Tuesday, December 21, 2010

After Darkness...LIGHT

Garden of Reflection 9/11 Memorial
Yardley, Pennsylvania
It has been a difficult time for me in the last few months.  I’ll spare you most of the details—pretty personal stuff—but it all began, or seemed to have begun in September, when the job I had started six months before suddenly came to an end. The company’s financial partner severed the relationship, and I was among the first to be let go.

So I was on “Square One” again, back to the proverbial drawing board.  But, I really didn’t feel very much like "drawing."  The previous six-month period of job hunting had proved to be a huge challenge and I wasn't ready to dive into the "deep end" again so soon.  And then all sorts of other bad things began to happen in rapid succession. I have to tell you that with everything seemingly piling up on top of me, I began to understand for the first time in my life why some people think about suicide when things feel just so hopeless. (Not to worry; it was only a glimpse of the deep dark side, not a journey there.)

[Edvard Munch: The Scream (1893)]

So a lot of bad things were happening, one after the other, and most were things over which I had no control and which had no solution for me. One night, I just began to scream and found that I couldn’t stop until my voice gave out. Then I sat and sobbed until exhaustion took over.

But in the light of morning, I got up, trudged to my home office, and stared at my computer. I don’t know how it got onto my screen during the night, but early that fated morning, my most recent blog post was staring up at me in from my computer screen as I wiped the sleep from my bleary eyes. I was looking at the wonderful face of the late (and great) Randy Pausch, and below it was my favorite of his many original quotations:

”Don't bail; the best pieces of gold are at the bottom of the barrel of crap.”

Well, I can tell you what the inside of that barrel looks like. Really ugly—Seriously ugly! And I’m pretty tired of digging through it to find that elusive bottom.

Not quite the Bottom of the Barrel
Part of  a hoarder's "Workshop" 

I don’t have a new job yet, though I’m on the short list for a very nice one! But there is no such thing as a “Sure Thing” so I also have a “Plan B” ready to activate if things don't work out.

But here’s a new story of Silver Linings that I can share with you, and I hope it brings a smile to your face, a twinkle to your eye, and a big dose of HOPE to your heart.

"Angels" Float
Christmas Parade, Newtown, Pennsylvania 2010
 As I mentioned above, my life has been a calamity lately. We’re trying to prepare our house to go on the market in early Spring. It’s a LOT of work because it’s an old house, and there are lots of little things and some BIG things that need doing before we’re ready. And LOTS of accumulated stuff needs to go through the “decluttering” process, but that’s another long story for another day. Smack dab in the middle of all the work and the marital disagreements and misunderstandings that go along with the process, all of the electrical outlets in a bedroom and bathroom downstairs in the guest area went dead suddenly. No light. No juice, and no circuit breakers thrown. This was a huge potential problem because the house is too old to have a circuit map on file in the township so it was going to be a gigantic challenge to find the source of the problem.

Our House

My husband is a long-retired electrical engineer and I want to tell you that there was no way on God’s Green Earth that he was going to allow an electrician into the house.  He would lie awake every night for hours, planning the next day’s efforts to trace the circuitry to the bad connection that had caused the outage. And every day he would venture into the vast world of electricity (that I know absolutely zilch about) armed with myriad wires, tracers, and testers. All through this effort, my engineer kept telling me that he was “getting closer” to the solution.  But to me the whole episode just reminded me of Inspector Clouseau’s crazy antics. I probably should have had more faith in his abilities, but I was in the midst of a Negative period, remember?

Well, two days ago--almost three weeks into the project-- from the living room (upstairs), I heard him tinkering with his cables and testers in the hallway, near the front door. And then, a shout in his unmistakable Welsh accent, “I think I’ve got it!” And by George, he did have it! I still have no idea how he was able to trace an outage downstairs to a faulty outlet UPstairs, but he had somehow done it.  So he asked me hold his meter and to watch the readings as he probed with the end of his tester in an area of exposed metal in the outlet'  “What’s happening?” he implored. “The numbers are going down, down, down…to zero,” I responded, having no idea what it all meant! “That’s IT!” he practically yelled! “I just have to tighten up this screw and we’ll be done!” (Notice his use of the colloquial “we.”)

As he tightened the screw I stood at the top of the stairs, peering down and only half hoping to see “the light” come on inside the bathroom. And, dear readers, the light DID come on! Of course it did! Had you the slightest bit of doubt?  We both simultaneously broke out in laughter, celebrating in almost utter disbelief that the long siege had finally come to an end.

Enter: "The Light"
[The Dome at Liberty Place, Center City Philadelphia]

You may find this a stretch, and a corny one at that, but…suddenly bright things began to happen:

• My eldest stepson called to say he had just been promoted to a GREAT new position at work. Wow!

• Later in the day, another stepson called. As a mortgage broker, he had seen really tough times ever since the start of the economic downturn, and things were getting pretty desperate for his family. But on this call, he was 'bubbling' with almost palpable exuberance. He had just been hired to do a new job, with a great salary, and the promise of a wonderful future. Double Wow!

• Yesterday a third stepson (there are five in all) phoned to say that he had just made top Salesman (for his company) in the U.S. He had also gone through tough times, so this was Triple Wow!

Well, I don’t know where the next “Wow” is coming from, but once the lights came back on, all sorts of overdue good news began to flow into our lives. I’m hopeful that this is just the beginning.

But I know one thing is true, as Randy Pausch knew all along:

”Don't bail; the best pieces of gold are at the bottom of the barrel of crap.”

I’m ready to see what is waiting around the next corner. Never give up! Not ever!

Around the Next Bend

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I'll end with a message that we all know but sometimes misplace when bad things begin to happen in our lives.  It comes from Jim Miotke, a young executive who, by all accounting has been highly successful in both his personal life and his career. It has to do with the way we make doors open for ourselves.  The poster below was created by Jim for his amazing online class called, "Customer Charisma."

Jim Miotke is CEO of the successful online Photography website, "BetterPhoto.com"

(Unless otherwise stated, all photography is by Michelle Alton)