Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Jenny Blog

I had drinks last night with a very good friend of mine. There were a lot of laughs to be had and stories to be shared. But one of my favorite moments of the evening was when Jenny turned to me and said, "I want my own blog!" Not that she wanted to write a blog, but she wanted a Jenny blog from me. What spurred this was we talked about the game Hooker/Slut, regular readers will remember the rules from Vegas, Baby. Jenny then announces that the only time she has made my blog is her words of wisdom "Hookers don't wear hats." and that she wants a blog of her own.

Okay, first I have to set the record straight. Jenny actually made the blog twice before that, first in Part Two of the What Do I Want to Be? series and then again in Part Three. I just didn't call her by name. But when I reference my fabulous media director, that was Jenny. So I just wanted to say, she has made the blog. Secondly, I had already been thinking about a Jenny blog. After my Girlfriends blog last week I started thinking about getting to see Jenny this week and there are a lot of stories there to share. And for the last of the record straightening, she told me this morning she was totally kidding...it was the Spanish Coffees talking! But it's too late now...she is today's blog.

Jenny and I have had some really fun times together. She never fails to make me laugh. She was my rock when things were the worst for me at work. She has probably seen me cry more than almost anyone else, and definitely more than anyone else I have worked with. She is my Neil Diamond buddy, my you really want to drink that? Spanish Coffee girl and one of the only people I would willingly give up time with C over Spring Break to go see. When she came to work at the agency SN told me she was a real Rock-Star and told her the same about me. He would also use it in meetings...a lot...so we started calling each other Rock-Star and it stuck. I could tell any number of amusing Jenny stories but I thought I would start with the very beginning of our relationship. You all know how I love a good background story!

Jenny and I had a unique introduction. We were the proverbial two ships passing in the night. I had just returned to Portland from doing time in Colorado Springs. Yes, I phrased it that way on purpose. I was not a fan, as you can tell. So anyway...my boss SN and I were walking down to get a cup of coffee one day and talking about weekend plans. He was going to go to a going away party for friends of his. He goes on to say that if he could convince them to stay he would be working overtime trying to hire the female half of the couple as our media director because she was just a rock-star. I asked where they were going and he said, "Funny enough, Colorado Springs." I told him to pull her aside sometime at the party and tell her, "DON'T GO!" He laughed, and I told him I was serious. If they loved Portland they would hate Colorado Springs.

Fast forward a couple of years, they also weren't huge fans of Focus on the Family Land and are back in Portland. SN got his wish and hired Jenny. Our former media director had left a few months before and we had been working with a contractor. Fine for a patch, but only the basics were being done, none of the detail items, the strategic planning, the relationship building, not to mention the filing...anyone who has ever worked in the media side of advertising will tell you that if you don't keep up on filing you will be buried under a pile of schedules and make good orders faster than you can say Reach and Frequency! So Jenny was walking into a pretty big mess. Add to that the fact that as was usual at the agency, nobody else knew her position. I knew what I wanted for my client but had no idea how to make it happen. SN would say he could do media if he had to, but he had no clue either. So she was on her own with a load of work and no help. Not the best starting point under the best of circumstances.

So part of the job working with KFC involved travel. Quite a bit of travel for me, some travel for the media director. Jenny had been with us for just a little while when the latest advertising summit came around. She, SN and I headed out to Louisville to ooh and aah over the brand direction for the next year and to start our planning based on what we were going to see. Being a working mother is hard. Being a working mother who has to travel is even harder. You are going to miss things. Concerts, parent teacher conferences, bad days at school, and on and on. Jenny had two kids, one being a new baby. So this was not going to be an easy trip for her. You always feel like you are doing the wrong thing if you are a working mom. If you don't go to the meeting you are letting your job down, if you do you are letting your kids down. It's a tough place to be. Under the best of circumstances.

The trip to Louisville was a disaster. Jenny's kids got sick while we were gone and her husband would call to update her and she would get so upset she could hardly function. It was awful. And I got really mad at her husband. I thought he had to be laying the guilt trip on her pretty heavy for her to get so upset at the end of each call. What you really need when you are away from home at a time like that is a super supportive spouse. And what I was seeing (I thought) was just the opposite. I was so mad at him for making her feel so lousy. Trips are hard. Trips with sick kids are hard. Trips with sick kids and a spouse making you feel lousy are impossible.

