What to do when things look tough

This has been a tough year.

Since November of 2012, I’d been suffering with a loss of feeling in my hands. Typing was almost impossible and dictation software, well, I was correcting more mistakes with my hunting & pecking than I was getting right. I was losing strength. I was dropping stuff. It was really making me crazier than I am naturally.

For a year and a half, I saw my internist, who prescribed meds, then sent me to have an electromyleogram done. Lots of black & blue and his conclusion was carpal tunnel syndrome. Following the EMG doc’s advice, I saw a hand surgeon who did carpal tunnel release surgery on my right hand. Of course, $2,500 later, it was worthless. I mean not even 1% improvement. Back to the internist (it’s now December of 2013) who finally sends me to a neurologist. Finally, I get diagnosed (after an MRI) with degenerating cervical discs in my neck. Nice, not!

In between times during this segment of my life I saw an acupuncturist, a chiropractor and a physical therapist. But, it’s the neurologist who leads me to a neurosurgeon. He tells me I’ve got severe degeneration and really need to have surgery to get this fixed.

Now, I’m OK with the surgery, but the last time something like this happened was in 2001. I was working for IBM. I needed an angioplasty. Had it. But, after two months in post-cardio rehab and a second angioplasty, IBM put me in a group of 1,500 and laid me off. So, when the talk of a three-level cervical discectomy came up, I was a little gun-shy about talking to my present employer.

In late March of this year, 2014, I told my boss I was going to need the surgery. A couple of weeks later, he told me to go forward with it. A week or two after that, he calls me one morning, Good Friday to be exact, and tells me my employer is terminating my position. Now, to be fair, I’d been working for this company for about seven months and my utilization (I’m a mobile employee who gets billed out) was nearly almost nothing. Nonetheless, when he told me my job was being eliminated, I went dead silent. Now, anyone who knows me well will tell you that doesn’t happen very often.

Let’s start with some good news. Had the surgery the last week in April and almost immediately things began to improve with my hands. That, was a miracle I am grateful for.

Now, the bad news: After a week of medical leave and two weeks of vacation, my employer stopped paying me. I mean nothing. And that’s how it is now in early August. I’ve watched my bank account dwindle. I’m getting that old fearful, nervous feeling about money again. Hence the title of this writing: “What to do when things look tough”

Well, there’s always when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And, to be honest, I’m trying. But, I’m not hitting 500 balls a day yet. I’m scouring the web for jobs, I’m trying new things I can do from home but so far, not much has been happening.

If you’ve followed this blog for a bit, you’ll know fear is a primary response of mine and I can feel it grabbing for me right now. It’s kind of like being Harry Potter and feeling the dementors circling. (Where’s my patronus when I need it?)

When I first learned of my pending unemployment, I thought, “OK, one door closes, five doors open.” Perhaps that was too grandiose. Perhaps while my mouth was saying that, my brain and everything else was telling the Universe, “Really, how about if one door closes and another one opens…sometime, but maybe not as soon as you’d like.” Now, that seems real to me.

So, what do I do when things start looking grim? I keep my spirits up. I write. I keep searching for something to make all this change. It will.

And, (I would have used but, and realize that effing word negates everything in front of it) why do I keep falling back on the same old responses? Why fear? Why negativity? Because, they’re comfortable; like an old worn blanket. And, (this time I mean and) I believe it’s time to get a new blanket.

When fear becomes my dominant re-action, that’s what I do. Become afraid. Play dead. Curl up in a ball and do nothing. And what does that buy me? Exactly, nothing! It’s time to put the kettle on the stove, boil the water and make some damn fine tea! With honey!

George Santayana is credited with saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I think oftentimes that’s true. I don’t remember how fear leads to a void where nothing happens which is positive, so when faced with a choice, fear often wins out. The result is the same as it has been the last umpteen million times I’ve made that choice before. Nothing positive. It’s comfortable, therefore it’s still a choice available. What has to happen so that choice is no longer the ‘winning’ choice? I believe it’s the same thing which allowed me to put anger in it’s place. For a very long period of my life, I often chose to be angry about something. After many years of looking at that choice, I realized it wasn’t really anger I was choosing, it was avoiding sadness or fear. And believe me when I say it wasn’t a macho thing I’d learned as a little boy. It was anger was OK (my Dad could be a very angry man) and fear and sadness hurt. When I accepted the fear or sadness or both, the number of times I actually became angry diminished considerably.

Now, the time has come to put fear in its place. This is what the tough do when the going gets rough. Not necessarily get going, although that may be the right choice in certain circumstances, but find the courage to move forward. Like a shark. Not attempting to fall back on the comfort zone of fear. So, it’s about recognizing the fear, thanking it for all the times in the past it has helped me, then asking it to move aside to let my new friend courage drive the train. I don’t think it’s about trying to banish fear; just use it when it’s productive, not when it’s comfortable.

How Am I Changing: I’m willing to look at the things keeping me stuck; I’m willing to take small steps to move around them. Hopefully, many of those small steps will move me along on my journey to my final destination. And for me, that looks like being the best me I can be. Today, tomorrow and for the rest of my life.

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8 Responses to What to do when things look tough

  1. Ellen Raff says:

    Today’s job environment is rough on us all. Good for you for doing some action every day.

  2. michael hershfield says:

    I am going through similar issues career wise. Any choice that moves the ball forward is the right choice. Fear can be deceiving & illusionary. It somehow provides a false sense of protection, emotionally & psychologically. Clearly this is in the long run, of little consequence. Protecting yourself, without implementing positive changes, is a waste of time. Cue courage…….

    I have followed your blog since its inception. Your candor & authenticity is vividly on display in your writing. This is a courageous act in & of itself. Stay healthy & positive while navigating the road to improving those issues which need correction.

  3. LeRoy Dennison says:

    As you know, I am happy that your surgery was a success and you know how I feel about what happened to you job… Moving forward, remain positive, set goals, and network. Things will work out.

    • dreh15 says:

      LeRoy, I do know. And, I know what I need to do moving forward. I just wanted to get this tale down in writing. Out of my head and someplace I and others could read it. Slowly but surely, I’m doing all the things you suggest. Thanks for your friendship & mentorship. Both will always be appreciated.

  4. nannieofthenorth says:

    You’re meeting all these challenges with a lot of grace, which will serve you well. Our move to Minneapolis took a year of planning and prepping our house for sale. It was a long time to be without the daily schedule of work, but the key is to treat that time like a gift and use it wisely. It sounds like that’s what you’re doing. Is it necessary for you to stay in Texas? Are you exploring other markets?

    • dreh15 says:

      Thanks, Lynn. I’m sure trying for grace under fire (sometimes I’m holding the gun.) No, not necessary I stay in Texas and I am exploring other markets. I just dread the idea of packing up the house, going through all the stuff, discarding tons of it and moving. If the right situation presented, though, I would. I have to tell ya, the internal fight around that is a doozie, though :-).

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