Monday, March 06, 2006

(Crash) Landings

I’ve seen my share of airports, ferry terminals, bus stations, train stations and gas stations. 25 countries on four continents isn’t too shabby for one so young. (Be quiet Mr. MacBride!)

I had a deep fear of flying – mostly a contagious condition caught from my mother, who was totally freaked about planes. And from a bad experience in a small Cessna as a kid that made me sick. Other than that one experience, the only travel queasiness I suffer from is seasickness, but that’s another story.

I was settled into my flight to Vancouver so nicely that I’d closed my eyes when we were over the snow-topped mountains and opened them when we were over ocean. I wasn’t really asleep, just a pseudo-sleep thing I do sometimes when I’m tired.

I love flying in over the ocean in Vancouver. If you’ve ever been there, you know how the runways go right out over reclaimed land – former ocean floor turned into Vancouver airport property. So you literally look like you’re going into the water until you’re over pavement.

This landing was so smooth, I wasn’t even sure if we’d touched down until I heard the brakes. Then I knew I was home – my second home.

And I love Westjet. I haven’t had a bad flight yet, and I always fly Westjet, given the choice. Yes, I am a westerner.

On the way home we stopped in Kelowna, so I had two landings for the price of one. And not just a take-off over the Pacific, but the image of rising above Lake Okanagan, still partially covered in ice. Turbulence in Kelowna though, a bit of a bumpy descent and a definite jump or two on the runway.

Which, of course, doesn’t compare to my scariest landing ever. Japan airlines felt the need to turn the bigscreen tv’s to the external camera’s on landing, and the people right in front of the screens screamed their heads off. I never realized how close the plane could come to going off the runway and have to be jerked back on course, and yet it felt like a very good, smooth landing.

Arriving back in Calgary was a shock. Oh, smooth. I was so engrossed in A Field of Darkness - a fabulous debut by an exceptional author that I hardly noticed until we were taxiing to the gate. Except for the Westjet jokes and singing, which are customary at the end of every flight. But the shock was, I went from +8 spring weather to the –13 blanket of snow. Except the blanket was like 3 overstuffed comforters stitched together.

And, of course, the holiday was over. And I was back.

Some of you know about my current legal situation, regarding the mineral rights on our property that a thieving energy company started extracting with the convenient use of directional drilling in 2004. They were stopped in 2005. Though we’ve yet to see a dime.

Now – despite the fact that we negotiated a sale but our bank has not authorized it because they don’t seem to feel it’s a fair shake, and the energy company knows this – they’ve taken legal action to take our rights away from us. There will be more about this in the days to come, no doubt.

But something else was waiting. To do with the writer’s group I blogged about a few weeks ago.

I have responsibilities in the group. Although I decided not to return to the group physically or renew my membership in the fall, I did not “RESIGN” from the group or my position. The person who did my job last year only attended 50% of the meetings. Attendance obviously wasn’t essential.

I’ve attended every meeting thus far. So I’m not attending anymore. Big frickin’ deal – I’m still at 60%+.

I paid my membership fees. I’ve spent a lot in expenses I’ve never been reimbursed for because of my board responsibilities, and I still have expenses to incur. And since I’m a member, technically, until the end of September this year when my membership lapses, I have a right to listen to the audio files on the website (if they ever update them – still can’t find any past October) and get my newsletter downloads. It’s my choice.

But I received a letter instructing me to turn over all materials required for the rest of the year to the president so she can give them to my replacement.


You see, I’ve done 98% of the work for this year already. Booking program is front-loaded. The program was finalized before September. My major contributions were December and January, when I was on panels. I’m not responsible for the June meeting at all.

But I am the contact person for the speakers each month, including March, April and May. I’ve arranged for them to be introduced at those meetings.

And I have the thank you cards here, ready to mail out (and I pay for the postage. And the paper.)

The only thing I have left to do is email the speakers for April and May (March is done) and make sure they have all they need and they should, because I did my job months ago.

So, you know, it isn’t much stuff left to do. And I’m big on fulfilling my commitments.

No matter how I feel about certain people in the group, my issues are primarily personal. A select number of people have tarnished the whole experience. Were it not for an increasing stream of abusive emails from a select number of people – really just a few specific ones that others failed to address despite being aware of them, I would have stayed with the group but not attend meetings next year. In fact, I fought pretty hard to keep the personal conflicts out of the group, until one person attacked me via group email. Then private became public, except nobody else had the context – or bothered to even ask what the hell was going on.

