One of the more frightening times in my life was when I had no money and had to find a job ASAP.
It felt like a major emergency.
I tried to sell my house (no takers, couldn’t sell it for even the amount I owed on it), I had been on 20 job interviews, I had borrowed $6000 from a family member, my credit card was at the highest level as I had used it for groceries, and I was late on a mortgage payment.
Things looked very bleak when it came to money and work.
When I asked people to share with me their top stressful thoughts a few weeks ago, I had quite a few sharing “I need to get a job”.
The urgency and fear around getting a job can escalate with our scary images of what will happen if I do NOT get a job. I’ll lose my house, my car, my possessions, my sanity. I’ll never recover from these losses. Other people might even suffer (if you have dependents).
As I did The Work at that time 8 years ago on my dreadful feelings of panic about not getting work, a dear friend and facilitator asked me a powerful question:
What’s the worst that could happen?
Not insanely-wild-imagination-worse-case-scenario…but very likely what could happen that’s really, really bad.
So for example, even if my mind might imagine I’d be dying of starvation on the street, owning nothing, my kids given away to relatives to be raised….I really deeply knew this simply would not ever happen. I know too many people who I love and adore and who also love me. I’d have places to stay most likely. I really couldn’t see myself dying of not having work or money. Not really.
But I could see a worst case scenario that I was indeed quite terrified could happen: I’d have to go live in my mother’s basement with my two kids.
I pictured having to wake up at 5 am to drive them miles if I wanted to keep them in the same schools with the friends they knew. I felt horrible imagining their lives being further disrupted (there was already a divorce, just finalized).
I pictured feeling burdened by living with my mom, that she and I would drive each other crazy. We’d fight over refrigerator space, or chores (like when I was 13). I was sure I’d be such a loser, I’d hate myself and had an image of never recovering, never really coming back from the divorce or the failure–even though I was only 44 and could live many more years possibly.
I had thoughts like “my life is almost over” and “I should have gone to medical school” and how my life so far had been a huge mistake, I should have seen it coming, blah blah blah.
That mind will kick into high gear with incredibly alarming voices, words, shouts, pictures, and the resulting feelings of panic.
I felt abandoned.
My primary intense thoughts: I need money, I need a job. This is horrible.
Is it true?
YES! Can’t you see my bills?! (I thought at the time)?! How can you even ASK this question—of COURSE I need more money and I need a job in order to get it!
Can you absolutely know it’s true you need more money, and a job?
Yes. I felt so sure. I maybe had a tiny sliver of awareness that I would still be breathing without money or a job. I could see that I still had a car in my driveway, some food in my cupboards, and a beautiful rug on the floor.
Honestly, I could see in that very moment that it was not absolutely, 100% required I get a job immediately, or I would die on the spot. I was scaring myself with pictures of a slow decline and death, failing miserably and never recovering. But I had no idea what life would really look like, and I could see I was OK in that moment.
So no, I couldn’t absolutely know I needed a job and money NOW.
How did I react when I believed I needed money and a job NOW!?
My hands were bunched in two tight fists. My whole body was tense. I couldn’t sleep. I had to pace. I was sick to my stomach and not eating so well. I was frantic when I looked at job boards, and combed through online HR departments. I’d change and re-change my resume. I’d ask myself “what am I missing?” and wonder where else I could try to find work. I’d apply to everything that even slightly fit my qualifications.
My attitude, at that time, towards work was that it was a sucky thing you had to do for money. Money was required, and this world was set up poorly because of it. I didn’t even really WANT to work. I had never had a fun job.
My beliefs were that jobs were dull, you had to do what the boss says, and you get rewarded for your compliance with money and health care. SLAVE for money.
If I was on a dating site, thinking a relationship was a required pain-in-the-ass but you need it to survive life, like the way I believed I was forced to work full time to survive in life….I’d be the worst partner ever. Desperate.
So who would I be without this terrible, disheartening, frightening story that I needed more money and definitely must have a job?
Kind of weird to wonder about NOT having this thought, when it appears you have a stack of bills, and debt, and you might even lose your house, right?
But let’s do it anyway.
