The Year I Saved My (downsized) Soul: The birth of a memoir

This week marks the birth of my sixteenth book–and it was hard labor, indeed. The book was conceived what now seems a long time ago, with my believing that I had recklessly broken to my very core.

At my age and stage in life, the last thing I ever expected was to be downsized from my corporate job. But when the economy hit the skids, a whole class of marketing industry “thought leaders”-—people whose contributions sprung from R&D rather than P&L–found themselves suddenly in the pink, as in pink slip.

Feeling the end approach, my own salvation began the moment I took up my pen every night after my long days at work to record my experiences. I instinctively knew I needed to do something to make sense of what was happening to me. In doing so, I inadvertently transformed myself from victim to witness, a much more productive vantage place from which to view a career and life in disarray.

I literally wrote this book to save my life—-and it wasn’t until the year was nearly over-—having at last discovered my own happy ending as Senior Strategist with Vibrant Nation–that I thought to share this with an old friend, and my former agent, Patti Breitman. Patti was a safe choice, as she had retired from the publishing business. I simply wanted to know if the words I was sharing with her read, as I feared, like the confession of someone who was scrambling to catch up with the pack. Or if there might be something in this for others. Outside of my own personal journals, I’d never written anything this vulnerable, so exposed. Had I shown too much of myself? Patti’s response excited and alarmed me. “This is a brave book” were her exact words.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Patti was making plans to throw herself back into agenting, and that the words I shared with her spoke to her personally. Life is full of surprises.

The I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of divination and philosophy which has been an important teacher to me, and about which I’ve written in a number of my books, has the perfect words to describe my response: “Oh oh. Hah hah!”

Before I open my (downsized) soul to you, I want you to know one last thing. When I started writing this book, I thought that my soul had been broken at the core. It turns out that my core is just fine—-always was. And the pieces that were broken and fallen away: they were never an essential part of me, anyway.

I’m proud of this book and the fact that I rose to the demands of the occasion to produce art out of despair. But would I want to go through this again? Not on your life!

Here’s to a happy ending for all of us with (downsized) souls! I hope you enjoy the book.

How do you survive being laid off after 50?

Posted in Inside the Nation.

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  4. The (downsized) Soul’s Bill of Rights
  5. How much is too much to share in a family memoir?

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5 Responses

  1. Ainslee Grace Ainslee Grace says

    Yes, I decided to journalize my falling from success to homelessness due to a rare form of MS…I hope to just get one copy to President Obama, to remind him that,
    we are all just one severe illness away from homelessness in this country.

    1 like

  2. JanDeelstra JanDeelstra says

    Ahh journalling…. That’s where my first book, Blessings In The Mire, came from. Good for you!!

    0 like

  3. Ainslee Grace Ainslee Grace says

    Keep writing ladies, and lets buy each others books to support women authors. We need to make a VN booklist!

    2 like

  4. Generic Image jqbateman says

    I am 56 and worked for a major corporation for 19 years, I thought I was making a smart choice when I refused to move with corp to another town. At the time I thought I could take the time off to re-invent myself as I was totally fried, but life has gotten in the way!  I was diagnosed with breast cancer and my sons had thier first babies, so I have spent the last 7 months treating the cancer and helping the new parents figure out how to manage new borns.  All along I have been looking for a job, but I find it very depresssing because I have only had 2 interviews out of many, many of jobs I have applied for.

    I saw my mother lose her job at 55 and never be able to get a job at the level she had when she lost her job, I tried to prepare myself by working hard, getting my masters and staying up to date in my industry, but it appears that is not enough.  So what next?

    0 like

    • Carol Orsborn Carol Orsborn says

      Hi JQ,  I really feel you in this–you have so much, well, let’s call it an abundant life, for sure.  Here’s my thought on this.  I really did think it was the end of the world when I lost my high-level job and was pretty sure I couldn’t replace it.  (My entire sector was laying off people at my level…)  (I’ve also had a life-threatening disease, and know that having both the job loss and breast cancer at the same time must feel overwhelming.)  In my instance, searching my soul in the aftermath, I came to realize that there was a difference between highest job level and fullest use of my skills, interests and abilities.  It took some very out-of-the-box thinking (and the willingness to put my money/status ego aside) to figure out that I had a higher purpose to fulfill and that if I just kept putting one foot head of the other exploring the possibilities of how to come closer to expressing more of who I am (and trusting that someone would recognize it and pay me for it) I would eventually come closer to fulfilling my destiny.  There has been sacrifice for sure–again, the money, security, benefits that I used to have were nice, indeed.  But I never frankly expected again to be so happy.  For me, progress came out of dual efforts:  exercising my spirit while continuing to do practical things, like networking with friends, putting our resumes, etc.  Neither one alone would have gotten the job done.  I can sense you’re just on the verge of getting your mojo back, and expect to hear back from you in six months or less how things turned out.  Hope this is helpful.

      2 like

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