My main problems prompting the decision to not attend meetings next year had to do with location and incidents when I was arriving/leaving, to the point where my husband started waiting with me until I had full access to the building and wasn’t alone.

Plus the time factor. Attending a meeting was not an evening out, and with our life schedules, I can’t manage getting home at 11 pm and getting up at 4:30 am. The rest of my week was a write-off, and that was getting frustrating, because with the need to run errands before meetings (to do photocopies for speakers and such) it meant two days were pretty much shot.

Plus pressure to do more. I only joined in Sept. 2004, yet I spent both years on the board, served on three committees and virtually single-handedly organized the group’s only workshop because exactly one person volunteered to be on the committee, and nobody wanted a big share of responsibility. I made sure I recruited people for the small and last-minute things, but the rest was mine. And it was an enormous job.

On the one hand, I could just dump my responsibilities now and walk away. It isn’t like I asked to do this or resigned. I simply made it abundantly clear I wasn’t returning to the group, and I did this to a select group of people - the ones who didn’t stand up and say ‘what the hell’ when the shit hit the fan. I haven’t sent out a public resignation letter.

But I’ve approached this with the following decisions:

1. I’m fulfilling my responsibilities, not dumping them on people – save one thing – I’ve banned a few people from sending me email. Harass me once, shame on you. Harass me again and again, fuck you.

2. I won’t name names. The people I’ve had problems with, it’s between me and them. Many people wouldn’t be able to figure it out based on the info available or that I’m willing to share, and that’s fine by me. I’m not getting into that backstabbing bullshit – not when that’s part of what drove me out the door in the end.

3. I have no vested interest in seeing the group die. If it does, it’ll have nothing to do with me making it go down. This is my experience, it’s how it ended up for me. Bottom line is, I learned a lot during my time there and I’m disappointed that personal conflicts escalated to the point where I didn’t feel comfortable in the group. I could have continued going, but I was never going to trust some people again after personal information about me was disclosed, not to mention the harassing emails…

4. I can’t stop people from talking about me. It has happened (part of what contributed to this) and it will happen. Then again, these people have said things about other members too, which was part of the reason I started being cautious. You go from feeling you can say things in confidence (and everyone vents) to feeling really uncomfortable with what you hear about others once it crosses a certain line and then wondering what’s being said about you…until it comes back to you.

The point is, I’m not special.

So, all of this leaves me wondering whether I should:

a. walk away now, like I’ve been pretty much told to
b. fight to fulfill my end
c. ignore the letter entirely and do exactly what I planned to do
d. speak to more members and the uninvolved board members before making a decision

Here’s the other thing. I have no paperwork. I lobbied last year for there to be official email accounts so that they could be transferred to the new board members year to year, with the records, because I never received any information from my predecessor. (Now, there are reasons, and I don’t blame her, knowing what I know now. But last year I was a bit choked.) But the email addy’s never happened. Five frickin’ minutes to set them up – easy breezy. I know – we do it all the time because we use the same host for one of our sites.

So all I’ve got is all my email correspondence, which I’m not planning to print out, as it totals hundreds of emails. And further to that, any condensed version requires me to drop everything and compile this info into some sensible fashion.

I had planned to gather stuff together and meet with the next pc in what I suspected would be April (but probably May because I addressed this issue in January – I was signed on in February last year – and there was no action on it) and review what they needed to know and answer questions.

And I still intended to do that, because it’s not about being shitty to the next person and depriving them of that chance to ask questions and feel confident they can do the job –I’ve certainly figured it out on my own, but I had the benefit of being a conference receptionist years ago, so it wasn’t a big stretch.

And it isn’t about screwing over everyone else in the group either. There are a lot of people I still like there. I’m not calling them all up and telling my side of the story – anyone who contacts me, I’ll meet with, but that’s where I’m leaving it. I’ve had five meetings so far.

But to do this prior to the March meeting on the 9th? With a few days notice? I don’t think so.

I don’t want to drag this out – I want it to not be part of my day to day life anymore and to stop thinking about it, which I pretty much had, save the one-on-one meetings - but as a somewhat prominent person in the group, people will notice my absence. I would have liked to quietly fade next year and given it some time to see what happened, but that isn’t to be.

