Friday, June 8, 2012

The Lesson of the Guy in a Hole

Some months ago, I was sent a book, titled Waiting for Change, written by Dr. Christina McCale. I began reading it, and so much of it resonated with me. Sadly...too much of it.

 The last few years have been extremely tough for my family. Some days, it has felt as if we are descending to a place that we will never be able to dig ourselves out of.

Being broke, and working harder than ever, takes it's toll on everything, and everybody. It wraps it's sticky little fingers around your life, and effects every one in your family. Stress becomes a way of life, and most days, it is hard, at least for me, to remember living any other way.

Her book is amazing. I am honored she wrote a piece, just for my little space here. Thank you Dr. McCale!

The Lesson of the Guy in a Hole
By Dr. Christina McCale, author of "Waiting for Change"
So often when people ask me about surviving as a long term unemployed person, or how to help their friends or family who are going through difficult times. I wish I had a great answer or a magic formula. But I don't. What I am reminded of is the story of the man who was in a hole.
There once was a guy who fell in a hole… a hole he couldn’t get out of on his own. People passed by, and despite his obvious need or cries for help, they ignored him.
Then an acquaintance passed by, and the man in the hole shouted up “hey man, remember me? Can you give me a hand? I can’t seem to get out.” The old acquaintance threw down a rope to his buddy and said “here you go, this should take care of it” and continued on his way.
Then the man’s pastor walked by, and the man in the hole shouted up “hey Reverend! I really need help here – could you help get me out?” The pastor wrote down a prayer, tossed it down to the man saying, “here you are my son, here’s a prayer for you to say – and I’ll think of you.”
Discouraged and bereft, a little while later the man in the hole saw an old friend. “Hey Joe,” he said, “I really need help. Can you tell me how to get out?” Joe jumped down in the hole with the man. The man said,“What are you doing? Now we’re both stuck down here!”
Joe calmly said, “Yeah – but I know the way out!”
Surviving the loss of your professional identity is nothing short of a crisis. It's a loss that can be experienced though the various stages of grief. And like other losses, each person will experience that loss and grieve for that loss differently and in their own time.
But what the parable of the man in the hole reminds me is that different people will react to us during our crisises in different ways. Some will just give us the "tools" (ie: hand us a book on how to write a resume) and, because they've given you a tool, they've done their part: you're now "equipped" to deal with your situation on your own.
Others won't know what to do. They'll empathize, but not really sure how to react, or what steps to take, and so in order to not upset us worse often keep an arm's length, tell us "they'll be thinking of us ofen," but that's about it.
Then there are others who dig in with us, get down in the trenches and help. They won't quit on us during our time of need, and perhaps more importantly they won't let us quit on ourselves.
There are all kinds of people in our universe of friends, acquaintances and relatives, each one equipped to deal with situations like this differently. When we're in the middle of a crisis, one of the most important things we have to figure out (some how when we're grappling with all of our emotions) is who can we turn to, and for what. They may all be good people, but some might be emotionally stretched thin dealing with their own calamities. So maybe all they can offer you is best wishes; to think of you often; to drop you an email or Facebook posting from time to time. It doesn't make them a bad friend: that's all they have to give right now.
Others may not realize the emotional turmoil you're going through - especially if they haven't ever experienced this themselves (Lucky them!). So they may not understand the feeling of lying awake at night wondering how much milk you have for tomorrow's breakfast... or if you have enough gas to get the kids to school and back. Those are details they've never lived through. So sharing your experience with them may be a learning moment for them; or, they may be too removed to be an emotional support -- but perhaps can serve in a different way...? I have friends who would be great proof readers for my resume, but have the emotional bandwidth of a pencil. But others can be quite plugged into my own emotions - and yet can barely spell their own names consistently. Accept the gifts of friendship in any way you can during this time, in whatever shape or color they come in.
Those rare, few souls who will dig in, get down in that hole with you... they're gems. And yes, a rare find. But they too can become burdened or weary if you rely on them "too" much. What is "too much?" No one knows. But know it can be there.
The old African proverb that "It takes a village to raise a child" can be related here: it's going to take all kinds of people in your life to get you through this horrible time. Each will bring a variety of talents or gifts to you. While it's hard to remain open after being so wounded and rejected, try to stay open and emotionally present to recognize and accept those treasures when they arrive.
Part memoir and part social commentary, the book Waiting for Change profiles the very personal realities of job loss during the Great Recession and the domino effect to one’s housing, sustenance, employment, children, and social support systems. The book takes the reader on a guided tour “behind the story” of all the statistics on the evening news to explore the new and evolving landscape of poverty in the richest country on Earth. Waiting for Change provides a mental “travelogue” that illuminates not just the immediate impacts of poverty, but the downstream repercussions, all in very personal, relatable and easy to read ways.
About the Author:
Prior to getting her doctorate in Marketing, Christina McCale worked for 17+ years in some of corporate America's biggest companies. For the last 10 years she has taught marketing and management instructional duties at the university level for the last 10 years, she has also been one of the key and has conducted research on how to best prepare our undergraduates for career entry. Today, she lives in Olympia, Washington with her son, daughter, and their two beloved greyhounds.

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