Outer Work & Inner Peace

“It has taken years to come to this place in time and space.  Your personality is resisting.  However, your Soul brought you here.”

We got the announcement this week at work – the one where the manager nervously calls everyone into his office and gulps before launching into a rehearsed spiel about the layoffs being made in other groups as we speak (QA virtually wiped out) and about how now the consultants are turning their attention to our group for “reorg” and consolidation — and there WILL be “job impacts” among us in the next 30 days.

No numbers at this time.  Might as well be a number and names drawn from a hat because that’s how firmly based in reality these decisions are.  That’s how much the people making them know.

We co-workers looked at each other in silence.  Although we have been through round after round of company layoffs over the last few years, this was the first time our small group heard the announcement directed at us in particular.  Up until now, the impact on us has been friends lost and crazier working conditions because key people in sister groups were let go and their work was outsourced to offshore vendors who have no clue about our products and customers.

Now it is our turn on the block.

We have been working together for years now.  The core group of us has been together in one capacity or another for over ten years.  We have been through a lot of changes in the company and seen many CEOs and top executives come and go.  This one now – the one who brought in the current crew of consultants to radically “reorg” us yet again – he has been with the company for a few months.  He has very little understanding of the actual business.  He specializes in coming into a company, ‘shaking things up’ and leaving.  He specializes in not dealing with consequences.

He is a former jock and has the blithe unblinking confidence of a dolt.  He sends us a lot of email communiqués using acronyms we never heard of to describe our organization.  He has the facilities guys busy putting up posters and distributing desk drops with slogans and goals that are hard to decipher because of all the unfamiliar acronyms.  He expects us to attend forced social events involving football jerseys and fake beer.  This while the work piles up on our desks because they’ve already laid off too many people for there to be time to spare.

The current CEO was brought in after the previous CEO was let go.  The old one was let go by the next bigger CEO in our company’s convoluted global structure, which is like a contraption Dr. Seuss might have dreamed up in a nightmare.  There is at least one other CEO above the bigger CEO’s head, not counting any of the sideways CEOs and assorted bigwigs with “dotted line” authority over us.

The old local CEO was smarter than this one, but he was meaner.  He liked to summon us randomly by personal invitation to attend lunch with him in small groups.  You were not allowed to decline and woe to those who showed late.  At these lunches, after staring us down for a while to stir up anxiety, he would pontificate about his grand plan for the company, quiz us on matters we did not have access to and then tell us testily that if we wanted to keep our jobs we had better jump to attention and take ownership.

Not literally, of course.  Just work AS IF we had ownership.  AS IF we were making millions like him.

He lasted a little over a year.  He had his own crazy acronyms, posters and desk drops.  All went into the dumpster when the new guy came.

So we – long-time co-workers and in most cases friends – looked at each other in silence while our manager nervously delivered this speech.  There was a curl of a smirk on more than one of our faces.

Not because we don’t need our paychecks and medical coverage.  We do.  Not because we feel invulnerable to the axe.  We don’t.  Just because of the sheer absurdity of our company, the global economy and the leaders of all of the above.

The day had started out with a thought-provoking weekly horoscope from Risa D’Angeles at Night Light News.  She is a fellow Pisces and her esoteric horoscopes are uncanny.  The last line of the current one is quoted at the start of this post.  I was mulling it over at my desk while I worked that morning.

It has taken years to come to this place?

I didn’t feel I was any place yet.  I was feeling more or less like I always feel – like I am trying to get to that place.

So, yes, my personality was resisting.

All my life I’ve longed to do meaningful creative work that serves humanity, in alignment with what I feel within.  This desire has translated into me on a perpetual quest to earn my Right Livelihood.  For a number of reasons too complicated to go into here, what I have done instead is back myself into the corner of a crappy job in a crappy company, so that most of my time is engaged in empty work that is beneath my abilities.

Meanwhile, the contradictions in the world are coming to a head, and we seem to be arriving at a crossroads.  The hour seems to call for heroic works to realize the Brotherhood of Man – not soulless busy work to enrich The Man.

This contradiction has been bothering me for a long time.  But as the morning wore on, I was thinking that I’ve had it backwards by focusing on my outer work as a precondition to my inner peace.

Maybe the most heroic thing any of us can do is to take up the reins of our lives wherever we are now and set out to master ourselves from the inside out – without feeling ground down by external conditions, without feeling like we’re on an amusement park ride that is not amusing.  Maybe the most heroic thing we can do is to go within, face the darkness and redeem it.  If enough of us do it, we redeem the world.

I can’t say I’m not afraid of losing my job within the next few weeks, but I can see it’s time to face this monster head on.

*      *       *

P.S. I have haven’t been posting because I am studying and, to a lesser degree, working on a novel, but for what it’s worth, I do want to clean up this blog and make it a place for emerging thoughts.  Just not exactly sure of the shape of it yet…I hope to get rolling soon.

If anyone reading this is also facing a layoff or is already out of a job, I wish you the strength and vision you need to face this crisis and turn it into an opportunity to become more true to who you are.


7/3/10 UPDATE: After tiptoeing through the month of June, we were told there’s been a delay and now we won’t hear until “mid July” by one account, “after the holiday” by another. We all wish they would just get it over with. If they lay me off, I will use it as an opportunity…part of me hopes they do.

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