Thursday, June 16, 2016

Surviving a tough week: Work layoffs and hanging up my dragon boat paddle

The Mighty Women paddle a dragon boat!
This week, I had to hang up my paddle. 
Have you ever had a week that knocks the wind out of you? Last week, the daily newspaper where I work announced it was laying off 10 percent of the staff. Although I was not laid off, that news sent me reeling.

Here's why: It opened wounds from five years ago when I was newly divorced and was laid off. I had to sell my house in the lowest housing market in decades. In weeks, I emptied a four-bedroom house and gave away much of my possessions.

Because I was unemployed, the only apartment I could afford had homeless people scavenging in the garbage bin right outside my door at all hours. I didn't feel safe. I had a hard time sleeping. My life had turned upside down. Overnight, my status changed from secure, middle-class soccer mom to unemployed woman living on the edge.

Five years later, I'm a different woman. I'm stronger--and not not just physically stronger. After having endured hard things, I've learned that I'm emotionally, mentally and spiritually stronger too. I am grateful for the hardships because they have molded me into the woman I am today.

But that doesn't mean I'm requesting an encore in hardship. When the news of layoffs came last week, they dredged up those past hardships and the panic--of feeling that I couldn't control what was happening in my life. I started thinking about what would happen if I were laid off too. I don't have a house to lose anymore. That's already happened.

I do have a wonderful place I call "home." For more than two years, I have been housemates with my retired minister and his wife. I pay below-market rent for their mother-in-law suite, which has the perks of a view of the woods, a hot tub, and fresh raspberries, blueberries and strawberries just steps outside my door. I've also forged a friendship with this long-married couple. It's been good for me to witness a healthy, long-time marriage. If I were laid off, I likely wouldn't lose my home. I wouldn't be homeless. That was a relief, yet I still worried about the "what ifs."

As much as I'd like to avoid further hardship, life has a way of flinging it our way. Last week, I also had to come to grips with this hard fact: It's time to hang up my dragon boat paddle. It's been nine months since I crushed both wrists in my four-wheeler accident. After surgery and months of physical therapy, this spring I returned to the Mighty Women's dragon boat and paddled with my team. I even paddled during the races in Tacoma. That homecoming was sweet.

But paddling a dragon boat takes a lot of strength, not to mention arm range of motion and wrist mobility. After every paddling practice, my left wrist was in pain. I have to listen to my body and give up the sport--and the team that changed my life. So I reluctantly told the news to Jeanie, my coach who has pushed me, molded me into a Mighty Woman.

In the meantime, I'm continuing to work on my physical therapy on my own. I am determined to get more range of motion, more mobility, more strength. I may not be able to paddle a dragon boat, but I'm confident that soon I'll be able to leisurely paddle a kayak on flat water. I can strap on my backpack and take a hike. I have already done a little swing dancing--another activity that requires lots of arm movement. And while wearing my buckskin skirt, I beat my drum around a campfire while surrounded by friends. My transformation from soccer mom to hippie chick is complete.

My transformation from middle-class soccer mom to hippie chick is complete!
Yesterday, after a week of panic, I reminded myself of this truth: The only thing in life I can control is my attitude. If further layoffs come, let them come. I can handle it. After all, I am the woman with the dragon tattoo. I am confident I will always be a Mighty Woman.

I'm the woman with the dragon tattoo!
I can handle anything.


  1. Great piece Susan vi didn't know you had a tattoo! I'm sorry you have to give up the dragon boat but you have the right attitude to keep being strong and brave. Bravo! Love you, jane

  2. The boat took you to a lot of shores - so will your feet, your car, your dreams - keep going forward.