Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Releasing 2007

Instead of raucous partying, I normally spend New Year’s Eve at a quiet meditative “Alternative New Year’s Eve at the Labyrinth” (another interesting activity sponsored by my spiritual community, the UU Fellowship of Newark Delaware). The labyrinth is a form of walking meditation. Unlike a maze, there is one way in and one way out so there is no risk of getting lost. The labyrinth path circles round and back, goes one direction then the next until you arrive at the center. There you can stay as long as you want before winding your way back out.

When I walk the labyrinth, I walk inward thinking of a question or problem that I need to work on. When I get to the center, I sit in meditation for a while, trying to be open to the answers. As I walk out of the labyrinth, I try to figure out how to incorporate the answers into my life. It is a healing tool for me, an activity that makes me feel connected to universal wisdom yet reminds me to stop and listen to the still small voice within.

This year, however, I did not go to the New Year’s Eve Labyrinth because I was fatigued (no surprise). This was very disappointing and depressing until this morning when I realized that I had been walking the labyrinth for the last 24 hours.

In December 2007, I went on disability because my fatigue had gotten so bad that working became unbearably difficult. Even with ‘reasonable accommodations’ and flexible work hours and modifications to my work space, I was collapsing. Imploding. My entire life was devoted to doing whatever it took to ‘work.’ [living to work, not working to live] Personal life was sacrificed, interests outside of work were abandoned, friends were dropped, medications were downed followed by more medications to counteract the side effects of the first medications. I could barely get washed. Meals were nothing more than a can of Vienna sausages, and weekends were spent in bed. The simplest tasks at work became difficult, and I lost interest in adding value to the job. I had no energy to deal with change, multiple tasks, or tight deadlines, which is completely unacceptable for any job I have ever held. So I decided that I had to quit, give up, give in, declare defeat and go on disability. It was a very difficult decision to ask for disability benefits, especially since I once had high career aspirations and had always been so productive.

Unable to let go completely, though, I held on to my work laptop “just in case they needed me” and checked in periodically to ensure that my replacement was okay. But on this New Year’s Eve when I booted up and was going through my work stuff, I noticed that I was getting really upset and cranky, re-living all the angst and frustration that were constant when I was working. I would push through fatigue just to get a job done, and here I was experiencing all that pain again. It was then that I realized I have to let go if I am going to heal and move forward on a path of wellness and wholeness. I began ripping up work papers and cleaning up my e-mail inbox. I packed up my laptop for the last time.
It was a metaphorical walking into the labyrinth with a problem or a pain, getting to the center, finding an answer, and then walking back out with a plan to implement the resolution. I walked in feeling that I have failed, but walked out feeling that I have accepted.
PS. Ironically, just before I woke up this morning (New Year’s Day, 2008) I had a dream. I was packing up my desk in some office and putting everything into a backpack. I was trying to leave that office but the pack I was carrying was very heavy and I was really struggling to get out of the building and get to my car. It was so hard to move that pack. In the dream, the parking lot was huge and I had to walk a long distance and climb over some strange metal obstacle while my co-workers were already way ahead of me. In the dream, it was a struggle to leave, but when I woke up I remember feeling content about leaving. I have released 2007.


  1. Joan, thank you for sharing your thoughtful comments. After 35 years of working as a LVN (LPN in your neck of the woods)I have now been on disability, courtesy of MS, for the last 7 months. It was a very difficult decision to make but a necessary one, for all of the reasons you cited. I was using whatever energy I had to get to work and recover from that process.This is not how I "planned" my life but I've learned that flexibility of attitude is essential in coping with this disease. I am now less tired and, aside from the financial challenges, my quality of life is overall improved. I wish all the best to you in this new year!

  2. Hi Joan,
    I too had to bite the bullet and go on Disability in June 2007 after 30plus years in the medical field.

    The accommodations I asked for at my job were doable but they would not accommodate, so I filed a charge with the EEOC in December 2006. It is still open because the company is late in all the replies.

    Because I know I am right in my charge (and have been told so by many), I am relentless in pursuing "justice" from this company.

    I have been out of the work force since June 2007 that if they were to accommodate now and give me my job back, I don't think I'd be able to do it (with accom.)

    I know I have to let it all go, but I am not at that place yet. I am hopeful that 2008 will tie up alot of loose ends from my work career and just right the wrongs.

    I have resigned myself to the fact that I can no longer work, but I don't like it. Enough said about that!

    I am glad you can let things go and be at peace at this place in your life. I am hopeful that I will arrive where you are in the very near future.

    Thanks for your post....it provoked thought on my part.

  3. Joanie - I'm glad you included a picture of what the labyrinth looked like. I never fully understood it. I've heard others talk about it but my idea in my head was nothing like what it really is. Thanks!!!

  4. I know that it is difficult for you, but I am glad that all three of you have left your jobs. Now you can take the time to take better care of yourselves...sleeping, eating healthier foods & having time to live in the moment. Your jobs drained you of the energy needed to enjoy your lives. I hope you are better able to slow down & enjoy the richness & juciness of life!