After more than 17 years at the same company, I suddenly found myself in and out of work for much of the next two years. Unemployment is not only tough on the bank account, but it is hard on the ego as well. It can seem impossible to find the “bright side,” but it is important to stay positive. Optimism doesn’t pay the mortgage, but thinking a few hopeful thoughts can make a world of difference.
I found something very valuable in slowing down and focusing on the here and now. As a psychiatrist once told me, “Guilt comes from what you did wrong yesterday. Anxiety comes from worrying about what you might do wrong tomorrow. Why not stay in today?”
My biggest escape was taking my younger son to his soccer practices. Watching him run around and play gave me some freedom from worry. I simply sat there and reflected on some of the good things that had happened to me during my time out of work. In a small but meaningful way, joblessness had given me a unique opportunity. Before the moment passed, I jotted down a few of these things so that I would not forget them once the stress and anxiety inevitably returned.
- Helping coach my older son’s baseball team. When my boss laid me off, her parting words to me were, “Now you have the time to do what you love most – coach.” We hugged, and then I cleaned out my office and drove straight to the field.
- Dropping the kids off at school in the morning, and then picking them up in the afternoon. While sleepy on the way out and grumpy on the way back, we managed to laugh, sing and do our best to solve the world’s problems before doing homework.
- “Martini Tuesday.” Kind of speaks for itself.
- Binge watching all of the shows that I was previously too busy or too tired to watch. (Or as I liked to call it, “Netflix and Fall Asleep on the Couch.”)
- Being able to sneak off to grab breakfast or lunch with my wife. The chance to enjoy a meal together felt positively scandalous.
On the surface, these are mundane things. Daily tasks. (Well, probably not “Martini Tuesday,” but I won’t judge.) But when added up, they turned into memories. Do you have to lose your job in order to have experiences like these? No. When you lose your job, is it ever easy to find the bright side? Absolutely not. But if you are faced with such a situation, I definitely recommend making the most of any mindful moments you might find at random times during your day.
I am grateful to be back at work now, and though I do miss being able to do a lot of those things on my list, I have those experiences stored away and I reflect on them often. They got me through the hard times, and sometimes, they still do.
Maybe one day I’ll see you out on the soccer field. After work, of course.
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