Where have I been?
Well, in May, the school where I worked for over 10 years announced that it had been a severe casualty of the pandemic and that it needed to consolidate in order to survive. We/They laid off 90% of the staff. Including me.
At the time, I looked at my budget and, with a sad and heavy heart, made the decision that I was not yet able to move forward with “just” my private practice of psychotherapy. In that business, I accept insurance which is frankly a mixed blessing. It allows me to be of service to more people, but necessitates that I serve more people to financially survive.
This (my coaching) business has not yet reached a point that can sustain reliable income.
So, I searched for an additional job. I only looked for jobs I (thought) I would like and would allow me to continue my coaching/mentoring/speaking role as well as my private practice. I was offered a few, and I accepted the one with the most attractive salary and benefit package.
I knew, right away, it was not a fit. So, I employed my skills. I have skills. I teach skills. I embody skills. I told myself I’d reframe it. “I will look at it as a way to get my teeth fixed, finally.” “I will celebrate it as a way to work on my coaching business without the vibe of urgency.” “I will create savings and security.”
Years ago, just before returning to school, I had what was (for me) the worst job ever. It was cleaning an office building that included professional offices (custom homebuilder, design center, architect) and a nail salon and a hair salon. I cleaned it in the middle of the night because I had another “odd job” before it (a blog post for another day, my friends.) I cried during that job. Now, I realize that *someone* has to clean office buildings. But I was depleted, exhausted, and my personal resources were drained. I was unable to marshal what it took to perform in a job I hated because all I had was the drain, and I didn’t have time or energy to fill.
I did manage to decide to take charge of my thoughts while working that job, and to fill my head with positive energy about the person behind each workspace (desk, cubicle, nail station, chair, etc.) I would look at their pictures, tools, Post Its, and I would project love, light, joy, and care to them and in their space. This marshaling of my mental resources allowed me to stay in this job role until I entered graduate school that summer.
This time around, at a much different job role, I had the same drain, same depletion and ironically, the same reduced access to getting filled as a person or professional. I began to become aware that not only was I suffering, but my existing (and potential) clients in my private practice and coaching care were going to suffer as well.
I had a scheduled week in which I was “off” from all usual roles. It was the bi-annual Seminar week for my Doctorate program. That week, my cohort and our professors work in person with the material that informs the Semester’s topics and assignments. I was engaging with professionals and material that were part of my job(s), but free from the dogma and administrative detail that comes with running a business or being an employee. In some ways, my energy returned, but it also crystallized my anxiety. In anticipation of having to return to my schedule, and that job specifically, a feeling of dread hovered over me like the Pig Pen cloud of amorphous dust that swirls around him constantly. So, I had data; I had information. I knew that I enjoyed the topics of my professions (helping others) and I knew my schedule and at least one job role drained me, possibly compromising my effectiveness in the job roles I enjoyed.
That week included presenting, teaching, collaborating, and consulting on cases. That? Energized me.
As returning to my “real life” loomed, I wanted to cry. I dared to let myself consider the unthinkable: quit.
But, here’s the thing. I wasn’t going to quit only to take one of the other offers. Or look for (yet another) job. I knew that if I was going to quit, I was going to quit to invest in me and enriching my heart, my career development, my professional development. I was going to consider quitting to work ONLY in my business for self.
And that meant giving up a substantial salary and benefits package. It meant I needed to find a way to replace the lost income and, at least, cover health insurance for myself and the one “kid” still on my health insurance.
But the feeling in my gut said “it doesn’t matter anymore that this seems insurmountable” and “you can’t keep doing this.” More importantly, though, it also said “you deserve to wake up each day looking forward to how you spend those hours.”
I consulted with 3 people who I selected carefully. They know me, more professional life, personal life, history and in even my money situation. Without exception or hesitation, they agreed:
I gave my notice on October 9, and worked the 2 shift clusters that followed. I had a plan for this weekend of assignments, business building, marketing, writing, and my doctorate work. The Universe had other plans and I spent it with people, friends, and laughing with my family.
I sat down at my desk this morning to plan my first week at “only” one job since? This is what my calendars said:
But I did do a thing. I created a program to help myself and others establish an intentional gratitude practice. Years ago, I found a book by Jackie Kelm titled “The Joy of Appreciative Living.” I used the tools of that book to feel better in spite of the circumstances during that time. I later became a Certified Leader of Appreciative Learning Circles which is a way of teaching others in a small group setting how to utilize the tools in that book. I organized this program to correspond with what is known in Recovery as “gratitude month.” I invite you to check it out.