Posts Tagged ‘ life event ’

So, you think your life is “interesting?” Part 1

Last week I somehow found myself at Lisa Bonchek Adams’ website/blog. Sadly, I also discovered she had lost her struggle with cancer. I have started trying to digest what she shared; tho knowing where her journey took her makes her story anything but “light” reading. Compelling, yes; light, no.

By comparison – I have no known physical maladies – my life is a cakewalk. But of course, that could change tomorrow; or even be irreversibly changing as I type these words. Why wait for what insurance companies call a “life event”? Why wait to blog until after the writing mysteriously appears on the wall, for it most certainly will. Someday.

I hear the bell now.

I had a good job, a loving wife, a spiritual/religious life that was being enriched daily.

I found her rather late in life – a lot of water under my bridge. Apparently, I wasn’t ready for marriage/fatherhood when I had tried that vocation before. (As I am sure the daughter of my first marriage would eagerly attest to.)

Active in the Church in high school, I took a left turn at Albuquerque and wandered around in the wilderness for far too long. Thanks to Pope St John Paul II and Fr Jack, a Roman Catholic priest, I woke up and smelled the coffee.

Then, our daughter, who walked out the front door two years ago without so much as a good-bye (or good riddance), came back last fall. Pregnant.

In October, our prayers were answered and my wife got pregnant. I thought she was pretty buoyant before; now her feet didn’t even touch the ground.

Two months ago, in January, our daughter delivered the cutest, most precious little boy GOD ever created. The little guy could not be loved more.

Well, the “good” in “good job” means that the job I had paid well; but, it was only a job, a paycheck, nothing more (yeah, quoth the Raven nevermore). In 2014, it looked like I could hang onto the paycheck until I decided I couldn’t justify spending any more of my life for it. In February, I received a “60 Day Advance Notice of Layoff” – aka a WARN notice. Ok, fine. The job paid the bills and then some; but that gravy-train was pulling into the station and not pulling out again.

Great timing.

In 2014, 2015 was looking like a good year. That is, a year when finances would not be issues. In March, 2015 is looking like adding three mouths on no paycheck. “Good” doesn’t leap to mind; “unknown” does (as in “there be dragons”).

I would never have called my life “boring” (I think that word should be reserved for those with extremely limited imaginations; I am never bored, tho I am sure many have called me boring). As an engineer, planning and problem solving are second nature for me. Lately, I have felt that all the boats I had lined up for crossing to the beaches at Normandy had sunk. I am way past “Plan B.” I look out at the horizon and see nada. Abraham Lincoln is given credit for saying, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction I had nowhere else to go.” I know the feeling.

Since I had started this blog years ago (and added to it only sporadically), I got the bolt out of the blue to share this part of my life-long journey with anyone who cares to read it. I figure losing my job in the same year as I am adding three babies qualifies as a life event. Not the magnitude of Lisa’s, of course – there is no comparison that way. But, just as we should not forget Lisa, or Farkhunda, the Afghan woman beaten and burned to death, it would seem that there might be some people – the three new kiddies in the house – who might wonder who I was. Maybe how I did it; you know, kept it all in one sack. Yeah, lots of assumptions, there.

It’s not that I think I have answers. If you’re reading this because you think I do, then I will ask you to leave now. I see no point in you wading through my prose to finally tell you that there was no butler (I’m partial to Colonel Mustard, myself). I will go so far as to say I have no idea what most of the questions are. If you believe in feedback, or dialogue, feel free to chime in and suggest yet another something I have overlooked, or was otherwise oblivious to (I wonder how Churchill would get that pesky “to” off the end of that sentence; surely he would not put up with…well you know how that goes).

I can’t imagine that it needs to be said; or rather, that you, Gentle Reader, need me to say it: this ain’t no Dickens. Oh, I would love it if I could get paid for my writing – especially by the word. How he was able to write his novels in installments, never being able to go back and revise is quite beyond me. Quite. So, while this blog is a narrative, an “emerging design” as was said many times during the master’s program I took eons ago, it will be honest. No bets on how cohesive, however. There will be flashbacks. There will be repetition. And not as literary devices. Not by design, but by stupid (doesn’t “design by stupid” sound better than “stupid design?). I will hopefully not have too many typos, er, misspellings. Grammar will be suspect.

Oh, the biggie: if I say something noteworthy, it is probably the work of someone else – not me. If I fail to give any credit, or proper credit, puh-leez correct me. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

The Lonely Dragon

My father once said he’d often been alone, but he’d never been lonely. As a professional writer his entire adult life, he always chose his words with precision. But, I never learned his secret of how to not be lonely. Alone is easy: I have been alone on an aircraft carrier; alone on a crowded street (to borrow the cliché); in fact, I prefer alone – as I believe most writers do. And, as I grow older, I find I work harder to achieve a state of being alone. Lonely is another matter entirely.

Apparently our old friend, Billy Shakespeare, used it first when Coriolanus goes to a lonely dragon. Then, on this side of the pond, Thoreau says that we are more lonely when we are among men. More recently Pirsig reiterates the idea of being completely alone, even with others.

What is interesting is that my father volunteered that he had never been lonely; and he never volunteered much, especially about himself. Yes, that does beg the question.

For my part, being lonely was a constant companion. Whereas I seek solitude, and peace and quiet (during Eucharistic Adoration today, a couple sitting directly behind me – I learned as I left, an elderly couple (their whispering was meant for the stage) – kept up a constant conversation – great Penance for me), loneliness is like unwittingly stepping in dog shit and not being able to scrape it off: the stench is as persistent as it is pungent (I must admit that I have never knowingly stepped in it, so I guess “unwittingly” is redundant?). Do I need to mention unpleasant?

