By Marianne Scott
At one time being called too sensitive would throw me into a rage. I knew the rules. A businesswoman had to maintain an image of absolute indifference. Even a single display of emotional defense or even the suggestion thereof could and still can destroy how a woman might be regarded in the business world.
So when a boss of mine accused me of what I considered to be this heinous offence, I was immediately outraged. What an anal orifice, I thought. Ok, I could’ve taken his possible legitimate criticism with a bit more grace, but to use the ‘s’ word was a blow that went like a bullet through my heart.
I was acutely aware that there was no room for sensitivity in the corporate Valhalla, where I had worked hard to position myself among other esteemed warriors of commerce. I appealed the conviction – without success. Having lost my case, the only recourse I had was to go to the ladies room and cry. It was true. I was sensitive.
Too busy viewing it a weakness, I’d never considered how valuable being sensitive was.
It wasn’t until after this besmirchment when I realized I had a penchant for descriptively assessing my environment, especially the people who strutted (or in some cases slimed) within its borders. It was that much-hated sensitivity within me that allowed me to internalize such a dynamic world.
Now that the word had been uttered, I was both fascinated and repulsed by it. Somehow that reputational blow allowed me to make peace with the fact that I did not possess the necessary detachment that armored the high ranking managers I so wanted to emulate.
I believe that all things happen for a reason.
I had been musing about retiring, but my entire identity lay within the constructs of my career. My job was how I defined myself. Yet while I was torn between the familiar and the frightening, things started to go wrong. A phone call at work from my husband was what made me leave my business career. He had received a cancer diagnosis. I gave my retirement notice that day.
It was my sensitivity that got us through the surgery and subsequent treatment regimen, which my husband is still on today. If I had thought corporate life was stressful, living with cancer as an unwelcome interloper takes stress to a whole new level. This new tenuous reality obliterated the person I once was. I was hollow with no substance, like a seashell washed to shore. Add a lifestyle change like retirement into the fray and it was easy to become almost a non-entity.
I had always threatened to write a book. Threatened really is the best way to put it: it would happen on those days when work demands, crises, and difficult bosses drove me to question why the hell I was torturing myself. A memoir defiling the dark underbelly of the business world seemed like the perfect revenge. It was legal and no one would be harmed, at least not physically. Being the ‘sensitive’ person I am, just the thought of it flooded me with satisfaction, soothing my irritated psyche as if stroked by the softness of velvet.
So I did it: I started the project. The writing was therapeutic. I remember delighting in the irony; I’d have gotten my pants sued off for defamation of character even though every word was the truth. While I had worked with many delightful people, I also worked with an array of unsavory, cussing, back-stabbing characters. But since spending time and money on court battles was of no interest to me, and since I couldn’t tell the story without sharing the juicy details, I abandoned the project. But again, I will say, things happen for a reason.
Going into retirement, three things concerned me. The first and most urgent was my husband’s new state of health. Together we navigated the cancer system, seeking out the best care to ensure an optimal outcome.
The second challenge was adjusting to the unregimented life of retirement. I no longer had to wake up to a jangling alarm, nor did I need to meet strict deadlines at work. My days were without structure.
The third challenge was the most personal. Who would I become outside of the definition of who I once was? I had no intention of becoming a cranky senior lady who didn’t know what to do with her time or newfound freedom.
Outside of housework and laundry, I knew I needed to find something enjoyable and meaningful. I began to take online writing courses to get my feet wet. It was here that those difficult work personalities could surface from the recesses of my subconscious filing system. And let them surface I did.
Who knew that this stuffy businesswoman
had such a flare for storytelling?
It was there in that virtual cyber reality where I met a writing coach, later to become my editor, who encouraged me to write the book I’d always wanted to write and abandoned but in a different genre. Why couldn’t I reinvent the corporate chaos I had experienced into a work of fiction? She ever so gently pushed me into a creative effort for which I was perfectly suited.
I found my sensitivity lent itself perfectly to writing. I poured all of those denied inner emotions and conflict into my manuscript and my empty shell filled with life again.
My first book, Finding Ruby, is published and turned out to be a spy thriller. My second novel is also a mystery thriller. It’s nearing completion as my editor and I polish it for submission to a traditional publisher. Two other projects are in the planning stage.
I don’t know if I still need to write the memoir. But I do know that I’m writing, I’m creating life on the page, and I’m having a great time. Being too sensitive has worked out to be one of the best things for me.