So the question is, what do I do now? What would you guys do? I know it might seem simple to wash my hands and drop it, but it’s ingrained in me to fulfill my commitments. I’ve known nothing but family who could walk away from each other in a heartbeat – there was always someone not speaking to someone else, and the bitterness runs deep. From that perspective, I could have been pressured into staying, but the well had been so poisoned for me, I had to weigh that out and I’m glad I made the call to withdraw. Everything that’s happened since has shown me that people I thought were friends weren’t at all, and sooner or later, I was going to face that reality. Better sooner. And I’ve had a lot of peace of mind since.

I’m a pathetic judge. I always want to give second chances and yet Kevin pegs people precisely in no time flat. I should know after 6.5 years to just listen to him, and then I would’ve started backing out months ago.

Silly, silly, stupid me.

Now tell me what you think I should do. Because really, I’m almost completely unemotional about it right now. It isn’t like me to be too pragmatic about stuff like this, when it’s personal. But I’m so drained with the legal situation that I just don’t have time or energy to give a damn anymore.

I have fleeting seconds of worry for what will get said about me and distorted and what people will believe that isn’t true.

But like I said, that’ll happen anyway. So is it worth it to hold on a few more months and do this to fulfill my sense of obligation?

It is to the next program chair. I can benefit them. Unless they’re one of the people involved in this present situation. In which case, they created their problem.

But you know, if I really don’t like how I’m being treated by the group I could sue the board…

And seriously, I could send a letter out to everyone with a condensed explanation. I thought that would be pretty low. But not if I’m getting shoved out the door by people proclaiming that I’ve resigned when I haven’t.

Geez, this is so 13-years-old. Fucking women. Whenever there’s a lot of women involved, the claws tend (generalizing here ladies!) to come out and a high percentage can’t separate business and personal. Which means if you lobby for change, it’s a personal attack instead of the right thing to do for the group.

Right. ‘Nuff said. Winners of the contest posted below.

And tomorrow, I’ll strive for shorter. And hopefully, much much sweeter.

But until then, I’m totally psyched about this! Much as I don’t watch the Oscars,Crash is such a worthy Best Picture winner. Compelling, thought-provoking…love that movie.


Sela Carsen said...

I like Option C. That way, you fulfill your obligation while ignoring the gnats. When the term is up, send them what they need with a tidy little "F*** off" note.

Christa M. Miller said...

I'm so sorry, Sandra. Something similar happened to me back in August. It wasn't a writers' group, but it did involve a group of women - many of whom I'd considered friends for the three years between getting pregnant and then our babies growing up. It really just sucks.

That said, I'd be concerned that option C would leave you vying with a replacement trying to do exactly the same things. Why not just email the leader and tell her you intend to fulfill the last of your obligations? Could she be unaware (or deluding herself) that there is so little left to do?

I guess I'm thinking that if you're thinking lawsuit, it makes the most sense to communicate with them in case they countersue. You know?

Trace said...

You know, I was just having this conversation with a friend of mine recenty. We were both social workers in our previous careers, and we've both been treated pretty shabbily by women's groups, and had witnessed other women being shredded by them as well. It's pretty disturbing, really.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh, I'm not seriously thinking of a lawsuit. Sorry, it's a way inside joke, because I resigned from the vice presiden't job a few months ago because we don't have insurance. And under group liability for how we're legally registered, anyone can sue the board for a variety of stuff, and the individual board members can be held liable - as in, take my house, my car... After discussing it with my husband, I said I had to step down until they got insurance.

The problem is I was clear in my email that I was fulfilling my responsibilities for the pc role. I notified the president of who would be introducing speakers at the remaining meetings.

As for "not aware" of what there is left to do, they should know, since we redid job descriptions this year.

Now, if the letter had said, "I feel it's best that you turn over your responsibilities to your replacement at this time instead of waiting," there'd be discussion.

But just being told to turn over what they need on orders - I don't think so. Especially since what a replacement really needs is a chance to ask questions about the job, more than anything else.

Ah, the joys of life. And the thing is, nobody else CAN do what needs to be done without talking to me, as I have all the contact information for these people, and nobody else does.

If I found out that someone else did an end-run and cold-called these people up and just took over, then they make themselves look completely unprofessional and like idiots, because they don't know what I've done and haven't done, and then they risk that speakers won't want to return to the group in the future because they've had an unprofessional experience.

