FINDING LIFE'S HIGH-FIVE MOMENTS Valerie D. Benko
I never thought it could happen to me -- getting diagnosed with a disease or losing my job. People all around me were finding out they had cancer, diabetes or other chronic ailments. I felt blessed to be healthy. The nightly news was filled with stories of big company layoffs and a high unemployment rate. I slept soundly knowing my job was safe.
Then, amid winter's wrath, both happened to me. In January of 2010, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Three years later, as my MS symptoms worsened, my company reorganized and my position was eliminated.
My heart ached. I felt betrayed by my former company and by my boss for leading me to slaughter. How could they let me go when they knew I had MS and it would make it that much harder to find a new job?
Discouraged, depressed and confused, I spent my days on the couch crying and blowing my nose. My eyes were so swollen I had to hold ice packs on them. The couch was my raft drifting through the days waiting for a rescue boat, which came in the most unusual way.
About a week after I lost my job, my husband and I were sitting on the couch watching the news when they announced another snowstorm was headed our way. This one was going to dump half a foot of snow just in time for the morning commute.
"At least you don't have to drive an hour in the snow anymore," my husband said.
He was right. Before, I had to commute an hour on roads that weren't always well maintained, past farms and through small towns to get to the big city where I had worked.
My spirits lifted just a little as we high-fived, and a tradition was born. Anytime I felt sad about my situation, I found a little blessing in my life to celebrate.
I was no longer on the committee I didn't like. High-five!
I didn't have to pay for parking. High-five!
No more 10-hour days. High-five!
This became a joke between us. Out of the blue, one of us would realize a small blessing about my situation, say it out loud, and high-five. After weeks of doing this, the tears dried up for good and I felt motivated.
My former company had set me up with a job coach. I got started right away on creating a new resume, branding myself and applying for jobs. The job market was still discouraging. I got only one interview for about every 10 jobs I applied for, but I kept my spirits up by focusing on the good things in my life.
I made lunch and dinner plans with former colleagues so we could stay in touch and network. High-five, because I lost my job but not my friends.
I got to make healthy homemade dinners. High-five, because I don't like eating out all the time.
No getting up at 5:30 a.m. High-five!
I used my time off to catch up on doctor and vet appointments. It was nice to be able to say, "Anytime will work," and be seen sooner. High-five!
I played around with new recipes that I had been too tired to attempt and found a few winners. High-five!
I got the broken washing machine fixed and replaced the broken printer. High-five!
Things that I would have put off doing until tomorrow, next week, next month or never started to get done. High-five!
Focusing this positive energy on my job search got me interviews and opened my eyes to new positions in industries I would not have previously considered. My world expanded as I saw the full scope of possibilities in front of me. I never would have left my last job willingly. Although I had thought a couple of times that I might like something better, or closer to home, fear of the unknown held me back. Best of all, the time off allowed my body to heal, and my MS symptoms completely went away. For the first time since my diagnosis, I didn't feel the grip of a chronic disease anymore. For the first time, I felt free.
High-five!
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