In Family Ties, we followed Shane’s journey in Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Road Less Traveled to acknowledge, confront, accept and forgive the pain of her past and the sister connected to it. By connecting the past and present, Shane created continuity within her personal narrative, which allowed her to both see and accept the pain of her past, but prevent it from dictating her future any longer. The connection also produced healing, strength and peace to seize the present, and upon which to build her future.
Concurrent to Shane’s process to integrate past and present was the equally inevitable process of integrating the personal and professional aspects of her life. Dealing with her feelings towards Alex had just as much significance to Shane’s development as a professional as it did to her development as a person, and in her relationships. In order for Shane to embrace her full capacity as a postal detective, she needed to be able to embrace all aspects of herself - including the painful pieces of her past - for use in service of her professional goals. Using her wardrobe as an entry point, we can construct a picture of critical aspects of Shane's professional development which had already occurred, while also pinpointing areas of growth dependent upon her ability to embrace that pain, with important implications for both her professional, and even personal, life.
At the outset of The Road Less Traveled there was an interesting dynamic playing out that found Norman & Oliver “playing around” in Norman’s lab, while Shane and Rita were otherwise occupied sorting mail. Wearing a tweed cream and black jacket over a navy blue fit and flare dress, Shane, for all intents and purposes, operated in a leadership role, which she actively exercised as Norman and Oliver experimented in the lab.
It’s also important to note that it was through her assumption of this leadership role, and accompanying tasks, that placed Shane on a crash course with confronting the personal, internal conflict to which her blazer pointed, as discussed in Family Ties. It was no coincidence that first text from Shane’s estranged sister, Alex, arrived as Shane perused the unattached objects (a professional act), nor that Shane gathered the one object into her load (the camera) that would place her on the path to confront the “unattached [person]” within her personal life. It was at this very early juncture that the connection between a professional pursuit and an area of Shane’s personal development was subtly, but explicitly, created. Notably, the issue with Alex took a backseat to the case, as it was the first and only text received for the remainder of the day.
A Personal Interest
Though donning a professional look, Shane took advantage of some specific moments to indulge in personal points of privilege:
In retrospect, many of these moments, while well within her character, also read as attempts to overcompensate. Spooked by the text from Alex, Shane, perhaps subconsciously, began to assert and re-affirm personal connections in ways that appeared exaggerated for what we typically expect from Shane in the professional space, in particular that moment with Oliver. You can know it’s out of balance with expected behavior because of Norman’s reaction to it. Yes, he’s normally uncomfortable with PDA where Oliver and Shane are concerned, but there’s precedent for Shane’s attempts to push relationship boundaries in a more discreet manner, even when the lines between personal and professional were unclear.
Interestingly, this atypical display introduced a pattern of behavior where Shane attempted to cherry pick what aspects of her personal life could engage with the professional sphere moving forward, which ultimately proved untenable.
In order to understand the process Shane underwent in The Road Less Traveled, let’s compare what the ideal merger looks like versus where Shane was at the beginning of the film.
In an ideal world, the connection between the professional and personal aspects of Shane’s life, and everything contained therein, are seamless and continuous, the personal able to draw on the professional, and the professional able to draw on the personal:
Outwardly, Shane’s solid, navy blue fit and flare dress projected a clear purpose in the professional space, tempered only by the tweed cream and black blazer which hinted at emerging personal discord. Operationally, Shane had acquired a significant amount of responsibility and discretion to operate within the professional sphere, not the least of which included setting the course for the POstables latest professional pursuit. At the same time, that professional pursuit placed Shane on the path to confront the “unattached [person]” in her personal life, with significant implications for both her personal and professional development overall. This development, and the process required to achieve it, unfolded as the POstables set out to find Danny.
Taking the diagram of Shane’s professional and personal balance into account, this trend towards the professional is not surprising, given the fact it’s the side of the merger most complete in its interaction with the rest of the diagram. Shane also exhibited a professional intuition and clarity unlike anything we’ve seen her exercise in the sphere, which her wardrobe visually confirmed. At the same time, however, formality of her attire obscured her personal struggles, which her behavior at certain points exposed, and for which she would eventually have to answer.
The clarity of Shane’s purpose and motivations in the professional sphere were on full display as the POstables headed out on the road:
She also assumed the role of navigator in a literal sense in that she began the day using her tech to plot their travel, giving Oliver precise directions to the Mesa Pueblo. But when she “lost [her] hotspot” and her phone died, she easily transitioned from digital to analog by purchasing a map. Not only did Shane anticipate the need, she was easily able to utilize alternative tools accordingly.
Perhaps most important was Shane’s ability---for better or worse---to compartmentalize. Unlike many of their past cases, this pursuit of Danny driven by the pictures he took was unique in a sense that it required a heightened sense of awareness and attention to detail. One wrong interpretation, assumption or deduction at any juncture could have sent them miles in the wrong direction. Given the fact Shane was responsible for more than half of the advancements in the case, it was exceptionally notable that she was able to do so even in the midst of her personal struggle where her sister was concerned.
Underlying her technical prowess was a deep sense of purpose, and an evolved perspective on her work and the process required to complete it. As she once more reviewed the evidence lakeside, Shane “surprised” us with an articulation of Oliver’s Divine Delivery theory as applied to Danny and his camera, highlighting her personal growth. While the Shane of a year ago would have been quick to decide evidence like “[the] pictures...stuffed dinosaur and the video” were unable to “get [them] any closer to finding [Danny],” this Shane embraced the unseen motivation to which the physical evidence pointed---hope. With that understanding, she was ready to embrace the process, observe patience, exercise faith and “trust the timing,” all of which were required to deliver that hope to Danny. Even when the physical evidence proved not enough to move them any further along, Shane didn’t hesitate to offer, “we’ll just have to pray for [a lead],” suggesting use of a spiritual tool in pursuit of a tangible way forward.
