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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Warming Up

Once in a while, there is a February gift and it comes wrapped in 60 degrees with a blue sky and feathered wisps of clouds; breezes that smooth your cheeks like soft fingertips, and it’s delivered to Massachusetts, where we’ve most recently been frozen rock solid.

Taking my sister’s advice, I have been walking. It is so easy to procrastinate when the temperature is in the 20’s and dirty snow banks mound on the sidewalks. Man-oh-man--they couldn’t have waited until April to lay me off? But people live in colder climates and survive, so I’m trying not to let the weather deter me. Shrugging on my daughter’s down coat, a wool scarf wrapped around my neck, suede hat down over my ears, with mittens and thick soled boots, I set out on a route by the ocean and through the seaside neighborhoods in the next door town. It’s exercise and it’s thinking time, and it’s a few moments to marvel as always at the ocean, aqua blue even this time of year, slow waves rolling against the sea wall, gulls diving and chattering where the cold surf hits the beach.

Yesterday I started my walk planning to ponder my homework assignment from the outplacement visit, which was to spend five minutes making a list of all the people I can think of, and to write down accomplishments in my career. As I walked, I mentally pictured my printout of Outlook Contacts, thankfully retrieved just before my computer access was so discourteously shut off last week. As I marched along, glad that no one could recognize me in my haute couture get up, I wondered who my best networking contacts might be. Our outplacement orientation leader found a job once while watching a football game in a sports bar. In my own experience as a recruiter, I once hired a merchant that I met while dropping my daughter at day care. The point is that your next job may come from a contact you least expect. Pushing aside my image of me, perched on a leather stool in a smoky corner pub with “For Hire” written across my back, I fantasized about the people I encountered on my walk. The guy in the blue windbreaker walking on the sea wall? Well, no, he just looks like Whitey Bulger. But the dark haired gentleman cleaning up after his red sweatered bulldog (who took time out from his business to lunge at my legs)--maybe he’s a magazine editor, interested in publishing this blog on a monthly basis.

It took a bit before I realized that the people I was passing had jackets unzipped. Soon one man called to me: “You will be hot before long.” He was right. Before I finished my first circuit, the coat was off, hat stuffed into the sleeve. Prior to my next loop, my outerwear was back in the car and my spirits were rising as quickly as the temperature.

From my one week of experience, I’ve learned this already. The thing about unexpected unemployment is that it is a loss and your emotions can be manic and raw. I celebrated my freedom on a phone call the day before last, but I had bad dreams about the office that night and woke up yesterday low and teary. But then walking my route here in chilly New England, where people often pass by without acknowledgement, my fellow walkers were calling to each other, marveling at the warmth and our physical lightness, unburdened by heavy winter clothes. It was a reminder to embrace the positive and to acknowledge that no matter how rotten you are feeling, there may be a better moment, just ahead.

I didn’t get to my accomplishments. I walked an extra half loop, and drove home with the windows wide open, breathing deeply at the fresh air that ruffled my hair, surprised to find my yard still covered in snow upon my return. I figured for now, that was accomplishment enough.

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