A Retrenchment* Observed

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Has it really been only  two month since I stepped onto this merry-go-round? Time flies when you’re having chaos!

Well. Last week I interviewed for one of the jobs that will be replacing my own.

It wasn’t a perfect fit, I knew that going in, my boss knew that too. But, it was a job I could do, a job I could find value in. And, well, it was also A JOB.

Which, when facing the end of my current position in 3 weeks …. you know how that goes.

This week I learned that I did not get the job. The feedback on my interview was remarkably complementary, I am grateful for that. But that fact remains that this job wasn’t a perfect fit, and they hired someone they hope will be a more perfect fit. I hope so too.

And I hope a more perfect fit for me awaits.

I know that if this has to be one of those awful tales of going from  a great job I enjoyed to a series of terrible jobs I do to pay the rent, I can survive it. But I don’t want that.

So, the real adventure starts here. Should be a good test drive for my newly rebuilt faith!

The most unexpected thing about this little crisis remains the blessings within it.

 

The extraneous falls away. 

I can’t remember the last time that my job was focused on so few things! And all of them legitimately high priority! I love having my work focus narrowed to only the essentials.

Also, the little frustrations – a technical term that we routinely misuse, a policy I disagree with – they don’t matter anymore. Any change I will make in this organisation, I have already made. Now my only job is completing the essentials.

At home too, the extraneous at least recedes. So many projects, concerns, and decisions must be on hold during this ‘mean time’ that is my current life.

Faith grows. 

As I’ve said before, I’m so I am grateful that this came now, not during the LifeWreck, or in the time I spent recovering from it. But I was worried: Would this be too much for my so-recently-rebuilt faith? So far, no.

If anything, this has brought a lot of clarity about God, my relationship with him, and my place in him. I have had remarkable peace, all things considered.

Reconnection.

One of the things that I did several weeks ago, to try to ensure that my faith DIDN’T crash again with this new storm, was to reach out to my wonderful friend and pastor, Pete, and that has been a huge blessing.

Pete has of course helped me in practical ways, like the excellent pastor he is, but also it’s just been a blessing catching up on his life, his ministry (while he remains my pastor, because that’s what he is at heart, I’m not technically part of his congregation, since I live some 800 miles away) his family, and his ever new understandings of God’s work in our world.

I also had the opportunity to reconnect with a colleague who is going through his own retrenchment process. I wouldn’t wish this on him in a million years, but it’s been a blessing to be able to share this journey with one who is going through it too, but not in my own team.

The ever amazing kindness of friends.

I’ve talked before about how amazingly my friends have come through for me in this crisis, with offers of places to live, of help, with prayer, etc.

I have a dear friend named Greg whose beloved brother died just days before I found out about my job, so I didn’t mention the job crisis to Greg.

Well, this past week I finally had to ‘fess up’, and immediately Greg responded asking if I had savings, and what they could do to help. “We would not leave you stranded.” he said.

I stand amazed that I have this many friends who would sincerely offer so much. I hope with all my heart that I live up to that class of friendship!

So, I am interested to see where this adventure will take me, but I’m grateful too, to see where I’ve been, and what richness I possess.

 

Be well. 

 

*  I’m still not clear if ‘Retrenchment’ is a term commonly used in the US, or only by fussy international organisations who use British English in their business. In case the latter, Retrenchment means the process of being laid off. Sounds so much more elegant though, doesn’t it?  🙂

A Retrenchment Observed: My life as a roller coaster

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Far be it from me to accuse God of possessing a wicked sense of humor, but at the least he seems to have more faith in me than I’m always certain is justified.
Pondering my life last night, I realised that, plotted on a graph, my last few years look suspiciously like a roller-coaster.
  • March 2014: off to realise a dream!
  • By June that year: pretty nearly wrecked, having lost 20 pounds and half my hair, wondering if I would lose my mind before I was done…
  • In 2015, I was in a better situation and rebuilding my life. Not perfect, but definitely an upward curve.
  • In June  this year  I was happily touring western Washington state to determine if I could move to my beloved Pacific Northwest!
  • Then, the first week of July, I learned that my job would disappear at the end of  September.

