a compilation of my work and thoughts

‘Learn to fly with what is’

In middle class prose on July 20, 2009 at 11:56 pm


Photo: somenoise/Flickr.com

As a journalist, I’ve covered my share of uncomfortable stories. I’ve interviewed families of murder victims, rape victims, human trafficking victims, recovering drug addicts, gang members, etc. The look of despair and hopelessness in their eyes was always unsettling. Oftentimes, I carried their stories home. Many of them remain with me today. Stories like that are pretty hard to let go.

So, when my boss asked me back in April to fly to Wichita, KS, to cover a story about some 2,000 (yes, 2,000!) people being laid off from a local aerospace company, I thought I was more than prepared for what I was about to see and hear. Turns out, I wasn’t.

The tears. The long, empty stares. The questions of “what am I going to do now?” The stories of having just had a brand new baby. A brand new mortgage. Having to deal with a chronic illness with no health insurance. Though – at the individual level – no where near as tragic as death or being the victim of a heinous crime. Those are permanent. I have to say, however, collectively, for me, the overall sense of despair and widespread feeling of hopelessness was almost just as unsettling.

“Wichita is to aerospace what Flint, MI, is to the auto industry,” said one of my co-workers. When nearly the entire city either works in or is dependant upon a single industry, mass layoffs have the potential of decimating the entire community. Parents don’t know how they’re going to feed their children. Local businesses have fewer customers. And, with a smaller tax base communities begin to cripple.

Indeed, the emotions I was witnessing are not in isolation. As the unemployment rate races full speed ahead towards double digits, some 30.2 million people – including those involuntarily working part-time and those who want a job, but have given up on trying to find one – are struggling to come to terms with the idea of not working. Not being able to provide for their family. Feeling as if they have no “purpose” for getting out of bed each morning.

Suicides and domestic-violence, according to LiveScience.com, are on the rise. “Freddie Mac CFO Said to Have Committed Suicide”…  “L.A. Man Upset Over Lost Job Kills Wife, 5 Kids, Himself”…  “In Notes Left in Family’s Killings, Md. Man Details Debts, Depression”… are just some of the most recent headlines, to name a few.

“I expect an increase in such incidents over the next few years,” said Sampson Blair, a sociologist at University of Buffalo, “because economic strain on families provokes depression and desperation.”

“I think certainly when people are stressed out, overwhelmed, feeling pressured,” says Washington, D.C., family and relationship therapist and best-selling author Dr. Audrey B. Chapman, “and then you have pressure at home from family members, worried about being able to feed your children, keep a roof over their heads, and that kind of stuff… You start to feel like ‘What’s the point?’”

The bottom line is: going from employed to unemployed can be a huge change for many people. And, change can sometimes be hard.

Dr. Judith Rich, a teacher in the field of transformation and consciousness, put it best in her article “When the Shift Hits the Fan,” when she quoted author Marilyn Ferguson:

It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s that place in between that we fear…It’s like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to.

In her own words, Rich goes on to say, “Talk about being in between trapezes! We can’t even see if there’s another one coming our way. You know that feeling when your stomach suddenly takes up residency in your throat? I think the term for this sensation is ‘free fall’. We’re there.” (NOTE: This is an awesome article! Please read it, and pass it along to your friends and loved ones.)

Photo: kristiewells/Flickr.com

Photo: kristiewells/Flickr.com

So, what do we do now?

Because I’m no expert, I’m going to, again, defer to Dr. Rich’s article and highlight just a few of her thoughts I thought were on point (Again, please, please do yourself a favor by reading the article in its entirety. This blog entry doesn’t come close to doing it justice). Dr. Rich says:

“We’re confronting change on a scale that is beyond anything we’ve ever learned to comprehend, much less believe in… The key is not to try to hold on to what was, but to learn how to fly with what is. Get used to being uncomfortable. And then re-invent yourself. There will be people who will learn to thrive in the difficult times ahead. Why not you?

“The only way out is through. Being a human being on planet Earth in 2009 is not for the feint of heart!

“If you’ve always identified yourself as the work you do or where you live or the size of your bank balance and those things are suddenly ripped away, who are you now? Here’s an opportunity to reframe who you are and how you see yourself.

“Don’t be afraid to fail. If you don’t have at least one failure under your belt, it means you’ve played too small, stayed too comfortable and never dared to color outside the lines. Now’s a great time to get your feet wet! We’re all out here searching for new ways to navigate this slippery terrain together.”