So that's their risk to take, I suppose.

Bernita said...

I do hope they read your blog.
My impulse would be to let them stew in their own juice, since you have tried more than once to act professionally and with due mitigation.
Yes, I've seen this sort of activity before among women.
Oddly enough agent Deidre Knight mentions it as a serious problem in the romance writer communities.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Yeah, there's something to be said for the "don't be pressured, don't be manipulated" approach.

I mean, I'm definitely not going on the timetable of scurrying to shuffle this stuff off asap. Well, I don't really have "stuff" anyway. Everything's in my head.

And if they want paper, then they have to wait until I have the time to get to it, simply put.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Oh, and some do read my blog.

This is how I've learned that I'm not the only person having problems and that there are, in fact, a surprising number of people not only reading my blog but that aren't currently planning to renew their memberships for a variety of reasons.

On the one hand, it's nice to not feel alone. But I'm also not leading the revolution. Anyone who leaves the group does so for their own reasons - not, I should hope, because of mine, which is why I haven't issued a more public statement to the group. There's always a risk of that being seen as unduly prejudicial, or suggestive. Part of me feels people deserve to hear from me, but part of me is keenly aware of how it might look and be misconstrued, so I'm not going to issue a public statement unless I learn that someone has stated I've resigned to any member of the group.

Then I'll likely type a letter and send it to everyone, because I'll feel I have no choice, and at that point I'll be really done with it.

James Goodman said...

Yes, I think option D, would probably be best. That would eliminate (hopefully) thrashing your name ot the other members after your gone.

Cornelia Read said...

Oh, dear Sandra--I am so sorry to read about your having been subjected to all this CRAP!!! Horrible!!!!!!!!

Glad that your flights to and from BC were cool, though, and THANK YOU for reading my thing and saying such nice stuff....


Sandra Ruttan said...

Cornelia, completely deserved. You've earned every bit of praise! Thank you for writing!

Yeah, this whole thing totally subverted my planned post for today. But I just want it done and dealt with in my mind.

I'm sort of comboing C and D. I've addressed one person specifically on this matter and am waiting to hear back.

If I don't get an answer, or if the answer is what I suspect, then I'll issue a public letter to the members and wash my hands of it completely. Because once I have to make a statement of that kind, the fulfilling my obligation part is redundant, because the whole point to me was not to disrupt the program for everyone else and not to make this a bigger issue to the membership than it needs to be.

But if someone, as I'm hearing, has made a statement on my behalf that's erroneous, gloves come off, I'll say my piece and then I really will be done with the group.

Otherwise, I'll go with C. Because I already said I was handling things, and I don't feel I should have to waste more time with two-by-fours and heads if people don't get it.

Trace said...

I'm enjoying the hell out of your book, btw. Even if it's taking me some time to read it. I'm a slow-ass reader.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks for that Trace! I'm looking forward to the feedback.

Kate said...

Boring as it sounds, you need to check the group's constitution. There will be a process for getting rid of board members. It's probably so time-consuming and involves exposing so much dirty laundry that they're hoping to bluff you instead.

Just after I joined my first committee, a member resigned with a letter listing why she couldn't stand it any longer and where the group was going wrong. As it happened I agreed with her and if she'd stayed we could have sorted things out much more quickly. I was glad she made the points she did but it would have been better if she'd let the whole committee know her concerns before she got to the point of resigning. I know there are more personal issues in your case, but all sensible board members will want to know the reasons for the loss of someone making a valuable contribution to the group. They deserve the most accurate version possible, while leaving out all the personal stuff you can.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Good points Kate, and I should really know all this, actually.

Since I was on the bylaw committee...

I haven't made a final decision. Since it's come to my attention that at least some (the board), if not all, members of the group have been told I resigned, I may have no choice but to issue a public statement about that.

But I'm waiting to hear back. My husband's view is, "They don't want you so why fight to stay?" That's a bit simplistic, though.

I just want to make a final decision at the end of the day today, and stick with it. I don't want people trying to manipulate me and harass me for months to come.

And to think more pleasant thoughts tomorrow, or rant about the evil energy company.

JamesO said...

....And, breathe.

Erik Ivan James said...

My humble opinion is this thing has gone beyond any hope of repair. And it appears to be consuming large amounts of not only your emotions, but also your time which, both can be put to more productive use for you and your other obligations.

