Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Serious Online Trashtalk

It has been a rather harrowing week in these parts. On Monday morning, after a sequence of events that began last Friday and will not be recounted here, I snapped and resigned from my job, which I’ve had for 12 years, giving the standard two-week notice in an extremely polite note to my boss.

I felt exhilarated for the rest of the workday, and then in the evening, I was stricken with grief: my job is gone! That became fairly strong fear, which persisted for several horrible sleepless hours. At 3 a.m., I got up, logged onto my work laptop, and sent my boss, three time zones to the east, an unresignation request, which did not end the fear, just changed its subject matter.

When I sent my unresignation notice, my boss hadn’t yet responded to my resignation, but when I logged on again about 7:30 Tuesday morning, there was his reply: “Accepted.” Yikes! I called and left a voice mail, and sent a company IM asking if he’d seen my second note. He had, and he was working with HR to see if my resignation could be rescinded.

My resignation could indeed be rescinded, and several hours later, Tuesday afternoon, it was, but not without rather severe repercussions to myself, some of which were entirely justified and others that seemed much less so.

The fear briefly abated when I found out I was re-employed, then flared back up, so that by Tuesday evening, I’d felt frightened for what seemed like 24 continuous hours.

I think that little peek into the moneyless abyss must have shaken some ground that I’m in the (erroneous) habit of thinking of as firm, and reminded me of everything else I must sooner or later let go of: my loved ones, my health, my life. My cat!

At the end of the workday, it was once again time to decide: Howie’s, Paul’s class, or take Swedish visitors out to dinner? There were no Swedish visitors in sight, which eased the decision-making process. I decided that it would be nice to spend an evening at the Zen Center, which is increasingly a place of refuge for me, and did that. I sat in the zendo (where I felt afraid), sat at dinner with a few familiar folks, and went to Paul’s class for the first time (where I felt afraid).

After I got home, I called Tom and asked if I could report on my 24 hours, and he kindly listened. He’s such a fantastic friend.

Then I pondered how I might most constructively proceed at work in the near term, seeking to sort out what I can control and what I can’t, and what kind of help I might need. I contacted two former bosses and asked if I could speak with them about how best to navigate the current situation, and both agreed right away. Some things I am powerless over, but there are many choices that are mine to make, for good or ill.

Thank goodness, by Wednesday morning, I’d gotten a good night’s sleep, and arrived at work full of enthusiasm for doing my best. I still felt vaguely uneasy, but the fear was gone. I received some good work-related advice from Emily, and also from David C. in Seattle, and saved both in my email inbox so I can review now and then. I found myself really enjoying the day, happy to speak with those I’m entrusted with assisting, happy to help.

In the course of telling 37 people that I’d resigned, and later that I’d unresigned—I didn’t know I even knew 37 people who would need to know this kind of thing right away!—I had occasion to mention that I would like to have a job that I care about, that I can do with my whole heart. (Not that anything is stopping me from doing this job with my whole heart.) In particular, I think I would like to do hospice work full time, perhaps as a medical social worker.

During the day, a woman I used to sit near stopped by and told me that her very best girlfriend has been diagnosed, out of the blue, with medium-stage stomach cancer—one day, as far as she knew, she was perfectly fine, and the next, she was officially very ill. My co-worker came to me because of what I said in my note about quitting my job—she knew it would be fine to talk to me about her very ill friend.

She went on to reflect on how she’s getting to the age where people are likely to have health issues, and I could see she was rattled, understandably so. I was in the perfect mood to empathize completely, and in turn appreciated the reminder that I’m not alone in feeling scared, whatever the particular fear might be.

After I spoke with my co-worker, my hospice volunteer coordinator told me she has a new person for me to visit. As it happens, this woman was also going about an active life thinking she was perfectly fine. On her way out for an evening of entertainment, she collapsed, went to the hospital, was diagnosed with the exact same thing my co-worker’s friend was diagnosed with, and is now in hospice.

So: two good reminders of the fleeting nature of—everything.

I’m grateful for this horrid week, overall. It showed me how attached I am in some areas, and how much anguish that can cause. It made me think about what I can do better at work.

In the resigning phase, I received many congratulations, and in the unresigning phase, nice expressions of understanding for my predicament and support for taking care of myself, whether that means leaving the job or asking for it back, plus some rather funny emails from people who have made, or almost made, the same mistake. (One woman wrote, "I once did the very same thing myself. What scared the crap out of me was when I came home and told my husband what I had done!!!")

I was reminded about the vast sea of love and care I live in. And it even let my co-worker know who she could talk to about her sick friend.

When I told my mother I’d chickened out of leaving my job, she said via email: “OK. Whatever you say! Quitting and unquitting isn't that bad, not like sabotage or serious online trashtalk.”
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