This deep continuity between her practical execution of the case coupled with her evolved perspective of her calling was the definition of integrated in the professional sphere. It therefore made the lack of integration in her personal life that much more pronounced.
The Personal Side
While seamless professionally in dress, motivation and execution, Shane was a lot less seamless when it came to handling of her personal life, a reality partially masked by her attire, but obvious in her actions. Taking Shane’s process map into account, this isn’t surprising. Where every aspect of her professional life was connected and applied within the right context, her personal life contained elements that not only lacked continuity, but context, which ultimately lead to conflict and a direct confrontation:
It’s no coincidence that Shane’s next attempt to challenge the boundary between personal and professional was directly accompanied by the first instance of someone other than Shane encountering said phone. When Shane suggested Oliver, “call her Shane,” she did so with the full knowledge of what Oliver’s response would be, asserting “I know you, Mr. O’Toole.” At the same time, an aspect of her life about which he didn’t know was advocating for itself in full view of Rita, who didn’t hesitate to ask Shane about it immediately. It symbolized that fact that as long as Shane continued to reject that aspect of herself and her past, she would be unable to move forward in her relationships in the way she desired, forced to continually push boundaries to create assurances that her full disclosure would have made possible by default.
Shane’s response to Rita’s inquiry also highlighted the severity of the disconnect and the extremes to which Shane was willing to go to reject Alex at first. Unwilling to own Alex at all, Shane did something she had NEVER done throughout the course of the entire series up until that moment---she blatantly lied to Rita. She even refused to correct the fact that Alex Brighton was a “she,” not a “he,” as Rita assumed, and suggested that it was a “wrong number,” a fact easily challenged for the simple fact a wrong number would not display a contact name when the phone rang. While the conversation ended there, and her relationship with Rita remained seemingly unchanged, the impact of Shane’s intentional failure to provide context soon claimed its next victim.
While Shane was willing to go to the extent of lying to conceal the reality of Alex from Rita, she went to the opposite extreme when dealing with Oliver in the midst of the RV breakdown. Not only did she demonstrate a considerable amount of patience and composure even as Oliver short-circuited, she possessed the presence of mind to correct Oliver’s attempt to label it a “breakdown” by re-framing it as “a temporary failure to restart.” Anyone else in that situation would have behaved much differently. These were the actions of someone determined to keep the peace----it was Oliver who took his leave of the situation for a time. Unwilling to let the rift caused by his “overheating” persist, Shane initiated reconciliation as soon as possible, drawing on the Owner’s Manual to do so. She even specifically referenced the fact the Manual contained “nothing ... about patience in case of breakdown.” To restore peace between them she was willing to downplay her own suggestion to open the dialogue.
Of course, Oliver was quick to apologize. And I might have expected it to be left at that, but then something interesting happened---Shane asked, “but why?” To ask Oliver the motivation behind “overheating” suggested awareness that something more than the RV overheating caused his distress. Unlike her superficial assertion earlier in the day of “I know you, Mr. O’Toole,” this discernment proved the depth of Shane’s true understanding of Oliver and his inner workings at a core level. Even so, Shane lacked context this time. If you were listening carefully to the clip, the phone “dinged” as Oliver attempted to will the RV back to life. Her haste to disassociate from Alex blinded Shane to the fact Alex, through the “dining phone,” was already making contact and wreaking havoc on the exact relationship she otherwise tried so hard to protect. Alex was the answer to “why” Shane was seeking---she just didn't know it at the time.
Clearly concerned about the state of their connection, she asked Oliver to “trust [her]...while [she] work[ed] things out.” To admit she was trying to work things out at all strengthened the connection between her and Alex in a new way. It meant Shane had begun to accept Alex as part of her narrative, even if she was not yet ready to fully embrace that part of her life. The fact Oliver agreed to trust Shane was also critical in that it made it safe for Shane to begin connecting that alienated piece of her life to everything else, allowing her to take steps towards integrating all aspects of her personal life.
Dressed for professional success, the deep continuity between Shane’s practical execution of the case, coupled with her evolved perspective of her calling, were the definition of integration in the professional sphere. But there was another level she could access professionally if Shane could bring all aspects of her personal life into alignment, a reality which Shane’s actions, for a time, actively opposed. Shane’s attempt to deny the reality of Alex by her own volition exposed an area of her personal life which, without proper context only she could provide, created ambiguity within her relationships with varying consequences. From lying to Rita, to an argument with Oliver, Shane was on a crash course with confronting that which she actively tried to avoid, even as it became known to those around her. It was this confrontation, however, facilitated the opportunity for Shane to begin owning Alex as part of her narrative, with profound implications for her encounter with Rachel the next day, and for the professional and personal aspects of her life as a whole.
Tomorrow, we'll trace the impact of this interaction with Oliver through the wardrobe and events of the days that followed as Shane's process map continued to evolve.
Connecting The Dots,
Shane's Road Less Traveled Wardrobe: Family Ties | Balanced Scorecard, Part I | Balanced Scorecard, Part II
P.S. For those of you wondering what a "Balanced Scorecard" is: it's an HR term that means "everything matters." "The scorecard is collaboration of four different areas – Learning and growth, Company processes, Clients and the Financial aspect. It means following a holistic approach towards assessing the performance of the organization & individuals on the above mentioned areas." For our purposes, it's describing our assessment of Shane's professional and personal "performance" in The Road Less Traveled, and since we're discussing professional performance, using an HR term seemed appropriate!