Alive and thinking

31 10 2012

Today I am officially a retiree. It wasn’t what I had planned at the age of 52. I had planned to keep working for another ten years or more. And I will keep working – but not at the company that let me go in January. I want to be fair about this – they gave me a good severance package, and I am (blessedly) old enough to start taking a pension from them. Which (again blessedly) will allow me to continue health coverage for myself and my son.

It’s an odd thing to be suddenly… done. I thought I was done in January, when I walked into an office with my manager, and walked out without my badge. Separation from the company happened as fast as I could get my desk things into boxes. But that physical separation was really just a signpost to the process of not just leaving a company, but leaving it behind.

I guess I wasn’t expecting so much process. I didn’t know how much I would sleep in those first few weeks. How angry I would be at those who survived. How unfairly persecuted I would feel. How abandoned by all those people who on that last day cried and hugged me and told me to stay in touch and let’s do lunch… and then I never heard from them again. It was like vanishing from the face of the earth. I had been pulled up and out, and the place where I had been sealed up and smoothed out as if I had never been there.

Grief passes. And in its place I noticed new things. Relief, and an absence of fear. I realize, looking back on my time with the company, that I had been working under the fear of job loss, in one form or another, for over ten years. Ten years of fearing what would happen if my job was eliminated, if my part of the company was sold off, if my role was moved overseas.

And then it happened.

And I lived.

And the living got better, and the grieving got less. It was easier to breathe. There was light. And I started thinking that I could live through this.

I didn’t give that part of the process enough credit. It was much more than living through it. It was coming up on the other side and feeling the freedom of no longer being afraid. Because this fear, with its incessant what-if-what-if-what-if drumbeat, was simply gone. In its place was possibility. I cooked more, wrote more, spun more. I remembered who I was. I was alive.

I want to remember this feeling of not being afraid. It’s not the assurance that nothing rotten is going to happen. It’s the certainty that when things happen, I will hurt. And I will live through it.

And I will rise up, alive.

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