I don’t know why my father wrote; he had the uncharacteristic inconsideration to die before I learned to talk to him. He once said that the only thing he ever feared was the empty page. I write to feel less lonely, and I revel in the empty page (or rather, I revel in filling the empty page).

My spiritual growth blossomed early and then took a detour in the desert, and recently has, thank GOD, returned to an oasis where it has, once again, blossomed. Very much a version of, “there, but for the Grace of GOD, go I”; but that subject is for another day. And with this renewal, the lonely dragon has evidently been vanquished. But, Dad was not what I would call a “GOD fearing man”; respectful, yes; conscious, yes; but neither Mom (my Roman Catholic roots) nor Dad spent much time on religion outside of church. So, I find it hard to imagine that Dad found strength in his Faith – not impossible, mind you: I am sorry to say I never knew him well (which, fittingly, my daughter could easily say about me; if she cared, that is).

Whereas, I was jerked back into consciousness, out of the stupor of wanting to be part of the American dream, when Pope John Paul II died. Perhaps it was a miracle that I was found – I was most definitely a lost sheep (of Biblical proportions, I assure you), but I think not. And having discarded so much desire of wanting to be part of the rat race, I began to hear Christ knocking on the door. Yeah, still a lot of work before I get the door open (the hinges are rusted shut), but I find I am no longer lonely. Dad may have exiled the dragons with his command of the written word (and, bully for him, if true); I have found peace in the Word of GOD.

2014 has all the signs of being a watershed year for me, and I have known a few. After 29 years with “The Company”, the position I have had the past six months is moving south. In one way, it is literally moving from Puget Sound to Southern California. In another way, this “crown jewel” of the company (to use the words from some high muckety-muck), is going south, as in down the tubes. Which puts me in the position of trying to find another paycheck; or, letting them put me out to pasture and thanking GOD that I don’t drink their Kool-Aid (the company, very characteristically has promised the press that it will help everyone find employment, and since I long ago learned not to believe either the company or the press, I am not putting all my eggs in that handbasket).

I had planned on working for another five, or ten years, which makes this news something of a fiscal shock. The desire to retire from the rat race and the ability to retire from it could not be more stark; but, Dad financed the raising of five kids on his pen (Mom raised us, but Dad paid the bills); surely, with far fewer mouths to feed, I can do the same? Besides, I look forward to having the time to explore the spiritual side of life, instead of chasing the temporal side of life. However, the habit of pursuing a paycheck for the past 43 years will be hard to discard.

There be dragons?

Yes, there may be dragons; but maybe it is time I left a sinking ship.

Toilet paper

I have been hearing the roar of the train for some time, at least a year. All indicators were that Boeing was moving its Customer Services out of the Tukwila office buildings that it had occupied since 1990 (my initial interview with the vice-president of field service happened that year – I can remember that meeting in vivid detail): taking “Customer Services” off the sign on the street corner, painting the interior, new carpet thru-out, refurbishing some of the rest rooms – all those things you do to ‘spruce up’ the joint prior to selling it.

The horn has been audible since the first of the year: other groups (Boeing’s Research and Technology having a “voluntary layoff buyout”), the supposed movement of customer services’ work to SoCal (mgt has been crowing about it, but it hasn’t really happened yet), oft told stories of the remodeling of a building in Seal Beach for an obvious Operations Center.

The light is now visible, with the multiple stories in the local news industry of jobs leaving Puget Sound under the guise of “geographic diversification.” The story in the Boeing News Now that the current Operations Center is definitely moving to Southern California, the latest nail in the coffin. My mgt has characteristically not had the moral courage to say anything to my face, let alone put any of this in writing. “Trial by public opinion” certainly fits; but that’s clearly the way they want it. A second level manager talking about his house hunting on a so-called business trip two weeks ago.

It is time to step off the tracks; this new phase of Boeing – a continuation of the movement started when corporate headquarters moved to Chicago, of all places – will continue w/o me. Forced out after 29 years.

I am nothing if not forewarned. Still, this slap in the face with a cold fish is not met with total joy. My own timetable before volunteering to be put out to pasture had me in the game for another five years, at least – maybe ten. I have been part of customer services, or customer support, since 1986 – I am believer. Not only have I felt that I have contributed, I have the personal thanks of customers who appreciate what I have done for them. A real feel good kind of thing. No adulation of thousands, no recognition from management, no dinners or gold watches; just the personal thanks from people I have reached out and touched. So, I will take that with me; the company does not own it, and the company clearly doesn’t care, anyway.

It is wonderfully ironic that the Old Boeing recruited me out of Purdue University and paid all my expenses to relocate my family and me to Puget Sound back in 1985. Now, the New Boeing is saying that if I want to remain employed after 29 years, I have to quit the job I have here, apply for a job in California and pay my own way to get there – for a smaller paycheck than what I have earned here. I love it that I had more value to the company then, than I do now.

But, as Groucho Marx said, “I would never join a club that would have me as a member,” I am quite sure I don’t want to get on that train, I am convinced I don’t want to be a part of the New Boeing. I am trying to look at this premature separation in a positive light.

No longer will I have to “take the ethics challenge” from a company that is famous for its lack of ethics. No longer will I have to apologize for being an employee of a company that takes $9 billion in tax incentives from the state, and then moves thousands of jobs out of state. No longer will I have to try to explain the debacle of the 787, and why Boeing persists with the same business model (calling it now, “geographical diversification”). No longer will I have to suck up to managers whose only purpose in life is sucking up to their managers – one can only wonder if any of the high muckity-mucks have any clothes on at all.

When I joined Boeing in 1985, I could not imagine a more wonderful event in my professional life. Then, Boeing called itself a “family.” Over the years, it stopped calling itself a family and started using “team.” Now, I know what it feels like to be a commodity: toilet paper.

Time to get busy living.