Monday, January 06, 2014

the magic of three

Three. Such a small number. Some say it's magic; I've said it's magic. It's often used in writing. For example, Rice Krispies snap, crackle, and pop. It's not enough for the cereal to snap and crackle. It's also too much for the cereal snap, crackle, pop, and fizz. Two is too few and four is too many; three is just right. To the few of you who may be left to read this, you know I'm avoiding, but you also probably know what the three years since my last post have been for me, especially this last year -- the one that ends in a three.

I wrote on a friend's Facebook page that 2013 was hard from beginning to end. But yet, I didn't want to leave that year behind, because it was hard but inexpressibly full. The love I've received and given during the year that was 2013 was beyond that of any other. I didn't want to leave a year so profound and full of life-changing and life-defining and life-affirming moments just to enter a new year that seems so empty by comparison.

On the third day of the year. One year ago on the third day of the year that ended in a three, my boss called me into his office. I was the first he spoke to, followed by five others. He had to let go of the entire team, save one. The "saved" one was not me. She was not even at work that day but instead home with the flu. But she wasn't "saved," not really. Losing us would break her heart. Trying to do all the work of the entire team would break her soul.

It may seem odd that my first thought was for her. It may put you at ease to know I'm human, meaning I was mad as hell. The one "saved" and I had essentially the same job. Why wasn't I the one chosen to stay? Why wasn't I worthy? Didn't "they" know how important -- essential -- I am? (I'm laughing at my foolishness over that last one.) Having gone through this layoff dance before, I knew that it had nothing to do with her or with me. To the "they" -- those making the decisions -- we were numbers, and they were pushing numbers around to save their asses. (By the way, it didn't work. The CEO was ousted not even a month later.) And while it sucks to be laid off, I was going to get a severance package. I could apply for unemployment. I could spend more time with my dying father. I could take time to find a new job -- a better job. I wouldn't have wanted to be the one left behind to do all the work for the same crap pay at a company that I could no longer trust.

So, yes, my reaction -- after shock -- was to feel bad for the girl left with a job, my boss who was told that morning that he was going to have to lay off almost his entire team (and he had no say in the matter) just three months after he took the position, the eight-months-pregnant coworker also getting the ax, and then myself. But I didn't feel bad for me as much as pissed. From the last layoff, I knew kcprogrammer and I could make it, and the severance would be like paying me to spend time with my dad -- and I didn't know how much time I'd have to do that.

This whole period at work was ridiculous. And soon, that became apparent in a way I had only dreamed that it would during my first layoff. This time, they asked me back. Three of us got a layoff reprieve; three of us did not. (One of those who didn't was that eight-month-pregnant co-worker, who in my estimation is one of the best copy editors I have ever worked with.)

Now, you may be wondering why I'd return to this company, why I didn't take the severance, and how I could be mostly okay with work right now. Well, first the CEO got canned. Second, a co-worker told me that while it might be a nice thought to take the severance, the last thing I'd want is to be looking for a job while mourning my father. (She was right.) Third, I really love the people I work with, and probably more important, they love me. And love, flexibility, and help were three things I knew I'd need that year. I received all in abundance. My boss gave me the flexibility to spend precious time with my dad, and my co-workers helped me with my work projects so that I could make memories with my dad and then mourn the loss of him.

Right now it feels like I forgot to turn the light on.
And things that looked so good yesterday are now shades of gray.
And it seems like the world is spinning while I'm standing still.
Or maybe I am spinning. I can't tell and then you say,
"Hey. You're OK. You'll be fine. Just breathe."
"Hey. You're OK. You'll be fine. Just breathe."
"Hey. You're OK. You'll be fine. Just breathe."
--Ze Frank

There were three in the family. That was my family: my dad, my mom, and me. My dad was an only child. I'm an only child. Late in 2012, Dad was diagnosed with malignant, stage four cancer. After two surgeries, the second of which he had slim odds of even surviving, a month in the hospital, and another month in rehab, he came home.

