The Secret Code of Transformation 3: Grief/Sadness
It is 5:00 PM the day before the last day of school, the day of anticipation of the long awaited and deserved rest period. I have just arrived in my apartment and am about to lie down on the living room couch to get a few moments of rest. The phone rings. It is the executive secretary of the acting director. She tells me that I have a meeting with the executive committee of the school council the next morning. I fear the worst in the same manner that any of the 750 students do when an administrator suddenly pulls them out of the middle of a class. It must be bad, but I quickly dismiss it with a host of other reasons for the meeting. When I mention the call to my wife, she is certain that my fear will be realized. She calls our children in Vancouver to say that we may be spending the next year with them. Then we sit down at the dining room table to consult about our options should the worst actually occur. Should we stay or should we go? That is the question. We both agree to return to Vancouver if it happens. Our children are already leading cheers for the worst in hopes that our bad is their gain. We also talk about going to the Pantanal, a huge watershed in Brazil, known for wildlife observing if the worst does not happen. My wife begins to pack and make a list of all the household items we should sell. She is certain.
Before the meeting I tell her that in an hour I will tell her whether we are going to the Pantanal or to Vancouver. I walk into the meeting and realize that the end has come. They tell me that I am disconnected from the school. It is a strange word for me even in Portuguese to be disconnected as if I had ever been connected to them. They give a few reasons. I ask them why I haven’t been informed previously about the perceived weaknesses. They tell me that they have been giving me signs, but I haven’t been reading them correctly. At that point I know that any chance for justice is impossible. I arise from my chair, turn, and walk away.
From the meeting room to my wife’s classroom is about a 100-meter walk. I move slowly and deliberately trying not be noticed. The reality has not fully set in. I approach her door, gaze at her, and say, “We are going to Vancouver.” The words now spoken make the decision of the Council suddenly feel real. My voice cracks, tears begin to flow.
Grief is the emotion that you experience when something is over, where there is loss, and there is no chance of going back to the former reality. The difficult thing with grief, is that the attachment to the former state is very strong. In the above scenario I do not want to leave Brazil. I love the people I work with, the work I am doing, and the results that I am getting. That the results were in conflict with what the administration was striving after meant that my dismissal was inevitable. At the moment of separation the tendency of the mind is to not give in to what has clearly happened, to stay and fight your way back to the former state. The message of grief is that something is over. When you feel grief, it is the signal that something is over. The difficult part of grief is accepting when something is finished, when you have lost. It knocks the energy right out of you. If you are human, you cannot help but feeling depressed.
The worst part about being fired and having to leave a country is that the ones doing the firing do not seem to feel any of the pain or remorse. They are, in fact, joyful that you are gone. It is celebration day for them, while you just want to dig a hole and bury yourself in it.
The way out of grief is first the acceptance that something is over, that you are not going back to the old reality. The meaning of grief is that there is a new reality that is more positive than the old one, and it is impatiently waiting for you to move to it.
After we leave Brazil and spend an amazing year with our family, the time comes when we need to start seriously searching for new work. We hop on a plane to Boston to an international schools hiring fare. I am still completely attached to the old reality because all that I can think about is getting another school administration job. We have 7 interviews with 7 strike outs. I am laying on the hotel bed shattered (as my Aussie friends would say).
We arrive back in Vancouver after scrapping Plan A and then go to Plan B. Plan A was administration like a school principal. Plan B is a p.e. teacher/athletic director. It is so difficult to give up on Plan A. I am wrestling with my depression, but as it turns out Plan B lands us a job in Malaysia as part time P.E. teacher, part time athletic director. I must be a gluten for punishment because after five years, when the program is getting to where I want it, I get fired again from the administration work. I am a Taurus by birth, a stubborn bull. Sometimes it takes me a long time to get something. It is obvious that even though I can do excellent program development as an administrator, it is not the new reality that the Divine world has in store for me. The new reality is to directly help people transform their lives.
Grief in the short term is acceptable. It is human. Grief in the long term is not. It is stubbornness. I seem to excel at it. I have this bad characteristic to hold onto lost causes for a long time. The goal of grief is first to let go of the attachment to the old reality. I am embarrassed to say that holding onto the goal of being an administrator again took years, not days or weeks to get over. I think I am over it.
After you detach yourself from the old reality, then the new reality will begin to show itself. It seems as if it is lying ready for you to let go. When the letting go happens, it awakens and begins to show itself. As it shows itself the appropriate response to the new reality is the virtue of enthusiasm.
The formula looks like this.
- You feel lots of grief/sadness because of a loss.
- The grief is the messenger that the old reality is over.
- You go through a process of accepting that the old reality is over.
- You understand that when you detach from the old reality, a new reality will appear that is specifically designed for you.
- As you detach for the old reality and depressed feelings, then you see the new reality appearing before you.
- When the new reality appears, you use enthusiasm to begin moving into it.
- New positive results begin to happen that benefit others and yourself.
I know you are probably tired of talking about Covid-19, but it should be clear that the world we lived in before the virus has ended. Grief is going to set in. A new world is coming where we are much more connected and we care about each other. Let’s embrace and not be stubborn Tauruses.