Loss of Job is both a reality and a fear in today’s world. The consequent stress and anxiety can be all consuming and have a deep impact on our health, immunity and our relationships. I know because I have first-hand experience. All the gloom doom conversations bring to the mind’s eye images that tell a story of panic, desperation, hopelessness and also of adventure, trust, reinvention.
It all started four years back when I lost my job suddenly.
I still remember it was early April in 2016. I walked into my boss’s cabin expecting some news of my promotion. It has been a great year. I have over achieved most parameters in my goal sheet, received appreciation letter from the Chairman of the Group and done some breakthrough stuff. What I got instead, was the message that there is no job for me. There has been an organisational restructuring and I didn’t fit in. So, there I was with an appraisal and bonus letter that stated “Exceeds expectation’’ and a message that I don’t fit in.
Really? How is that possible? I had spent closed to 10 years in the organisation and been a good performer throughout.
The first thought that came was, if it’s so ridiculous and unexpected then there must be a bigger message for me. But soon the magnanimity of what has hit me started dawning. My husband had also quit his job and was working on establishing his business. It was a double whammy. Sometimes I would fantasize that I will receive a message saying it’s all been a blunder and a mess. But nothing like that happened.
Two things consumed my mind space totally
- How the hell will we manage?
- How could they/ why me? In my 27 years of career, I had heard of people losing job but it had never happened to me.
As I started wobbling through the path of picking myself up and rebuilding myself, it was clear that the ‘rational logical’ mind didn’t have much to offer. The same tape of “how could they, why me, I should have done this or that, how will we pay the bills…” kept playing. And with it a stiff, closed, listless tired body. It was an experience of doing my best, putting all my efforts, moving fast and being at the same spot.
But I knew that I can’t remain in this state. And slowly things shifted when I let go of trying to make logical meaning making and started surrendering, with curiosity, allowing things to flow. Instead of planning more and calculating more, I leaned into meditation more. And practise mindfulness. Trust more. Listening to the foolish intuitive mind beyond all logic.
A realisation dawned, I had attracted this. I have always envied my friends who were self-employed , could work from home, being masters of their own time. I have been wanting to move into a consultant role but never had the courage to quit my job. And now that I was finally without a job I could look at it as an opportunity to explore myself.
Who do I want to be? What am I meant to do? What is the purpose of my life?
A job offer came up, I declined. It was the most foolish sounding decision one could make in the face of zero monthly income. But picking the job made no sense to me.
Did I lose a job to get another? Is that the larger scheme of the universe? Nope can’t be. I would not want another breakdown in my career. I needed to really explore myself and allow things to unfold. My life had been far from smooth. I had, like most other people, battled many breakdowns and heart-stopping-breaks. And at the end of it all I had always discovered a hidden gift. Something that made me look back and say “thank god that happened”.
But it wasn’t a smooth drive on a highway. Every inch of the road needed to be shovelled. There were signs, moments of hope, even exhilaration. I attracted resources, people, courses, experiences that I needed just when I needed. Universe was unfolding the plan. I could sense I am on the right track. And then deep anxiety would hit about regular stuff like the next EMI. The admonishing nay saying mind would take charge and scream “Sober up! Stop fantasizing we are talking about real issues here!!
I needed a structure and space to sustain myself. I had to create ease and comfort for myself taking care of the basics. Besides deepening my Mindfulness practise, I am penning down a few steps which helped me in this new life. Maybe it will be of help to you.
These were in no particular sequence or order of importance. They arose in their pace and time and I continued to act following my gut.
Noticing and Acknowledging Milestones
The mind has a negative bias and the propensity is to focus on what’s missing. So, every once in a while, just acknowledging the milestones covered made the journey easy.
Everyday finance – check.
Connecting with friends and family- check.
Enrolling for certification- check.
Not doing this would have led me down the slippery slope of self-admonition.
Realigning My finances
I realised that loads of my anxiety and fear is about having a certain sum of money coming in regularly as an income. Though I had savings, it was immensely stressful to break a Fixed Deposit or withdraw from a Mutual Fund. Witnessing my funds deplete every time I logged in, just intensified my fear and anxiety. I started realigning my investments in a way that the basic household expense would flow into my savings account every month. A huge pressure got lifted from my back. I literally felt much lighter physically, my back pain reduced. Frankly it wasn’t the most intelligent financial plan, but it was definitely very life serving to know that no matter what, I won’t need to miss a bill or give up on basics. I could focus on other things. In fact, with my job gone, a lot of expenses also vanished. Driver, car, petrol, personal effects… I soon realised I do have some excess to indulge in extras and the non-essentials
We had multiple cars and apartments between me and my husband, all except two assets were on loan. Just an example of the extravaganza we were indulging in. I was blind to the mindless drive I had to buy more, own more, hoard more. It appeared all so vain … and a burden.
Shifted my frame from owning to valuing. Acknowledging and appreciating my blessings, praying gratitude. The more consciously I noted the abundance in my life the more I discovered abundance. We had more than enough of most things we needed to live a joyful life. Decent health, a house, a vehicle, all physical comfort, enough personal effects, friends and family, interesting opportunities to explore our hobbies… All will be well wasn’t a hollow consolation but a visceral experience giving me the confidence, hope and inner strength to tread on.
Celebrate being Time rich
Job loss meant I had a lot of extra time. Initially that killed me. My thoughts of ‘why me , how will I manage’ was a constant rant of the idle mind. In a life changing conversation with my coach, I created the context of being Time Rich. This shifted my world view significantly. I made a list of all the things that I wanted to do, if money wasn’t an issue. Things that will bring meaning, purpose and happiness in my life.
The next obvious question was, what of these is it still possible to do ?
Turned out, except for going on international vacations, I could do everything. Much of life’s rich experiences come without any expensive price tag. Watching a movie on Prime while gorging on home cooked Momos and Tandoori, with the entire extended family was definitely far, far more joyful than going to a fancy restaurant. I could soak in and drench myself with fun, joy, laughter. Had more family get togethers, celebrated every festival, some for the first time in years, spent loads and loads of time with both set of parents. For the first time in my life I was not in a hurry to leave them and rush back to Mumbai. Mornings were about tea together, evenings of TV together. Joyful relationships were a wealth we were accumulating investing the Time Richness.
And it’s been very, very gratifying.
Finding the Joy of giving
One thing my job took away with itself was meaningful productive engagement. The privilege to contribute and be part of something larger, the experience of a job well done, watching my creative expressions being valued … all of this had and still has a very significant connection to my sense of self-worth and fulfilment.
Acknowledging this need, I sought avenues to contribute my skills and productive time for contributing in causes that resonated with me. Volunteering in spaces engaged in human transformation like Bharat Soka Gakkai and Landmark Worldwide came naturally to me. It’s been a deeply, much needed, nourishing experience. The shift from seeking to giving expanded me in more ways than one. The joy of giving surpasses any other joy. Had heard that many times, now could immerse in it.
Putting four years of exploration in less that 2000 words is difficult. If I were to summarise the highlights, it often takes a big jolt to shake off our limited default way of walking through life. Nothing nudges and pushes us to reinvent ourselves as a breakdown does. Fear and anxiety is about the rational mind trying to find answers which is much beyond its pay grade!!. When the unknown strikes, the only place to repose in is the ‘wisdom’ mind. It has been trying to whisper all along, we have been shutting it up calling it stupid, foolish , irrational.
Now listen up!
In the face of unknown it’s best to un- cling from the ‘shoulds’ and follow life that has already taken control of the boat and pointed it towards the vast ocean of possibilities. And yes, it’s crucial to have practises that help to welcome the waves.