07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Coping with the death of a personality…

One of my favorite quotes about writers is:

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”― E.L. Doctorow

But then a drastic life event made me realize that writers aren’t the only people with multiple personalities—acceptable or not. We all have them. By we, I mean you too.

Think about it. How many “you’s” are there in an average week? Really. There’s a bunch of “you’s”. We all respond, react…differently…for the lack of a better term to describe our behaviors, depending upon which “us” is called upon in any situation. I’ll use myself as an example.

I am Christian. I’m wife, mother, grandmother, author, friend. Sister—an older bossier sister at that—just ask my brother who was cursed to be born eight years my junior. Then there’s the  seldom-called-upon chewer-outer of our programming provider when I call to change my channel package and the poor soul on the phone is foolish enough to attempt to sell me something I am not about to buy.

But I digress. Back to losing a personality.

One of my “me’s” has been dismissed. On December 14, 2016, I drove away from my day job of twenty-nine years for the last time. The company I worked for decided to close the steel mill where I’d worked. I hadn’t made “friends”. I’d acquired “family”. The years of laughter and tears, sharing births, deaths, marriages, and divorces were now abruptly over.

My nickname at work was Thumper. You remember Bambi’s best friend? He had the worst time trying to keep his mouth shut and his opinions to himself. Thumper struggled when it came to filtering his words. I share his problem.

I was dubbed Thumper at the steel mill during the first year or two of my employment. They called me Thumper for so long, some didn’t even know my real name.

That thought makes me smile because there were some I couldn’t tell you what their real names were: Sprucie, Sprout, Stump, Ogie, Pappy, Hambone, Romie, Rollo. I guess you could say, we were the steel industries own special assortment of dwarves. But now our forest is gone. Stripped bare and vacant.
So, what do I do now that “Thumper” is no longer needed Monday through Friday from 6:00 a.m. ‘til whenever the work was done?

Yes, I know I am still very blessed. Yes. I have more time to write. But I’m still sad. I mourn that lost corner of my soul.
I know life is all about change and transition into different stages but I’d always planned a more gradual slide from one phase to the next.

How do you handle a chopping block change—after the part of your life they’ve cut away has dropped into oblivion?

How would you cope with the death of a personality? 


Sarah Raplee said...

I've had what you called "chopping block" changes more than once in my life - the kind of unplanned and unwanted change that divides your life into "before" and "after." It's normal to mourn the part of you that is gone.

Prayer and meditation are tools that strengthen resilience. I advise you to use them daily. That being said, one "chopping block" change had me so mad at God that I stopped attending religious services for two years. I knew I was mad at God, I knew I would eventually work through my anger and that I hadn't lost faith, and I prayed for forgiveness. When I forgave both God and myself, my Faith was stronger than ever.

The best ways I've found to cope involve finding ways to spend time with others going through the same thing, giving and receiving support and coping strategy ideas, learning what to expect from my "new normal." Once I simply hung out and job searched with a friend who faced the chopping block in the same company layoff as me. We became very close through our shared experience. Another time I found a support group of people going through the same major illness.They helped me in practical ways and inspired me to remain optimistic.

Looking back, I see the silver linings and how I've grown through adversity. In fact, I decided to seriously pursue a writing career when family needs forced me to give up a job I loved.

But I admit to some initial tantrums and tears. Change and growth are not easy. It sounds like you have a loving "family" who are going through the same thing as you. Meet up for coffee. Have a potluck. Form a bowling league. Celebrate birthdays together. Volunteer together. Cry together. Laugh together. Help each other through this and keep your friends close. You are stronger together.

Maeve Greyson said...

Thank you so much, Sarah. It sounds as though you empathize perfectly with this "change" I'm battling right now. I also appreciate the good suggestions. You're right. We're all stronger together. Merry Christmas to you and yours and I may 2017 be a blessing-filled New Year! :-)

Judith Ashley said...

Maeve, Oh my!!! What a challenge you face. Sarah's suggestions about keeping the ties strong rings true from my point of view also. The only thing I would add is to focus on the "you" that brings you the most pleasure (probably not the you that deals with the cable company). And celebrate Thumper - I was Jonnie for two years when I worked in Klamath Falls and there were already 4 Judy/Judith's in the office. I know if I hear that name exactly where I knew the person talking to me. Keeping connected, finding the blessing in each day will get everyone through this monumental change.