A Story of Loss, Uncertainty, and the Security of Home

I am relieved of my duties.
— Text received from my husband a few months ago

Last winter the global company my husband worked for in an attempt to appease stockholders and make up for quarterly losses decided to thin out its workforce. First, they offered retirement to many who qualified, and then, began to release workers. My husband was one of hundreds who was politely asked to pack up his desk and walk out the door. Why? Too old? Made too much money? His benefits were too costly? Whatever the reason, his over eighteen years of service were tossed aside as our lives were thrown into a tailspin that force-fed havoc and chaos in our usually peaceful existence. 

At first, we both believed he would quickly locate another position. Here was a highly qualified individual with an impeccable work history. Who wouldn’t want him? But weeks, then months went by with no real prospects. Applications were sent. There were a few interviews with little or no feedback. I jumped every time his phone rang, thinking this might be the one.

Worry about money began to settle in our psyches. There was a severance, but it wouldn’t last forever. We decided to put our house on the market, just to have some control over the situation. New carpet and fresh paint made our home shine. An offer came in almost immediately.

The job still wasn’t out there. We were willing to relocate. We convinced ourselves we were ready for a new adventure. Now would be the time to move someplace warmer, with more opportunities. He placed applications in many major markets, but the silence was deafening. 

What were we going to do? What if a job didn’t materialize before we had to close on the house? I was petrified of being homeless, without insurance or security. 

I placed prayers in to all who would listen: God, the universe, any supreme being who would help us. I stationed lucky talismans all over the house, hoping they would bring us fortune: a crystal by the front door, a frog facing the front of the house, a maneki-neko - a Japanese figurine believed to bring good luck to the owner, my heart-shaped stone I found on a beach in California, and a purple vase with letters and money placed in our fortune corner. Anything to help us out of this Charybdis-like situation.

Deep depression settled in my bones. I didn’t want to venture out, to explain yet again that we were still looking. Yes, he’s had interviews. No, nothing yet. Yes, something is out there. So, I hibernated, hiding from the questions and the concerned looks of pity. 

Many offered help along the way. My brother knew of an opening. A friend heard about a company looking for IT experience. Our youngest son who works for a recruiter was always on the lookout for jobs and kept in constant contact with my husband about career possibilities. A few interviews were procured through connections, but the search continued. 

Throughout this struggle, my husband remained stoic. He has always been the fixer, the one who swooped in to save the day, but he couldn’t fix this. He was forced into a position of waiting for others to make decisions about our lives. I know it bothered him, but he remained strong and persistent. Every day he looked at jobs, filled out applications, sent out emails, and attempted to find that perfect position. Even in the morass of job loss, he worked his ass off. But he would often disappear to take a long walk or venture to the golf course to whack out his frustrations on the greens. Sometimes at night I would wake to find his side of the bed empty, knowing he was up with worry.

A few weeks ago we decided that I would begin to look for teaching positions out-of-state. I gathered all the pertinent material, searched LinkedIn and the internet, and found a few possibilities. Quickly I heard from a few schools in the Southwest, and a possible offer was even presented to me. Maybe we could move and then my husband could continue his job search in that area. It sounded exciting and petrifying all at once. I made lists. I worried about moving the cats. I was nervous about getting back into the classroom. I couldn’t breathe. I was teetering on the edge of a full-blow panic attack.

Then, when all looked its darkest, light began to filter in. Just as we pulled the offer on the house for reasons too complicated to explain, a job appeared. A local job! After a second interview, my husband walked in the door and said, “The job is mine.” We were stunned. I couldn’t process it at first. Was this really finally happening? 

So, after months of anxiety, sleepless nights, and crappy golf, our lives are level again. We get to stay in the home we love and in this quirky town that holds our families, our stories, and our memories. My husband has an eight minute commute. (His previous one was an hour and a half!) I’ve planted new flowers in the front yard. I am working through my writer’s block. The fog has lifted, at least for now.

What have we learned from this adversity? First, we have each other. We have a quiet understanding that is unbreakable. Throughout everything, we are a team…simple, strong, and fierce. Second, we are grateful for the simple things: dinners together, time spent with grandchildren, the love we share. It is what makes us whole. We know not to hold onto anger or regrets. Life is too short. And third, we know nothing remains constant. Everything changes. A plan is a plan until that plan is thrown out the window. Then you make another plan, maybe even a better one with crazy roads and wild exploits.

We will live in the moment and tackle this new/old journey together, with laughter and tears and music and wine and lots and lots of pie.

There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.
— Charles Dickens