Monday, February 01, 2016

Medium-Sized Hat

After being laid off, I expected to feel the disorientation and pressure I felt last time, but discovered that I didn’t and don’t feel that anything has gone wrong. I knew a layoff was possible, and had been telling myself that if that happened, I would pursue becoming certified as a Buddhist chaplain. Perhaps that was almost a deal with the universe, and it has now done its part. It seemed a good omen when Lisa C. emailed me, the very next day, a link to an article with a handy rule of thumb for offering support when troubles strike a friend or family member (since offering support is part of what chaplains do).

Three possible courses of action seemed obvious: 1) Attempt to get another job at my company, as I ended up doing last time. I have given myself full permission to do this. 2) Become certified as a chaplain. 3) Follow my heart completely by pretending for a time to be retired and doing what I’d like to do then: volunteer at the soup kitchen, at Laguna Honda as a chaplain, and at KQED, which is a place I’ve always thought I’d like to spend some time.

The day after I received my layoff notice, I went to see Youth with Lisa M., which was full of gorgeous images. Afterward, we walked along Fillmore St. looking for a place to have dinner. Lisa said she was in the mood for a burger, and the very next place our gaze fell upon was Roam, which offers “artisan burgers,” which were delicious, reasonably priced, and served in a pleasant dining room by friendly young workers. There was music playing, but quietly enough that one could easily converse.

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One day I teased F. about his ubiquitous knitted cap: “I see you’re wearing your little hat.”

“Hat, don’t you worry,” he said as he pulled its brim down over his face so he could give it a comforting kiss. “You and I know you’re a medium-sized hat.”

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After a few days, I was having some confusion about the criteria by which which to make a career-related decision. Assuming that I can pay my rent, is it important that I’m doing things I’m very good at? That my work bring me joy? That it be helpful to others?

I was also having some self-doubt regarding chaplaincy, after I remembered I don’t like to be around people that much, or that I very much like to be around them for a little while, like an hour or two, and then I like to go home and be by myself for a week.

Then I had an insight I’ve had before in other contexts, such as regarding flying: fear before flying doesn’t mean my plane is going to crash. It means I feel afraid. Thinking that being a chaplain is a crazy idea that I’ll never be able to do doesn’t mean that. It means I’m having some negative thoughts and an opportunity to be careful where I’m placing my attention. If I believe my thoughts rather than noticing that they are thoughts, they will seem truer with every passing second.

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I’m not normally much of an affirmations person, but last time I was laid off, these were my affirmations, posted several places around my apartment:

I have a satisfying and enjoyable life.
I am healthy and strong.
I am happy and content.
I have plenty of money and excellent health insurance.
I have interesting work and agreeable colleagues.
I have more than I need to enjoy every moment of my life.

This is my affirmation this time:
I have everything I need, and my life is unfolding perfectly.

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The last time I was laid off, even though I also had a generous amount of severance pay coming, I was preoccupied with my situation, yet failed to take the kind of actions that might have resulted in having a more satisfying job. Or is that fair? I did go through all the preliminary steps suggested by my career coach. I did update my resume and put an entry on the main business networking website. I did attend a weekly support group. But I didn’t apply for a single job until I applied for one at my own company.

Last time around, at first I was thinking maybe I’d take the opportunity to spend much more time writing. A writer is still what I’d most like to be. But I figured I would also need a job, and what primarily sent me back to my old company was thinking about having to start at a new company with ten annual days of vacation. I was delighted when I got rehired in time to have the same number of vacation days as before.

This time, however, the thought of having to start over with a smaller number of vacation days, if that’s what happens, doesn’t seem so terrible. This is all hypothetical, but if I apply for a job that starts with ten days of vacation per year, possibly I can negotiate for more days, or possibly I can take unpaid days off, or possibly I can adjust and work with what is offered.

It now seems rather perfect that this is my second time being laid off by the same company, as if the first layoff loosened my attachment a bit, and this time I’m ready to let go, and to proceed in a new direction.
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