with from time to time.

Dianne said...

Isn't it amazing how we all do much better when it comes to our kids!? Maybe it's because we've already experienced what they're about to do. Our maybe we drown out our "inner spiders" with all our thinking about our children. I know I'm just trying to listen better to me for me.

Jay said...

I'm always better at listening to my "inner spiders" when it comes to other people than for myself. I have a very good "creep detector" that I have used to save many friends. It doesn't work when it's supposed to protect me though.

Theresa said...

Sounds like you have a good inner spidee--however seems to me you don't like listening to the spidee.

But like Jeni said you might of ignored it due to how much you wanted to help out your mentee- and for that you deserve many kudos.

R.E.H. said...

I think my "inner spider" has been out of order for many years - especially when it comes to dating women ;)

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Dianne said...

jay: I think we're all better at helping others more than ourselves.

theresa: As Jeni said I think being stubborn has a lot to do with it. Plus I tend to question myself so much, it's exhausting. Spidee has been proven right so many times and still I doubt. Gotta get past that.

r.e.h - thanks for visiting me as well. Maybe our spidees should teach each other how to look for better partners although I've pretty much given up the search ;)

Mahala said...

I use to depend on my "inner spidey sense" for everything, but in past months I've really gotten away from that. Thanks for the reminder :)

Minnesotablue said...

I commend you for giving this young girl more than you ever needed too. Sometimes we just want to believe in the power of ourselves and it doesn't always work out that way. Kudos to you

CG said...

I love your description of your inner spider; it rings very true, I too have had those weird intuitions and so often i've ignored them. I really admire you for all you did for your mentee; you really hung in there and I'm sorry for the way it ended...no real resolution there. It sounds as if you did the very best under very difficult circumstances. good for you!!!

Dianne said...

You're welcome mahala - if you want more insight into how to make your intuition work better check out the gavin de becker link at the bottom of the post. He was on Craig's show a few months ago. Stuff to think about

"sometimes we just want to believe in the power of ourselves" - beautiful insight minnesotablue. The trick is to know when you can't control a situation and that's where I mucked it up - I kept thinking I could control my mentee and the social worker and the entire org.

thanks for those kind words cg! I have to get past spending so much time re-thinking and second guessing. Easier said than done ;)

Kapuananiokalaniakea said...

Hi, this is my first visit. I'm slowly making my way through the everyday kindness blogroll.

Glad I entered at this post. My spidey needed a little propping up.

Sometimes all the outside voices are so loud that spidey gets drowned out. I'm working on getting spidey to assert herself.

I'm sorry your efforts with your mentee were not fully appreciated. I don't think you need to do any sort of follow-up -- unless it will be of some kind of benefit to you. There probably is very little you could say that they will be able to hear and you have spent more than enough time trying. Enough bending yourself into a pretzel for this organization. Stand up tall and be proud of yourself for your valiant attempt to help.

Kapuananiokalaniakea said...

PS Thanks for the heads-up on Gavin de Becker. I've added him to my "must get" book list.

Dianne said...

Hi there kapuananiokalaniakea! Did I spell that right?

Thanks for stopping by - I'm slowly making my way through the Everyday Kindness blog roll as well. If only work would stop getting in my way ;)

I really appreciate your advice and I think I'll take it. I do feel like a pretzel and I think I have finally realized enough is enough.

Gavin de Becker is well worth the read. He's like fuel for all our "spidees"

I'll be over to your blog very soon.

Michael Manning said...

Gavin is (I believe) who the stars turn to for security and again, if I'm not mistaken, George Harrison died in his home choosing to be away from reporters. I'll have a closer look now. Have a good day Dianne!

SnoopMurph said...

Hi Dianne!

I admit when I saw that creepy picture and initially saw the word "spider", I was afraid we were talking actual spiders. Thankfully, I bravely read on, but my spider phobia was off the charts for a few secs.

We have probably all ignored the inner spider. I was amazed at the lengths you went to and I am impressed that you kept at it.

I made an enormous inner spider error last year in my summer work and ended up not getting paid after hours and hours of considerable work. My husband actually saw that coming, but I ignored him too, hoping for the best. I ended my working relationship with the organization. One of the best things I could have done.

I love your blog and I'll keep you bookmarked. Have a happy weekend.

Anonymous said...

Exсеllent bеat ! I wіsh to aρprentice whіlѕt you аmend your web ѕite, how сould i
subѕсrіbe for а blog site? The account helped me a appгopriate dеal.
І hаԁ been tiny bit aсquainted of
this yοur brοadcast proνіded
bright сlear concеpt

My webpage - amazon