May 1, 2013

A defining moment. On repeat.

Posted in Life Lessons tagged , , , , at 11:35 am by openendedcomment

On April 15th, the company I have poured myself into for the past three years was sold.  The career I had loved and the company I helped create is still in existence, but it is no longer a part of my life.  And that, dear reader, sucks.

I’m not going to go into how this happened or what the details were/are but suffice to say I was blindsided and am still reeling.   If you had asked me where I’d be in five, ten or even fifteen years just thirty days ago I would have answered with total confidence that I’d be working for company X.  I knew it.  I had no doubts.  I suppose this is how it happens, it is never easy.  If anyone should know that by now it should be me, but still, I didn’t see it coming.  Not like this.  In the past two weeks I’ve tried to conduct myself professionally, to ensure that the work I did will continue with or without me. I’m odd like that.  Even if I’m no longer a part of it and even if it is if no real benefit to me, I still want to see it succeed.   In this process I have also lost eight pounds and have been living on two to three hours of sleep a night.   It happens.

That being said, I’m not one to wallow in what-ifs or if-only’s…I’m much more of a what’s next kind of woman.  It’s not like I’ve never been through this before.  Nine years ago my then-career was pulled out from under me and nine years ago I did what I do, which was to figure it the eff out and move forward.  Intellectually, I am aware that I need to repeat this process.  Emotionally, as I review my resume and see in black and white the accomplishments and challenges I’ve achieved and overcome in the past fifteen years, I have an over-whelming need to change things up.

In the twenty-two years I have been working, I’ve never given any thought as to what I want.  I mean, I haven’t just taken any job, I’ve considered if it is the right fit and I’ve really enjoyed and succeeded at the majority of what I’ve done, but it has always come down to doing what I’ve had to do.  To support my family, to provide for life’s necessities like mortgage, gas, food and my children’s care.  I’ve done whatever it takes to make my life and more importantly their lives good…and every time I’ve also found myself deeply involved and personally invested in the company for which I have worked.  Maybe this time it’s time I’m invested more in myself.  In what I want to do as opposed to what I need to do.  Maybe, just maybe there is a chance that I can have both.

I’m not exactly sure where this will lead.  I don’t have forever to figure it out, the mortgage, gas and food aren’t free and are still looming.  I still have to move forward and move fast.  But here’s what I do know:  No matter how quickly decisions must be made I will make them differently.  I’m all done tying my future to someone else’s success.  This time, it’s on my terms.

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April 3, 2012

100 Pounds.

Posted in Life Lessons, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 7:28 pm by openendedcomment

Yesterday morning, my husband woke up, got ready and left for work.

It was a defining moment.

Christmas Day, 2010, my husband was fired.  By his step-father.  For personal reasons.  Yes, this is a personal blog and yes, in order to tell this story I have to mention some personal things.  If you don’t want to know, don’t read it.  It’s that simple.  I’m not going to shy away from the truth and I’m also not going to delve into anything that doesn’t apply to this exact topic…that being a career, a marriage and the journey to finding yourself after devastating personal loss.  Now, with that out-of-the-way:  I think it’s fairly obvious that there was a great deal more to it than “just” losing his job.  He lost his family, too.  That is a shame and that is terrible.  That is also a story for another time…perhaps…it is still too raw.  His brothers, his Mother, some aunts and uncles…all lost and all at once.  You see, there are two parts to this story…the job loss and the family loss.

The job loss is this tale.

There were financial losses, too.  He was the main bread-winner in our home.  He had the benefits…our eldest has special needs…and $1500 in monthly medical expenses to go  along with those needs.  Unemployment didn’t even cover the COBRA…much less the deductible, which was large.  We didn’t qualify for MNCare or any other medical assistance program as I earned “too much” but I am a contract employee and have no benefits.  Self insuring was going to run, at a minimum, $900 a month…with a four thousand deductible.  Per person.  But there was no choice so pay we would.  On top of firing him and stripping their grandchildren of medical coverage; they also denied his unemployment.  Initially.  He won the appeals…they did this twice.   After a few months of zero income from his end while we were dealing with that; we figured other minor things, like mortgages and prescriptions, out.  I worked harder.  I budgeted like a champ and proceeded to work some more.  He did anything and everything possible to make things work while looking for a new position. We made it through.  And I digress.

This post is about the JOBNot the money and not the people who stripped it from him. The blessed, needed and long-awaited JOB.  Which, incidentally, if you’ve ever been without you know is not “just” a job. My husband, like many men and women, found and finds much more than an income in his career.  It is a part of a person’s identity. For my husband, It. Was. His. Identity.  Who he was.  What he stood for.  What he had built.  His source of pride and his place of belonging.  He helped to build the company…literally, he helped to design and then put the building up.  Brick by brick.  He designed the products.  He hired the staff.  He chose the equipment.  Cultivated the clients.  Knew every single detail of every single order, person, issue…you name it.  He had been there since he was fourteen.  He began under his grandfather.  Whom he adored.  Who was, after losing his Dad at a young age, the closest thing to a “real” Dad my husband had from age twelve on.  The JOB was not a job…it was his tie to the man he loved, admired and respected above all others.  Even after his passing several years ago.  Each day when my husband walked through those doors he saw his grandfather’s name on the building and it filled him with pride.

