Some blog posts take weeks or months to formulate. Others come as a flash of inspiration in an hour or a day. This post falls into the latter category, and more as an unfolding rather than a flash.
My youngest son recently turned two years old. We celebrated the night before with family, dinner, cake, and presents.
The next morning was a routine Monday, with kid drop-offs at daycare and school, followed by a typical carpool commute in with my wife. About an hour after arriving at the office, I was laid off by my company.
What to Think? How to Feel?
Talk about your potential huge pendulum swing in emotions. Betrayal. Disappointment. Sadness.
The layoff itself didn’t surprise me. Sure, I like to think I am personable, provide detailed, quality work, and collaborate well with others. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t about me. I am not irreplaceable. It was about the bottom line and getting the company profitable again in these “tough economic times”. The company has been laying people off for more than a year, so like I said, not a huge shocker.
Nonetheless, I packed up my laptop to take home and clean out my files, said a couple quick goodbyes to those coworkers who caught me on the way out (to their stunned amazement). I called my wife to let her know, and she was equally in shock and overwhelmed. We had talked about this very real possibility given the situation at my company. Now, it was really happening.
I drove home. Numb. Surreal. “You’ve just crossed over…into the Unemployment Zone.” (Cue music.)
Arriving home, I was kind of at a loss as to what to do next. I decided that I just needed to take a step back, let things absorb and wash over me. I sat down and meditated for about 15 minutes and then headed off for a trail run in Forest Park. It had been so long since I’d gone for a run, several months at least; it had been well over a year since I ran in those wonderful, quiet woods. I had forgotten how much I loved that place.
I was only able to run about 2.5 of the 3 miles, but it was so refreshing to be outside and solitary, with only a couple runners passing with a brief “hi”. Returning home, I took and shower and went to break the news to my parents. They were also somewhat surprised to hear about the layoff, but not nearly as shocked as others. We had a nice quiet Monday lunch together, which I hadn’t done in several years. It brought back memories of my childhood.
I returned home to sort out the stuff on my work computer. Before I knew it, the time had flown and I had to pick up my son from school. Seeing his happy smiling face and asking how his day went was a gift. My folks brought our other son home, my wife walked home from the bus stop, and we all reconvened around the dinner table after a very strange Monday. After dinner, I went back to the office (with the good company and moral support of my loving wife) to clean out my cubicle for good. Luckily, I had done a fairly major recycling clean-out of decade-old, unreferenced papers at the end of last year, so we didn’t spend nearly as much time there as we could have.
I took down my name plate, left my access card, and flipped off the lights.
The relative peace and calm I still feel surrounding the layoff is attributable to a couple of practices that I have installed over the last several months. I fully believe the daily meditation, tai chi, and work with my naturopath prepared me to deal with the intense anxiety, fear, panic, and despair that could easily overwhelm this newly unemployed human being.
I meditate for no more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time, but that short stint helps me get grounded, lets me observe the flitting thoughts in my wandering mind, calms me down. My parents are huge advocates for meditation, and to paraphrase one of the Buddha’s famous sayings, “Life is impermanent.” This transition in my life provides a key opportunity to contemplate that fact.
I practiced three terms of short form tai chi in grad school, and I have found the new Yang style, long form to be challenging. Each form takes about 25 minutes to complete (and I’ve only been going for about a month). But each successive time I complete the form, I can feel the blood rushing in my fingers, my mind intensely focused.
My naturopath has been working with me for close to a year now since my health problems came to a head. She’s helped reduce my anxiety and stress levels immensely through supplementation, as well as improved my digestion and identified a gluten intolerance. Even when the stress manifests itself, I notice it is there, but doesn’t get to me nearly as badly as before.
Rather than lashing out in anger and being bitter about my situation, I am taking a step back from the fray to assess the landscape. I am at a crossroads, and all paths are available to me. Let the journey begin.
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Hadiprawira.