The last few weeks have been nice condensed version of that graph.

There was some hope that I would be the best fit for one of the new jobs on my team. But alas.

The stress and chaos of getting everything done at my soon-to-be-former job was starting to ease though, and I was beginning to have a little time to focus on the future. I could feel a nice plateau coming. Not at the height I’d have preferred it, true, but still a bit of calm.

THEN! 

Just days (it feels like moments) before the end of my job, I was approached about a possible consultancy job!

The kind of job that, had it come up before all of this chaos, I would gladly have taken a leave of absence just to do. One of those dream-come-true jobs, working with a team that I love and respect, on a project that uses all my favourite strengths, for a purpose about which I care passionately.

BUT.

(You knew there was a BUT, didn’t you? How else to keep the roller coaster going?)

My company has this policy that if you actually do get laid off, you can’t work for any part of our organization for a year afterwards. And the new job is with another part of my organisation.

It’s not the first time that I’ve not been thrilled about this policy, but this new episode is a lot more immediate, and personal.

The dreadful policy recently got changed I am told: now it’s only 6 months! And that is great news for the future.

But asking someone who wants to hire you NOW to sit around for 6 months until you can get back to them isn’t all that terribly comfortable.

So I’ve spent the last week bouncing back and forth with our HR people about whether we can arrange this as a short-term contract and find some way to make it work before my actual separation date one week from today.

If we can’t make that work, then I won’t be able to take the dream job.

It’s as simple as that.

So, once, again, I had to debate: Will I really trust God no matter what?

Will I trust God if my dream job is not only out there, but presented to me, and because of a rule that I don’t understand or respect, I can’t take it?

Well, in short, yes.

Because I’ve reached a pinnacle of pristine and sterling faith? Oh no. FAR from that.

But, I have spent the last year rebuilding my badly damaged faith. It’s been a hard path, but I have learned a lot walking it. In the end, God either is, or is not. Merits my trust, or does not.

And I can’t decide that based on how much I like my current circumstances.

I will be heartbroken if this opportunity is snatched away. But, I expect I’ll live through it.

And either way, I will trust.

It’s not much, in the testaments of faith spectrum; it’s not like I’m facing the lions here. But it’s a start.

Be well.

Last Chapter / New Chapter

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WELL.

Here it is.

By the time this post publishes, I will be more than halfway through the last day of a job that I’ve held for nearly a decade!

It’s definitely bittersweet.

I am sad. There are so many things that still need to be done, that I wish I could be here to do. And it’s hard to leave behind the day-to-day relationships with truly beloved colleagues.

And it’s certainly scary to be ACTUALLY laid off!

To move into SUCH an unknown.

I’ve never left a job other than voluntarily before. 

But I’m excited too. This is a whole new chapter of my life. This is a chance to move in new directions and expand on directions that the past 10 years have built into me. 

I’ve surfed many a wave of reflection these past few days.

SO many  memories and experiences from these last 10 years, this place, this work. 

Some of these are BIG DEAL experiences.

In this job I got to work on projects that literally change people’s lives. That is an honour and a treasure I never imagined.

I’ve gotten to meet and correspond with some of my heroes in the field; people who have transformed the world and the way we interact with it. Quite a treat for a starry eyed kid from Phoenix, Arizona!

Some are not BIG DEAL experiences at all.

Yet these are are among the memories I hope pass before my eyes in my final moments.

I’ve gotten to work (even if just briefly) on 5 continents. And to work closely, over a long period, with people on 6 of them. You don’t get that in the average day job!

One of the most magical meals I’ve ever enjoyed was on a work trip:

The power outage struck as my boss, a colleague, and I waited for our meal on the open air rooftop of a little Indian restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya.

In the US they probably would have closed the place down.

In Nairobi, though, we sat and talked, laughed, and ate incredible food, for two hours, in the dark.

