Long Time Gone

TemperanceLayoff day was surreal.  Our managers told us the day before to be onsite because there would be “communications.”  So we all came in and waited and waited and waited.  We were having a hard time concentrating on work, so we cracked jokes among ourselves in the spirit of gallows humor.  The new “open concept” workstations they have us in now made the waiting a group activity for better or worse.

After lunch they began summoning some of us one by one to the HR Conference Room.  That was the sign you were in trouble – your phone ringing and the words “HR Conference Room” showing on your phone’s caller ID panel.  Sad to work for a company for 10-15 years or more with a good record and then have it end with that phone call.

A woman who sits across from me was one those who got the call.  She’s a single woman in her mid 50s.  She has a mortgage she’s paying by herself.  I know because she had previously told me that she’s been having anxiety attacks about how she’s going to pay her mortgage if she gets laid off.

Hanging up from the call, she announced: “I’ve been summoned.” When she came back from the conference room, she had a maroon folder which she waved at us to indicate she had been laid off.  Then she sat down, put her head on her desk and cried.

After they were done summoning people, giving them maroon folders and sending them home, the director called the rest of us into another conference room to give us the official word on what had happened and to brace us to fill the workflow gaps left by the cuts.  Someone asked if they were done cutting for the foreseeable future or if this was just a temporary reprieve.  He responded that he could only say that they have no plans at this time to cut more people.

“But this is it for 2010, right?” someone said.

The director shook his head and repeated: “I can only say that there are no plans for more cuts at this time.”

He couldn’t even promise a group of ten employees that there would be no further cuts among them for the next five months.  How can so-called middle class Americans live with this kind of ongoing instability?  (I say “so-called” because I think ‘middle class’ is a bogus concept that was used to hoodwink most Americans into thinking that they’re not working class . . . and ultimately it helped to defeat the union movement, much to our detriment.)

More to the point, how can Americans make big life decisions, buy homes, save for retirement and do the things that are supposed to make them middle class — the very same things that fuel the economy?  Clearly the middle class American lifestyle is no longer sustainable.  It’s already an empty shell, but sadly people are still saddled with their middle class mortgages and bills.

And the 50-something-year-old single woman with a mortgage who was laid off — I wish her the best and hate to ask the question, but how likely is it that she’ll get another job of comparable pay and benefits?  The job market is shriveling.  Any job that isn’t nailed down has gone or is going overseas.

For now, my situation is different from hers.  I am married and my husband has a union job with no-layoff clause in his contract.  So I went into work that day with a different mindset.  I was wearing my Thoreau necklace – a silver pendant engraved with the quote: Live the life you have imagined.   I was mentally ready to take the crisis I was dealt and make it an opportunity to live more authentically.

But I did not get laid off.

In the days that have followed, it has become clear that my crisis is indeed at hand, but it’s of another type.  Not the job crisis I was consciously prepared for, but a darker, more fundamental and – for me, at least – scarier one that has been rustling under the surface for a long time now.  On some level I’ve known forever that it would eventually come to head if I continued on the Path.  But when I commenced formal study in the Mysteries over a year ago, I declared:  “I will move forward on the Path, come what may.”  I meant it then, and I mean it now.

So the task for me now is to stand by the vow I made regarding the potential layoff: to face the darkness and redeem it . . . to take the crisis and make it an opportunity to temper and equilibrate my personality and live in a more aligned, authentic manner.

That’s all I’ll say for now.  Sorry for vague personal posting.  I grapple with what I should or should not be posting here.  I don’t want to post fact-laden essays about what’s going on in the world because others do that well.  On the other hand, I don’t want to post narcissistic rambling.  But after all, the blog is called Climbing toward the Light.  Should I not be sharing my journey?  I will try to find a constructive way to share it.  And I will try to do it in my true voice instead of the stilted weirdness that often comes over me here.


August 5th, 2010 4:57 pm

I saw the single woman today and she is doing much better. I don’t want to detail her business, but she has some outside income unique to her situation. She refinanced her mortgage and is okay for now. Much relieved for her…

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