Sunday, January 14, 2007

History Lesson

I think my trainer Willow understood that I would prefer to ride Angel if it was at all possible, even though we didn’t discuss this after my fall. Yesterday when I got to the barn early and she told me to tack up Angel when I was ready because she was going to need to be longed, I broke into a mile-wide smile. My friend who introduced me to the farm was riding her thoroughbred and I sat and drank my coffee and watched her ride, soaking up as much as I could before I put on my half-chaps and gloves (it’s been record-breakingly chilly here this week) to tack up. Most of the water pipes at the barn were frozen and a couple had burst so everyone was working on a bucket brigade to get water to all the horses. I told you it was cold!

My friend watched my lesson so I was feeling a little pressure to ride well, but felt no trepidation, no concerns, no fear. Even after a long warm-up Angel was still very forward and it was such a joy to have my commands reacted to and to concentrate on my technique. We also talked about leasing her in the spring, so I’m very happy with how things are going.

My work situation is changing and that’s causing me some anxiety (I’ve got to have something to worry about, don’t I?). When I signed up with the financial consulting company in April I elected to be an hourly employee because I didn’t know how many hours I was going to be logging and wanted to continue with the freedom and equality of being paid for the hours I work, which has been the case since February 2003 when I became a consultant.

I have a terrible track record when it comes to the companies I’ve worked for, my friends call me Typhoid Mary because most of them don’t exist anymore. This moniker makes me smile and grimace simultaneously, using my mother’s name in this way.

I’ve recapped this before but I think it bears repeating. In the spring of 1999 the company I worked for, a very famous internet pioneer, was acquired by an internet imposter company I still revile today. After that painful layoff, severance settlement in hand, I decided to try consulting and signed up with an agency that specialized in stock plan administration. After a few days at my first assignment that company offered me a full-time job and I accepted, still unsure and scared of what being a consultant would mean. That turned out to be a very bad decision. By the spring of 2000 I was again laid off and that company died a very slow, painful death. One of my good friends offered me a job helping her at another former high-flyer on the stock market, but by October 2001 she was forced to lay me off in the second “reduction in force” in less than a year. God, I hate that term! Silicon Valley, RIF this.

Within a month I got a job at a nice little software company and things were going along fine until – you guessed it – in May 2002 it was announced that a very large software company was acquiring us. I worked very hard on the conversion of our stock into theirs and by September 2002 had successfully worked myself out of a job, again.

By this time we were embroiled in infertility treatments and things weren’t going well on that front. I left a week earlier than my settlement required because I just could not handle working any longer. Right after the acquisition announcement I started having panic attacks and suffered through the next four months mostly in silence, feeling alone and out of control.

I literally spent the three months after leaving in a prone position, either on the couch or in bed, alternatively nauseous or crying. D convinced me to find a therapist, something I did not want to do, having gone through 4+ years of group therapy in the late 90’s, but I was so debilitated and exhausted I knew I couldn’t get out of this alone.

It became clear after just a couple of sessions that there were a couple of forces at work. The fairly obvious one was my feeling like there was something inherently wrong with me; that I was, in fact, somehow causing these companies to fail by my very presence on their payroll. The infertility was another, deeper layer of failure. All the while my mother’s voice was there in my head, backing up these feelings with the words of disdain and dire predictions I’d heard all my life. I nearly screamed at my doctor, “NO! This cannot be about HER, AGAIN.”

Ahem. Anyway, after many sessions, a Christmas I can’t remember and a very painful six-week adjustment to the Little Blue Pills, I was starting to feel better. I could even drive again without feeling like I was going to have a heart attack and cause a hundred car chain-reaction accident on the freeway.

In February of 2003 my boss at Large Software Company (LSC) called to ask if I could help them out on a consulting basis, and I’ve been there ever since. My boss there is the reason I said earlier that I suffered mostly in silence, she was so kind to me through all kinds of erratic behavior: crying jags, coming in late and leaving early, not eating during the day for days on end…she always had my back, but I was still surprised when she called me to work for her again after five months, I thought for sure she thought I was certifiable.

