Last night I watched an episode of a show called White Collar.
Not really my thing but engaging enough to follow along while slathering myself in coconut oil (not weird), and having a casual evening conversation with slightly future me about tomorrow, which is now today (slightly weird).
The title of the episode was Deadline, and it involved this woman from the FBI team going undercover as the new assistant of a journalist who was risking her life following the trail of corruption at a pharmaceutical company.
The journalist was, of course, the typical workaholic mean boss (see the mean boss trope!), who expected nothing short of everything.
Expecting the impossible.
The journalist, who was basically doing Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, hit all the bad boss notes.
But the main one, of course, is expecting the impossible.
In this case it was pretty extreme:
You have a few hours to move my child’s birthday party, notify everyone about the new location, find a bouncy castle, buy the kid a present, do the dry cleaning, finish this report, translate this document into Portuguese, go out and get a smoothie and also make the coffee.
Oh, and all while doing your actual job which is a full-time job of answering the phones, filing, copying, problem-solving, and running the office.
It takes a village. Or an army. Or something.
The FBI chick basically engaged her entire unit to secretly make all these things happen.
Someone did the translation. Someone’s wife organized the party.
It all got done.
With a staff of maybe a dozen people working their asses off.
It worked. Yay, teamwork. Or whatever.
Back to expectations.
But no one ever bothered to tell the boss that her expectations were so completely unreasonable as to be inhuman.
That what she thought reasonably could and should be done over the course of a day could not in fact be done.
At least, not without a dedicated staff of at least eight people.
And yes, I get that this is television and that the point of the show was not about the personal process of this particular journalist or her relationship with leadership.
But they let this woman (I know, it’s a character, but yes, I’m taking this personally) go on thinking that there had in fact been someone who could meet her demands. Which she will now keep looking for and not finding.
In this fake world…but really everywhere.
In this constructed world of the television show, everyone this journalist meets will fall short of her expectations.
They already did, of course. But now she will never examine those expectations.
So very often when I interact with past versions of me, I end up discovering parts of myself that are still in pain. Still hurting and angry.
And so very often this hurt is related to encountering someone else’s unreasonable expectations. “Unreasonable” being the mildest word that I can come up with right now.
Me-from-now could do a lot better in that kind of situation. Though me-from-now probably wouldn’t end up in one. But if she did, she’d be able to recognize things that me-from-then could not.
That she hadn’t done anything wrong. That she wasn’t incompetent. That she gets to have expectations too.
Me-from-now could probably even come up with something to say.
Something like this:
“Hey, I’m sorry. Your expectations seem to be X, Y and Z, and these expectations don’t work for me. What you want cannot be done. Not by me, and quite possibly not by anyone. So if this is going to work, we’ll need to re-define some of these expectations and set new expectations together.”
While me-from-then used to cry in the bathroom.
Of course, it helps that me-from-now has been practicing this stuff. And it helps that me-from-now is not afraid of being fired, because me-from-now remembers all the great things that have come from losing terrible, terrible jobs.
Today I’m going to think about expectations.
About who I am as a boss/leader/CEO/pirate-queen.
And what my expectations are in general.
And I am going to imagine that the writers of this show have written an intervention scene. Or maybe they force the boss to do the job she thinks can be done. Or maybe they give her a week off to be slathered in coconut oil and rethink her life.
I don’t know. But I have my green Island Time notebook and a pen and I’m going to find out.
And comment zen for the comment blanket fort…
If you want to invent new endings for this episode with me, I would love that!
If you want to whisper reminders and reassurance to you-from-then in various situations, go for it.
As always, I will remind us that we all have our stuff and we’re working on it and it’s a process.
As part of respecting that process, we don’t give each other unsolicited advice or analyze each other’s situations or tell each other how to feel.