This is not an unhappy story. But fair warning, it remains a story in progress—without a clear ending. And because it may evoke a host of worrisome emotions, I’ll ask you to suspend disbelief (and sympathy) for the five minutes it will take you to read it.
Two weeks ago, I found out that my current position had been eliminated in a massive corporate reorganization. In plain language, I was laid off. Laid off. Even writing that makes me cringe a little.
But this story isn’t about those moments of self-doubt, which will have to wait until another post.
In the weeks leading to the layoffs, I had a strong inkling that my position was ‘at risk,’ which challenged me enormously to not wallow in self-pity—or depression. (See playing bigger). And despite a number of people reassuring me that the company would ‘place’ me in the reorganization, I just had a feeling that might not be the case.
The day the company would deliver the news was not a secret, which made thinking about going to work that day…unsettling. And the sense of dread in my stomach felt very real. Nevertheless, I woke up knowing that whatever happened, the day would be over in eight hours. This was no Pollyanna pep talk, a thought made me smile a little.
But I laughed out loud as I checked my work e-mail on my phone before getting out of bed. Greeting me in my inbox was the daily blog feed from A Hopeful Sign, featuring my own article on gratitude. (A Lesson in Gratitude)
With my laughter still ringing in the air, I felt the knot in my stomach unravel and my optimism return. I knew that whatever happened, I could handle it—and that the day would be still over in eight hours.
To say that the day was tense for everyone at work would be an understatement. The uncertainty and tension felt palpable. In between the overt moments of worry, however, people gathered and connected in unusual ways.
When I finally received the invitation to the 2:00 PM appointment where I’d learn my fate, the anxiety in my stomach returned in full force. I flitted for a few minutes, and then returned to my desk. What do you do for an hour before learning whether or not you have a job?
Having never had to answer that question before, I listened to a meditation recording on my iPod while cleaning out my e-mail inbox. Breathe in…breathe out. Breathe in…breathe out. Eventually, I felt the pit in my stomach lift. (We’re talking really deep breaths.)
As I methodically deleted e-mails, I stumbled across one with an affirmation advising me to bless everyone I meet. Seriously? Bless the people who might be laying me off? I granted myself the luxury of an eye roll, and then told myself to put my money where my mouth is.
With that thought, I grabbed my notebook and wrote that I was willing (to be willing) to consider that this day was awful for everyone—and all involved could probably use some support from the universe.
Suddenly, it was time to leave, and I drew on every ounce of strength, compassion, and courage I could while walking to the meeting. I waited on a couch outside the meeting room, turning a small glass ladybug in my hand, a totem I put in my pocket that morning.
While glancing at the time on my phone, I received a notification that someone had just tweeted about me. Curious, I looked at the Twitter feed. Gary Doi, the editor of A Hopeful Sign, had just tweeted: “Carolyn Solares shares an important lesson on gratitude,” along with the link to my article.
The time of the tweet was 1:57 PM—three minutes before my meeting. (I’m not making this up.)
I smiled while shaking my head, my own words encouraging me to tune in to something bigger and wiser than any defense mechanism. Then I took a few more deep breaths before I entered the conference room.
I didn’t coach myself to be calm or confident entering the meeting. I just had the presence of mind—and heart—to be calm and confident. And I watched myself reach beyond the tension and agitation in the room as I asked the two people delivering the news to slow down.
I didn’t remind myself to breathe; I just breathed easily and deeply. And with my breaths, I felt the frenzied tempo pulsing in the room also slow down. Somehow, I knew exactly what to say. Even more spectacularly, I knew exactly how to listen with empathy to the energy of the people in the room that belied their formal legal script.
When the meeting was over, I knew that something extraordinary had occurred in those few minutes. I had shown up fully in the most challenging and potentially demoralizing of circumstances.
Still having five days remaining until my last day, I walked with purpose to the cafeteria for something to drink. En route, I saw that I still held the ladybug in the (very sweaty) palm of my hand.
Several days later, I read my many journal entries from the days before these events, where I discovered that I had been asking for cosmic help for weeks—channeling all the grace and courage I could muster. Holy crap. I had scripted the outcome, which had nothing to do with impersonal corporate decisions—and everything to do with how I chose to be. Nothing less than showing up fully had ever been possible.
As I said at the start, this is not an unhappy story. Rather, this particular story marks a new beginning with any number of possible outcomes—all of which have yet to be written.