Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Love Letter to My Day Job, Now Finished

I spent the last few weeks internet-free, breathing under water off the shores of a Caribbean island where they speak mostly Dutch. It was incredibly, spectacularly healing. The benefits of floating in salt water, of suddenly encountering large fishes in the shadow of a bright blue coral head, and of consuming snacks with fantastical names like Bitterballen and Frikendal simply not be overstated. 

Now that I’m back on dry land, I guess it’s only right to let you know the big news: yesterday was my last day at work. Yep. I turned in my notice a li’l bit ago, and now, c’est ca, c’est fini. This is The Job I worked at for nine years, ten if you count the time I spent on a 1099, so it’s kind of a big deal for me. I feel like this little life event warrants a blog post of its own. Up next: another great big exciting wowzapants life change and all that. But first, I think it’s appropriate to take a moment to look back and appreciate.

The Job was so much more than a job. It sent me around the country, and even, once, around the world, on some crazy adventures with some of the most incredible people I have ever encountered. I admit to having more than occasionally worked 20 hour days and 7 day weeks and yes, despite my best intentions, even during vacations. I loved the work I did. I absolutely loved it. It felt to me like life-changing work. World-changing work. With world-changing people. And that is what this little galactic citizen came to this watery blue planet to do, so, Huzzah!

Of course, along with the goodness, I also had more than a my share of moments of feeling totally stressed out, totally freaked out and totally exasperated. Like most creatives in a corporate culture, I often felt like a particularly squeaky cog in a particularly shiny wheel. I also had some real moments of feeling quite like a rock star on tour with a bunch of other really amazing rock stars, and of what it’s like when all the bunches of rock stars get on stage together and sing really loud and slightly off-key. Which is, basically, the most fabulous music you can make, because even though it’s not the version on the album, it turns out it’s the version that pretty much everyone has been waiting 20 years for someone to make so they can sing along.

I got to see the very best and the very worst of myself and others, which is pretty remarkable given that the nature of the work I did there did not actually involve life-saving compression techniques or fast-moving sharp-edged machinery. I got to push myself to be as uncomfortable as I possibly could be at least 90% of the time, and to spend the other 10% agonizing over the idea that if I only could have been willing to be even more uncomfortable, I might have produced even more outrageous results. This little perfectionist Virgo never gave it anything less than 153% and I would hope that if polled there are at least 5 people who would corroborate this and agree I was party to several not-half-as-bad-as-they-could-have-been outcomes, and even a handful of very nearly spectacular ones.

My time at The Job took me from the ebb of my 30s to the flow of my 40s. It saw me through divorce, remarriage, deaths and births in the family, cancer, and too many other huge life events to list. It powerfully shaped so much of who I am today, and who I hope I will be in the future. The people I met there taught me innumerable lessons about who I am, and who I want to be. They gave me so much hope, and so much courage, and so much fight. 

I wouldn’t have trained as a coach if it hadn’t been for the teams who inspired me to deeply understand what makes me tick, so that I could, in some small way, help others do the same so that all of us could eventually do something epic in scale with these lives we've been given. Or started a blog about surviving and thriving beyond cancer, to make visible the invisible so that others know they are not alone and that even the hell of the chemo chair and the disempowerment that comes with our established medical system can be gotten through. Or pursued my path as a ceremonialist, Reiki practitioner and shamanic energy worker, who even got to make puja in India in a cave temple once dedicated to the goddess and now reserved only for shirtless men. Or pursued so many more of the truly authentic, inspiring, meaningful things I have had the chance to over the last decade in hopes of making this world, and my little soulspot inside it, a more compassionate, loving, heartfilled place. The place, the people, the work -- all of these things helped me shine a light on the darkest parts of myself, push myself to my very limits, and create a kind of hand puppet shadow play for how I hope I’ll be remembered someday.

The last day at The Job was not so terribly different from any other day, though there were some nuances. I did work. I answered emails. I sent a farewell note. I failed to encourage the cat not to sleep on my laptop. I had phone calls with my boss, my HR rep, a couple of team mates. I cried fairly often, but managed not to cry during any of the calls. I gave myself an A for effort and ate half a Kit Kat to celebrate my continued slow but steady pace of achievement in The Overrated Art of Not Always Crying.

Possibly because I’ve just spent so much time in the sea, each time I would log onto one of these calls or read a kind farewell email, I’d imagine myself a very old sea turtle, floating in the waves, stretching my neck up out of the water. Each time I tried to talk around the knot in my turtle throat, I’d end up swallowing a gallon of imaginary seawater. Then I’d have to figure out how to talk around both the seawater and the knot in my throat, which is decidedly not easy because faced with such predicaments one tends to forget to breathe altogether and thus begins the rapid sinking into the sandy seafloor. I realized during each of these interactions that I was saying lots of words, and that each of the words was true, and possibly even important, but that there was a whole encyclopedia of words I was not saying, am not capable of saying even now in this moment, and that each of those unspoken words is probably truer and more important in some deep, dark cosmic sense than anything I actually did say. 

I also realize that I will not say any of these unspoken words, not now, not ever. I believe firmly that there is a place for achingly meaningful words that the sea has swallowed. It doesn’t appear on any map, and none of us will ever be able to visit it. All we can really do is acknowledge the whirling, swirling vortex as it pushes out through our sternum and leaves that horrible dull ache in our chests. To realize that what we feel so deeply transforms to become something lush and green and sparkling. To know that in these moments, we are creating a jeweled oasis of love, loss, hope, and gratitude for what once was and what someday might be. And to recognize that somewhere in time, somewhere else on our planet, some other human sea turtle architect is doing exactly the same thing as we are, suffering, loving, nurturing, wishing, grieving, expanding. 

I like to think of all these green islands attracting and coming together, a Pangaeaic production of our collective heart chakra, a supercontinent of compassionate possibility, born of the depth of our human experience. From this verdant and hope-filled place, a place of ultimate connection and responsibility, a place where none of us is truly separate and each of us holds the health of all humanity in our hands, we have the ability to right any perceived wrongs and acknowledge and to honor all that happens that is right and true and good. To take regrets and wishes, dreams and memories, accomplishments and hopes, and make a healing for the whole of us. And so, from this place, and in this spirit, as I reflect upon and complete this particular cycle in my own life, I call upon a Polynesian healing practice, Ho’oponopono, a practice of reconciliation and forgiveness, and share here a portion of healing prayer with you, as it was taught to me. I call up these words in ceremony, to give voice to the void, and worth to the work. For the ultimate words of wordlessness, it seems to me, are always the same: “I love you. I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”

And so it is.