Wednesday this week started as a great day. Eva and I usually spend Wednesday mornings together, and after getting up we went over to a local café that’s perched on the banks of a waterfall to meet a friend who’s just relocated back to our area. Then we headed south to Stillwater to drop off a book I recently published at a bookstore to see if they want to stock it, got some things at the food co-op, and stopped in at William Obrien State Park for a hike along the river. The fall colors are just past peak, and the landscape is beautiful with all of its gentle earth tones sprinkled with little bits of vibrant red, yellow and orange. When we got back home we were both in great spirits.
It’s interesting how quickly life can change. Ironically, I read a blog post earlier in the week that said big things usually don’t happen when you might imagine – that the bottom of life tends to drop out at 4pm on a Tuesday instead of at a time when you are expecting the worst. Or 2pm on a Wednesday, as it were.
I shouldn’t be quite so dramatic, as I am still very much alive and my family is as well. Today, Friday, is also beautiful day, and I spent the half hour before logging into work on the dock watching a bald eagle and a few ducks move through the mist that was rising off the water. The sun rose slowly in the east as it always does, and this crisp autumn day is getting brighter even as I type these words. Life on the surface looks very similar to how it did two days ago.
So what happened on Wednesday, you ask? After running in the door from our fabulous morning and sitting down at my desk, I got a call as I was dialing into staff meeting that informed me that as of December 2nd, my services are no longer needed at my place of employment. Due to a change in business needs, my position is being eliminated. (At corporations, it’s always due to business needs…because let’s be honest, in America’s business culture, the almighty dollar still tends to win, regardless the compassionate nature of the humans who make the decisions) There will still be a health coaching department, of course, but it will be a slightly smaller, and I’m one of the coaches who they didn’t choose to keep around. That’s tough news to hear after almost ten years of pretty dedicated service, years of good performance reviews, instigating and writing the first proposal for the company’s now expansive work from home program, and being one of the first coaches the place ever hired. Of course, there are people in the world who are trying to make lives in war torn cities, children who are hungry more days than not, and individuals who lose their jobs after 35 years, not a mere ten. But for me, at this moment in my life, losing a job that has become (whether I want to admit it or not) a rather defining part of how I identify myself doesn’t feel good.
I’ve felt burnt out off and on over the years, and I’ve thought about trying to find a different job periodically – but alongside that, I’ve been able to work from home, doing something that fits fairly well with my skill set, and provide for my family. I have no idea if I’ll be able to find another position that pays me well enough so my husband can continue stay home to care for our young child to keep her out of fulltime daycare. I have no idea if I’ll be able to find another position that will allow me to telecommute – we live 60 miles outside of the nearest large city, and I just don’t have it in me to commute two hours every day to get to an office. My life needs to be close to nature, close to the people I love, and it needs to align with what I value. Finding a job in the city and spending my days getting there and back again doesn’t fit, and in fact contradicts most of the things I write about on this very blog. I’m afraid of the next six weeks, the weeks I’m required to work to receive my transition pay, and trying to hold space for and be a positive influence on 10-15 people per day as my own reality shifts in ways that I can’t control.
Research shows that autonomy is a key component of finding satisfaction in work, (and life) and right now it feels like my autonomy is being limited. Some choices that I’ve had over the last ten years are suddenly no longer options. Thinking about finding another job or way to support myself/family while still gainfully employed at a company where I felt very secure is vastly different that thinking about finding another job because I’ve been let go. I’m afraid of not being able to stay in this house that I’ve come to love despite its flaws, on this little patch of beautiful land that has been home for the last seven years. I’m afraid that I’ll discover I don’t really know how to do anything else besides be a corporate health coach, or that I was never very good at it in the first place. It’s a classic case of feeling like I’m not enough, even though I know (and have written about many times) that I am so much more than what I do for a job. I have experienced some incredible highs in the last two months: I signed a contract with a wonderful publishing house to publish my second book in late 2017, I’ve had several new students enroll in the online courses I teach, and I identify more than ever as “a writer”. But those things just don’t pay the bills in the life I’ve been living the last seven to ten years. Turns out it feels quite different when you are on the side of the story that is living the tough, uncontrollable situation, and not just writing about it hypothetically or helping someone else navigate a challenge.
I oscillate between feeling relief that I am being forced to do something different to mourning what I am losing (or might lose). I want to use this turn of events as a way to move more fully into the life that feels right, but I’m terrified of instead moving into a life that is even further away what I want. In my work I post quotes and memes all the time along the lines of “there is no renewal without the passing away” or “focus on what you have to gain, not what you have to give up” or “everything you go through grows you.” I think I still believe in those ways of thinking. Now the trick will be to live like I do.
Krista Tippett, in an interview with the magazine The Great Discontent said,
I don’t want us to locate the meaningfulness of our lives in our work. I think that was a 20th-Century trap. I’m very committed and fond of the language of vocation, which I think became narrowly tied to our job titles in the 20th Century. Our vocations or callings as human beings may be located in our job descriptions, but they may also be located in how we are present to whatever it is we do.
So, to all of those reading who may be dealing with a similar situation, remember that the world outside remains full of beauty, the seasons continue to change in an ancient rhythm that is more powerful that any business or culture, and life goes on even when our foundation feels like it’s cracking underneath us. Because, when we look deeper, we see that our foundation isn’t what we maybe once thought it was. We can look to the east and see that the sun still rises through the mist and know that our foundation is bigger than anything we can come up with alone.