I am officially unemployed. The laptop returned, the final, courteous conversations had and the last visit to the office completed. With those simple actions – it’s done.
I had a couple weeks to process my lay off and it still didn’t make today’s actions any easier. I woke up this morning with a strong sense of dread and avoidance. Those feelings only increased as I got in the car to drive to the office. I sat in the driver’s seat and a flood of emotions came through. Anger, betrayal, shame, disappointment, on and on.
This lay off has made me confront the level of escapism I’ve used over the years through my job and accomplishments. I would pour hour after hour, late night after late night, into achieving things. If you run fast – challenge accepted – I’ll run faster. If you fix an issue – challenge accepted – I’ll fix the bigger/messier version. Why? Because escaping and burying myself in work and obligation felt great. It was an addiction, a numbing, and allowed me to avoid other areas of my life specifically self care and emotions.
I worked around the clock, raised my hand to take on new projects, built teams, cared for a family and climbed the ladder. There was nothing I couldn’t do – I was “leaning in” as far I could go in every aspect of my life. All the balls stayed in the air and I kept tossing them higher and higher.
In hindsight, I should have slowed down – taken a beat and dropped some of those balls I was juggling but I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to be any other way. Even after my son got sick and even when my body said ENOUGH and granted me a month long migraine, compromising my vision and putting me out of work – I came back swinging. Wanting to work, needing to excel, and making excuses for my behavior in order to avoid feeling. I became extremely skilled at running away and silencing the nagging voice in the back of my head telling me to stop.
So what changed? I mentioned in my last blog entry that I over the past 6 months, I was finally met with such a barrage of things that were out of my control that I had no choice but to concede. But I think there was more to it. The voice in my head got louder and the message started to change. Once I conceded, there was no need for the message to tell me to stop. Instead -the message said be still and reflect. Slow to a halt so you can really hear yourself. You cannot outrun every thought and emotion inside of you. I decided to listen.
This message reminded me of the “no-thingness” card in The Transcendental Game of Zen ( a tarot deck). It’s the card pictured above and it comes with a powerful meaning. It may seem daunting when it appears but its purpose is to advise you to “treasure each empty moment of the experience. [That] something sacred is about to be born.”
As I sat in my car – working up the courage to deal with the actions of today – I reflected back to that card. I listened to the new voice in my head that assured me that the anger, betrayal, shame, and disappointment were my ego throwing a temper tantrum. It had every right to tantrum and my job (as its keeper) was to let it run out of steam. At that point, I made a conscious decision to close the door on this chapter of my life, this coping mechanism and this way of being. I decided to embrace the “no-thingness” and see what amazing thing can be born of it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know there will be days ahead where this contemplation period will feel so uncomfortable that I will want to crawl out of my own skin, revert back to my old ways. It would be so easy. So familiar. But where would that leave me? Where would that leave my family and what example would that set for my children? So I need to fight for my calm. That may sound contradictory but it’s the truth. Fight for the time to just be and let something be born. Fight for the uncomfortable stillness and healing. Fight for my new self.