She was my mentor. She trained me in my first job out of college (sales) and she was the best.
And much later in life, she taught me one of the greatest lessons of my life. A lesson that still seems a bit unbelievable to me. A lesson in forgiveness.
Now this may sound feminist but after a long career in sales, I believe that women make some of the best sales people. Some of us listen very well. We also tend to be caretakers. So, when our clients mention that they are interested in skeet shooting, and we run across a cool skeet shooting article, we send it to them. It’s the little things that make a great sales person. The listening. The follow up. The attention to details.
She did all of that. And she taught me how to do all of that by being an example. Her clients loved her, and so did I. I looked up to her and wanted to follow in her footsteps. I wanted to shop at the same stores, and have acrylic nails like her (this was the 90s folks!).
We lived in different states but we became friends, as coworkers do. I met her husband and shared in the joy of her two children being born. We vacationed together with other coworkers. We were a very tight knit group of friends and colleagues.
As time went on, she wanted to focus on her family more and travel less. Since I was single, I had more opportunities to work my way up the corporate ladder by moving and taking advancements. I ended up becoming her boss, and she was the best employee. I truly loved her. I loved her tenacity. She was fierce and she was kind. And, she respected me in my newfound position. She was my biggest supporter.
I was about 30 years old when I was the national sales manager for an insurance services company. I don’t recall all of the details now, but she eventually left the company, and I did too. We had quite long careers there but both chose to explore new horizons.
A few years had passed since we left the company, and I had a business idea but I didn’t want to go at it alone. I asked her if she would partner with me to start an email marketing company. This was when email marketing was fairly new to the online world. She said yes, and we set about forming our new business.
Little did she know that at this point in my life, I was spiraling in my alcoholism. I was working a full-time day job. She and I would work at night by phone (she in Colorado and me in California). We made a good team.
But, while we would meet by phone each evening, I would proceed to down a bottle (or two) of wine. Each day while working my day job, I couldn’t wait to open up that bottle of wine and begin working on our dream biz.
Me and my wine. We were buddies. Hooked at the lips. I drank each evening until I would pass out; and then look forward to the next night when I could do it all again.
I remember feeling so mellow with my wine. Everything became loose inside me… a real feeling of ease and comfort.
My friend and business partner had no idea (or at least I don’t think she did).
We were finally ready to launch our business. We did press releases and gained media clips in local trade publications, and we scheduled our first trade show event in California.
This was it. We were launching!
We knew we needed some more help at our booth, so I invited my best childhood friend to help us. We all stayed together in my house for the weekend. Me and my best friend proceeded to get drunk each night while my business partner would feel left out in her room.
Looking back, I treated her horribly. All of the sudden, I wanted her out. She didn’t party like me, and I was all about the party. She was too serious and no fun (that’s what I thought anyway).
So, I decided that I wanted her out and I wanted my best friend in so we could drink and dream.
I don’t remember how it went down, but I told her I wanted to buy her out of the business. We both ponied up with lawyers and went to battle. It’s all quite a blur because I was drunk almost daily at this time in my life, but I know that I hurt her. I didn’t care at the time. I was all about me…selfish, dishonest and self-seeking.
We finally split up the biz and we never spoke again. She went on to do great things in her career and also to raise her two beautiful kids. She has a somewhat ideal life…an adoring husband, two great kids, two dogs and a house in the suburbs of Denver. While she kept rising in her life, I was spiraling in downward death spiral.
When I finally got sober in 2014, the memory of our last business deal haunted me. It hurt my heart so much to know what an ass I had been to her. Even though I was sick with alcoholism, it is really no excuse for the way I treated her–with sheer disdain.
I believe it was about 2015 when I reached out to her via Facebook messenger. I didn’t have a number for her so I sent her a message. Since we weren’t Facebook friends (why would we be?), I private messaged her that I wanted to speak with her if she was willing.
I had myself all psyched up for the apology. I didn’t know how she would respond, but I knew I had to talk with her to at least let her know that I was sincerely sorry for my behavior. I was ready. I would pray for divine guidance when she responded.
I waited. Nothing.
I waited some more. Nothing.
Wow, I thought okay, she doesn’t want to speak with me and there will be no apology. I actually forgot that I had even messaged her and went about my life staying sober.
And, then one day in 2016, my messenger dinged. It was her. She responded about a year later and said she would be happy to speak with me (she hadn’t seen the message notification until then).
What?! I am not ready now. I was ready in 2015. This seriously threw me into a tiny bit of anxiety. Oh my gosh. What would I say? How would I say it? There were no words. There was no excuse.
And, so I called her. She answered right away and was so friendly. The tone was good. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I had prayed to God for guidance prior to calling. I don’t recall my exact words, but I do recall her response.
She was kind. She was friendly. She was loving. And she was forgiving.
I am weeping as I write this. She was always a mentor to me. And, once again, she was exemplifying how to be a compassionate and understanding person. She wasn’t filled with anger or blame.
We laughed and she caught me up on her kids and family. We are now Facebook friends, and she even likes my posts! She is still cheering for me. I can feel it some thousand miles away.
Forgiveness is a magical gift. I hope that I am able to some day give it as freely as she gave it to me.