Little Earthquakes

It has been longer than I have wanted since I last posted. It’s been a bumpy couple of months here. Back on March 12, just as I was preparing to take a long deferred week off from work, I logged into my work computer to find that I and everyone else in my company had been laid off, because the company was filing for bankruptcy. It was all due to a really ugly feud between our two evil billionaire equity partner owners, but for this post the why is not as important as the what. If you are interested in the details of my adventures in unemployment, you can read about the whole experience on my general journal blog. What I really want to talk about here is shake ups as an impetus for change.

Overnight, I went from stressing over getting everything done in time for a vacation I had planned for the next week next week, to stressing about being on vacation FOREVER. (That’s right, FOREVER. If I’m going to have a freak out, I’m going to go big or go home!) I ended work Monday night with a full schedule of meetings and tasks to complete on Tuesday, then logged into my work computer on Tuesday morning to find that after eleven years with the company I was now among the ranks of the uninsured and unemployed. Because I am home officed, I got to process the shock in my pajamas in the privacy of my own home. My coworkers at our headquarters in Michigan, on the other hand, were greeted with the news at the front door, told to pack up their things, and go home. I have been lucky enough to always leave jobs on my time and my terms and have never in my life needed to file for unemployment. Needless to say, this new turn of events was pretty overwhelming.

There is nothing like a cataclysmic life event (or even just a small earthquake!) to make you stop and take stock of who you are and where your life is going. As traumatic as the whole experience was, in its aftermath, I’ve come to believe it was the best thing that could have possibly happened to me. In the end, things worked out with my job. In a completely unexpected turn of events, the son of the company’s founders spearheaded an effort to buy it back out of bankruptcy and rehire the employees. So, instead of working for two Mr. Burns clones, I now work for a company with ethics and a commitment to making the world a better place by helping schools and churches fundraise and local merchants thrive within their communities. While I am so grateful for this happy ending, what I am really grateful for is that having the time off reinvigorated my commitment to the goals I’ve set for myself this year and made me stop and reclaim some of the passions that have taken a back seat to work over the past years.

All this taking stock has helped me reach some important epiphanies:

Lesson One: Health is not just about getting skinny. Yes, it’s about living and eating healthfully, but it’s also about feeling good, finding happiness, having a good quality of life and enjoying it. I think that to really be healthy, one has to have a balance of mind, body and spirit. It’s not just about diet or a number on the scale.

Lesson Two: Sometimes the worst thing that could happen is the best thing. In my month off, I started writing again, joined a monthly music jam, started exploring new spiritual paths, and have come a long way toward figuring out a solid game plan for losing the weight I want to lose this year.

Lesson Three: Feeling in control is important. One of the first things I did my break up with employment was to cut off all my hair and dye it bright red. While this might sound a little shallow, for me it was a symbolic act of reclaiming control. My life might suck, I might have no job and no prospects, but I can change things.

Lesson Four: If something isn’t working, change it. The truth is that even though I knew my job was negatively affecting my personal sphere (read that as the polite way of saying “it was becoming soul sucking”), I didn’t make too much effort to change it or to set strong boundaries. Reclaiming myself ever the past month made me realize that I don’t want to lose the whacky, creative parts of myself that enjoy noodling around with music and words and life ever again. No job is worth that.

Lesson Five: It is okay to fail as long as you keep trying. After returning to work, I learned that the founder’s son had been quietly trying since January to buy the company from what I now like to think of as the evil empire. He made multiple bids that failed to be accepted. In the end, he had to change his strategy to buying the assets out of bankruptcy. Even there, things did not go smoothly. There were delays and overturned trustee recommendations, but in the end he prevailed. The lesson of flexibility here applies to weight loss as much as it does to corporate finance. While I was off, I decided (despite my January proclamations about eating whole, real foods) to go back on the Take Shape for Life program I started a year or so ago. I still had almost a month’s worth of pre-packed foods in my cupboard and in my new budget economy, it seemed really wasteful to not use them. While the program absolutely works, if you stick to it, I’m going to be really honest and tell you that I really struggled with it. I struggled with staying on the plan. I struggled with not wanting to disappoint my sweet friend, who is a health coach for the company. I struggled to the point that started feeling like a big, fat loser. Then, the other day, I realized that I was creating my own hell. There are plenty of diet plans that work. The mechanics of weight loss are the same whether you eat food from medical packets or the grocery store. I just need to find a sensible program that works best for me. In my heart, I really believe that what I need to learn is to eat properly using real foods, so I signed up for Weight Watchers (mostly for the support aspect, but I find I’m actually really digging the points system) and am again just focusing on eating whole, healthy foods.

These epiphanies also made me think about this blog and the life project it represents. I don’t want it to only be a chronicle of my diet struggle (which it will always continue to be in part), but also a place to focus on the things that make life healthy and happy, because what we feed our souls is just as important as what we feed our faces. I think they will all be part of my success or failure in reaching my goals. One of the reasons I called this blog The Peacock Project is because of the affinity I feel for those gorgeous birds and the confident beauty they represent. Even with their tails down, they are beautiful. With them fanned out, they are breathtaking. Don’t you want your life to be breathtaking? I know I do!

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