No one, customers or staff, was remotely disturbed by our near invisibility. If anything the event transformed us from a couple dozen separate parties into one big one.

I have seldom enjoyed a meal more.

The best cup of coffee I’ve ever tasted, and the best chai, were also the blessings of work trips.

And the PEOPLE I’ve met! 

The most dedicated, intelligent, and determined people I’ve ever met have been blessings of this job.

And not just my brilliant colleagues or the occasional big wig.

I met a waiter in Dominican Republic who, at all of 23, spoke three languages and was going to school nights to learn a fourth.

I speak one. I’ve tried hard to change that, and I still speak one.

This intelligent, dedicated, young man will never have the opportunities I had simply by being born where, and to whom, I was born, but he had more initiative than I’ve ever had.

That meeting was one of my greatest honours. That waiter stands in my hall of heroes.

Now, this job was not perfect.

Like any other job, this one has been stressful, frustrating, irritating, even maddening over the course of nearly 10 years.

Picture if you will the annoyances of bureaucracy and office politics multiplied by working across 90 countries, and every time zone known to man.

That none of us have ever strangled another is probably due as much to the fact that we were on different continents than to our inherent good nature or even our Christianity!

And the enormous blessing of working with people on 6 continents, inherently requires the curse of very, very, very long haul flights. With associated jet lag.

So, many memories centre around just trying to keep my forehead off the table toward the end of a long meeting on the second day of jet lag.

I vividly remember, at the end of a very important strategy meeting, riding in an elevator with four colleagues, trying to continue a discussion we had been having.

We found our exhausted selves unable to carry out complete sentences, and those leaning against the elevator walls were nodding off – on a four floor ride!

We thankfully determined that strategic decisions should NOT be made by us, then, and at least enjoyed a very healing laugh.

So yes, bittersweet.

A big chunk of my life fit into those 9+ years.

And those 9+ years have fitted me for things I would never have imagined.

I look to the next chapter with interest and excitement, in part because of what this past decade has given me.

Joy and Gratitude in the Storm?

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Countless researchers doing countless studies have shown the very strong links between joy, gratitude, and all manner of really desirable outcomes, like physical and mental health, success, prosperity.

But few have expressed their findings as sensibly and usefully  as Brene Brown:

“We think that not being grateful and not feeling joy will make it hurt less. We think if we can beat vulnerability to the punch by imagining loss, we’ll suffer less.

We’re wrong.

There is one guarantee: If we are not practicing gratitude and allowing ourselves to know joy, we are missing out on the two things that will actually sustain us during the inevitable hard times.” ¹

I’ve never struggled with avoiding gratitude in trying to ‘beat vulnerability to the punch’ but I have to admit that, especially if we think of joy as including hope and faith FOR THE FUTURE, I’m quite guilty there!

I’m the ultimate “Well, it’s all worked out RIGHT NOW, and thank God, that is AWESOME! … but let’s not get too comfortable” girl. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so it’s entirely too risky to hope for the positive in it!

Anybody else been there?

 

After reading enough studies that I ought to have gotten an honorary PhD out of the deal, I KNEW that wasn’t the most healthy– or,  specifically, health producing – viewpoint.

But I couldn’t quite pinpoint the key facts well enough to apply them until I read Brene Brown’s work on the topic.

It is the joy, and the positive hopes, that build up a healthy enough brain and body to make surviving the tough moments possible!

 

All of a sudden it made sense!

I already knew that thoughts, emotions, etc, basically travel through our bodies in little packages of chemistry.

And I knew that the ‘negative’ emotions, even negative thoughts, travel in chemistry that does ghastly things to our immune systems, nervous systems, digestive systems… pretty much you name it.

I certainly have lots of personal experience with those effects!

And I knew that most of our positive emotions, thoughts, even imaginings, travel in chemistry that tends to repair and nourish our cells.

CLEARLY a critical piece of the ‘Abundance’ puzzle!

