Today is the first day of the the rest of my vacation. It’s funny. Two months ago, just as I was stressed enough to start pulling my hair out and getting ready to start some long overdue time off, my company filed for bankruptcy and I lost my job and went on what I feared was going to be a permanent vacation. I wish I could have enjoyed the freedom more, but I was so worried about money and the feelings, fears and mechanics of unemployment and finding a new job that I really didn’t take as much pleasure in my newly found “me time” as I could have.
In hindsight, however, it was the best thing that could have happened to me. Sometimes we need a little pain to shake us up. Before bankruptcy, I was working long hours for two evil Mr. Burnsian billionaires, often getting emotionally drained by work things that were neither my responsibility nor under my control. At home, I was being stressed out by an aging parent whom I love more than anything, but who, as she gets older and more feeble of memory, is becoming increasingly dependent on me. And then there was the volunteer stuff. By the time I went to bed at night, I was too exhausted to do anything to feed myself in a figurative way, so I did it in the literal way.
In short, I was taking care of everyone but myself.
We already know that I am fat and have high blood pressure (it’s gone down a little, by the way!), but more than that, I wasn’t doing the things that make my heart sing or even just make me smile. People used to say I was funny, but I found myself feeling so serious all of the time. I was starting to remind myself of my father, who always worked hard, but in moments when he thought he was alone, looked like he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.
He used to work swing shift. As a teen, sometimes I’d get up at night to get a drink of water. He’d still be up, having just come home from work. Sometimes, in those moments before he realized anyone had come into the room, he’d be sitting at the table , hunched forward with this face in his hands. Although I rarely sit like that, there are days (especially BB) when I feel like that. I always thought he was moody, but now I know he was probably just overwhelmed by the pressure of taking care of everything.
In my father’s case, he was still working when he was 65. Overnight, he went from working to being partially paralyzed when he was felled by a stroke. Outwardly, he always appeared strong, much younger than he really was. After the stroke, he looked like he’d aged twenty years from one day to the next. He went from being fiercely independent to needing help with the smallest things. He survived for a year. He never got to retire or relax or just enjoy himself. He died when I was 27 and never got to see any of the great things I would (or would not) do with my life.
As much as I love my dad, I don’t want to be like him. Even as I write this, I am hyper aware of how much I have traveled down the same path. I am starting to believe now that losing my job was the universe’s way of telling me to straighten up and fly right (in case you were wondering, yes, the universe does sing like Nat King Cole).
Losing my job after eleven years with the same company was devastating. That it occurred a week before my birthday was a little extra kick in the teeth, but it made me take stock of my life in ways that never would have arisen had I continued with the status quo. Suddenly the question du jour was “Is this where I want to be at 44?” Not just the job, but all of this.
The truth is, no matter how hard you look, you can’t look for a new job 24 hours a day. To fill in the time, I found myself doing a lot of thinking, restructuring of boundaries, reading and planning. Next thing I knew, I was filling my time in other long packed away ways.
Bored? I know! I’ll play my violin for a bit or maybe I’ll sing.
Say, are those watercolors in that box? I will paint a picture!
Remember that awesome story I thought about doing for Nano, but didn’t do because work was too busy? I am going to write it down!
You know how I feel depressed, fat and ugly every time I look in the mirror, see a picture or myself or step on a scale? I don’t want to live that way. I am going to DO something about it. And I did. It will be a journey, but I have a plan, I’m taking steps and making progress toward my goal.
Things will be alright.
In the end, my company was rescued from bankruptcy by owners who are decidedly not evil. They offered me my job back, which I happily accepted. I will never be someone who doesn’t help where help is needed, but I have learned to say no and now have much cleaner boundaries that actually seem to make me more efficient at work. Best of all, I know (really know!) that my own well being is just as important as someone else’s work concern. It also means that I make time in personal life for the things that are important to me. I am still working to make these things habits, but I play with the dogs, I cook, I try to do something creative every day, and I take time each day to read, write and make contact with my friends. I laugh more, and most importantly, however, I am starting to feel like I have myself back.
And that is why losing my job was the best thing that ever happened to me. The Universe, she moves in mysterious ways.
Goal: 16 lbs
Progress: 6 lbs
Remaining: 10 lbs