When the Music Stops…

When we were children we played musical chairs; some poor kid went “out” every time a chair was removed, and the stress level was high. Kinda like one employee becoming downsized every time a position is removed, with the stress level high. Last Sunday’s NYTimes magazine had an excerpt from Dominique Browning’s Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas and Found Happiness, after the folding of House and Garden and her position as editor. A lot of it resonated.

Without work, who was I? I do not mean that my title defined me. What did define me was the simple act of working. The loss of my job triggered a cascade of self-doubt and depression. I felt like a failure. Not that the magazine had failed — that I had.

Then I gave myself another one of my hourly lectures. Buck up. Just because something failed doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Just because something has ended doesn’t mean it was all a mistake. Just because you’ve been rejected doesn’t mean you’re worthless and unlovable. Sound familiar? It should, if you or anyone you know has gone through a divorce. This felt like the same thing.

Slowly, slowly, the months go by, each one a variation transposing loss, loneliness and anger to gratitude and hope. I no longer dread the advent of another rosy dawn. As I stop struggling so with fear and simply accept the slow tempo of my days, all those inner resources start kicking in — those soul-saving habits of playfulness, most of all: reading, thinking, listening, feeling my body move through the world, noticing the small beauty in every single day. I watch the worms, watch the hawks, watch the fox, watch the rabbits. I open my heart to new friends. I settle into my new home; its healing balm has been there all along, nestled in a sofa that beckons me to pick up a book, hovering outside the window inviting me to take a walk. I find room in my life again for love of the world, let the quiet of solitary moments steal over me, give myself over to joy. What a surprise!

Now I haven’t spent my days in pajamas, as she had, but in T-shirts and jeans. An old NYTimes article, this on Helen Gurley Brown (author of Sex and the Single Girl and editor-in-chief of Cosmo) was Bad Girls, Good Sense: A Helen Gurley Brown Quiz. One question was:

Q. How you can economize on clothing (a working woman really can’t afford to burn bras)?
A. Wear no clothes when in your apartment alone.

I can’t run around my 68° house buck naked, but I’m not buying new T-shirts and jeans for home. My favorite T-shirts, with paint spots and holes, are: the Frank Lloyd Wright one my brother bought me when he was in Chicago and toured on of Wright’s houses (I don’t think of you too often, but I did think of you then), the T-shirt from the University of British Columbia where my son works (the shirt my daughter bought me from Emory when she studied there has, unfortunately, died), the Massimo T-shirt our German exchange student gave me 15 years ago, and one of the T-shirts from riding in the Tour de Tucson bicycle race, this one 14 years old (the others died). The newer T-shirts, three from donating blood, two from volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, I’m take to the Amazon because my friend says the villagers have nothing.

I still have a closet full of “work clothes” and high heels. They’ll sit there until they’re horribly out of date and then I’ll donate them. They’re not vintage enough for Buffalo Exchange. http://www.buffaloexchange.com/

I’ve had the quadruple whammy of depression, divorce, loss of job, and a move across country, but I’m smiling at the clouds building up in the sky, the quail meandering through my yard, and the thought of baking another loaf of chocolate bread. What a pleasant surprise.

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2 Responses to “When the Music Stops…”

  1. Claire Says:

    That hit home, Lynne.

  2. James Says:

    There are many interesting niches in life; when one is lost another can be created, better than the last.

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