Perhaps most important, I had learned that our mind treats negative expectations pretty much exactly like negative experiences. Egad!

I’ve experimented over the last couple years, and dabbled more intentionally over the last few months, and generally found that yes,  cultivating gratitude and joy (even if by arduous act of the will some days) does seem to make me more resilient to the occasional AWFUL!

And wallowing ‘safely’ in the pessimistic (which, alas, is still pretty much effortless) actually DOESN’T seem to protect me!

What it does instead is take the occasional AWFUL and stretch it out for hours, days, weeks, before it even happens!

Even more embarrassing, frequently the AWFUL doesn’t happen at all, but by the time I find that out I’ve ALREADY  suffered all the way through it in my mind!

Example: 

When I learned that my job would be disappearing I immediately thought of never finding as good a job again.

Of having to work in the absolute worst of all possible environments for me FOREVER.

Or sleep under bridges and search for vegetarian scraps…

Not the most positive chemical soup!

Then I got a three month contract for what is effectively a dream job! Even more ideal, really, than I could have dreamed!

And I was truly grateful!

Then I thought, “But what happens after Jaaaanuuaaary?!?! I’ll never find another ….” you get the gist.

Time for a REAL experiment. 

If practicing and cultivating gratitude and joy are critical to resilience in the inevitable hard times – which they are…

And if they also reduce the toxic chemicals coursing through my blood stream day in and day out – which they do…

Then it’s about time to develop a healthier default!

So.

How to change my ways?

How to build UP the healthy defences instead of regularly etching them away with toxic chemical spills?

Starting here, my ‘Retrenchment’ focus is on:

  • gratitude for the blessings I have, including this wonderful three month opportunity,
  • and an attitude of joy in my expectations for the future.

If I can progress on this during a retrenchment, I figure I’ll be in pretty good shape for the normal crises!

It’s not going to be easy. I have YEARS of practice anticipating the worst as a way of ‘protecting’ myself!

But I also have years of experience being sick, stressed out, mental, and frankly, of the AWFUL things still pretty much being AWFUL when they did come … so clearly the ‘protection’ hasn’t been all that effective!

Let’s see what doing it differently will yield …

 

Be well. 

 

¹ Quote is from Dr. Brene Brown’s excellent book The Gifts of Imperfection, in the chapter Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark.

Simple Tips for Prosperity

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While the US elections are not quite over, the time for having any impact on them beyond voting is over, and it’s past time to return to more pleasant, more ABUNDANT topics!

Some time ago I saw a charming old video (for which, alas, I have no direct link; I wasn’t planning to blog when I saw the thing) of Ron Blue describing 6 principles for financial health.

They pretty much summed up the decisions that end in abundance, so I noted them down to review periodically for inspiration:

  1. Spend less than you earn
  2. Avoid the use of debt
  3. Save to build liquidity and margin into your finances
  4. Set long term goals so you can prioritise your spending between your short term and your long term goals
  5. Give generously
  6. Understand that God owns it all

From the Bible to  Saturday Night Live, the foundational principles  don’t change much! And they continue to work!

I don’t know about you, but as the end of the year approaches, and a new year begins to appear, I always like to revisit ‘The Important Things‘ in my life, to see if they need any fine tuning.

Money, and managing it well, are among my Important Things.

Not the most important things, but since I don’t want to  be living pay check to pay check in my 90s, important enough to merit a winter look-see and possibly even some new year revisions.

And what better time than right before the holiday season?

If that also appeals to you too, but you wonder where on earth to start, I can suggest from my own experience:

Debt-Free Living: Eliminating Debt in a New Economy

The Total Money Makeover

Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money: The Handbook of Financial Peace University 

You can get most of these from the library to see if they will be of value, and each author also has quality websites with lots of material for free.

Another site that has great material on getting, and staying, financially free is SeedTime.

And if you’d like some intel on the useful principles, but aren’t up for the links to Christianity, Mr. Money Mustache has got you covered! Check out his greeting for new readers on the front page and you can get a pretty solid finance education in a few hours’ reading.

