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Archive for the ‘Things I don’t like’ Category

#17 of Blogging with Friends: Something about a job you have done that other people don’t (or didn’t) understand

For about 11 years, I was on the Board of Directors of a government-owned subsidiary company. For much of that time, I was Chair of the Board. (I didn’t like Chairman or Chairperson, and I thought Chairwoman sounded awkward, so I became the Chair!) Our shareholders were government entities, and a number of their CEOs sat on the Board. Needless perhaps to say, I was the only woman on the Board, although we had women in the senior management group, and I was one of only two company directors who had direct experience working in the same field and with some of the same clients as the company.

It was a small company, with great growth potential – and in fact, great growth during my time in the position. That meant that I worked very closely in supporting the company’s CEO and senior management, at a level of detail that would not have been possible in a much larger company. I had already done the same work as many of the staff members and contractors, had managed client relationships, and reported on risk and business development and growth. I was now on the other side of that, in a governance role, checking on financial and other risks, and was the employer of the CEO. I learned a huge amount about the differences between management and governance, about when it was appropriate to step in, and when I needed to step back and not interfere. It was an interesting and rewarding role, especially seeing my inputs bear fruit.

Friends saw me working on the board a few days a week, and thought it was an ideal, post-full-time-career role. I think they thought it was well paid. It was not well paid at all! But that’s not the topic of this post. What they didn’t think about was that, in New Zealand (as I am sure many other countries), company directors have legal responsibilities under the Companies Act. We were/are required to act honestly, in the best interests of their company, and with reasonable care at all times. If we ignored these duties, didn’t ask the right questions, or behaved recklessly, we could be personally liable and face prosecution. Therein lies the aspect of this job that my friends and family, and many other people, don’t think about. Fear.

Even when I knew we were dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, that we were financially rigorous about risk, and that we were taking every possible care for our staff and contractors’ health and safety (we were sending people to work in Asia during the first SARs and swine flu outbreaks), I occasionally (perhaps more often than occasionally) felt fear. It didn’t help that, unlike some high profile prosecutions around the time I was chairing the board, our company did not take or use the public’s money (unlike, for example, financial institutions), and – unusually for many businesses – we were not even in debt. So the prosecutions of directors that were in the news could not even have applied to us. Still, that fear was always there. Maybe it was a result of a lack of confidence, or a form of fraud syndrome? Maybe it was simply my level of diligence in the role? I don’t know. But I felt it regularly.

When I stepped down as Chair after six years, I felt some relief, though legally I was still just as responsible for my actions and decisions and, perhaps most importantly, my questions as I had been when I was chairing the board. A year or so later I resigned from the company to go overseas, and the relief was palpable. And not because I no longer had to deal with egotistical men who liked the sound of their own voices and had been promoted beyond their capabilities! Finally, that fear that came from such a level of responsibility was lifted. Even if the directorships boys’ clubs shutting me out of future roles were not still in operation, I admit that I would not be in a rush to invite that fear back into my life.

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  • My lockdown wasn’t wildly productive, unlike over-achieving friends (who are always over-achieving, sigh), though I did at least organise all my recipe clippings into new folders.
  • Whilst I love binge-watching, because I become engrossed in the world of the series, I promptly forget it when I move on to the next thing. Binge-watching feels disrespectful to the year of effort of all those involved in putting the series together, and then I watch it in just a day or so, and forget it soon after. Whereas when I watch something over weeks, the pleasure is eked out, I have time to think about it, and the experience is etched into my mind. Not to mention that I then have to wait another year (at least) for the next season!
  • The language men use to demean women. All. The. Time. They do it unconsciously – often, but by no means, always.  For example, I hear men talking about women “faffing about” when the women are instead trying to organise themselves AND the children, the dogs, the men themselves. Or using “hormones” as a reason to dismiss women’s legitimate concerns. It is pervasive, insidious, and teaches younger generations it is okay to do that.
  • WordPress is trying to force me into using a new editor. I like the one I have. And I want to keep up with changes in software and new technology, because I have no-one else to help me. But really. Why change, WordPress? If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Sigh.
  • The fat-shaming (or ugly-shaming) of people who have so many more personality traits, statements or actions that can be (and should be) legitimately criticised.  Sure, if they turn themselves orange with fake tans, choose a stupid hair-cut, or distort their body-shapes through plastic surgery then their actions are open to ridicule. But not just because they don’t look good. There are many of us who can’t help not looking good. Please, stop it!
  • The fact that empathy for our fellow humans is not a universal trait.

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7 October is Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) Awareness  Day. Few people know anything about this condition. I didn’t until a friend was diagnosed with it almost 20 years ago. It sounded horrific.  Some years later, I developed shooting nerve pains in my face. Once again, I was lucky with my GP and my dentist. Both suspected it might be TN and I was saved the months or sometimes years of multiple tooth extractions and struggles to find a diagnosis that other sufferers have endured. It has since changed its form to what is called TN2, and now manifests with a constant burning. That change, too, was diagnosed quickly.

The condition can go into remission for days, weeks, months or years. But it is a progressive condition, and flares (or attacks) become more frequent, and for some, constant. They can be triggered by touch, wind on the face, weather, stress, brushing teeth, eating, or talking.

Even after diagnosis, TN patients struggle to find adequate pain relief, are accused of being drug seekers, or of exaggerating the pain by medical practitioners who know little about the condition. One woman reports of being told by a psychologist that she had “two arms and two legs” and should “get out and live.”

I have joined an online group of New Zealand sufferers. It is a supportive group, but shows the devastation this condition wreaks, as it is filled with people who have had to give up working, who live constantly with pain, who struggle to care for their children or elderly parents, or live anything close to a normal life, and who feel isolated and lonely. Yet they are able to joke online, climb ladders to paint their houses, travel overseas, and keep connections, even while their family and friends distance themselves, because they struggle to deal with someone who is constantly in pain.

So far I have been lucky, and I know it. So I’m torn between balancing the need to make more people aware of this condition and my desire not to make this a big deal – because for the moment, for me at least, it is manageable. So I’m talking about it today because there are many who are not as lucky as I am. And having TN makes me more aware of others in pain too. I now know how chronic pain or severe pain can be extremely debilitating, whatever the condition that causes it. It can be exhausting and restrictive and isolating. You never know when it will hit. And although someone might look fine, that doesn’t mean they are not screaming inside.

So I choose to use TN Awareness Day to implore you to reach out to anyone you know who suffers pain and let them know you care.

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