Tuesday, September 16, 2008


In the last couple of days I have run into two people from my old job. I left the job a year ago, and until now I'd never met anyone from there by chance, there are just a couple of people I've kept in touch with deliberately. Talking with these two has reminded me how incredibly blessed I am to have been lifted out of that environment. One man came in late to church on Sunday and sat next to me. He had come to the Abbey because the newest postulant is a friend of his. He didn't recognize me -- we worked in different departments. We talked ... he told me things are awful there, extremely stressful, people feel as if upper management does not have any strategic vision or direction for the organization, they are expected to work much longer hours than they used to, supervisory relationships are poorly defined causing stress to both managers and line staff. Ugh ... the atmosphere when I left was terribly stressful. The restructuring was very badly managed, announced and then drawn out and studied for too long with everyone waiting for that shoe to drop, and then suddenly implemented all in a rush, no sequencing of the changes, no change management.

Yesterday as I walked around the lake I met another ex colleague, a guy who works in building facilities. His job hasn't been affected so much by the reorganization, other than the short-term crisis when everyone in the place had to move to new offices on the same day. But he told me that a dear colleague had been on a medical leave of absence since shortly after I left ... something stress-related, he thought. That's a shock -- she's a young woman, always seemed healthy -- well, certainly no more immune to the stress of the place than anyone else, but that's a long time to be on leave. I am going to look her up and try to get in touch.

I'd hated that job for years and years, long before the new president took over. I hated that job. But I felt so trapped. Stress does terrible things to a person. It paralyzed me, made me incapable of taking the steps I needed to take to clear my debts, save money, reduce expenses, and step out of the golden cage. That's what we called it, a golden cage. Generous pay and benefits, generous retirement, and ... somehow more than that. It was insulated, somehow. Jobs were very secure, it was very hard to be fired. Of course, for the international employees here at HQ, there was also the visa issue ... they couldn't just leave and take a job anywhere else, the visa was only valid to work in international organizations, and meanwhile they had houses, and spouses with jobs here, and kids in school. I could not even imagine leaving the corporate lifestyle, the conventional urban-office-slave way of life ... one of the reasons I never tried to leave is because I didn't know where to go. I had an e-mail subscription to Dilbert, to remind me that any other job would be just as bad. And it would have been just as bad in any other job of that kind.

I was so unhappy in that job, for so many years, yet I couldn't take the step to leave it. It was purely a gift from God ... the buyout offer that gave me the financial cushion, and at the same time discovering the Abbey of Regina Laudis, a secure and attractive goal that gave me the courage to leave the secure cage. I paid my debts with the buyout payment, all except for the mortgage on my house, and I am still (for one more year) depending partly on the residual income. I will have a small pension and, more importantly, health insurance starting at age 55. But still, a year ago, the prospect of making it on my own until 55 was terrifying. But once I was out of that miserable environment, it was only a matter of months before I found the peace and faith to let go of the security of a future in the convent.

Everything has changed since I left! I am so peaceful.... I know that my income is less than my expenses, today, and I am gradually depleting the last of the lump-sum payment I received from my contract. I'm not stressed out about it, though. This is all a process. I have given myself, my life, to God. I have invited God to transform me however He will. He is changing me, sure enough, and life just keeps getting better and better. The money, balancing books, will come in time. I am sure that learning to manage my income and expenses, peacefully and confidently, is one of the lessons to come. For now, I am learning to make my bed every morning, and gradually keep a cleaner and neater home; to spend time every day praying and contemplating; to spend less by wasting less (food!); the importance of walking by the lake as often as possible; and how to play the piano...... I am discovering my self, and my God, and the world around me that I was too stressed to see before. Life is amazingly good now. I am humbled, because I didn't make this happen, not in any way. I did not set myself a goal and take steps to get free of that miserable lifestyle. God just lifted me up, all of a sudden one day, at no particular time, just ... the right time, I guess, in His scheme of things. Just lifted me up and set me down in a new, sweet place. I will never, ever go back -- God willing!!

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