Stories and thoughts about family and life

a Box of Chocolates

on August 8, 2013

“Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re going to get.”   Who doesn’t know that quote by now?  We laugh about it, but Forrest had a lot of wisdom he shared with us.  I thought about all those little tidbits this Tuesday as I was driving for one of my client visit days.   This quote, in particular, became more and more relevant as the day’s events unfolded and became more clear.  There was so much of that movie that demonstrated the promise of the “next step.”  I’ve been thinking a lot about that the past few days, and how many of the quotes from that movie seem to apply to our current situation.  Indulge me while I share. . .

I was about 45 minutes outside of Little Rock when I spoke to my husband by phone and he told me he had just lost his job.  Not that we hadn’t seen it coming, because we had.  I think I was a little more concerned about the possibilities of it than he had been, but either way it took us both by surprise to have happened on the day it did.   The previous couple of days had been filled with conversations with his boss about the future, plans for potential equipment changes, etc.    It really took the wind out of his sails.

Being from the insurance and benefits side of the world, I knew immediately that time was precious to us for getting our benefits in order.  We had a few outstanding bills (Brennan’s braces, for example), which we had been waiting on a bill from the dentist after the dental insurance settled.  I told him to make a priority of calling around the places we might have balances and get those paid.    That and getting him on unemployment were my first priorities.    Ironically enough, we had just had a conversation a few days before about the cost of our prescriptions and what those would be if we ever had to pay those outright, so I knew what we would be getting into there without insurance.

He had called me as he pulled onto the interstate.  I could hear his voice shaking as he told me what had happened.  I kept saying “are you okay?”  and he kept responding “I don’t know.  I think so.”  Here I was an hour away, and due another 90 minutes away at a meeting in less than two hours.  I did quick calculations in my head:  could I turn around and get him?  could I find a way to cancel my meeting for that evening and go home?  Everything in my being told me I should have been with him, but the reality is that, when you own your own business and you’re the primary developer, you have to be where you say you’re going to be.   I knew I couldn’t turn around, and my heart broke for him knowing that.  I kept him talking as he drove down the interstate, asking him if he got everything out of his office and what they had given him, or asked him to sign.  I wanted to keep him focused on my voice and I kept telling him we were going to be fine.  When he announced that he had arrived at home, I had him grab a pad and a pen and we made a list of 10 things he needed to get accomplished (paying off the medical bills, filing for unemployment, calling our lawyer to discuss the separation agreement they were wanting him to sign, etc.).  I told him I wanted him to stay busy, and that while I realized he probably didn’t feel like doing much after that, I needed him to take care of a few of these more urgent things immediately.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that people don’t understand their employment benefits enough to realize that the time-frames around those things are very tight.  Indeed, when I read his paperwork that evening, it was a good thing I had him call around and make sure all our outstanding balances were paid, because we lost access to our flex card at the end of the day that day.  While we could still have been reimbursed for the balances, we would have had to pay them ourselves first, and wait for the company to reimburse us.    That was going to prove difficult, since his pay was going to be half of what we normally expected.

The last thing I remember him saying that morning was “I never realized this kind of thing was this humiliating.”  Louis and I have both been managers for a number of years.  We’ve both been fortunate not to have to lay anyone off, and for that I’m very grateful.  You understand, as a manager, that the things you have to do sometimes are unpleasant (they are for you AND for the employee), but, by the same token, neither of us had experienced this first-hand as a recipient.  We were both ill-equipped for what  was going on and how to cope with it.  When Louis and I hung up the phone, I immediately placed a call to my younger sister (who was laid off from Alltel when Verizon purchased them), and told her that I needed her to take him to lunch, buy him a beer, and help him breathe for a minute.  He needed to talk to someone who actually had a clue and could say “I’ve been there, and it’s going to be okay.”  I simply couldn’t do that for him the way she could.  She agreed to meet him, and I’m so glad that we did that.  She was able to calm him dramatically, and give him some great pointers on where to go, and how to do things.