If I read your post correctly, you have been asked in writing by the president of the group to turn over your materials so they can be passed on to your replacement. That is what I recommend.

Unless there is some specific good reason why you should continue with this group in any capacity, other than your own belief in honoring a commitment, bury it and move on.

Welcome home, Samdra. Missed ya.

JamesO said...

What, you wanted advice?

It's a thankless task being on a committee for anything. You're damned for taking over and running things, but if you don't then no-one else will and the whole thing falls apart.

I guess the only thing you can do is explain your position, as best as you can without necessarily slagging off other people, to those group members you still like and get along with. If the committee's been discussing you behind your back, then you're probably better off out of it, and as quickly as possible. And if that means that you have to let a few people down, then so be it.

If you hang around to tidy up loose ends and make a nice easy handover to whoever agrees to take up the reins, then someone's going to accuse you of meddling, or not wanting to let go of power, or something else stupid like that.

This is why I don't get involved in committees anymore. Which is the cowardly way, I know.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I'll try James!

And Erik, thanks.

It actually hasn't had the usual amount of emotional impact on me. I'd more or less put it to bed since the other post, with a resolved decision, but then two things happened. One was getting contacted by someone in the group, and then this letter.

The letter hasn't asked me to turn over materials. It has ordered me to, with the statement that I have resigned.

Now, I have not resigned.

Plus I have no materials to turn over with three days notice to the next meeting, certainly, as I'd have to create them.

Which is why I'm not sure how to approach it.

I just want to make a final decision and put it into effect today, and be done with it. My own feeling is that it's unprofessional to transfer speakers to dealing with new contacts that are unprepared and not up to speed on the history of the arrangements, and I can't document this simply.

I have HUNDREDS of emails here. I know where everything is at for the rest of the year. Detailing that info to someone else is exceptionally time-consuming.

And I'm personally offended by the fact that a lie has been propogated saying I've resigned when I haven't, and made it clear in email that I was handling all arrangement.

This move raises three conclusions with me.
1. It's to completely fuck me up, schedule-wise and make my life hell because there's no physical way I can do what I've been told to do.
2. Walking away propogates a lie, and I specifically told people who asked that I hadn't resigned. If I walk now under these terms, it's been stated that I resigned. I'm not happy living with that lie. People will believe what they want in the end, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm only walking under the pretext of truth.
3. There is a bigger issue here, in that certain members have manipulated things to their own agendas for some time, and part of me is aware that walking away without a statement leaves people vulnerable to this continuing.

Now, I've never been one to be blind to the big picture, and I've been actively involved, so I've seen tons more than others. On the one hand, my desire isn't to destroy the group, but on the other I've been put into an impossible position and under the banner of a lie.

I'm just really really picky about stuff like that, because I don't like lies. It offends me.

Sandra Ruttan said...

You know James, you're right.

I never thought of the meddling accusation. I only ever thought of maintaining my integrity and fulfilling my end.

There's nothing to be done for it, is there? Screwed either way. Except one way I can live with myself for knowing I did my best to fulfill my commitments.

I hate quitting. That's why no matter how depressed I got writing, I always stayed with it...

Christa M. Miller said...

What does your gut say, Sandra? Have you had a chance just to be quiet and reflect on nothing but intuition?

Sandra Ruttan said...

Well, I've had time to reflect and consider stuff, learn a bit more and talk it over with the evil one.

I've acquiesced to the order to consider myself done and issued a statement of clarification to the board and those directly affected. I think that it may still not have been as smooth as I would have liked, but I also think I spent far more time than this merits dealing with it.

So I made it clear I was withdrawing because I had been instructed to, and told that a successor was in place. I relayed the tasks remaining to everyone in the same email, reiterated that I had no paperwork, pointed out I couldn't come up with any before the March meeting this Thurs. and then absolved myself of all future responsibilities, since that was what I was told to do.

I also made it clear I won't deal with any further correspondence on it. People want to stay in touch with me, fine and dandy, but beyond that I'm done.

No answer would be perfect, but with the advice I got from one person in the group, I felt that she also considered my best interests in it, and was very understanding and had a good perspective that helped me agree to just let it go.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

you've got a real good head on your shoulders, so I don't think you need my second hand advice.

Follow your heart. It hasn't let you down yet!

I too, preferred Crash!