And a very special ‘holiday’ resource, that isn’t really about how to achieve financial health, but rather about a way to enjoy it while making Christmas less stressful and more delightful, is The Advent Conspiracy. I’ve not yet found myself in a place to live it fully in my community, but I like to inch a bit closer each year!

I can say from my own experience – which now includes being laid off from my job at the end of September – that having savings, paying off debt, and having control of your budget changes your life.

When things are going well, you enjoy them more because financial stress isn’t weighing you down.

And even the tough times are at least not terrifying when your finances are healthy.

I may never be rich, and I am certainly not without concerns, but having some real peace, even in this storm, is invaluable.

Be well.

Last Monday / First Monday

Happy Monday!!!

I hope everyone is well.

TODAY is the LAST DAY of my writing contract!!

I will be getting a few last minute revisions from my team (I HOPE, at least, that it’s only a few!), running through a final edit, and sending my last material off into the world.

Exciting, intimidating, satisfying, horrifying.

And with my LAST Monday of this contract comes yet another FIRST Monday of the rest of my life.

What is next for me?

I don’t know.

What a bizarre thought!

So, I’ll be taking a lovely week off to spend time with family and enjoy COMPLETE freedom, then I’ll begin on The Great Search for the Next Chapter.

SO FAR (… at the moment… as best I can… in my best moments… pretty well today, thank God… ) I am trusting that there IS something next, and that it is GOOD.

 

One day at a time. 😀

 

 

 

Be well. 

 

 

 

A Retrenchment Resumed: Week One

Perspective isn’t everything, but it is a great deal.

 

Here I am AGAIN:

– Completed last day of my job.

– Took a much needed little holiday.

– Where do I go from here???

 

Curious as the deja vu is, I have a very different perspective than at the end of September. And having a different perspective, I am a somewhat different me.

Having the space to process losing my job, and figure out where I want and need to go from here, while NOT living in daily horror of the worst case scenario, made a huge difference.

 

In September, my few weeks of severance pay looked like The Last Dollars Forever. And the thought of not having a job before they ran out was terrifying.

So of course getting a job in those few weeks was the Only Possible Option (aside from ultimately living under a bridge, eating scraps). Not the most peaceful, healthy frame of mind with which to nurture strategic, critical thinking. 🙂

 

Today, though I am certain I’ll face many other moments of panic, I have a stronger, calmer perspective.

Colleagues’ stories of spending 12 …  18…  months out of work still  knot my stomach, make no mistake.

But then OPTIONS rise up to return my perspective!

Sure, having time to think, and to prioritise, while still making a living rather than depleting my savings, was extraordinarily helpful.

 

But the perspective that opportunity built is what most strengthens my faith.

September’s “What if I NEVER find another decent job?!?!”

Is altered by the realisations that:

Well, NEVER finding another decent job is actually less likely than eventually finding one.

And I can work other contract jobs to at least pull in SOME income.

And downsize my expenses; which I’ve already been working toward.

There is, actually, unemployment insurance associated with my former job. So even after the severance, it could be MONTHS before I have to start fighting pigeons and rats for discarded crusts.

Much can happen in those months. And not all of it bad!

And “What about living under that bridge?? It’s winter! I’m a light sleeper!”

Gives way to:

I do have two dear friends who have already offered me sanctuary.

And again with the unemployment insurance: odds are I can at least afford a nice heavy cardboard box for under the bridge.

I’m also pretty certain my family would be inclined to offer a room before I come to the extremity of bridges and scraps.

Perspective.

It  makes the impacts of this situation seem less dire.

And the ‘opportunity’ part of this situation seem more realistic.

It certainly makes me more calm.

It’s a decent place to start.

 

 

Be well. 

A Retrenchment Observed – You don’t have to know it all!

Okay, is this just me?

Somehow, I was born with the perspective that I am 100% responsible, in every way, for knowing EVERYTHING on earth. Any knowledge I wasn’t born with, I have to spontaneously generate, or I am hopelessly lost.

