It’s been a while since I divorced my children’s father – 34 years, to be exact. Since that time, I have made a career out of helping co-parents strive for peace. But when that kind of time goes by, you can lose sight of how it feels to be in the middle of the kind of conflict that affects you personally. I know, because this week, I had an experience that took me back 30 years, and I want to say to all of my clients, listeners, and readers, “I remember now!” A little reminder can go a long way.

As the director of a non-profit, I have had the responsibility (especially as we have grown larger in the last few years) of ensuring employees and contractors get paid on time, paying employment taxes to the IRS, and reporting wages to the social security administration. I have had my share of frustrations over the years with government entities but have generally been able to navigate them with grace and professionalism. I lost all of that recently when I had to respond to a new government system of doing things. The operative words being “a new government system.” The web site claimed it was going to make things easier and more efficient for employers. But we all know that “easy government program” is an oxymoron.

So, I did my best. I followed the instructions meticulously, but over a three-day period, found myself having to make several phone calls to two different government offices, sending emails with screenshots, trying to explain that what they were asking me to do simply was not working, but was causing me to get in a loop that just went round and round. No big shock to most of you, right? The SSA said it was the new government log-in system’s fault. The new government log-in system said it was the social security administration’s fault. You can probably tell where I am going with this – I literally felt like a child in the middle of two co-parents, neither of whom wanted to resolve my problem, but wanted to push blame off on the other. In the end, neither took responsibility.

The final call I had with an SSA rep was when I became the kind of person I remember hating because I lost my cool – something I used to do with my ex-husband when he would attempt to make me feel crazy. I was calmly trying to explain to her what the issue was, she got defensive and said I wasn’t understanding, and that I needed to be on a different web site. I asked her to give me the URL address, and she said she would email it to me. I told her that I wanted to get it over the phone so she could see what I was seeing and walk through the steps with me. She reluctantly gave me the site address over the phone. I plugged it in, and it took me back to the original page that gave me all of the problems in the first place. I read back the URL address to her, and she said, “You are wrong. You must have typed something in wrong!” Oh, boy. The Righteous Brothers were in my ear, and I felt that old gaslighting feeling. It was infuriating, to say the least. And yes, I cleared the cache, and the cookies, and the browsing history, and even restarted my computer! After telling her what I was seeing, she insisted that I needed to make a call back to the government’s log-in site to fix the issue. I turned around and emailed that system again, and they once again said the SSA was responsible for fixing the problem. Never once did anyone say, “Hey, this isn’t my job, but let me call John Smith over at the other office and see what we can do for you.” I was a child in distress and I needed someone to fix the problem I most certainly didn’t create! No one could see beyond their own scope.

As things stand now, I may not meet the hard and fast deadline to file wage reporting documents by the end of January because I have no bandwidth or energy left to continue rolling around in this rabbit hole. I ultimately emailed my accountant and told her I would pay her anything she asked to do this for me. That’s desperation. Kind of like what clients do when they finally ask their attorney to please handle it, even though they don’t really trust it will fix anything long-term. It’s only a short-term, and probably expensive, fix to something that is virtually unfixable.

What I need to say to all of you reading this now is, I hear you and I feel you. I once again relate to the frustration when you hear someone like me say, “Just be the one to take the high-ground.” Sometimes, you just have to scream, “What the…?!” and I get it – again. Most of the time, I still try to take the high ground, but damn, you can’t always hold it together. You carry on the best you can. So, the next time you feel that untethered frustration and you’re about to do something completely out of character, take a second and think about how it must feel to your kids to not have anyone – ANYONE – in the mix taking responsibility for their undeserved pain. They, too, sometimes need to yell, “What the…?!”