In 1995 Sarah Ban Breathnach rose to fame, fortune and the New York Times Best Seller List with her book, Simple Abundance. She earned millions of dollars criss-crossing the country, signing books and making appearances, including one on Oprah. Referred to by some as “the spiritual Martha Stewart,” Breathnach’s message was SIMPLE: all we have is all we need.

As fate would have it, within a few years she toppled from fortune through a series of poor business decisions, an accident, an atrocious marriage and an impulsive purchase of Sir Issac Newton’s chapel in London (the perfect place to write). Ultimately, she lost her job, her insurance, her spouse, her home. Totally depleted she was forced to redefine and restart her life. Her story through this journey is outlined in her newest book, Peace and Plenty.

Much of my time with clients these days is spent helping those who have suffered job loss. This particular chapter in Peace and Plenty is worth sharing for all who suffer loss of any kind. It’s proof that life does go on and you CAN begin again.

On Losing Your Job
By Sarah Ban Breathnach

If we put the death of a loved one to one side, there aren’t many occurrences that can rattle us like the loss of a job. In one fell swoop, we lose our sense of security, our livelihood, and our self-esteem. Even if you’ve hated your job for years (and if that’s the case, then you’re not the only one, who’s known about it), the pink slip triggers shock, fear, and uncertainty.

Perhaps you thought you were at the top of your game, but then on the day after Labor Day, you arrive at your office and find out that the company is divided into two groups – Group A will be meeting in the Penthouse Conference Room in fifteen minutes. Group B, report to the cafeteria. The CEO and CFO draw straws. Next they toss a coin. Heads it’s A. Tails it’s B. The CFO heads to the cafeteria; the buck-stops-here man heads to the Penthouse Conference Room where some of his best and brightest are gathered. You’re among them.

There’s a long sigh. He rubs his eyes with his hands and shakes his head. “I’m sorry,” he says and he really is. Some of you have been with him for fifteen years, from the start-up days in a loft. “This isn’t about performance. It’s about money. We’ve run out. We can’t keep the buzzards at bay any longer, and we can’t keep you. There’s two weeks’ severance, but please clean out your desks in the next hour.” Later as the wildfire of gossip sweeps through the corridors, bathrooms, pavement, you’ll hear that it really wasn’t about performance. It was the luck of the draw. Everyone in the cafeteria has kept their job. For now.
If you’ve just lost your job, I am so sorry for your pain. I’ve lost two that hurt; one because I really needed it and the other because it was my first bylined newspaper gig. However, they both led to better opportunities and brighter days. Still, I know the sharp visceral blow that accompanies the pink slip. I also know how difficult it is right now to even think of the concept of ‘reinventing’ yourself. But when you can step back from the drama for a moment, taking stock of that pitiful brown box you carried out holding all your worldly work possessions is a good place to start.

You probably have a calendar in there. Take it out and count the days, the hours, and the minutes you contributed to your employer’s bottom line, including the time it took you to commute, the unpaid or paid overtime, the mandatory meetings or ‘parties.” This may take awhile, so make yourself comfortable and use a calculator. Now take all the time that you have actually expended in the pursuit of your employer’s wealth and look at what you got in return. When you compute your hourly wage against the real time you committed to your job, you’ll be surprised at the real cost to you.

Now turn to your box. What was really important enough to take out of the office with you? Maybe you have a picture of your loved ones, a drawing by a preschool admirer, your favorite fountain pen, a coffee mug that reminds you of a great vacation. Do you have books you purchased that inspire you? As you take inventory of the important things in your life, the ones that bring you peace and plenty, most likely you won’t find anything of importance from your employer. You won’t need that nameplate anymore, either, unless it states, as it should, QUEEN OF ALL SHE SURVEYS!

You see, a job, unless it is your calling, your sacred work in the world, is a means to an end. The end is not your identity, it is not your security, it is not your life. It is only one of many vehicles of transportation to get you where you’re headed out of thousands available to you. Think of all the end-of-the-world disaster movie scenes where people are fleeing the city. A pickup truck is handier than that stretch limo. Pull back for a wide-angle shot of your life and see where you actually want to be headed.

There are some occasions in life when the Universe gives us the opportunity to revisit how we are spending the most precious commodity we have of all: our time. If we are not spending the majority of it doing what we love and being with people we love, we’re going to get a wake-up call that we can’t ignore. If you are one of the few who lost a job you really enjoyed, then you probably have outgrown the position with your former employer. You’ve been given the chance to spread your wings a little wider and this time, you’ll seek out an employer that has a mission and an attitude toward its employees that you can align with. If you were lucky enough to be relieved of duty at a job you didn’t love, congratulations, you now have the cosmic space and Divine Blessing to do what you really love, or at least explore all the options.

See this shock of job loss for what it really is: a reminder from the Universe that the most important things in life are carried in our hearts and represented in the little box you just took from your former office – not in the office itself.

‘Work is a world apart from jobs,” Alice Koller writes in The Stations of Solitude. “Work is the way you occupy your mind and hand and eye and whole body when they’re informed by your imagination and wit, by your keenest perceptions, by your most profound perceptions on everything you’ve read and seen and heard and been a part of. You may or may not be paid to do your work.”

Oh yes, you will be, eventually, because this time you’re going to start doing what you love. When you give to the world with all your heart, money is the energy the world pays back to you. That’s just how it works. Of course, learning how to handle all the abundance with your name on it isn’t simple, but that’s why I’m here now. We’ll take it one cup of tea at a time.

~From the desk of Becky Morlok~

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