The Pause Between

“When God closes one door, He opens another.”

It’s 5 a.m. I’m wide awake, though I don’t need to be. For the first time in almost 30 years, I don’t have a job. 

Last month, my employer announced it would be making reductions in the workforce, and I knew, in the mental intersection of intuition and logic, that this time my job would be one of the many eliminated. They notified me last Tuesday. After 22 years with this organization, it’s over. Unlike colleagues whose exit from the company included a festive retirement party, I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to anyone. 

It’s kind of surreal. I had a month to prepare myself for this outcome, so when I was asked to report to the HR director, I wasn’t surprised. I actually think that was my first comment. The rest of the conversation is a blur. But now, sitting on my sofa in the dark with my sleepy dog Lacy beside me, instead of grief, fear or bitterness I feel a strange sense of disconnection. I’m not sure how to do this. 

Thankfully, this time is very different from other times I’ve found myself between jobs. At almost 58, I’m eligible to start my pension. I know how fortunate I am to have this safety net, although it’s nowhere near enough to live on. Still, I’m grateful for this measure of security while I figure out what comes next.

Press pause

“Mom, know what you need to do?” asked Jared, my youngest son. “Take two weeks off to do nothing. Just be aimless. You’ve never been able to take it easy, ever. You deserve it!”

Two weeks to be aimless? Practical, productive planner that I am, two hours doing nothing sometimes feel frivolous. But my husband Ret strongly encouraged me to take that two-week break. It turned out to be excellent advice.

The first week was fun. Who knew how pleasant the supermarket could be on a Wednesday morning? Scheduling a visit with my doctor, it occurred to me I didn’t have to request the last appointment of the day. I could go any time I wanted and avoid rush-hour traffic. The realization almost made me giddy. All at once I felt a heavy, ill-fitting coat slip off my shoulders and disappear. 

That’s when I made the radical decision to stop wearing a watch for the rest of the two weeks. What a luxury to actually have time and space, to stop cramming every waking moment with a thousand tasks just to keep my little world humming along on its orbit! 

The new reality

So that was Week 1. Week 2 has been a little more challenging. After navigating big, irrevocable decisions about my pension, it’s been a struggle to make less consequential ones, like what to fix for dinner. I don’t miss rushing out the door every morning for work, but I really miss my friends there, dear people who have been a part of my daily life for over 20 years. And when FedEx delivered the legal documents officially severing me from my company, the magnitude of the loss came crashing down.

I guess I really did need this pause, just to catch my breath. 

Third act dreams

What do I do now? My ever-active mind is bursting with ideas, most of them involving yoga. I’ve taught after-work yoga classes and stress management workshops at my company for years and years, and I’m feeling absolutely bereft without them now. Always a labor of love and a joyful hobby, my dream has been that when I retired from my corporate job, I would find a way to teach yoga full-time.

But where? Teaching in a yoga studio doesn’t feel like a good fit for me. My favorite students tend to be the ones who probably wouldn’t set foot in a studio because they believe they’re not flexible/strong/young/fit/healthy enough to do yoga. Guiding them in a slower-paced practice that fits their unique body has always been a kind of calling, especially now that I’m at an age where that’s what I need, too.

Could this be the right time for my dream?

Meditating in a tizzy

Sitting on my meditation bench has been a real challenge lately. I have lots of time to practice, but my monkey mind is in high gear, planning, thinking, worrying:

  • OMG, that was the last paycheck I’ll ever get! How will I pay my bills?
  • I am never going to work in a cubicle again! Time to get rid of that office wardrobe!
  • How do I find a place to teach yoga? Should I teach online? Look for private clients? Forget the whole thing and bag groceries instead?
  • Let’s do something fun today! What about the beach? Or the bookstore? Or a nap?
  • The windows need washing, and look at those giant dust bunnies! No excuses anymore – time to get up and clean this house!

When I find myself in this kind of tizzy, just about the only meditating I can manage is to sit relatively still and watch my breath flow in and out. It’s the first meditation technique I teach my students. When the mind wants to get stuck in the past or the future, you need something to anchor you in the here and now. The breath is an instant connection to the present moment – you can’t breathe next Tuesday’s breath today. There’s only this breath. Then the next one. And the next. One at a time.

Just breathe

Witnessing the breath, I’m focusing less on the inhalation and exhalation, and more on the little pause in between. It’s barely noticeable, just an instant, but it pulses with meaning. Inhale, and there’s a subtle pause at the top when the lungs are full and the body knows it’s time to let go. Exhale, and the pause at the bottom acknowledges the release of what the body no longer needs, ready for the promise of the next breath. It’s almost like the sweetness of dawn and dusk. What came before is past, what’s next has yet to arrive, and the peaceful energy suspended in those brief moments of transition is palpable. 

The next breath is coming. And so is another day. 

A new door opens

A couple days ago, I dropped off Lacy at the doggie salon and spent some time chatting with the owner and her sister. Naturally they wondered what I was doing there at 10:30 in the morning since I usually rush Lacy over for her bath during my lunch hour, hair on fire and no time for small talk.

I told them about my jobless state and my yoga idea. Twenty minutes later, I had a private client lined up! They asked me to bring them some business cards so they can tell other dog-loving clients about me. It’s a beginning.

All my life I’ve been told that when God closes one door, He opens another. And so far, it’s been true for me. Maybe it’s time to have faith and step through the next open door.