Is anyone else weird like that? Since my family is both supportive, and big on education, I have no idea where that came from.

But there is an astonishing amount of information you aren’t born knowing that becomes necessary over the course of a life! Imagine the pressure!

Perhaps the most important lesson I’m learning through this whole retrenchment chaos is how much HELP there is out there in the world.

And the resources I’m finding have been available all along, I just never imagined them, so I never thought to look for them.

One of my long-held dreams has been to transition into a full-time freelance or consulting career.

My work over the last decade has focused more and more on editing and writing, and the whole project management process of getting documents created to help people do their work better.

And I have fallen in love with it.

So way back in the darkest corners of my mind I started saying “What if I could do this as MY WHOLE JOB?!?!”

And I love working with a variety of people and teams, doing different types of documents, which sparked thoughts like “What if I had my OWN BUSINESS doing this stuff?!?!”

I even made a five-year plan for transitioning to a business like that.

A casual plan, since I had no idea if it was even possible – but then part of a five-year plan involves figuring that stuff out.

Unfortunately, I got laid off about 11 months into that 5 year plan – which was all kinds of not far enough.

But you know what?

There is a whole non-profit service corps where retired business executives volunteer their time to help folks like me figure out how to run businesses!

Who knew?

And there is a great government  resource on starting and running small businesses too. They even have free web classes! Now yeah, that is one of many important services that could go away as our new administration cuts ‘frivoulous’ government programs, but hey, it exists NOW.

And just this week a friend sent me a notice from my local Better Business Bureau about a workshop BBB is offering on the legal issues small businesses need to understand.

This is all free, and it’s RIGHT THERE!

And it’s been there. I just didn’t know it.

 

Now, does this mean I’ll definitely be able to start from where I am and create and run a successful business? NO. 

There was a lot more to my 5 year plan than information, and things like the future of rent and running water remain critical, but unaccounted for. My current government is not a supportive environment for venturing out. And I am only a few months into what really did need to be a five-year process.

But it DOES mean that when I make a final decision, I’ll feel confident about it.

Whether I decide   I can’t start this business now, but I know what I need to do to get there… 

or

Yeah, it’s going to be tough, but I can make this work…

or even

No, the small business thing isn’t for me after all.

I’ll be SURE.

And that means SO MUCH.

So I want to encourage anyone who needs more information, or even help, than they have, that it’s out there.

It is AMAZING the resources we have available, if we just know to look.

Google, a reference librarian, a friend of a friend – take some time to look around, and ask around, because the resource is there.

 

Be well. 

A Retrenchment Observed: Memories

 

 

How will I ever catch up on movies??

This is the least important question ever, related to my job loss. But as I drove past a theatre marquee the other day it is the thought that arrived for processing.

Lately, I think of my former  job primarily in terms of skills, projects, and experience. Not the most romantic view, but critical to formatting resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and business plans.

Every once in a while though, sundry memories that have NOTHING to do with a resume sneak in.

Absurd, trivial things, most of them.

 

Like catching up on movies.

You see, I’m not very good at movies. I blame it on staring into a screen for a living, but whatever the cause, staring at a screen during my precious free time fires up every last molecule of ADHD I’ve got.

But my job included these LOOOONG haul flights – 36, 46, hours start to finish, with most of that time on one plane or another.

And after 10 or 20 hours in transit, even I can’t focus too well on the written word. (I can’t sleep on planes, so my IQ decreases steadily after the first 8 hours or so.)

But, thanks to my eternal work flights, I could catch up on all the current films. Including many I never would have considered seeing in the theatre, and indeed, quite a few I had never even heard of!

I saw nearly the entire Harry Potter series of films due to flights. I discovered I Capture the Castle on one of these flights. A gorgeous film. And a splendid book, I later learned.

Without exaggeration, I think I’ve seen about 100 films only because of work travel. I even made my one and only attempt at a Twilight film somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. (Alas, neither 30 hours in flight, nor Robert Pattison was enough to override Kristen Stewart, so this one failed.)