When he lost that, he lost almost everything.  He wasn’t himself.  He couldn’t breathe for the first few weeks…he didn’t eat for two…sleep came, finally, at week six.  I had to remind him to do simple things…he just wasn’t tracking.  He felt as though he had failed everyone and everything.  There were no words I could utter that would have changed it or that could help. Eventually, as with all things, with time, he got better.  By Spring of 2011 he was starting to find himself again…to learn for the first time who he was/is without that integral part of him.   Spring was difficult but far preferable to the Hell that was his Winter; Summer was better still. By Summer he was able to go on interviews with his head up. By Summer, I was pushing him.  I was, to be honest, nagging.  I was tired…stressed…carrying the weight of all of us on my shoulders and trying to find a way to get him to share the load.  He wasn’t ready.  He lost weight.  Alot of weight.  I backed off.   By Fall, he had identified what he could bring to the table and why a company would want him.  He was learning his worth.  He has so much.  By Winter he was frustrated but focused.  Positions in manufacturing in Minnesota are hard to come by these days.  Especially C-Level ones.  He lowered his sights…it was about more than a title or pride by that point…it was about survival.  Our survival.  Pushing resumed.  With force.  He had road-blocks and I was going to make damn sure he plowed right through them.  It was the only way.  No references?  Fine.  We’ll handle it. (Yes, a 25 year career with no references…difficult at best to explain away but equally impossible to give given the situation.)  We were getting him hired come Hell or high-water. I applied him to hundreds of positions.  I am not exaggerating.  Hundreds.  At first because he couldn’t bring himself to admit what had and was happening and later because we established a sort of routine.  Other families that have fought through job loss know what I’m talking about here.   He went on interview after interview.  I hated it for him…the look on his face when he got the rejection letter…the look when I tried to blow it off with “Honey, it’s OK…there are so many applicants these days.”…he knew the reasons just as I did.  We didn’t speak of them.  No references.  No history.  He kept going.  He kept going and I kept pushing.  Full steam ahead.

Perhaps in all of this there weren’t my best moments or my most perfect of all actions as a wife…but I was tired.  I needed help and I needed him. Fifteen months of me carrying it all.  Them all.  Fifteen months of budgeting and scrambling.  Fifteen months of reassuring him and supporting him through all of the hurt, the doubt and questions.  Fifteen months of keeping it from touching our children…or trying to.  Fifteen months of chin up in public…and private…acting like it was all OK…when it wasn’t.  Even.  Close. Fifteen months of trying to find a way to keep us moving forward without sacrificing the medical care, tutoring and sports for my children.  Fifteen months of saying to everyone that asked  “Oh, everything’s fine.”   “Yes, I’m sure you’re right.  Something will turn up.” Or, my favorite “Yes, I know.  Just like you, we will be so much better off because of this.” When really, all I could think of at those moments was how on earth I could ever articulate the immense pressure I was feeling…that no, we were NOT better off.  That no, it is and was not “the same thing”  that happened to you or to your brother-in-law.  That they had lost a JOB…my husband lost most of his life.  The people, the places, the who and the what of his very self…all of it…all gone and all with no warning and little reason.  That he wasn’t “just” looking for a JOB…that he had to come back to me.  To us. That for fifteen months all I had was the hope of him…the prayer that someday, somehow this would work out…that he would return…the him I love and missed desperately.  I lost friends during this…I’m not the type to speak about what is bothering me while it is bothering me…after is fine, but not during.  This made any real connection next to impossible.  I had and have regrets about that…but at the time it was all I could do to handle this issue…others had to be set aside.  Some I may never have a chance to repair.  Casualties of our lost year.   Never had I been so lonely with someone at my side.  My husband.  My children’s father.  My friend.  Not the man who brought home a check…I have and did do that myself.  (It is of course better to have us both working…but that wasn’t the point.)  The point…the need…was and is to have him look at me again.  The man who is sure of himself.  The man with pride.  The man who I married.

God I missed him.  God I hated what they did to him.  God I wanted him back.  Anything.  Please, anything to have him back…I would have given and done anything to see him again…the way he was.  The way I knew he could still be…the him that was buried under all of that pain and rejection; not from a paycheck that no longer arrived but from a life he no longer led.

Two weeks ago Friday, he had two offers.  Two. Great. Offers.  No “Setting lower sights” offers, either…really, really great offers that really were better than what he had had before.  Places he wanted to be and jobs he wanted to do.  Was thrilled the have the opportunity to do.

Last night, at 6:12 PM, He walked through our kitchen door.  He hugged me.  He came home.

And in that moment, as I pressed against him and felt his arms actually holding me…100 pounds lifted from my shoulders.  I’m not on my own.  I never was. I don’t have to do this alone anymore.  No matter what happens or if, God forbid, one of us may ever find ourselves without a job again; we know that we can make it through.  We proved that.  We damn well proved that.  He and we will always know that our worth is found in ourselves and each other…not in where and for whom we work.   He will always know he can survive and he will always be assured that he can come back from any adversity.  As many times as it takes.  He came home.