Finding a Port in the Storm

“This is a story all about how
My life got flipped turned upside-down…”
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

10 years ago, my world felt upside-down. I had just left my ex-husband and moved back in with my grandparents. I was struggling to catch up on car payments, in order to try and keep my car, which was at risk from my ex taking the car payment I gave him to handle, and using it as his “paycheck” for the jobs he lied about having. I hated myself for getting a divorce, because I had sworn my entire life that I didn’t want to have to go through that. Everything felt as though it was in shambles, and I had very few things anchoring me. The “stable” areas of my life were my cat, Kitty, my grandparents (an anchor for me throughout my life) and work. I was just hitting 1 year at the company, which was growing and moving into new, bigger buildings. Things were looking up.

What goes up, must come down. Image by Matt Duncan on

Since then, mostly over the past 5 years, things have again flipped upside-down. While I was pregnant with my son, Kitty (who had stayed with my grandparents when I got married) ended up with pancreatitis, and we ended up deciding to put her to sleep. I held her as she died. At the same time, Grams’s battle with Alzheimer’s became more pronounced. That summer, it was also announced that the company I was working for was being acquired by a larger competitor.

Three years ago, we lost Grams to Alzheimer’s. Work was relatively stable, at least for me, but a lot of the people I really liked working with had left. Most of the policies and corporate culture were nearly unrecognizable from how it was when I started. I was advancing, though, and appreciating the stability as I started going through the grief of losing Grams, who was like a mom for me when mom needed backup.

Auntie Barbara
My Grams. Photo Credit: William Ing, Hawaii Tribune Herald.

About 2 years ago, it was announced that they were subleasing the smaller of the 2 buildings, and they started moving everyone over to the building that we were keeping. Desks got smaller, departments got moved around, and it got way harder to book a meeting room (as we lost several in the transition).

A year and a half ago, work announced they were looking at “strategic options” for the brand I work on, which included possibly selling the brand. A sale nearly closed near the end of last year, but then they backed out and instead started reviewing “strategic options” for the entire enterprise. Last summer, a major wave of layoffs happened over a 2 day period.

About a year ago, we lost Gramps. Work was more stressful, and I started feeling more and more drained. We were repeatedly asked to do more with less, to take on more tasks with the same amount of time and sometimes fewer resources. It wasn’t the same as it was when I started, not by a long shot, but there were still familiar faces, still familiar chords and ghosts of continuity. My mental and emotional health started getting even rougher, the anxiety and depression were louder in my head, much of which I’ve detailed in my latest, though sporadic, entries. This all led to taking a couple of months off to find balance again earlier this year.

As time went by, we were expected to do more and more with fewer resources. Image by Jordan Whitfield on

While I was on leave, working on my mental and emotional health, and going through my IOP, it was announced that the company I worked for was filing for Chapter 11. They did another round of layoffs, with one group of people leaving that day, another 30 days later, another 60 days later, and the last group 90 days out. I found out some of the news from a text from a co-worker, and some from social media. The customer service department I started in was being eliminated in my location entirely. I was heartbroken, and simultaneously very glad that I was on leave. I didn’t want to go through the heartache of witnessing all those layoffs again.

Two and a half weeks after I came back to work from leave, the purchase of the brand I work for finalized, and the company employing me transitioned for the 2nd time in 5 years. Everything moved very quickly, and in addition to catching up on where things were at from when I was gone, an entirely new pile of challenges and urgent needs were also hitting my desk.

This past Wednesday, the vast majority of people who work in my building, aside from those who transitioned with me, ended their employment. As I walked around, and looked out the window at what used to be our second building, I couldn’t help but see the ghosts of what was, 10 years ago, when we moved into the buildings. Like a scene from a movie, I could see, in my minds eye, the new, shiny, full of hope work areas and facilities as they were when we toured during the move-in, and then the reality of how things are today – empty carts that once held samples, dented and dingy fridges, stained cubicles, scuffed floors, empty work areas and padding in the elevator so it isn’t damaged as they start taking out furniture. Even though it’s “just work” it’s also been a constant for me over the past 11 years, and was a source of stability during one of the most tumultuous times in my life so far. Now, the scales have shifted, and work is tumultuous and feels flipped upside-down.

The office has been becoming more and more empty as time goes by. Image by Daniel Tuttle from flickr

Honestly, there are a number of people that I did not say goodbye to when they left, not in person. One had been with the company longer than me. A couple had become good friends. I’d been saying goodbyes to so many of my friends and co-workers since I got back. I didn’t know if I could really handle all the emotions of saying goodbye to everyone.

I’m still sorting out a lot of my thoughts and feelings about all of this transition. On one hand, there is hope and the promise of a new phase, new opportunity with the company that acquired us. We’ll be moving to a new, smaller office in a couple of weeks. At first, I wasn’t completely sure how I felt about the move, but, as the week has gone on, I can’t wait. I cannot wait to be out of the building we’re in right now. This whole situation has felt like a very ugly divorce, and I just want it to be over.

I realized earlier this week that I’ve been ignoring/suppressing my feelings about all of this work stuff for the past few weeks; I’ve been able to feel it in my body, building up and increasing my anxiety. So, I started to let it out. I spent a majority of my therapy session Wednesday just sitting with my feelings, crying, letting the hurt come out. A defensive wave of anger kept trying to take over, and my therapist encouraged me to acknowledge it, but encouraged me to feel safe enough to focus on feeling the hurt, and I did. My contacts felt dried out from all the tears for a couple hours afterwards, and that’s OK. Tears are OK. Feelings are OK. Vulnerable can be OK.

Progress isn’t linear.

How do you handle transitions that feel overwhelming and life-altering?

One thought on “Finding a Port in the Storm

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