Thursday, April 14, 2011

mi ritrovai per una selva occura

"…I  woke to find myself in a dark wood…" or I refound or re-discovered myself. Dante's Inferno reference from the book for my birthday Dark Wood to White Rose. Many readers undoubtedly familiar with this, but I,  having awakened only recently in the darkest of woods, bleary eyed stand amazed and blinking as if at a neon sign of my not-self, shuddering against a velvet night with distant STARS somewhere in a future summer hood shining, but today in a wooden body frame, more course each day.

I post a home-made photo booth collage of Aubrielle and I—( she is my constant sidekick, my clown and jester in waiting)- before chemo began 5 weeks ago and today in all distorted glory. for your eyes to not deceive- it is true a calcification, and metallurgic effect is taking hold of my cellular being, but the spirit moves like a black cat on the steps of purrrrGATORY. 

Exactly 2 years ago today I went to work after I had the most amazing dream! I dreamt I had been taken down to the basement of the AAHA office building, where a gaggle of young women proceeded to take my shoes off and give me a pair of PINK SLIPPERS to wear instead. They took me into the basement bathroom which was fitted with an enormous spa quality soaking bathtub complete with jets and sauna. I was anxious to get back to work, and thought these pink slippered girls might be overstepping their lunch break, but when I tried to find my way back to my office in the upper levels of the building I just got further and deeper into the HVAC system until I awoke, kind of startled.  DREAM vanished, but, when I got to work that day April 14, 2009, I was given a literal PINK SLIP!! No joke- no fooling, no shit. No more AAHA! No more graphic design position, or video production, or beautiful office overlooking the continental divide with views to the heavens, and no more state-of-the-art computer graphic station with bells an whistles, and no more security of a position I had essentially created from scratch and grown completely as a second skin for 6 whole years- longer than any work related commitment in my entire life- Done no dough- nada! No more two-income family, first kid in first year of college and yet, I had 401K, and benefits continued because they "didn't have anything against me or my work, it was all just restructuring the work flow", (I thought I saw for a moment, pink fluff around their ankles peeking out from beneath their stiff corporate trousers?). 

AAHA SHOCK SYNDROME! True I wasn't happy at all with personnel changes and department upheavals for the past 18 months and I knew financial health of the publishing dept. was in constant scrutiny, still I'd just produced and won a top national video award for my work, and only received very positive work reviews -I had no conscious idea this would happen- and certainly not the way it was going down! I was well liked, had made my mark as a very hard worker and loyal employee, I thought I'd be there for 20 years! I often told people I had died and gone to AAHA! I couldn't believe the pain.
No place, even the American Animal Hospital Association is without Machiavelli elements and I had made some strategic enemies over the past year since my direct boss got pushed under the bus the year before, so I was full of paranoia and shame. The sharks came forward- both of them apologized to me before I left, tipping their hands for all to see, What could they have been apologizing for if not some cunning design to do away with my bold/public defiance of their petty power-tyrannies? Hum? 

I didn't panic tho- I had had at least a 12 month meditation practice on a daily basis and I just went through the grief process of clearing out my desk, and computer files breathing in - and breathing out. I got in my car drove home changed my work shoes for something much more comfortable and slipper-like, drove to Namaste Hospice and volunteered on the spot. The volunteer coordinator spent an hour and half just in friendly conversation with a get-to-know-you informal interview as she signed me up for the next training to begin that same week-end. I NEVER mentioned I'd just lost my job. It never seem relevant.

I was handed a SEVERANCE "package"- I would sign some document that said I could never sue AAHA or my bosses for wrongful termination for any cause, and they would hand me my wounded pride and a check on a wooden platter. I thought about it for a week, and signed, this gave me essentially 4 months of a fully salaried cushion in one lump sum ( I immediately paid off a credit account I would no longer be able to pay monthly on)- So much more than anyone at the time was typically being offered. And today, it happens I've had a all of 4 official job interviews and must collect emergency unemployment because the rate in Colorado just climbs by the week. 9.3% today! I have no idea how long this social safety-net can continue, but with the cancer- what a god-send??? 

Ask, how do families do it without this net? The stress and suffering is not manifold, it happens on a human scale one individual human being at a time. It is from the perspective of statistics composed and refined by the banker-mind set that we recoil and numb ourselves at the accumulated surplus of despair- Don't be fooled, your suffering isn't any more or less than the tsunami survivor. You can only lose your life, lose a limb, a job, your home, or breast or child one life,job, limb, home, child, breast at a time, a human scale loss. Don't be numbed by the numbers.
and yet i forget this at times too- I am overwhelmed when I stand in the unemployment lines- it is a lesson in the greatest humility and compassion, I think, so many thousands have it so much worse than me- Guilt sets in, but then I redouble my commitment to helping out at hospice- the food drives what ever I can, and I remind myself of the pain and loss in my life without pity the long hard look at our connectedness outweighs the depletions, just look at any hospice patient to be clear about this. I remind myself to commit to Loving-kindness, patience with myself when I just want the Flex pay account call woman to tell me if the fax went through or not, not their obligation to the IRS or querying me on my expenditures I don't think is any of her business! May ALL beings be happy, safe, well, peaceful and at ease.

Today I practice metta each and everyday for my former colleagues and the firing 'bosses' at AAHa, it has softened and healed my heart, it has shown me the mysterious ways working through the dark wood, and I hope my letting go, my metta continues to lighten their loads. Forgiveness is the critical step in any healing modality. I do forgive myself for becoming sick, for all treasons imagined or invented, real or ridiculous. I hope to encourage with this writing the art of your own forgiveness practice. Take just one slight annoyance this week, maybe an impatient customer-service provider, without a good night's sleep, or the tone from a co-worker, or the heinous hand-gesturing of a hostile commuter on the freeway. What does it take to feel the heart soften and the mind give the benefit of the doubt? Feel it for this 'other', then turn it right around and send to yourself. Healing - on a global inter-stellar- cellular level.

Yesterday,  I attended the volunteer breakfast at Namaste and felt buoyed and completely supported by staff and fellow volunteers. I am proud of the 11th hour vigils I attend, the long-term care giving of companionship and deep spiritual friendship I have sustained with patients and staff for these past two years. I could not be more grateful- for this "aha! moment" It could not have been a more fortuitous dream that slipped me into the PINK!! 


Kathleen said...

There is no hazard pay for working in a toxic environment, even, in a maelstrom, head down, driven, multi-tasking oneself to death. The flip side of the coin, reinvention, comes only after deep rest and reflection. It is never when or what we expect, but there is a learning curve.

Renee said...

Wow. I got chills when I read the dream part. You are amazing with how you have dealt with being let go. Their loss for sure.

Ingrid said...

Needed to read this today E --- thank you for reminding me about humility and forgiveness and that there are so many out there who have it worse than I ... LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

elizabeth said...

Ingrid, of all people- your grace and endurance and kindness in the face of your families harrowing near loss of Andris last year humbles and inspires me to the core- We move together arm in arm along the wooded path-reminding each other to: !!! " LOOK AT THE LIGHT THROUGH THE TREES!!!!"
Thank you for such tender and continual support.
Love you,

Carleen Brice said...

I remember the pink slipper dream!