Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Whole Thing Is on the Fritz Here

I read online that if you have a hysterectomy, it will be six months before you go a day without thinking about it, but I can say with confidence that if you get a breast cancer diagnosis less than six weeks later, you actually will forget all about your abdominal surgery—the various kinds of pain and struggling to get out of bed and not being able to put on your own shoes, all of it.

I have now made a further thrilling discovery, which is that if you lose your job three weeks after having a lumpectomy, breast cancer likewise fades miraculously into the background!

My manager at work had scheduled a one-hour one-on-one telephone meeting with me for this past Thursday, which was unusually long and made me paranoid: is that how long it takes to go over the severance package? But when I checked with the rest of my little group, they said they’d all been invited to similar meetings, so I ceased worrying about it. Since our past one-on-one meetings have lasted about four minutes, I thought it might even be my manager's crafty way of ensuring he’d have 56 minutes to actually get some work done.

The appointed hour arrived and my manager, who hadn’t sent an agenda, said, “I’m sure you know the purpose of this meeting,” and I said, “No, I actually don’t.” Well! I’m pleased to report it only takes about half an hour to learn the details of the severance package.

I knew this was coming eventually because the tool I work on is being phased out, but the advertised date was a year from now. While I could see things were ahead of schedule and had started to suspect it might be more like autumn of this year, I was definitely not expecting it to happen halfway through January. At the end of our meeting, my boss told me to take the rest of the day off, and explained that I will work for two more weeks, then there will be six weeks where I’m an active but non-working employee, and then several months where I’m an inactive employee, and after that I’m nothing, corporately speaking.

I felt quite calm after getting the news of my “displacement,” which is how they say it these days. I mean, being upset about it is kind of going to have to take a number at this point, but just in case, I have adopted these three mantras as a starting point:

—When I’m attending to the raw data of cognition, it is not possible to be lost in stories about the imaginary past or future. Translation: for this one moment, just feel the bottom of your foot on the ground.

—My task is to turn toward difficult feelings and experience them directly, not to turn away and not to try to rationalize them.

—Do I have everything I need right now? Yes, I do. (And I always have!)

There has even been a certain sense of liberation in some moments: I’d often thought the job and I were mismatched, and now I am free of it, with a period of severance pay during which to make a thrilling new plan!

When I shopped at Rainbow this morning, my favorite checkout person was delighted to hear the news and beamed as she said, “Awesome! Congratulations!” I departed in a glow of good humor, with her calling after me, “I love how all of this is developing!”
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