My point in this long explanation is this: my work at LSC has dwindled to almost nothing in the past year, and the new consulting company has been pushing me to roll over to salary. Last week I met with management there and we are in negotiations to do just that, which will mean giving up my LSC as an independent consultant client. I’ve already told my boss there and, of course, she has been gracious and supportive. I know this is a positive move and I’ve become a luxury item to LSC, but the emotional bond between me and her is a strong one, and I already miss her.

My negotiations to roll over to salary include a 32-hour work week, two people under me and a lot of control over the kind of work I take on. I’m very lucky. I won’t forget my boss or her kindness.


  1. Those lay-offs are tough. It certainly is wonderful that you found your way back. I'm really proud of you.
    I got laid off in Oct. 2001, also. Quite the blow to the ego, even when it wasn't due to my poor work.
    Leasing Angel is such a wonderful solution. I rarely ride a strange horse without first seeing how he goes. When the teamwork is mutual it's what makes horsemanship so much fun!

  2. God layoffs truly are the worst. WORST. You sound like you have not only bounced back, you have a good solution, the memory of a fantastic boss, and a lot of support.

    Also, on the control of your work, and how you have it now? Bitch (and I mean that in a good way).

    *seethes with envy*

  3. the formatting on your blog is beautiful! Wish I had that much understanding of computers.
    I hope it works out that you can lease Angel. It sounds like you are a good fit. It's so much more fun and rewarding to be riding a horse you click with.

  4. I'm so glad the return to saddle went well.

    My best thoughts are with you as you transition. Even through your work there was mostly finished, you will still feel the loss.

  5. Ah, mi madre. Would that I could shake her, but that seems elusive…

    Funny, just tonight laying in my insomnia, yet another childhood memory or her squashing me emotionally floated up from out of nowhere. This time she was belittling all the time I spent doing musical theater as a girl. I was going over my scrapbook and she made a comment about ‘all that time you spent, and for what? A piece of paper in a scrapbook…?” Fortunately, I also remember telling her that I had far more than a piece of paper, that the piece of paper was nothing compared to all the lovely memories in my head.

    I look at your ilfe, Donna, what I know of it, in awe. I don’t see how you could ever call yourself a failure (although I understand where that comes from.) But I assure you you are not. You are not a victim. You are leading a wonderful, albeit at times difficult, life. You are real. You are human. You are conscious. That is success, and that is what you’ll be thinking about in your rocking chair. Probably a bit about horses too, I would imagine.

    Love how you say ‘Angel was very forward…’ you’re sounding like the real deal, sistah!

    Trot on!

  6. Hi Donna, So glad you faced your demon and found that in the end, you got on on the back of an Angel! Facing insecurity is what life is about, isnt it? The unknown. The new job, the worry about outcomes, the need to do it all and have all the things on the list checked off... Honey, you are doing just great and my hat's off to you! Thank you so much for your comment on my site. I live on SSI, wish I had a photo of where I work, but I dont. Suffice it to say, it is a good thing, for now, and I am grateful to be there. Sometimes people say things like (During the Christmas rush, or recently, whilst dealing with a few difficult transactions/and/or customers) "I bet you'll be glad to be home" Or "It's almost quiting time.." The implication being that I'll be happy to be quit of the job for the day, and it always comes as a surprise, because I realise that it hasnt occurred to me once during the day that I want to have the working day end, mainly because I just so love people. This is new. I uszed to be an avid people hater. But things have changed and now I just truly love them...all of them. (mostly.Would be more satisfied to be in my studio 10 hours of the day, doing art, of course, but have demons of my own to wrestle with, which is a whole nother comment, nevermind post! Meanwhile, am being domestic and occupied with 4 dogs and two cats, and one very good man. The rest will come, in time. So love your blog, dear! Look forward to reading and hearing more from you! :) Thank you! Love, C. xoxox

  7. Thank goodness for people like your boss, the world needs a few more like that. Are you now excited about this new opportunity?