Under Analysis: A painful and unexpected breakup

Lisa Henderson-Newlin, The Levison Group

She left me. I don’t know what I did, but she’s gone. She said it was her and not me. She said she wanted to try something different. “I need to follow my heart, and it’s just not here,” was the excuse she gave.

Yes, my dear readers, it’s true. I’ve been abandoned by the one who knows me best: My secretary.

She’s out of my life forever. She gave me two weeks to process the news and then she was gone ... into the office chair of another.

I can’t say I’m not disappointed. I can’t say it, so I won’t. I’m devastated with this unforeseen breakup.

Perhaps I should have seen the signs. Perhaps I just didn’t want to. In retrospect, they were there, but I was too buried in briefs to notice. (Legal briefs, not boxer briefs. I’m not that kind of girl.)

The signals pointed to this ending, but I didn’t want to see them. I can’t believe I didn’t realize it was so imminent. All the standard signs were there; the numerous “doctor’s appointments,” the long lunches, and the internet searches for “I hate my job, what should I do?”

When I asked her why she was searching online for available secretarial positions, she told me it was “for a friend.” Stupid me, I believed her. I realize now the “for a friend” excuse is the typical cliché, but at
the time, it seemed like a logical reason. I just thought she was a really good friend.

Seeing numerous copies of her résumé on the printer didn’t clue me in that things weren’t as good as I thought they were. I just figured that’s how all relationships of this kind are. There are ups and downs in dictation, ebbs and flows in work load, but you work through them together. (By “together” I mean I tell her to do it and she does it. See? Teamwork at its best.)

Should I have figured out she was leaving me when I received a call from another attorney asking for a reference for her? Maybe, but I’m not going to play Monday morning quarterback.

Maybe I wasn’t as attentive as I should have been. I gave her a bouquet of colorful highlighters on Administrative Professional’s Day. I thought that was enough. I often told her to keep the change when she picked up my standing Starbucks order, which was more than generous. I also threatened to destroy her if she ever left me. If that doesn’t show my dedication to her, I don’t know what does.

But alas, it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t good enough to keep her, despite my best efforts of giving her carte blanche with the use of colored Post It notes and making her laugh with various jokes told mid-dictation.

The worst part is no one else knows how to clean up one of my messes better than she does. From mayonnaise to salsa to ice cream, she always knows what stain remover to use, and she didn’t judge me for it. Instead, she silently cleaned up my spill with a bucket of bleach ... like any good secretary would.

Even though I was hurting, I knew I had to move on. I couldn’t dwell on what could have been, as that would only drag me down. So I forged ahead and found a replacement; someone to fill the void in the cubicle.

I didn’t want to start over again with someone new. It would be too hard, but I also knew I couldn’t be alone. I’ve gone without before and it just wasn’t an option this time around. I had to find someone, but it didn’t seem right to put a stranger in between those three flimsy walls.

Everyone knows new relationships are difficult. One of the worst parts is getting to know each other, learning likes and dislikes, and figuring out how they like their coffee. (Sidenote: I like mine with a shot of soy milk. Not regular milk. Don’t even think about it. I will know the difference and it won’t end well. This is part of what led to the painful breakup of 2009.)

Because I knew I had to move on, I reached out to a former relationship. I realized it was a desperate move, but I didn’t care. I wanted to rekindle what we once had, although I didn’t know if it was possible.
The former secretary and I ended on good terms about a year ago when she left me for another. Although that breakup was yet another one that was not mutual, I respected her for wanting to move on. I’m really not that big of a catch.

Through my powers of persuasion and my promise of a larger desk, my old secretary returned to take the place of my departing secretary. They had an overlap of two days, which could have been a disaster, but they got along nicely ... probably because they shared a common interest: serving my every need. Their interaction was a bit awkward, but it was nice to see my past and my present coming together, connected only by their ties to me (and to the payroll department).

Don’t worry though. I will get over this and move on. My devastation will heal and I’ll jump right back on the dictaphone. There’s other typists in the workforce, and I need to come to terms that my relationship is over.

It won’t be easy, and only time will tell, but the next time I need a Shout wipe because I spilled my chili, I’ll think of her and shed a tear.

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Lisa Henderson-Newlin is a member of the law firm McAnany Van Cleave and Phillips.  Contact Under Analysis by email at comments@levisongroup.com.
© 2013 Under Analysis L.L.C.

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