I posted a comment on my Facebook wall to let him know I was thinking about him, and several people close to us checked in with one or the other of us throughout the day and offered their support.  We are blessed to have such good friends and family.  I talked to Louis in the middle of the afternoon, and the immediate shock had worn off and his feelings had switched to anger.  I had never really considered it before enduring this directly with him, but this really is a grieving process.  He had been with that company for nearly 10 years.  They had recruited him from his previous job, and he had turned them down a couple of times before they finally talked him into an interview (which he took primarily so they would stop calling him).  When he got home that day and told me that he couldn’t believe what a great company it was and how family-oriented they were.  It was an employee’s dream.  A dream we’ve watched fade over the years as the original owners had sold and the company had become more commercial.  He had watched that environment which drew him in so readily 10 years ago change again and again over time and had grown less and less pleased with how “impersonal” it was all becoming.  Still, though, it’s a kick in the teeth to lose a job, and especially like this.  He had no performance issues, and no control over what had happened.  He was now very angry, and, quite honestly, wanted to “share” some of that pain with them.    I told him that’s why a lot of companies do things like that on Fridays.  Employees have the opportunity to “cool down” over the weekend and if they decide to retaliate, there’s less likelihood of it coming to some serious altercation and endangering anyone.  He wouldn’t dream of doing anything like that, but I can appreciate being angry enough to want to hurt the people who hurt you.   As Forrest says “sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks.”

I talked to him about half my drive home Tuesday night.  He was calmer still, which pleased me.  I was glad to see that he wasn’t as angry now and was thinking more clearly.  He had accomplished the most urgent things on the list, and was feeling as though he had accomplished something, which made him happy.  We talked about what the next day would bring and what we needed to do the following day.

Whether you believe in God, destiny, fate, or coincidence, something tells me he’s going to be better for this in the long run.  Forrest said “I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I think maybe it’s both.”  I believe in God, but I still question many things about my life and the goings on which occur.  I’m sorry if that offends anyone, but I think God means for me to be that way.  I think he wants me to challenge–wants me to question, and to ultimately prove to myself things happen the way they’re supposed to.  Too many things in my life have gone that way for me to see it otherwise.   When I left my job in 2010 and started CPR, I was not in a great place emotionally.  I knew it was time to go, and I was worn out from going too hard for too long with no sense of accomplishment.  I started my business quite honestly on a whim (which, anyone who knows me knows is NOT my personality), and it’s been the best thing I could have ever done for myself.  Has it been hard? Absolutely!  Have there been days I’ve wondered what possessed me?  Several!  But, I also believe that the blood, sweat, and tears you pour into something make you appreciate it all the more when it turns out so beautifully.  I’ve watched my business grow from absolutely nothing, to having several employees, and clients that support and appreciate us.  I have a business that lets me have a family and personal life, and I can co-exist quite successfully between them all (even though some days I don’t feel so successful).  Now, whether you want to say God did that, or it was my destiny, or it was just coincidence that lined up all the circumstances in the right order. . . it’s all fine with me.  The important thing is that I’m here and I’m better for the things that brought me here.  I also wouldn’t be here and wouldn’t be able to do what I do without those past experiences.  I can’t have one without the other.

We were presented, quite innocently, with a couple of opportunities recently which would allow us to bid business on IT services.  We’ve talked about getting this side of the business up and functional, and we’ve had several clients express an interest, but none of them were large enough to make it profitable to bring Louis on.  However, these newer opportunities would do the trick.  We had just spent some time over the past couple of weekends planning out what the quote for that would include and talking about how we would implement it.  In that same conversation, we discussed the realization that, if we were able to score this new business, Louis would have to quit his job and move over to take this role.   We were reminded of this conversation as we discussed the “next steps” in Louis’ future.  Maybe the timing hadn’t been exactly what we hoped, but it might have been exactly what we needed to get it all off the ground quickly.  Fate?  Destiny?  God’s hand?  Whichever you choose.  It doesn’t matter.  The important thing is that we had to shift from seeing this as a tragedy to seeing the opportunities and the promise in the future.

I would love to say that Louis isn’t even going to have to go on unemployment, and I sincerely hope that’s the truth.  But, if he does, I suspect it won’t be long-term.  I suspect tomorrow holds more promise than we realize and that he will look back three years from now (just as I have with my own life), and realize that the day itself might have been difficult, but it was the beginning of a new life for him.   Last but not least, Forrest says “My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.”  I’m excited for the future and its possibilities, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.


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