It was the summer of 2010 and I had finally got my life sorted. The dog was, admittedly, dead, but the kids had gone – the boy on a postgraduate gap year in Canada and the girl doing a business degree in Cardiff. I was in a job I loved, with people I liked in a big company with an innovative business model and great ethics.
Financially, things were looking rosy. With a generous package, pension, car allowance, bells and whistles I could – for the first time in my life – relax about the bills, not live in fear of the central heating boiler breaking down and contemplate good times ahead. My wife would shortly be able to give up her work and spend time doing the things she really wanted to do. What could possibly go wrong?
Our company was a relatively late victim of the global financial crash – we thought we had weathered the storm, but following another big failure in our sector, the banks pulled the plug and we went into receivership. Along with several thousand colleagues, I was made redundant. It was November. I’ve always hated No-bloody-vember!
I quickly discovered that intellectually knowing the Kübler-Ross curve is very different to living it. I rattled around various stages of loss like a pinball. It’s not a straight-line experience; foolish denial is tinged with clinging hope, the anger has more than a touch of self-pity, one goes through the practical penances in a state of suspended shock – returning the car you can no longer afford, cutting the non-essential subscriptions and standing orders, renegotiating rates with uncaring suppliers, signing on at the Benefits Office. All the time knowing that these steps are ordinary, unremarkable, trivial in the great scale of things. And yet, each new micro-loss feels like a blow to self-esteem, to identity, to ego – and so the descent into depression was for me gradual, almost unnoticed.
Troubles don’t come singly. My broadband connection went down and it took six weeks to get back online – just when networking and job-hunting (dreary and soul-destroying rejection-fest though it was) seemed like a priority. This was a personal attack from a hostile, fibre-optic universe. In fact, looking back I am struck by how silly, petty and self-centred my reactions were.
What did I learn?
To be grateful for the relatives and a few true friends who gave me practical help and support until I got back on my feet.
To be tolerant of the people who were only doing their job – not deliberately demeaning me. Like the lady at the employment exchange who did her best each fortnight as we ploughed through the list of hopelessly inappropriate vacant situations.
To be more thankful for the blessings I have and less bitter about the trappings I’ve lost.
What don’t kill you makes you stronger. I’m hoping the lessons learned will be useful in this new decade with a very different and much more serious global shock affecting us all. When I got my first pay cheque after getting back to work in 2011, I bought a bunch of flowers for the long-suffering lady in the job exchange. She seemed genuinely amazed.
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