The early months of 2013 were full of struggles: bad reactions to chemo treatments, a severely weakened body, and the feeling of Death trying to take my father away. (My mom is the most amazing, intuitive, loving caregiver.) With the spring, we had good news. Dad's chemo was working at slowing the progression of the cancer, and Dad was gaining some strength and even more spirit. Those are months that are filled with moments I will treasure forever. Dad was doing well. We celebrated his 63rd birthday with fireworks and homemade ice cream. I was planning a party to celebrate Mom and Dad's 35th wedding anniversary. We were even looking to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And then, two weeks before my parents' anniversary, Dad went into the hospital with an infection. The chemo treatments that slowed the cancer also left his immune system compromised. It was a setback, but we'd faced worse. Then, the morning Dad was supposed to be going home, I got a frantic call from Mom. One of Dad's lungs had collapsed, and the doctor was recommending no to do anything. To let it be. We were so confused about what was happening. So little was explained to us in ways for us to understand. Or maybe, we didn't want to hear what we were being told. Dad had been in so much pain. He was heavily medicated.

Even so, the day before he died, he had moments of clarity in which he was able to say goodbye to the three women in his life: his mom, his wife, his daughter.

With Mom, it was in the dark hours when no one else was there. During this last year, it was amazing to see the two of them. She could read Dad's needs and wants as if she was telepathic. You could see his love and appreciation in his eyes and all over his face.

With Grandma, it was a simple but profound gesture. As she was leaving from a visit, he took off his breathing mask for a goodbye kiss. I don't know where he got the strength from, but we all knew it meant "I love you, Mom." It was a profound moment. That was the moment I knew that he knew his time left with us was short.

With me, it was in a moment alone with him. I was sitting by his bed, holding his hand, and reading from a book. He said, "So tired." Speaking was a real effort for him at this point, so I realized he wasn't just talking about being sleepy. I looked him in the eyes and held his had a little more purposefully. "It's been a long, hard road, Dad, hasn't it? I know you're tired. When you're too tired to go on, it's okay. You know that right? Mom and I will miss you, but we'll be okay," I said, or something like that, though I don't know how I got the courage to. Dad blinked hard. A purposeful blink in dad code meant "yes." Then I said, "I'm so lucky to have you as my dad. So blessed. Every moment of every day I know you love me and are proud of me. And I'll always know that. I love you, Daddy." He squeezed my hand and lifted his head and blinked hard. I could read his eyes -- big and full of emotion -- and his face which said, "Yes, a thousand times yes. It gives me such comfort to know that you feel the depth of my love for you. I wish I could stay, but I know I can't, so hold tight to the memory of this last 'I love you' and remember it and feel it whenever you miss me."

Death is not life's goal, only life's terminus. The goal is to live in such a way that our lives will prove worth dying for. This is where love comes into the picture. The one thing that can't be taken from us, even by death, is the love we give away before we go.
-- Rev. Forrest Church

The last third of 2013. Life without Dad still doesn't seem possible. I felt as if I had to hold it together for my mom and grandma. If felt as if I had to be the one to keep things from coming unglued. Perhaps that was true to a degree. But doing so also kept me from falling into my bed, covering myself with blankets, and never coming out again.

Also, I had the benefit of my church. 2013 was the year I joined a Unitarian Universalist church. (Don't know much about UU? Wiki it: 2013 was the year that my dad went to church with me. I can only vaguely remember one or two times that he attended church with Mom and me when I was a child. He hated church. He hated organized religion. But he was deeply spiritual in a quiet way that I could feel but he rarely spoke about, at least until his final year. Dad loved my church. He loved the people who could come as they were -- inside and out. He loved seeing me investigate and think through what I believed. And, 2013 was the year I learned that it's okay to not know for sure what happens when we die or not to know whether Heaven is a fixed place or that if it is, to reject the notion that it is exclusive to those who believe in the Nicene Creed or, in some cases, a very particular denomination within Christianity. Dad and I joked about the many sects that believe they know the "one true way." Maybe we all get to go to heaven, but there are some different heavens that you can get into depending on the group your beliefs align with. Like a large ballroom with the dividers in place. Although, that would be very unfortunate if I had to be in a separate ballroom from my Catholic grandmother. I can't say that I "know" what happens after we die. I can say that I have a hard time believing that works mean nothing and faith means everything, and even more so that a specific faith trumps all others no matter how deep the others are held.

And that's okay. It's okay not to know. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to be happy. It's okay to think through my own thoughts and come to my own conclusions -- or no conclusions at all.

To live life fully, it's essential to love life fully. It's essential to love others deeply. It's essential to feel the loss of that love deeply. It's essential to embrace life in every way, flaws and all, heartbreak and all, and see the wonder and holy in all.

