If you read my journal from these past few months, you’d be astonished at my entries and surprised by the number of F bombs I wrote into my sacred book. For someone who rarely, and I mean almost never, uses bad words, these last few months I have made up for a lifetime of a curse-free life.
You see, the unthinkable happened! My name appeared on the RIF list. The dreaded list all many thousands of us feared being on. I was almost positive I would NOT be on the list. How could I be? I have been an excellent employee for almost 20 years, sacrificed time with my family allowing me to work endless days and nights, travelled all over the US in order to lend my expertise where it was most needed. I supported my clients in a way no one else had or would be willing to. They came first…. And that was my mantra. And I thought this, along with the great relationships I had nurtured over 20 years would save me from the Reduction In Force (RIF).
I was wrong. It didn’t save me and neither did anyone of the ‘clients’ I had tirelessly worked for all those years.
In the absence of information, we make shit up. I bet that’s not news to you. We say things like, ‘no news, is good news’, ‘I must not be on the list because they just gave me another major project’, ‘SVP just called asking for my opinion on a situation; they know they need me’….. in the absence of information, we make shit up…. No news is simply that, no news. For 6 weeks there was no news. For the first time ever, I could not negotiate my way into receiving any information that would tell me if I was or was not on that list. No matter how hard I tried, how many people I called, what story I used to plead my case. The dreaded list was secured in Fort Knox and no one was talking….
September 15th, 10:30am, meeting with my boss to discuss some issues on the project I was working on – that major project I was asked to work on only a few weeks before. I walk into the conference room, and one look at his face and I knew. He didn’t have to say a word – I knew I was on the list. Not 3 seconds after walking in the room, he blurts out, “You’ve been impacted by the reduction. I am so sorry.”
Insert PUNCH IN THE GUT here… in caps, because that’s what it felt like.
OH NO. I can’t be. “Why?”, I ask through tears. He explains. I can’t hear a word he’s saying. I don’t think I really care. At that moment, time stood still. I remember every vivid detail of that meeting. I remember beyond the feeling of sadness, betrayal and fear, an overwhelming feeling of compassion towards this poor human being who had to deliver such bad news to so many. I was only 1 of 45 people he had to tell. I was the first he told.
Every time I thought about this situation for the next week, it took my breath away – literally. I cried often. I cursed often. I wrote often.
I made my way to the resource center set up for outplacement support knowing I needed help. 1996 was the last time I wrote my resume or had any type of interview training; how things change in 20 years. I found it almost impossible to concentrate on resume writing because my own thoughts kept getting in my way. My ego mind had taken control and was filling my head with more… you know what. I was embarrassed to be among those on that list. I felt like I was in the wrong place. I was anxious and nervous. I could not make eye contact with anyone in the room – not those participating in the class, nor those teaching the class. I clearly was not ready to receive the benefit the resource center offered – I had some work to do on myself before I could begin to take anything else in.
For the better part of a month, I was mourning. That may sound ridiculous to you. It felt very real to me.
What I realized while allowing my body to feel whatever was there, and allowing myself to release however I needed to, was this grief felt very familiar to me. It was the same grief I felt when I was a little girl –the same feelings of abandonment I had been reckoning with for years. These feelings opened up a pathway for feeling betrayed, disappointed and unappreciated. I knew early in this healing process my intention and commitment to myself was that I would walk away from this career sans pain and resentments. At a cognitive level I had to deal with a routine change, financial impacts and looking for a new job. On the emotional level, I had to deal with feelings of abandonment, anger and sadness. And in the deepest part of my soul, I had to deal with the feeling that my self-worth had been robbed from me. I thought I had escaped the feelings of prestige and admiration working for this company brings – I was wrong about that, too. I had totally and arrogantly wrapped my self-worth around being a long time, successful employee.
Insert PUNCH IN THE GUT here…
Breathe…. Breathe… breathe….
Phew – that was the toughest part, and I survived. It wasn’t easy, but I survived!! Through mindful-meditation, and deep reflection, I am no longer grieving. I am no longer feeling abandoned, sad, angry…. I am no longer scared or feeling betrayed. Once I was clearly able to see what the source of my pain was, I could do something about it. I was able to see all the stories I made up about what it meant to be laid off. I was able to see that I had become a meaning-making machine that was on overdrive, running 24/7, filling my head with stuff that I had made up. No one told me I was less worthy because I didn’t have that job. I did it to myself.
Now I am feeling grateful for the opportunities this job afforded me. I am feeling grateful for the deep understanding of how best to work with engineers. I am feeling grateful for all the friendships that have been nurtured throughout the years. I am feeling grateful for the knowledge that will allow me to contribute to another company. I am feeling grateful for, yet another opportunity, to continue my evolving into the very best version of myself.
I leave you with this –
Life is a neutral event. Every event that happens is neutral. WE place meaning on that event. Good, bad or indifferent, we get to choose what we make everything mean!
When looking for the source of pain or an upsetting situation, check your childhood first. You will find all the answers there.
Be willing to get curious about your feelings, no matter how uncomfortable. There are valuable lessons to be learned there and that is the ONLY way to experience total FREEDOM from the pain you’re feeling.
Until we meet again,