So now, perhaps I am at the end of an era. Never again will I, the dork with the book in her back pocket, be able to tell my much more trendy and techie roomie about the latest blockbuster before she has seen it.

 

And the wealth of amazing names in our world.

Last week, on a job search webinar, I saw on the little Webex pop-up that so-and-so ‘Shabalala’ had joined the meeting.

It reminded me of all the many, many, fabulous NAMES that I got to experience in my former job.

I worked with people named Precious and Loveness. Goodson. Akililu.

How many people get that? In a whole lifetime?!?!

I had Mongolian colleagues with 5 or 6 vowels in their first names (mostly Us and As, if you can imagine), and twice that in their surnames! With little more than an L or a T thrown in to create form.

It was fantastic!

Unexpected expertise.

These job search webinars also remind me of how curious my last 10 years have been: for every technical problem we’ve encountered on the webinars, I am used to it, and I know the most likely solution.

And rest assured, this is not due to ANY natural tech-geek gifting on my part. I have none. 

Rather, this results from having spent a decade trying to run web meetings across half a dozen or so countries with varying degrees of internet connectivity.

My Dad uses an expression sometimes: ‘Busy as a one armed paper-hanger’; running web meetings made that expression very real for me.

But boy can I troubleshoot now!!   😀

But also unexpected traditions.

Not having grown up going to church, and having rarely ever set foot in a liturgical church, I began my former job with no idea what Ash Wednesday was about.

But, being a Christian organisation, one of the things my former employer did was host an Ash Wednesday Chapel.

At first I was kind of freaked out about the whole ash thing. (Which, I should be clear, was entirely optional.) It was COOL, but I just didn’t know enough about it to participate.

The next year, though, I thought I’d give it a try.

And it was surprisingly meaningful.

That first year, just having the ashes on my skin was incredibly distracting.

I could feel the ashes ALL DAY, in that way you ‘feel’ something because it’s so odd and out of place, even if it’s not really that tangible.

And that was valuable.

I had certainly never been so fully focused on Ash Wednesday, or Lent, or even EASTER, until a pastor placed a tiny smudge of ash on my forehead, and that ash concentrated all my attention.

And while this didn’t occur to me then, or in the years after, I realise now how interesting and even profound it is that I regularly had meetings with  colleagues whose foreheads were also smudged with ash – and nothing about that was distracting.

I was in a job search class recently where the facilitator was admonishing us not to speak bitterly about our former employers during future interviews.

Good policy on many levels, but pretty well lost on me – I simply have no bitterness about my former job.

Or even the loss of it.

Disappointment, sure. And moments of sadness and loss (not to mention panic) because it’s gone. But I can’t think of anything to be bitter about, with the richness of experiences that it brought me.

What blessings have you been able to carry with you from even those bits of the past that didn’t end quite how you would have preferred?

Be well. 

Resources: What Color is Your Parachute?

 

It was a little like Big Foot, or the Loch Ness Monster.

I had heard about it for years. BIG Tales: Amazing! Powerful! Transformative!!

But I had never happened to see it. (And it sounded just the tiniest bit unreal.)

 

Still, when a friend got laid off from her job, I suggested that she take a look at it. I spilled all the BIG Tales I had heard over the years, along with a “Can’t hurt, anyway”. I also figured I ought to take a look at it, if I was going to be recommending it to people.

It was the book What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. And boy were the BIG Tales justified! I was so impressed.

 

Fast forward to the day I found out my job was definitely going to disappear:  walked out to my car, drove to the bookstore, and bought the latest version of Parachute ¹.

And if I’m going to have a Retrenchment Observed series in a blog about seeking out a more abundant and grace-filled life, I had better include some resources for those in the middle of just such a situation, no?

WHERE better to start than Parachute ?!?!?

Reasons I love this book (a highly abridged list.)

1)  It deals with your LIFE, not just your last job, or your next job, or the current crisis that is having no job.

