The rumors began on Thursday afternoon: The workplace I had dedicated myself to for the last lucky 7 years was going to shut down. We would all be out of jobs or, if we were lucky, we would all be dispersed like rats scrounging for food, shelter, and safety.
My colleagues scurried around with eyes wide open in fear, calls to loved ones, and words of, “I have a family to feed. I have bills to pay. I have a mortgage I need to pay off. How could they do this to us?”
I was strangely calm. I did not believe the news. Perhaps I was in denial and numb to any rumors and supposedly bad news after a week from hell of dealing with a nasty nurse on one day and craziness with patients another day. With a Zen voice that I did not even know existed in me, I said, “Let’s all calm down. These are all rumors now. Besides, if it is the truth, what can we do about it? It is not like we can control or change anything.”
On a Friday that had taken much too long to get to and in a much too large auditorium with upper-lipped and high-collared managers, the news was broken to us: We were indeed shutting down, but just did not know when.
The words were glossed over that we would be taken care of, our patients would be taken care of, and that EVERYTHING would be taken care of. It was the first time in my life that I finally understood that nothing is really taken care of or set into stone in life, and that all the time we spend towards security, safety, and predictability can be stolen from us just like that. It was the first time that I finally understood that the only constant in life is change—a phrase that I heard distinctly in high school and growing up, but never fully grasped. Some changes slowly and quietly that progressed over time. Other changes sudden and shocking that left us bewildered and baffled, testing our coping and survival skills.
Perhaps the great companions to these understandings that occurred for the first time in my life were acceptance and tranquility. Unlike so many times when changes were served to me on a glinting silver platter, I did not panic, complain, or freak out. Of course, I was also not excited or jumping for joy. Yet, there was a starting spark forming and glowing in the very core of my belly that this news that appeared to be the greatest loss and the sharp axe to my steady and routine life of work was what I was feeling to be the greatest gain of freedom and liberation. I was stunned, puzzled, and perplexed. I had never felt this way about a change. I had never felt this spark and this great desire, craving, and unexplainably odd comprehension that this news was a catalyst to me feeling more than ready for the changes that would have to come and for me to embark on a new path and journey.
Even stranger was on a day that seemed to be an ending was what I perceived to be a beginning when I received signs from family members about heading out to California. In the last couple years with the rough and brutal wintry winters, I had been thinking about moving out to an area of sunshine and warmth that results in happier and relaxed persons. With these signs flashing in front of my face, the thoughts were rattling and penetrating heavily in my brain if the time to me to move was now. I had never imagined actually moving anywhere and reasoned that I would stay and even live where I was rooted and planted, but now I was dreaming of images of me in sunny California with sunglasses perched on my nose rather than a shovel gripped in my hand in the coldest of New York winters. Suddenly, the possibilities seemed endless to me. The spark was turning into a bright flame of excitement. I had nothing and no one to really hold me back. As many married couples with children had said to me, I was not “tied down” to a significant other and children and other responsibilities that were inevitable with all of these and of the adulthood.
I began to leak to my closest friends and family about this new and rather large change that had appeared and would descend in only a matter of time, but that I was actually OK with this and even thinking of moving out to California and even ready for changes. Most of my friends were caught up on the part of California with not even being able to handle the news that consisted of this immediate reaction of: “You can’t move. I’d miss you too much.”
My logical and wise parents and older friends could understand my sudden want to escape and travel when I had never experienced this in my life and could maybe have the chance to do this, but gently reminded me that my health, safety, and support system were vital and that I would not really realize their worth until I no longer had them.
As one of my closest friends gently nudged me with, “Remember that you are going to have plenty of time without us older folks and especially your Dad than more time left with them. Take this into consideration when it comes to these images of you out in California.”
She also said pensively, “I call the phase you are in now a leap of faith. You are going to do something with this latest change that is forcing you to examine your life and the people in it to change. You are going to take a plunge. When you jump and leap, you are going to have to believe that you are going to fall into place and everything will fall into place.”
Yes, I have taken this consideration. The sensations flowing through me tell me that I am ready for my leap of faith. I take many things into consideration because of the intense over-thinker and analyzer that I am. Along with the in-depth philosopher in me, I am the dreamer, the idealist, the imaginer, the realist, the practical, and the pragmatic, which all rolls into one thing and one thing alone—me being the ultimate optimist. This latest bout has awakened me that I actually have the ability to adapt and am even now able to embrace change because of my core optimism and because of so much good I have been given with my most amazing and rooted foundation of family and friends.
This latest situation has also made me see that we live our lives on autopilot and routines for our innate needs of safety and security. However, the truth is that something, anything, and just things in general can, have, do, and will happen that will change life in a split second, resulting in our security and safety is questioned and challenged. 33 years of living have made me see that the sense of security and safety needs to derive from within and with the knowledge and acceptance that everything is temporary, nothing is permanent, and to savor what exists in the moving moments that eventually manifest into memories and learned lessons in life.
Everyone wishes everyone the best of health and happiness and freedom from difficulties and challenges. Everyone wishes for and works hard and without event thinking for the predictable life of top notch education, good grades, high-paying job equivalent to success, marriage, children, a manicured house, and even a couple of pets. No one ever wishes the bumps, tumbles, stumbles, losses, and roadblocks in life—but they exist and, most of all, they are necessary to grow and gain in life. No one ever teaches and we are only the student to life and living until we are maybe wise enough to teach other students of life and living. I’m learning in life that there aren’t always clear-cut answers and that we have to take risks and have faith and courage to sometimes leave what we know to discover a new know.
This week was a week of full of awakenings that ended with hearty conversations with my parents with chopsticks and dim sum. It also ended with a rousing gathering with my two closest childhood buddies and other dear friends as we sang songs to my ever so talented friend who can play just about any song on the piano by ear. She has known me for over twenty years and said to me in response to me seriously thinking about just escaping and even moving to California, “Mary, I know you. When you set your mind to something, you make it happen.”
In the midst of the meal with my parents and bantering and chatting with my friends in the glow of the room, I wondered to myself, “Could I really leave all this behind? Can I really leave everything and everyone I have known my entire life to this new journey that I am about to embark on?”
I have yet to answer. Maybe there will never be an answer. But, for now, I am all about taking a leap of faith and do what I want to do and live my life the way I want to live it with the faith and courage that everything will work out as it is meant to and not necessarily how I intended.
Cheers to changes and what is to come and cheers to everything and everyone that has led to this point!