Hold on to what is good
even if it is
a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe
even if it is
a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do
even if it is...
a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when
it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even when
I have gone away from you.
--Nancy Wood

Monday, January 24, 2011

the long-time-no-post post

My last post was almost two years ago. That seems a little crazy. Facebook, what have you done to me?

Let's see, my last post was about this awesome, amazing, wonderful job that had just landed in my lap. And it was, until it wasn't.

On to better news. Kcprogrammer and I got married and bought a house and adopted two cats and have made a nice little life for ourselves. Overall, life is good, and maybe that's why I don't post anymore. This blog was created out of my frustration, at a time when I felt very stuck in my job and in my life.

The only time in the last two years that I seriously began to think about picking it back up again was when I was laid off. But, even then, I was so busy finding a new job that I never had time to wax on in blog posts about how devastating the experience of being laid off and being unemployed truly is. Part of me wishes that I had capture my thoughts and feelings during such a tumultuous time. And part of me is glad that I didn't allow myself the time to dwell on my situation.

So, this could possibly be my last post ever -- or maybe not. I just know that I don't want there to be a chance of this blog's last post to about a job. I'm learning -- slowly learning -- that I am more than my job title. So, who am I? I'm creative. I'm loving. I'm caring. I'm strong. Most important, I'm content.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

i got lucky

I got a new job, at a time when many others -- including many at my old company -- are loosing theirs.

I'd become stressed, frazzled and stuck. It was time to move forward, but I saw no satisfactory path before me.

And then, at the very moment I felt the situation around me at work falling apart, I got a phone call. It was from a big company with its headquarters downtown. They were looking for a web editor and had found my resume online. The next week included two interviews with them, as well as one at my current job. The following Monday came more news on how my department would be reorganized and amazingly, surprisingly a job offer from the downtown company.

I've been at my new job two weeks now, and I'm still adjusting. I'm adjusting to the commute downtown, new surrounding, frequent meetings, getting recognition for my work, the natural light that streams in through the windows next to my desk, not knowing how things work, having a paycheck that allows me to buy a new pair of shoes (or four), having job security, being away from the familiar, a new industry and being happy.

This last one surprised me the most. I had not realized how unhappy and stressed I was. I had allowed my frustrations at work to bleed into all other aspects of my life. It had drained me. Now, I feel revived, and I see all the opportunities to connect with family and friends that I've been missing out on -- either because I was too drained to participate or because I couldn't get out of my funk to fully participate.

So, I'm here, I'm happy, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

what's awkward

So, here's the story: I applied for a job on a magazine I respect with a head editor I'd be honored to work for. I was a top contender for the job, but they chose to go with someone else, someone outside of the company.

Today, I got an e-mail from one of the people I'd interviewed with. He let me know that the new person would be starting today and that he hoped I would welcome her and that he hoped that there would be any awkwardness.

I was offended at the suggestion at first. I'm a professional, and I understand the complexities that go into hiring someone.

Was I qualified for the position? Yes. Would I have been good in the position? Yes. Did they like me? Yes. Would it have been good for them to have selected an internal candidate rather than someone from the outside? Yes. But most important, do I trust them to hire the best person? Yes.

And it's this last point that's important. I would be insulted if they hired someone with less experience, which, for some reason that's beyond me is becoming a trend. On some staffs it is nearly impossible to get a promotion (like on mine). On other staffs, they've ignored the job hierarchy, and hire new graduates in at a level it took most of us several years in the field to reach. Now, there are a few magazines that actually hire the best fit and then promote the person as he or she grows in the position. It's this final type of publication I'm trying my damnedest to get on at.

OK, but back to the awkward. I know awkward when it comes to jobs and hiring.

When I was an intern at my first publishing company, the top two contenders for a full-time gig were myself and a fellow intern. I interviewed and then left to backpack around Europe. I got the job, and returned to find the other intern still working there. She did eventually find herself a job at another company, but, boy, was that awkward.

Later, I experienced the other side of awkward. I didn't think I was yet qualified for a higher position, so I hadn't applied for a job opening at my company. The person they hired was a former intern at the company who had much, much less experience than I. Another entry-level co-worker and I were dumbfounded. We'd worked hard for years at the same company and hadn't received the recognition for that work. Now that was awkward.

I soon left that company. Though, I can't say I've gotten much further. And I'm still watching other people get promoted and pass me. That is awkward.

