Monday, October 19, 2009

Time To Make Lemonade!

Having never lost a job before I really had no idea what to expect after getting my "60 Days".  That's corporate speak for your job has been eliminated and we're giving you two months where we'll pay you to find a new one.  Anyway, I gladly spent most of the first two weeks of that time helping transition my various duties to those folks and groups who would assume them after I left.  I really wanted the folks I worked for to be taken care of - after all that is what I worked so hard to do every day for so many years! It was a convenient thing too, because It meant I could pretend things were relatively normal for a while longer.

But they were not.

Once I was no longer expected to appear in the office, I really started to feel like a fish out of water. It started to feel like a permanent hole had appeared in my gut. . . I stopped eating much, I lost weight. I withdrew from my family's activities, I slept a lot . .  A LOT!

My dear wife was quite understandably concerned about me. But I kept reassuring her that I was fine, and just needed to adjust to my situation, just needed some time to my self. . .

The highlights of my next few weeks were attending meetings with the career counselors and HR folks at my soon-to-be-ex employer.  I can say this much about the company - they do have an awesome set of resources in their HR staff.  They are wonderful folks; They genuinely cared about helping me prepare for the daunting task of job hunting and I am grateful for their help.

But after a while there were no more workshops to take, no more sage advice from folks who had "been there".  Even the mock interviews, reportedly handled like a pro, were behind me.  Time was running out . . .

I was left with just about nothing but the hole in my gut to keep me company.  It was unrelenting, unsympathetic, all consuming, and at times nearly unbearable. . . . I finally admitted to my wife how much pain I was in.  It surprised me how much it hurt, to be suddenly without that which had become so much a part of the fiber of who I was. I broke down and sobbed in her arms. It was such a release - Yet I immediately regretted appearing so weak to her. I'm supposed to be the man in the house!  I'm supposed to be strong! After that I retreated even further into my own personal purgatory - which of course was self defeating. I'm sure even as you read this you can visualize a swirling vortex, the spiraling down or spinning out of control that one so often hears about . . . 

So then many of you will recognize what I have just described as depression.  There is no other word for it.  And no adequate way to describe it, so I won't try - Those readers who have experienced it know, the rest of you should feel very lucky!!!.  Anyway, fortunately I recognized something was seriously wrong and reached out for help . . . And found it in the form of a therapist who made all the difference. (Again, my soon to be ex employer provided the salvation I needed in the form of free counseling services!)

I won't bore you with all the gory details, but I will say that the pivotal moment for me was when I learned that what I was experiencing was grief.  A part of me had died and I needed to let it go.  Funny, even though I have lost both my parents, I had never grieved so much before.  Sounds strange I know, but I lost my parents slowly to disease.  My father suffered a long decline due to Parkinson's disease. I got to say to him what I needed to before he passed, so it was more of a relief when his suffering was over. The same was mostly true of my mother.  She had cancer, so I knew what needed to be done; we had prepared for the inevitable. So even though she did pass unexpectedly quickly, It was not devastating. In fact it was a blessing that she didn't endure much pain or suffering.

Losing my job was like some powerful malevolent force had suddenly reached into my soul and ripped out a critical piece of my very being.  Indeed, it had . . .

These things I came to understand through sessions with the therapist.  It sounds cliche, but putting a name to it made all the difference.  I have long believed that one can not change what one does not acknowledge.  In this case acknowledgment took the form of understanding that I was experiencing grief of the highest order - and fortunately I knew how to deal with that!

I am so much stronger now.  I will never again define myself so much by what I do for a living.  This experience has brought into sharp focus just how important my family is to me.  How important my friends are to me.  And for the first time, how important I am to them . . . A worth that is not defined by a paycheck or the skills that earn it, but by the Husband, father, and friend I always was to those who love and care about me.

Lemonade anyone?