At a time when the economy is improving, ‘disruption’ still causes businesses to fail and people lose their jobs. At our most confident pinnacle of success, we feel the shadow of ‘the next best thing’ that will replace the work we love. And yet, we typically ignore the signs that work is going away.
This week’s ‘Saturday Read’ is ‘Slow Love, How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas and Found Happiness’ by Dominique Browning. It’s a meditation on success and what happens when work goes away.
“In November 2007, House & Garden was abruptly closed down and its offices efficiently eviscerated, emptied of everything except the computers and some expensive bolts of fabric that management proved keen to retain. The change from busy, productive work space to security-guarded vacancy took just four days. The editor in chief of Architectural Digest, the tumbled magazine’s fiercest competitor within the Condé Nast empire, rubbed salt in the wound by publicly announcing that she intended to blacklist from her own pages all previous supporters of the fallen rival. “I felt,” Browning recalls, “as if I had walked into ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales.’ ”
The story of ‘Slow Love’ is about what happened after Ms. Browning lost her job. Prior to the memoir’s release in 2010, she wrote ‘Losing It’ for The New York Times Magazine.
“Work had become the scaffolding of my life. It was what I counted on. It held up the floor of my moods, kept the facade intact. I always worried that if I didn’t have work, I would sink into abject torpor.”
“I have always had a job. I have always supported myself. Everything I own I purchased with money that I earned. I worked hard. For the 35 years I’ve been an adult, I have had an office to go to and a time to show up there. I’ve always had a place to be, existential gravitas intended. Without work, who was I? I do not mean that my title defined me. What did define me was the simple act of working. The loss of my job triggered a cascade of self-doubt and depression. I felt like a failure. Not that the magazine had failed — that I had.”
How many of us are supported by the scaffolding of work? Are there termites chewing at the foundation?
Ms. Browning’s progress of triumph over adversity in a process she calls slow love, knowing what you’ve got before it’s gone.
“At the start of this journey, all I could think about was loss: lost work; my children who had left home; my house slipping from grasp; my parents slipping into their last years. Lost love, on top of it all, because I was finally forced to confront the failure of a relationship that had preoccupied me for seven years. Attachment, abandonment, misery – I was plagued, until, mysteriously, something in my brain shifted into a new gear, and I was no longer experiencing all the changes I was going through as the loss of everything I loved. Instead, I began feeling the value of change…and experience, events – yes, some of them calamitous – that have unexpectedly come to enhance the quality of my days.”
Visit Dominique Browning’s blog, ‘slow,love life’, to view her work today.