Redundancy has proved to be a surprisingly positive experience in many ways.
Naturally, when a family’s wage-earner loses their job, feelings of financial insecurity and fears for the future crash like waves, one after the other, on to life’s shore – eroding that narrow and fragile coastline between our deep, inner lives and the surface of our day-to-day existence.
But it has also provided a wonderful opportunity to admire the rainbow of emotions that arise and pass away, arise and pass away. Among them are anger at being unappreciated after years of loyal and devoted service and hard work, depression and doubts about one’s abilities. There is also the grief at losing colleagues you’ve come to know and like after years of working, (sometimes) grumbling, (mostly) laughing and certainly growing together – getting to understand and appreciate the strengths and weaknesses that make each of us fascinating and lovable individuals. Confusion, too, about what to do next, like being lost in a wood with too many, or no obvious, paths ahead.
The most surprising emotion, however, was the exhilarating sense of freedom it brought, a wide horizon of possibilities opening up ahead – a rainbow bridge across a grey and tearful sky.
Indeed, it is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security, sleepwalking through life, when a well-worn path plods into the distance. It is often in moments of crisis that we wake up to what always was a dream and we see through the illusion of permanence. The looming threat of redundancy has certainly led to a great deal of soul-searching and a richer appreciation of life’s precious little wonders.
We’re coming up to Lughnasadh (pronounced loo-na-za) – also known as Lammas, or “Loaf Mass” – one of the year’s eight seasonal festivals and the start of the harvest time. On the calendar it is celebrated around August 1 but in the past it would have marked the cutting of the first corn and the baking of the first loaf of bread. In a time before supermarkets and preservatives, the harvest in this country was never taken for granted. It was celebrated as a sign that all the hard work of previous months was coming to fruition. Of course, Lammas marks the start of the harvest, not the end, so there is still a great deal of work to do to ensure all that effort does not wither in the fields.
The same can be said of our lives generally – and Lughnasadh reminds us that harvests come and go, and come again; whether in our relationships (with partners, family, friends, or co-workers), or careers, projects, or personal development and awakening.
And sometimes harvests fail. Sometimes our efforts go unrecognised, or are trampled by forces beyond our control. But, as Jesse Jackson said: “You can’t help being down, but you can help yourself get up.”
In fact, a failed harvest can be a blessing: maybe we’ve always grown wheat because we’ve always grown wheat, then we discover that actually we’ve always wanted to grow cabbages. And now we have an open field in which to do it. Or the harvest may not be what we expected: we planted carrots in our garden earlier this year and now have a fine crop of courgettes coming through. It’s not what we expected but they’ll do just fine.
Redundancy can open up new opportunities we never before had the time or incentive to explore.
But, ultimately, we are the harvest of our lives, our gift to the future – it is a harvest that does not grow from what we have but rather from how we have lived and who we have become.
That is the ripple in the pool we leave when our pebble finally drops.
Note: This was written around this time last year, shortly after I was made redundant