Going and talking to my current boss about this fact is more than awkward, it's down-right scary. My boss is not known for being a friendly, nice guy. But I've been plodding along, going through the correct channels and biding my time for too long.

I can't avoid the awkwardness. In fact, part of the problem is that I've been avoiding the awkwardness that would come from trying--and then succeeding at--getting what I want.

Now, I'm off to do something very awkward. And, no, it's not introducing myself to the new girl. I've already done that, and she seems very nice.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

lacking nourishment

Last month, my boss yelled at me in staff meeting (so not my fault, but that is a different story). And my co-workers commiserated with me and were my allies.

Today, my boss can't stop singing my praises (and doing so a little too publicly). And my co-workers have never been more annoyed with my existence.

Work life sucks both ways.

A note to my co-workers: I'm just trying to get ahead, and so are you. I'd like for us all to do this together, and support each other. But we can't do that, can we? Instead of carving up the meal and eating together, we're fighting over the scraps and hoarding them away in our rat-hole cubicles, where they rot and mold. We smile prettily to each other and then talk dirty behind each others back and craft plots to steal what someone else possesses. When one of us starts to pull ahead we grab on to their heals and pull them back. (And I'm part of the scavenging, hoarding, rotting mess. I'm not clean . I'm not proud. I just want to call a truce and end this mess.)

I need a more wholesome diet. I'm getting sick here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

and i smile

OK, to catch everyone up kcprogrammer and I are engaged. And everyone wants the story. Here goes:

Tuesday was the third anniversary of our first date. We had dinner at a wonderful little Italian restaurant in the French Quarter that had been recommended to us by a travel guide. After dinner, we went for a walk through Jackson Square and past the St. Louis Cathedral. And then we strolled out onto the levee. Then with the French Quarter on one side of us and the Mississippi River on the other, kcprogrammer said that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. That's when he got down on one knee.

Here I'll interject a little side note: I'd been waffling on the whole engagement ring issue, so I knew that he hadn't bought one, and therefore I did not expect the proposal. OK, now back to him being on bended knee: He asked me to marry him and presented me with a temporary ring that he'd made by folding a $20 bill. I was overcome with emotion--as well as being impressed by his inventiveness and apparent talent at folding paper money.

And I find it difficult to accurately relay the experience. There is a difference between being in the moment and then telling the story of the moment that happened. The story never does proper justice to the moment. But that's how it should be. Otherwise, why would we ever live in the moment when we could just live off of stories.

Monday, September 15, 2008

so close

Sometimes I'm a better friend to people than at other times. Over the weekend, I was overly attentive in some areas and ghastly inattentive in others. It's always the latter that hangs over one's head.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

staying relevant

My mind is always filled with the next set of problems that I need to find solutions to. Then, once those are taken care of, I gather up new problems to replace them.

So, when people talk to me, I talk about what I'm thinking about, which is usually the problem that's taken over my thoughts. I really must be a downer of a person to talk to, always complaining, always troubled, always trying to figure out how to solve the problem du jour.

Lately, of course, the issue currently enveloping me is that I've very unhappy with my job. There is no future for me where I am. And I'm uncertain as to where I need to focus my efforts to make sure that I survive what I believe to be a massive restructuring of print media in the years to come.

And as I look at the future for my boss, my dad, my uncle—all long timers at their companies, all unsure as to whether their companies will recognize and honor their decades of service or kick them to the curb with few employment options for men nearing the age of retirement—I'm reminded that we are in a new employment age where no one is safe.

You are a cost center. Make sure you keep up your skills and abilities so you can prove you're a cost worth keeping. And try to horde some money away, because you do not have job security. How are you going to make sure you are relevant in your career when you are 55? It tires me just thinking about it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

leaving, again

So I'm off early tomorrow morning for hot, hot Houston. My cousin is getting married, and I'm taking three days off of work to join in the festivities. (And considering the current foul mood my boss has been in, I'll be glad to be away.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

facing a new reality

Life is change; I get that. The industry I work in is changing rapidly. Aspects of my personal life are changing even more rapidly.

There is a difference between knowing that change will happen and taking those changes head on.

After discussions that I've had recently, I realized that I am not equipped for the future of my profession. The ship I'm on is sinking, as are those around me. Before that happens, I need to get a life raft. Practicing my swimming wouldn't hurt either.
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