This is HUGE!

For example, one of the key job search strategies is getting regular exercise. Parachute has all manner of real-world input that increases your chance of getting through a job loss and a job search without becoming a basket case.

And it’s not just for those of us who’ve lost our jobs; but equally valuable for people actively seeking a change. So much of this information is just about being in the best place possible in your work life, that I had taken to using it for many processes even before I lost my job.

2) It deals with your LIFE, version 2.

I have had lots of really cool jobs, that somehow did quite feel ‘right’ for me. No crazy boss, draconian policies, or evil coworkers, just … not the best fit. It wasn’t until I read Parachute that ever considered that work style and work environment were relevant to your enjoyment of your job.

Now, I’ve demonstrated that I can make a fine living, do good work, and have a good life even in jobs that I just don’t love – lots of us have.

But after starting to look at the BIG PICTURE that Parachute points to, I realized why past jobs hadn’t been ideal, and what to seek in new jobs that really WORKED.

That was better!

Parachute is also about looking at your options while you have a job, transforming the job you’re in, thinking about starting a business of your own – it’s a ‘job seekers manual’ that can influence many types of searches.

3) Based on what WORKS.

Shouldn’t be radical, right? Yet it is amazing how many of us exclusively seek a new job by strategies that have something like 3 – 15% success rates. Then ‘miraculously’ find one through a friend.

Make no mistake, the Parachute method is scarier, at least for me, than the random-shots-until-something-works method I’d used in the past, but it also runs in the area of 80% effective. That, too, is BETTER!

One benefit I got from my own lay-off was some fabulous, wildly expensive career coaching. Could never have afforded it on my own, and I am very grateful for it.

But you know what? Their method is pretty much the same things Parachute has been preaching since that very first edition I looked at, and presumably since the first edition to roll off the presses.

4) Updated each year.

Frankly, if I were Richard Bolles, you’d maybe get a new edition every 3-5 years.

I am amazed that he updates the thing ANNUALLY. At first I thought this was serious overkill. But, even though the methodology, and the advice, remain largely the same, if you buy this year’s edition you know that you’re not missing any of the latest tactics or technology info. And scary as it is to me, technology really can utterly transform in a year.

5) Just plain cool.

I have no idea if I would like Richard Bolles in person; but I LOVE Richard Bolles in print! The tone of Parachute is so calm, reassuring, enthusiastic, and practical, that I can’t think of a better guide for this dark, scary path of unemployment.

My favourite part of the book is the pink pages. Here Richard Bolles talks about life purpose, finding meaning, and his perspective on God, the Universe, and Everything. I understand that this used to run through the book as a whole, but eventually he condensed it to the pink pages to allow those intimidated by such discussions to still find value in the book. I LOVE THAT.

Truth is though, you still find a lot of the ‘pink’ material in the text. Not a discussion of God, perhaps, but a crystal clear picture of Richard Bolles’ purpose in life being lived out, and a sincere passion for everyone embracing their own lives fully.

6) Pleasantly quirky.

Sure, this is a subset of just plain cool, but it deserves a space of its own.

Richard Bolles starts the book by stating that he uses commas the way he likes to use commas and he doesn’t need any more letters complaining about his commas.

This is his approach to all of the book – funny, unique, and open. His tone is extremely positive and encouraging, but without a hint of fluff, or Pollyanna tripe. He talks about the hard stuff, gives gritty, practical advice for the worst case, and pulls no punches. But he manages to say it all in a way that implies he knows you can do it, and he’s on your side.

7) GREAT cartoons

Parachute is illustrated with (among many other things) a series of cartoons by the brilliant Sidney Harris, one of my favourite cartoonists EVER. Geek-humor heaven!

Be well. 

 

¹’Parachute’ is my pet name for it. It’s also a lot easier to write multiple times. I hope it’s not some horrific violation of copyright, but that is one I’ve never looked up. I’ll change it immediately, Mr. Bolles, or Ten-Speed Press, if it offends you!