Thursday, March 5, 2009

Laurie's story: "Suddenly, we had a lot more in common"

Last November, Laurie Reid's husband came home from work without a job for the next day. He - and she - have been looking for work since.

The Reids, parents of two, have lived a comfortable but not extravagant life in Charlotte for 20 years. Now, with thoughtful candor, she faces the fear and challenges that come with her household losing its only income.

We've been bringing you Laurie's story and others from around Charlotte. They are voices that speak to the different challenges that you'll find throughout our city. We want to hear your stories of struggles and successes, too.

Says Laurie:

Last month I had lunch with several women whose children attend school with my son. I've known these women for years, but we never got together socially until we discovered that all of our husbands were out of work. Suddenly, we had a lot more in common than just third graders.

Our new situation connected us in a way that chaperoning class field trips and attending back- to-school nights never had been able to do. Over lunch we shared our stories, our concerns and our worries. We talked about our husbands’ job searches and our own efforts to find work. We discussed everything from health care coverage to cutting coupons to our families and how they are coping. I couldn't help but think how different our conversation would have been had we gotten together for lunch a year or two ago.

Rest assured, there weren't any tears and it certainly wasn't a pity party. None of the diners in the restaurant had any idea that we were discussing COBRA and unemployment benefits. We were upbeat and positive and shared many, many laughs. Each of us vowed to make our lunch a monthly outing (next time we are brown bagging it). I think we have a mini support group in the making. I knew I would enjoy the lunch, but I didn't expect to find a group of mentally strong women whose stories were exactly like mine. Just as staying positive gives me energy, so does talking about what I am experiencing with people who truly understand. The bond we share isn't the most pleasant, but we are all happy to have made a connection.

I've known plenty of people who have lost their jobs over the years. My father lost his in the 1980s with two children in college and one more on her way. I was a teenager at the time away at school in Boston; I'm sure I barely acknowledged the difficult time that my parents were going through. I'd like to blame my behavior on being a teenager and thinking that the world revolved around me. But lately I've thought a lot about others who were in this situation long after my selfish teenage years, and I am embarrassed to think back on the meager compassion that I offered them. I've always thought of myself as an empathetic person, but there is something to be said about actually living through something before you can truly understand its effects.

Career experts estimate that the vast majority of job openings are never advertised or publicly announced, instead they are filled through word-of-mouth or networking. As such, my husband has been on a mission to broaden his ever-growing list of business network contacts. The thought of networking can be overwhelming, scary and intimidating for a lot of people, but my husband has embraced this new mission of his and seems to enjoy every meeting and every single person he adds to his contact list.

Several mornings a week he holds court at our neighborhood Starbucks. I call them his Starbucks Encounters and am quick to point out that he could save a little money by inviting his new friends to our house. I am more than happy to don my barista apron and serve up a cup of Joe and a smile. He chuckles at this suggestion, probably because he knows that my coffee will not win him friends or influence people.

I can't help but think that those Starbucks encounters do more for him than simply grow his contact list. The people he meets serve as his support line. He gets positive energy from each of those encounters, and he returns the favor tenfold. There are millions of people out of work and millions more worried about becoming the next statistic. My advice to all of them is to find yourself a good support system: accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

Being able to do so is no trivial pursuit, but I believe if you put positive energy in your life, you will reap the dividends. I’m not talking about the kind of dividends that are controlled by the stock market; I’m talking about the kind of dividends that are controlled by you.


Cheri said...

I can't say how much I admire the positive attitude. While it's true that optimism is more effective than pessimism, it's one thing to preach it and another to live it. You're doing a remarkable job. Surely something good is about to come your way!

sean said...

You rock Laurie! I can't say that I am surprised by how you are handling this.

Anonymous said...

You're boring me...stop boring me!

Anonymous said...

Such a breath of fresh air to read stories like this one about positive ways to cope! I hope the Observer and other media organizations will realize that people need MUCH more of this kind of story, not the doom and gloom and fear-mongering they've been feeding us.

Anonymous said...

Finally, a decent and thoughtful chapter in Laurie's story. I felt like her first few installments came across as out of touch with reality and flat out insensitive. This is more of an approach that we can relate to.

Anonymous said...

The most important thing people can do when they end up in this situation, is get on their hands and knees and talk to the Lord. Also get into his word and seek his will for their lives. Ask for his guidance and turn their lives over to him completely. Ask him to guide their steps and lead them in the direction he wants to go. He will work out everything in their lives. He just wants you to depend on him for everything. Give him the glory and honor he deserves on a daily basis and he will lead you to him.

Deelsu said...

I appreciate Laurie's positive attitude.
With all the negative we hear about each day it's a breath of fresh air.

Anonymous said...

Obviously more intelligent people are reading this entry, judging by the comments (except for the person who gets "bored" so easily). Laurie, thanks for your insight. I and many others wish you the best of luck. Keep writing!!!

Anonymous said...

Yup, that's what friends are for, hope you all share the good times soon.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Laurie.
I have grown accustomed to your great writing skills and admire your positive vibes! Keep them coming and I wish you and your family the best.

Anonymous said...

In my early 60's now; have been 'laid off', 'down sized', 'right sized', 'optimized' (or whatever the current politically correct HR word of the day is) twice in my lengthy career. I am employed and for the last 18 months have been actively assisting recently laid off friends with their job searches and counseling (for which I am trained). The emotional impact to the laid off individual is significant - feelings of 'what did I do wrong?', loss of self-confidence, and for men a feeling of unworthiness "can't support my family", and financial fears, etc.

Regardless of the sex of the laid off person it is equally hard for the spouse as they have to fight many of the same feelings and fears, as well as subconscious questions such as 'did my spouse do something to deserve this?' and frequently the guilt which accompanies having had this thought. At the same time both need to provide emotional support to each other.

Can't emphasize enough how important it is to not internalize the pain but to talk about it with your spouse; to tell your kids and family members what is going on; to do a real review of your financial situation and budget for at least a 1 year time frame.

Rule of thumb is historically 1 month unemployed for every $10,000 of annual salary. Today that would be doubled.

There are many resources available and talking - networking - sharing the situation with friends helps in the networking task. Laurie's sharing is important as it helps all who read it know they are not alone.

Having talked with family and friends about the situation makes it easier to talk to business acquaintances in the network. Practice interviewing - for those who have not had a job interview for several years, it is important to think through the message you wish to convey and practice, practice, practice responding to interview questions.

This economy will pick back up and the friendships I made during the 2 times I was laid off have remained strong many years later.

Thanks to all for sharing your stories. They help others in need. For those of you who make the smart alec remarks, I wish you well - may you never find youself in the same place.

Anonymous said...

If I talk to the Lord, will my .282 batting average suddenly increase to .350?

Barb said...

Another great article laurie! Tahnk you for being you and keeping your wonderful sense of humor intact!!

Molly Bloom said...

Thanks, Laurie. It's nice to read something positive when nearly everything one reads these days is full of doom, gloom, anger, or all of the above. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your stories, you have an amusing and at the same time a comforting style of writing. Hope to hear more about you and your husbands progress in the coming months.

Anonymous said...

I send you my best wishes and hope that your family's job search(es) will come to fruition soon. You've got the right attitude!

Anonymous said...

Atta girl!!!! With all of the constant negativity, it's refreshing to read that there still are positive, strong thinkers out there!