Sunday, November 8, 2009

Job Loss Is a Golden Opportunity

Here is an e-mail that I recently received from a reader of one of my books. I have changed the person's name in case the information is sensitive:

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Sharon P.
    To: ernie @ telus dot net
    Sent: Monday, July 27, 2009 4:58 PM
    Subject: one response to The Joy of Not Working

    Hello, Ernie!

    Another co-worker and I had the great good fortune of being laid off at the end of June. We decided that we were the lucky ones. Only after we were out of the negative work environment did we realize how much stress we had been carrying and how exhausted we were. It took a couple of weeks of rest, good nutrition, and tender loving care from friends before I felt human again and didn't ache all over. Plus it took a while to file for unemployment benefits and to get back to the job-hunting game.

    Once I was done with all the paperwork hassle, I picked up a few books to read in between doing housework and sending out resumes. I started with Michael Shuman's books, The Small-Mart Revolution and Going Local (I was curious about how to sustain local economies), then proceeded with Robert Fritz's The Path of Least Resistance (how to apply creative techniques that artists use to living my own life). After that, I picked up your book, The Joy of Not Working.

    I am about halfway through the book and yesterday I finished my first leisure tree. Wanting more bang for my buck, I made a game out of trying to combine as many things as I could from the tree into a single day, and I made a game plan over morning coffee. I am interested in horses, I want to learn to ride dressage, I enjoy reading and writing and walking/hiking, and I need to exercise (both for health and to be a better rider). So I combined those things and created "dressage Monday" -- which of course I won't just be doing on Mondays, but I had to start somewhere, right? Here's how it went:


    Read: articles on riding in Dressage Today magazine
    Exercise: yoga - full set, for at least 20 minutes
    drink a full glass of water
    Exercise: leg stretches, using a step in the kitchen

    break for lunch

    Reading: three chapters of the book Balance in Movement (applying physiotherapy to achieve a proper seat on the horse)
    Exercise: walking my elderly dog to the local post box, to post greeting cards (I decided to send the cards so that I would have to walk to the post box today!)
    Watching: video of dressage training by Reiner Klimke
    Watching: gold medal performance by Reiner Klimke in 1984 Los Angeles olympic games (on YouTube)
    Exercise: 15 minutes on rebounder (mini trampouline)

    break for a drink and a snack

    reading: more articles in Dressage Today magazine
    writing: sending a long email to Ernie J. Zelinski

    It's a little after 6 pm now (I'm in Ohio, on Eastern time), and I still have plenty of time to do other things, like more reading and some weight training in the evening.

    Exercise had been a problem for me in the past. I had so much tension in my body that it hurt even to do yoga! But now that I am not in a negative job situation, I find that exercise is very easy. Not only does it not hurt, but it is more meaningful because I have a specific goal in mind: strengthening my body to be able to balance better when I am riding and to ride for longer periods of time. I think that having a goal for exercise is a huge thing. For me, lack of exercise wasn't because of taking the easy way out, it was because I was in pain and also because I didn't have a specific purpose or goal for it.

    Now that I am coordinating my activities for a common purpose, everything is incredibly easy to start and easy to continue through to the end (reading three chapters of a book, doing 15 minutes of rebounding, etc.). My day has been joyful and effortless and full of activity!

    It all started when I decided to start training and studying like an olympian, since I no longer have that pesky full-time job.

    Living in the USA, however, I am concerned about the fact that I will only be able to keep my health insurance for nine months. I will try to find a paying gig with benefits before then, but in the meantime I will be making huge progress in my riding, and the exercise and learning will be building my confidence for whatever I will choose to do down the road. In order to keep my horse, my husband and I have been cleaning stalls and helping to care for horses in exchange for my horse's board. Plus, my riding coach wants a website, and he will give me some free lessons in exchange for website development and writing, which we will be glad to do for him. You cannot imagine what a relief it is for me to be able to keep my horse, I've had him for nearly six years, and he's a member of the family. It's also a big relief to still have lessons from a great coach; my friend and I just found out about him last winter, and I'd hate to lose him, too!

    I am very grateful for your book, to show me how to give my life a specific direction and to re-frame my job loss as a golden opportunity.

    One thing that I have to thank you for specifically is for mentioning reading as an activity that is active. I had been kicking myself for sitting around and reading -- even though I was learning a lot through my reading and the Fritz book was about a technique that would help me through life and help me find meaningful work -- because I saw it as passive. I was incredibly relieved when I saw reading on your leisure tree! I put it on mine as well, and now I can actually feel good about the reading I am doing, and that is another huge weight off my shoulders.

    My time between jobs will not be a worrisome time for me, because I am now a woman on a mission and I am test-driving the life I will live the next time I am between jobs. It is and will be a joyful life full of self-directed learning and exploring.

    Even when I am once again working at a job, I'll have a better idea of how to manage my time in the future. I will continue to be an olympian-in-training even while working 40 hours a week and planning how I can create my own business, so I will eventually be able to rid myself of the next pesky full-time job that I happen to acquire.

    All the best,
    Sharon P.
Here are some resources to deal with job loss, unemployment, and involuntary retirement:

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