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Free-dumb?

June 20, 2009
Hugh MacCleod, Gaping Void

Hugh MacCleod, Gaping Void

“A CrazyDerangedFool [CDF for short] is, like me, somebody who has the temerity to aspire to work in a way that produces both joy, meaning and contribution for both them and others, while also paying the bills. It’s about creativity, it’s about finding meaning, but it’s also about living in the real world. That’s the reality I want to live in…” ~ Hugh MacCleod

Eleven months ago, I sat down to chat with one of the people on my team.  Volunteer organizations are enigmatic and sometimes the communication channels and politics are difficult to understand.  Like nailing Jello to the wall.  This conversation was a harbringer of the next several months, but it is only in retrospect that I understand it.

The one thing I remember most about the conversation last July was being asked to put the needs of work before the needs of my family.  Of course I refused.

Over the course of the next several months, there were other requests made of me.  Some seemed reasonable, others were in areas where I am not particularly talented, experienced, or gifted, but I tried, but there were other requests that I just didn’t agree were for the best of the organization, my leadership, or those on my team.

Of course people feel safe and comfortable within the status quo and will always fight to maintain it, but when systems are broken, it is time to make some changes.  The status quo wanted me to change, in order to help them feel safe – however, I knew that the elephant in the middle of the room needed to be addressed.  Well, I fought the law, and the law won.  Last week I was informed by my overseers that I was being terminated.

As you can imagine, finding oneself unemployed during current economic conditions is somewhat daunting.  Though I’ve seen this coming for a couple of months, and it was a huge relief for them to finally make the decision, it is quite scary for a Dad to be in this position.  How will I feed, clothe, and shelter my family?

  • One day at a time.  First of all, I don’t have to feed, shelter, or clothe them for the next 20 years.  I only have to take care of today.  Some would say there is a certain Zen to living one day at a time.  My 12-step community will tell you that this is how one stays sober – one day at a time.  Even Jesus said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, today has enough problems of its own.”  So, this is where I am – living one day at a time.
  • Recovery.  For the past 20 months, we have swept a lot of things under the rug.  Due to family health issues, moving to Oregon six weeks after my son was born, and the persecution pressure we’ve been receiving – well, we’ve just let a lot of things slide.  We have medical/dental exams and procedures that need to be taken care of, We still have boxes to unpack, unfinished landscaping, and car maintenance that we’ve neglected.  In addition, our family needs to rest and recover from the trauma of the last 19 months.
  • Strategy.  People keep asking me, “What’s your plan?”  They know I’m a planner.  They know I am not laid back and phlegmatic.  However, the fact is, the two paragraphs above are as far as I’ve gotten in my plan.  I’m not concerned, I’m at peace, and I’m so relieved to get out of the situation we were in.  Yet, I do have some principles to live by and I am excited by the future.  I am feeling very free.

While the girl was cutting my hair yesterday, she casually asked me what I do.  I told her I was just terminated last week, and like most people, she expressed empathy, concern, and compassion.  As she looked in the mirror, I could see surprise in her eyes – she saw that I wasn’t worried or feeling sorry for myself.

I told her that I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing.  This is my calling.  But now I have the freedom to be myself – to be the man God created me to be.  I no longer have to be concerned about being controlled, manipulated, or put into a box.  I am free.

But everyone wants to know what this looks like – and to be honest, so do I!

As I caught up with an old friend at Cherry Creek State Park yesterday, some pieces began to come together.  Like me, he has been pursuing a new career for several years.  Several years ago he completed chiropractic college and is now ready to start his practice.  He and his wife moved to the Denver area, right about the time we left and moved to Portland – bummer.  Yet over the course of the last two years, for various reasons, he’s been unable to launch his practice.

As I look at my own future, I realize I may end up working some part-time jobs here and there, and my friend is exploring that too.  I asked him if he’d considered doing what Google does, and give away his services.  Just then, as we were walking back to our cars, I looked up and saw a cardboard sign: “Free Adjustments – 28 years of experience.”  But it wasn’t a chiropractor – it was a bike mechanic!  I laughed out loud.

Of course in the healthcare industry, there are issues of liability, insurance, and malpractice – but I don’t have the issues.  I am free.

As I look at my future, one of my old mottos popped into my head:

“Do what you love, and the money will follow.”

So here I am, asking myself, what have I enjoyed doing so much that I would do it for free? Except for the last 19 months, I love what I’ve been doing for the past 10 years.  I coach people, teach, lecture, write, lead, envision, and innovate.  I get to do community service projects, help the disenfranchised, and lend a hand to friends, neighbors, and other people in need.  I get to share my life experience, the things I’ve learned over the last 50 years (good, bad, and ugly).  I have the ability to connect with various people on various levels in various environments.

So, from this point forward, I am free!  I will do what I have been created to do.  I am not cheap, but I am free.

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3 Comments
  1. danceswithklingons permalink
    June 20, 2009 9:34 am

    Welcome back! Just recently I understood that I had kept myself in a “prison” that was not helpful to me or the prisoners, been thinking about Shawshank Redemption lately, and know just how you feel.

    I will admit that I was praying for your release from those that were attempting to control you for their purpose and not that of Father’s.

    Continue your freedom and rest. Don’t forget that prayer is for us to understand. Just like you, I feel and know I am free because of the Father. When you get back to Portland, let’s get together for a freedom celebration, not to brag or be showy, but in gratefulness to God the Father, Son and Spirit.

  2. Terre permalink
    June 22, 2009 2:09 pm

    Gary, Thanks for sharing your thoughts and current life changes. You have such a way with words…the thoughts flow and connect well. It makes for easy reading. Have you considered put a book together?

    When you get back, and your family has settled and rested, give me a call or drop me a line. I would like to hook up before the next big adventure begins and we loose this opportunity.

    I have added your and family to my daily prayer list. Our Father IS. He is in control and is watching over His children – even those over 50!
    Remember, “Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.” (I believe it.)

    T

  3. Kelly permalink
    June 27, 2009 4:22 pm

    Losing my job last year was a shocking experience, but one of the things I knew on that day was that I would find another one. I didn’t know when, and I didn’t know how, but it would happen. Seven and a half months later, it finally did. I told someone the other day that I spent maybe an hour during that whole period worrying. About money, about the next job, about anything.

    And I loved those months of not working. 🙂

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