Maud tilted her head at me and said “Everything is fine for the first three months then the rot sets in and the wheels fall off. Or, for a modern analogy, your reception drops out.” She checked to see if I was listening. “You are left high and dry and feeling cheated, let down, out of sorts, tired, jaded or basically unmotivated. The first three months of anything are the best, then comes the worst three months.” As she took a breath, I gave her a querying look. “Why?” she responded, “Well, who knows? This is my take on human nature.”
I was perched on a wooden stool while Maud had settled herself down in an easy chair, cardigan wrapped tightly and slippers wedged firmly on her small feet. She coughed delicately and adjusted her spectacles before continuing. “A new career, a new car, exercise workout, bonsai class, creative writing, artistic pursuit, second marriage, an extended holiday, all seemingly wonderful for those crucial three months. Then, bam, a total train wreck. Worse, it’s a total bore! Then you wish you had never started.” I opened my mouth to protest but she ploughed ahead. “Of course, this phenomenon can work in reverse. The first three months of a new baby, the first three months of post-operative surgery, or worse, the first three months of giving up smoking. Two words – mindset.” I stifled a laugh. “Okay, one word. But keep an open mind because nothing stays the same for long.”
Uncomfortable, I stretched my shoulders. “Don’t thrash around,” Maud shouted, startling me. She waved her arm dangerously close to her favourite cat figurine. “Look up, look ahead, search for those footholds and handholds to help move you forward again. Work your way out of the slump, not by changing direction (although you might, she hissed in an aside) but by forging through the undergrowth on that overgrown path until you reach a reasonable destination where you can relax, regroup and start again – when you are good and ready! It may not be the perfect spot to wait, nevertheless, it will do until you reinvigorate.”
Maud slumped back. “Do you think that’s too strong for them?” I laughed. “Maud, I am sure the ladies luncheon committee has heard stronger things than that.” She eyed me dubiously, unsmiling, the inference being that she knew them better than I ever could. I was sure her delivery would win them over and if it didn’t, just like seasonal change, there was always another one.
After some shuffling, Maud pulled out a crumpled sheet of paper from down the side of her chair. “I was going to reference motivationalist Julia Cameron when she says ‘Sometimes these U-turns are best viewed as recycling times’ but I’m going to read this genuine job advertisement first and say ‘Ladies, be thankful you are relaxing here today’ then launch straight into my talk.” Maud cleared her throat and read loudly:
“About you – Highly motivated, you possess excellent listening and strong customer service skills. You have proven ability to build rapport with customers, key partners and management. You possess strong problem solving and resolution capabilities. Resilient, flexible, literate, you have the ability to work under pressure, deal with rapid change and work to strict time frames. Self-motivated, available at short notice, you are currently looking to embark on your next career challenge and add value to a growing organisation. If this sounds like you APPLY today! Previous exposure dealing with print/sales/retail is desirable however not essential.”
With a snap of fingers on paper, Maud whooped “Burnout dead ahead” which I thought was a bit unfair. “Oh, Maudie” I said, a nickname she disliked, “you make me want to grab a coffee and start scrolling endless, mindless amusements across my screen.” I picked up my phone. I don’t think that was quite the incentive she had in mind and may have misinterpreted my gesture. She frowned and started flipping through the pages of her speech, obviously keen to memorise more text. “Look.” I offered her the phone. On the screen was an old Gary Larson “The Far Side” cartoon. Now, that really did make her laugh.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward