I recently had an unexpected visit from an acquaintance I had not seen in a very long time.
A very unhappy acquaintance.
I first met “Sandy” a number of years ago while doing a project for the company she worked for. During the course of my engagement I had infrequent and limited contact with her and was thus surprised when she called and asked if we could meet over coffee.
Not being one to ever turn down a coffee invitation we arranged the meeting which took place two weeks ago.
Sandy was angry.
Actually, angry would be an understatement; Sandy was furious.
Our province, with its oil-based economy, has been struck particularly hard by plummeting world oil prices and many Albertans have found themselves jobless in a market where replacement jobs are few and far between.
Sandy, after 17 years of “literally busting my butt” for her employer went to work one Monday in May and found herself amongst the ranks of those whose jobs had suddenly become redundant.
And Sandy was furious.
Nearly 3 months have gone by since that fateful day and Sandy confessed that her anger is growing deeper day after day after day. She told me of all the sacrifices she had made for the company, of all the people she had gone out of her way to help, how she had watched over the years as many of her peers had risen above her in the corporate hierarchy while she, uncomplainingly, toiled along, doing all she could to better her organization.
And then one day, with no explanation, she was “thrown out into the street like a sack of garbage” with nothing more than a terse goodbye and a letter offering a small severance package.
And it just isn’t right.
And it just isn’t fair.
And companies shouldn’t be allowed to treat people like that.
And for the past three months those three sentences have reverberated in her head keeping her awake in anger all night and in a state of depression all day.
Now Sandy, as I recall from my interactions with her those many years ago, is a highly intelligent, level-headed lady and yet she has embedded herself so deeply inside the anger that resides in her own head she seemed incapable of bringing any other viewpoint into focus.
Her mind is occupied with thoughts of a lawsuit or any other means of exacting revenge and her anger has mounted unabated and unchecked for three months.
And did I understand?
I explained to Sandy that yes, of course I understand and I asked her a question that caused her to glare at me for a moment during which time I thought I might soon be wearing the coffee she was drinking.
I asked her how long she wanted this anger to last before she would set it aside and move onto the next chapter in her life.
And then we talked.
We talked about all the things that we’ve talked about so often in these pages. We talked about how our lives exist only in our heads and nowhere else and that every experience we have has only the meaning choose to place upon it.
I mentioned to her that if we separate fact from emotion the facts are simple: 1) she was a 17 year employee of a company; 2) she was laid off; 3) she is unemployed.
I suggested that those are the only facts and that everything else – her disappointment, anger, quest for revenge –are merely components of the story she is repeating to herself.
We discussed the obvious: she can stay as miserable as she is right now and she would remain a 17 year employee of a company who was laid off and is currently unemployed.
Alternatively, she can choose to be happy, laugh a lot, put all her energy into replacing her position or doing something else that would bring joy into her life and she would still be a 17 year employee who was laid off and is now unemployed.
The facts would remain the facts but she would feel a whole lot better about herself because the facts will always be the facts and our emotions will always be our emotions and they are as disconnected from each other as most politicians are from reality.
After some 20 minutes of me rambling on like a lunatic I suggested we go for a walk because I thought I might be safer outside where I could at least duck or run away if she chose to attack me.
So we walked and we agreed that for the first 10 blocks we could talk about anything other than her situation.
We have a federal election looming in our future in this country so we discussed our views on a few political issues and then I told her what I thought to be a funny story of something that I had experienced just recently. I won’t share the story with you as it was a major embarrassment to me and I prefer to only share those moments on rare occasions.
At the end of the story Sandy laughed. She hadn’t laughed in a very long time.
And then we sat down on a bench and we both laughed. You know the type of laughter we all have experienced when you just can’t stop and tears roll down your cheeks and even when you think you have stopped, you uncontrollably start again.
We did one of those and at the point that we were able to stop laughing I reminded Sandy that she was still a 17 year employee of a company who had been laid off and was unemployed.
And she burst out laughing.
In that moment Sandy changed because she realized that perspective is everything and we get to choose our perspective on each and every aspect of our lives each and in every moment of each and every day.
A few minutes later, after a hug and a promise to stay in touch, we said goodbye.
Sandy called yesterday and told me she gone home that afternoon, drafted a resume, and has since sent it, along with a cover letter, to 75 companies.
Two of the companies have contacted her and she has interviews next week.
She also began writing a list of things she might do if she chooses to change the direction of her career and has booked an appointment with a business counsellor to discuss the viability, and options available to her, should she decide to start a business of her own.
Sandy is still a 17 year employee of a company who was laid off and is presently unemployed but, by bringing purpose back into her life she is now able to focus on the many choices which were always available to her but were hidden inside the darkness of anger and depression.
We choose our reaction to every situation; we choose every state and mood. Any joy and happiness that is in our lives today is present because we choose it to be there.
Events in our lives don’t bring joy and happiness, perspective does.
I have no doubt that Sandy will do extremely well and find success. The black cloud she had chosen to live under has evaporated and been replaced a bright source of light that she will use to build a sunny future for herself.
Good luck Sandy, I’m rooting for you.
We are all rooting for you.
Till we read again.