When we got back to Portland Jenny and I went to lunch. We were going to recap what we had learned in Louisville and just take some time to get to know each other even better. As we sat at a table at the deli near work and talked I realized...I was talking. Jenny wasn't. Jenny was just staring at me like she knew there were words coming out of my mouth but they might as well have been in another language. Then she started talking. She felt like a failure. The job was too much, being a new mom again was too much. She wasn't good at anything. Any one of the things she was dealing with would have been hard under the best of circumstances.

That was the last time I would see Jenny for quite a few weeks. What we found out the next week was that Jenny wasn't operating under the best of circumstances. She was living in a world where everything was the worst of circumstances. All the time. She was suffering from depression. The reason her husband had called so often when we were in Louisville is he was starting to recognize the signs of a relapse. She had a bout of postpartum depression after the birth of their first son and he had been on the look out for signs of it happening again after their second was born. His calls weren't making her upset, the depression was starting to take hold. What I was seeing as being overwhelmed with the new job and the baby and the move was really her brain chemistry changing. The darkness settling in.

This next part is where Jenny changed to My Jenny. While she was out of the office recovering we were back in the same position we had been,effectively no media director. SN called our other AE and me into the conference room to discuss the situation. Basically he wanted to fire Jenny and wanted us to agree with him. He didn't have the stones to make a decision like that on his own, so if he could get Em and I to say it was okay then he could always fall back on the reasoning that he didn't want to do it, but we forced his hand. The problem was I wasn't on board. At all. He and Em took the "logical" approach. We didn't know when she would be back at work, we didn't know if there would be a relapse, we didn't know if she could be trusted again on and on. I sat there very quietly. Anyone who knows me knows when I go quiet that's the time to worry. The madder I am, the angrier I am, the quieter I become. Finally, SN, turns to me and says, "You must agree with this." I told him, "no." He said, "What do you mean, no?" I said, "You told me I had to agree I am telling you no. I don't agree."

At this point Em rolled her eyes, "How can you not agree? It's damaging to the agency to not have someone here." As you all know from my earlier blogs about leaving the agency, I wasn't on the best of terms with everyone there. I am not sure if my issues with Em started right before this, or after it, but I can tell you it changed my opinion of her. I won't say she was shallow, but I will say there wasn't a lot of depth of experience to draw from. I also won't say that SN was the most selfish and self centered person in the world, but that's because I haven't met everyone yet. But after listening to both of them go on and on about how Jenny being "bummed" was affecting them and then the tone and the eye roll I let loose on both of them...

See, LN was always promoting itself internally as more than just a job. We were a family. So I said and I will paraphrase here, she is part of our family now. She might be the newest member but we don't treat family like this. What if she were in the hospital right now with cancer? Would we be having this discussion or would we just be worried about her recovering and coming back as soon as she could? Because she's not just having a bad day, she has depression. It's a medical condition. There is every chance that she will get on medication and find a therapist and be just fine in a few weeks. Do you want to write her off that quickly because she is sick? Because that's what this is, it's a disease. If you want to fire someone because they are sick then you do it, but I will have no part of it. None. So again, I say no.

And I got up and walked out of the conference room. As you can imagine it was a little tense around the office for a few days. I was the enemy. I was the one that wanted us all to suffer because Jenny couldn't just "Snap out of it" as had been suggested. But then things started to shift. Jenny started to recover. She came back to the office. She was on medication that was working. She had a therapist to check in with to make sure everything was still working. That's the problem sometimes with anti-depressant medication, the brain figures out you are tricking it and starts to rebel so meds have to be shifted and watched to make sure the chemical stew that is our emotions is kept in balance.

And wouldn't you know it? Once she was back at work and doing an amazing job everyone was super supportive. They all knew she would be fine. So happy to have her back, such a rock-star. And the truth is she is a rock-star. But a true one. She does her job, raises her kids, loves her husband and is a great friend through it all. But she also knows what it's like to feel like all of that doesn't matter. Like nothing will ever be good enough. Or real enough. Or strong enough. And she gets up everyday and takes her meds and chases those demons away. She is a rock-star. And My Jenny.

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