It’s been almost four months since December 11, the date I was fired from my job as a nursery school teacher. December 11 is also the date when my ex-husband and I split. He asked me to sleep elsewhere that night in 2004, and thus made a reservation for me at the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica.
On December 11, 2004 I had dinner at Chez Jay, a famed Santa Monica dive bar/ restaurant with my closest friends. I didn’t drink alcohol during those years, but I still don’t remember much of that night except playing “lighter olympics” in my bathrobe in the hotel room with friends, and an overwhelming sense of fear and amazement that this was all happening to someone like me, a nice Jewish girl from Iowa. Although I was a well-educated, upper middle class mother of three young daughters, this night marked the end of 17 years of marriage.
Hmmmm, I thought four years later when my childhood friend, David, who also now lives in Los Angeles, chose Chez Jay as the meeting place for our previously scheduled dinner the night of December 11, 2008.
“Yes,” I replied enthusiastically when David asked me if I knew of Chez Jay. “I think it’s kismet..or some such thing… to go there,” I said telling him of the December 11 coincidence. “I got fired today,” I added with the same amazement that this was happening to me, the nice Jewish girl, a teacher, from Iowa. It seemed perhaps Chez Jay could forever be the place I would go to mark endings, to ponder new beginnings.
During dinner David and I laughed much, reminiscing on the odd details of growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We discussed how much love my mother threw around this Podunk town during the 1970s and 80’s. We remembered her cooking. My parents. David told me my dad was funny, and that growing up he always thought they were cool.
Upon leaving Chez Jay nearly 3 ½ hours later, I realized it felt different this time to leave something I loved. Things were different. I had evolved. Grown. And while I was in deep pain from the shock of losing my job, it hadn’t been debilitating. I knew I would survive. Perhaps even flourish, because this time I had faith, and felt that while a door had closed, an expansive, floor-to-ceiling window had opened. When I arrived at Chez Jay, anger and hurt had made my day dark and desolate. But I had managed to laugh uproariously with David, enjoy myself despite the darkness, and I knew the next day I could wake up to sun pouring through that window of opportunity if I held the right attitude. Then, I knew, all I had to do was walk through it, eyes open. Heart willing. Mind open.
My life since December 11 has, in fact, been filled with light. Turns out, getting fired can be a good thing. Losing my job gave me the gift of time, time to manifest a dream I had imagined as if it were some far-fetched fantasy.
“If only I could write,” I lamented to my friends.
“I want to do something where I can create, produce,” I had told Dina, the Life Coach I worked with in July, 2008.
Sitting down to make my dreams come true has not been easy. “If only,” is such a brilliant excuse, after all. It’s much easier to defer responsibility until the moon, sun and stars align perfectly. Wait for something magical to happen. A sign. An answer. Or someone to tell me what to do.
Faced with a blank page, a list of things I want in my life, and seven or more hours each weekday is daunting. I have to have discipline. Focus. The ability to say, “no” to lunch with friends, willingness to sit down and write when I want to take yoga class at 10:45 on Tuesday morning, the power to let the phone go unanswered, even when it is someone with whom I would love to have a chat. Instead, I have to remember what my teacher at the Hoffman Institute taught me; my “to-do” list is more than “have to” obligations written on my Icalendar. This list is the steps I must take, one by one, to manifest my vision. To make my dreams come true.
Each day since December 11, I cross items joyously off my list as I reach each goal. Looking carefully at those things I haven’t accomplished, then begrudgingly referring to my calendar to set aside specific time to get it finished. Sometimes I grimace. Sometimes I procrastinate, I would rather take a nap. Sometimes I do.
I have learned I work in bursts, that writing is something I do best for just 2 hours at a time. I have learned that Facebook is a no-no, that Mediabistro.com is brilliant. I understand the Writer’s Market may not be what I thought it was, that writing class is good, but writing mentors are priceless. I have learned to forego Starbucks for Instant, to realize sometimes it’s good to work in my bedroom, but sometimes its better to work at the kitchen table.
I remember that day in January when I first sat at the huge farm table, papers spread haphazardly in kitchen, the dream of what I want my life to look like formed. A golden vision in my head. Nothing but time in front of me. Fear standing in the way, blocking the view. I stuck my tongue out at that fear, sat down, sighed, and began to work.
Three months later, I am celebrating my success. I have sent more than three dozen query letters to magazines, E-zines and journals, and today learned that one is interested in publishing something I’ve written. I have a deadline April 1 for a feature article in Westside Magazine. I’m putting final touches on a book proposal I’ve written with two friends, written six new chapters for my memoir, and sent the 178 pages I’ve written thus far to my supervisor at Writers Bootcamp. I am in a training program to mentor new Hoffman Institute Facilitators, and have landed my first client as a Life Coach.
I can now spend time playing outside with Rayna and Willow when they are home from school, volunteer in Willow’s classroom regularly, and network with new colleagues who are Life Coaches as well as published essayists and novelists.
Yesterday I was listening to XM 51, The Coffee House. It’s my new favorite. I heard an incredible acoustic interpretation of Semisonic’s “Closing Time, a song I have sung along to dozens of times. For the first time though, I heard these lyrics…
… every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end..
And that’s when getting fired is a GOOD thing.