Work was something I became accustomed to early in life. From about ten years of age, I worked. My first job was as a laborer in the tobacco fields of North Carolina. Though I earned only $3.00 for working from dawn until dusk, I loved the independence it gave me, the feelings of self-worth, the freedom to buy the clothes I wanted. I loved looking forward to lunch time, sitting under a shady oak tree relishing a fried baloney sandwich, an RC Cola, and a Moon Pie. I savored the conversations of the adults and the challenge of keeping pace with the stringer, handing the tobacco to her two leaves at a time. Even the big green tobacco worms provided excitement in an otherwise repetitious and monotonous task.
|As I grew up, each new job brought more value to my self-concept, until, finally, when I finished my education at the age of 42, I thought, Great, now life wont be so hard. At last, I could reap the harvest, not have to struggle so much and have a little control in my life. After all the sacrificesthe 60-hour-plus work weeks to get through graduate school, driving the same old Ford Maverick for 13 years, and the hardest sacrifice of all, providing insufficient support to my children I was jobless and broken. Nobody could have that much bad luck. It had to be me, something rotten to the core of my being that nobody wanted to have around.
After getting buried
in an avalanche of layoffs three different times, getting fired from one
job, and quitting another, my whole world caved in. Ironically, my responsibility
was to teach and advise others about improving organizational effectiveness.
Naively, I thought this protected me from being caught in the downsizing
trends picking up steam in the 80s. Every day I woke up so despondent
that I struggled just to get out of bed. I felt utterly betrayed and rejected.
Nearly every waking moment, I was preoccupied with blame and self-loathing.
My feelings of abandonment, my sense of powerlessness, consumed me.
Having recently remarried, for the first time in my life I did not have to work. My husband's salary was sufficient for our family. Yet, living my fantasy of just staying homenot having to deal with all the pressures of workingjust made me miserable. For all of my life, my identity was based on what I was able to do, not what I was able to be. Since I was my job, and now I no longer had one, I had nothing to fill a void so profound I didnt know where to start nor what to do.
Thank God I listened to the barely audible finer part of myself, beckoning me away from the distraction of desire for fame, power, recognition, and money. I embarked on a new journey to redefine who I was independent of my professional work. Stripped naked of any semblance of self-worth, I started peeling away the layers of my false identity, the false hero image I had manufactured for myself. I peeled the onion down to the tears, to the core of my true nature. Escaping to my secret garden, I weeded and waded through melancholic memories, reconciling losses of a lifetime so profound I could not face until then. Digging in the dirt of my life in my garden, I discovered the delicious and tangible glory of watching things grow.
My secret garden gave me back my softness, my gentleness, things for which there was little approval in the masculine world of business. Trained to deny my wholeness, it was there in my garden I learned I am no more my job than a garden is weeds. And neither are you. In the words of Margaret Young,
In our lifes chain of events, nothing is accidental. Its not what you do, but how you do it. God does not care if I am a gardener or an organizational development consultant. What is important is how I handle the trials. Adversity in the workplace can make us or break us. Its really up to us. In Mother Teresas words, "God does not demand that I be successful. God demands that I be faithful."
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