It’s just an exercise in meditating on this very stressful belief about having to have a job, like I’m forced into something–I’m very small and tiny and needy, and life is big and dangerous and has the security–but only if you work and are willing to do things you don’t even care about doing.
Who would I be without that terrible attitude? Without the belief I’ve been abandoned? Without the belief that life is out to break me down into a pulp? That I’m on my way to losing it all?
Without that story?
I could see in that moment of no work, and the resentment chip on my shoulder (more like the size of a small boulder)….
….my mind was surrounded by a suffocating dark cloud when it came to thinking about work, jobs, house payments, bosses, office buildings.
So could I really go there, considering what it would be like without that story?
What if I just got here from another planet, and had no reference for jobs, working, interviews, resumes, applications, boredom at work, having to do what bosses tell you?
What if I had no history to compare to? What if I was in this position and it was a game, like landing here for the very first time, putting on a human suit, and seeing what I might conjure up when it comes to this whole money-job thing?
Oh…that’s what it would be like, without this dreadful thought I needed a job in order to survive!
I could take a deep breath, clap my hands together, and say “I’m in!”
I might think about working anywhere, without judgment. Maybe I’d ask way more people about work, and different people than I’d been asking. I could make an announcement in places I went every day, like the dance I attended each week and was trading work for my entrance fee. Or at the grocery store check out.
Maybe I’d send an email to everyone in my address book, and basically if it was a game where I had to move quickly, I might hit the streets and start asking everyone I ran into if they knew anyone who needed help. Perhaps I’d talk to the people at the bus stop, all of whom were headed at rush hour to jobs in downtown.
More and more ideas might pour into my mind, if my attitude was open, unafraid. Even if I didn’t get a job, I would know I went down doing my best….and that alone would feel good. It would make a great story.
She lived in the basement of her mother’s house, but only after going to 100 job interviews, handing out her resume to people walking the streets of downtown, asking for everyone’s attention at the local coffee shop and with a loud voice and a smile, saying I’m looking for work.
Turns out….I never needed to all of those wild bold things, but without the belief I need a job and money like an emergency, terrified…..my mind got very creative. How fun to begin to brainstorm, just like all the engineers on the ground in Houston who were putting their minds together to bring Apollo 13 back to earth.
That’s who I was without my belief I need a job in order to survive. Excited. Confident. Ready to die trying. Willing.
Turning the thought around: I do NOT need a job or more money. A job needs me! (Turned out to be true). I already have a job, which is to question my fear in that situation, and live more joyfully. I choose to find a job and have fun acquiring money, not feel forced and like a victim about it.
If it had been my last day on earth….would I have wanted to be freaking out because I didn’t have a job?
I also imagined the beauty of the turnaround that I might go live with my mother. How could that be fantastic, like the best thing EVER?
I’d get to know my mom way more, in my 40s. She’d get to know these two grandchildren far better, my kids. We’d be getting to live in a 3-generation household. I’d downsize even more, and I love having few possessions and traveling light. I’d get to know a new neighborhood (where my mom lived) for daily walks. I’d do The Work on my mom and she’d do The Work on me, it could be brilliant for discovering and un-doing old beliefs about us both. I wouldn’t have a mortgage! I might find a job in that new neighborhood, maybe something I liked because I’d have more time to be selective.
If I don’t get a job soon, the WORST that could happen is having to move into my mom’s basement….turned around….the BEST that could happen is having to move into my mom’s basement!
Wow, that was starting to sound true!
When I got a job offer, only about a week later, I was practically disappointed I didn’t get to move in with my mom and take on that amazing adventure of being with her in a new and different way.
Can you find benefits for your worst fears coming true?
Can you feel the relief at not having the thought you Must Have a job yesterday? Can you find examples that you actually have a job right now….called questioning your suffering about work and money?
Who would you be without your story?
“My job is to delete myself. If there were a bumper sticker representing my life, it would say CTRL-ALT-DELETE: THEWORK.COM. That’s where I invite everyone to come join me. Join me and delete your own beautiful self. That’s the only place where we CAN meet. I call it love.” ~ Byron Katie in 1000 Names For Joy