  1. Boo hoo waa waa WAAAAH! Obviously you don’t really do your homework or check stats do you. Since I am a statistical analyst, I do. So people lose their jobs after committing their lives to ONE employer/employment type. Ever heard of not putting all your eggs in one basket? So do you really think this is the worst recession?? Hardly. I am in my 60s and easily recall the aerospace collapse of the 70s, in a time when home mortgages (in California) were at the 16-18% rate. So did all those displaced aerospace engineers die of starvation or kill themselves? No. They MOVED ON. LIFE IS A STRUGGLE THEN YOU DIE. That’s the reality. Furthermore, everything goes in cycles, generally prime-number timeframe cycles. The upturn that came in the Clintslime’s presidency started in the PREVIOUS presidency. The downturn that started to appear in George Bush’s presidency STARTED in the Clintslime’s, etc. etc. etc. If someone loses their job, it is as much a time of celebration as it is a time of mourning. One NEVER learns anything of value in the ‘good days’ except to enjoy them while you can ’cause they won’t last. Life is a learning journey, nothing more or less. If one gets a new home mortgage on Monday then loses their job on Wednesday, oh well. No one makes it out of this life ALIVE. Learn to LOVE the journey, pitfalls and all.
    As for ME, I’m in my 60s now and I get at LEAST one new firm job offer a month, and multiple “are you available for work?” inquiries every week. Why? BECAUSE I KNOW NOT TO TRUST an employer or job role. I spend a lot of time learning new ‘stuff’ and then writing / teaching the new stuff. Thus I have a reputation in the industry that is very favorable for work. Do I need the work? Hell no! I haven’t had to work since I was 27, yup, 35 years now. I live WAAAAAY below my means, too. I get to eat at a restaurant, once a month but only if I FEEL like it. I don’t subscribe to tv (who’d pay to watch tv? It’s only cr*pola anyway), I don’t pay for internet access either. I drive a 9 year old GMC truck that I paid cash for, and I keep a separate savings account for ‘truck repair/replacement’. When I get tired of this truck (maybe in 10-15 years) I ‘might’ get another one. I don’t eat garbage food (no white bread, no sugar, no soda, no food with ingredients that are chemicals, I work out every day too. So my three adopted children are long grown and living married lives now, but did I put any of them through college (which I could easily have afford to?) NO, I did NOT. Instead, I taught each of them the key precepts they need to know to survive in this world:
    Worship and fear the Lord thy God (and I don’t mean the false god — allah)
    Tithe to the Church
    Let INTEGRITY be the driving force behind your life,
    Value self-discipline’s role to financial/cultural success and the value of a sense of accomplishment
    Stand in the Gap to protect this Country and its weaker people,
    Learn how to use, practice its use, and carry a loaded gun at all times (particularly if you are on or near an MLK Blvd.)
    Help weaker people to stand on their own feet, but do not EVER ‘enable’ people.
    NEVER STOP LEARNING, SHARING YOUR KNOWLEDGE, and PRAISING GOD for everything He has given you, everything He has taken away from you, and everything He has left you.
    Don’t be a waaa waaaaa waaaaaaH cry baby, but deal with life on your own terms.
    Accept help when it is offered if you actually need it, and be grateful for the chance to help someone else realize their raison d’etre.
    Pray continually.

  2. P.S, Ever heard of the Dahon Bicycle? Well, David Hon, an aerospace engineer who lost his job with Hughes in the economic downturn of the mid-late 70s, started that company. His younger brother, Henry, who was a missionary and minister, worked as his ‘sales / pr’ ‘staff’ in those early, harsh days of design/prototyping/mfr and mushing around to meetings with Sears, etc. etc. It took many years, but finally in the 80s, the Dahon Folding Bike was beginning to sell. Now, David Hon’s company has several new branches (the Yeah! for one). If you go to dahon.com, you’ll see a lot of bikes, and you will note that there are many global mfr’g facilities for those bikes now. The Hon’s are multi-millionaires now, and why? BECAUSE DAVID LOST IS JOB IN AN ECONOMIC DOWNTURN and did not shoot himself in the head, but said NOW IS THE TIME AND TODAY IS THE DAY. JUST DO IT. HE DID.

  3. P.P.S. Saying that one shouldn’t go anywhere near MLK BLVD is not being a racist. Who made that blvd. unsafe? White people?? You know the truth! Who is committing genocide of black people in this country… OTHER BLACK PEOPLE.
    If you don’t like the n-word, STOP USING IT orrrrr…. use it MORE and thus dilute its value as a word of denigration. You want something out of life, stop feeling ‘entitled’ to it (welfare does that, so does ‘equal rights’… the only ‘equal rights’ needed in the USA (also in the WORLD) is EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN. But you know what? Women KNOW they are the superior half of the human race, so when they want something, if they aren’t young and still in their ‘stupid phase’, they go out and GET IT. I DID and DO. BUHBYE, I’ve had my say and I’m writing a new book right now, so back to that.

  4. @Tante: While you’ve made a number of good points, your sarcastic undertone and racist remarks make me question (among other things) your motives for posting your comments. Rather than addressing them head on and sparking what will, undoubtedly, become a comment-ping-pong-match (I can tell you have a lot of time on your hands), I’ll just wish you continued success in your life and career. And, pray that you… NEVER find yourself in the same place as the current 31 million Americans suffering through this recession… or on or near an MLK Blvd.

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