My mother is about to lose her job. For the past forty years, she has devoted herself to running the technical side of her father’s company. Last September, when my grandfather passed away, he left ownership of his company to his wife, who, two months after his funeral, pulled the plug. Everybody out. Consequently, for the first time in four decades, my mother is stepping from the walls of her office into the Great Unknown.
Most people don’t like the Unknown. We are creatures of habit, and to build a habit, we need certainty that we can carry on as we have always done. The Universe doesn’t condone the idea of certainty; it inhibits growth.
So naturally, when the story broke of the company’s liquidation, the quest for new certainty began, but not on her part. All the questions came from friends, immediate family, and business associates. Where will you go? What will you do? What does this upheaval mean for you? Mom replied, “I don’t know. I need some time to breathe first.”
Singer-songwriter, Harold Payne, often says in his TED and Contagious Optimism LIVE talks, that before stepping into the unknown, it’s critical to “take a moment, take a breath, and take a step.” For my mother, that means taking the time to undo decades of conditioning. The nightly ritual of working on her laptop from dinner until bedtime is kaput. She can take a vacation without worrying that she’s going to get a call about the computer system shutting down. The way she lives her life is about to change.
Transitions like this can be scary, but when the chaos settles, all that remains is a world of unlimited possibility. My mother has received at least four job offers in the last two weeks. She also has the option, at her (tactfully unspecified) age, to take six months completely off to think, get centered, and even dream. Until now, one job had taken up most of her life, and now that it is going away, she now has room to consider another job, maybe a dream job, that is more fulfilling and even fun. Nighttime laptop sessions may become nighttime piano sessions. With chaos comes a sense of serenity that is wholly unknown in more mundane times.
This “catastrophe” may be the best thing that has happened to her in years, and the same could be said of any catastrophe, given a certain point of view. Thoughts of the Unknown can stir up dust, and many people get caught in the cloud. All dust settles, though, and if you’re still breathing when it does, you’ll be able to see farther than you imagined. After forty years, my mother is staring at the dust cloud, and I’m confident she’ll find the view after it settles to be spectacular.