Monday I left in the dark for an overnight trip to one of our offices. I had to deliver the news that one of my team member's position was being cut due to our merging with another group. I've known for weeks, of course, and I've been suppressing all sorts of emotions trying to keep my dread at bay. I would rather cut myself open and bleed rather than deliver bad news.
Just before sunrise I was coming out of a rest stop. Over the trees was the biggest moon I have ever seen. Emotion welled up and threatened to drown me, but I got it back under control and got back in my car.
This morning I arrived at work quite jittery. I had slept badly, my heart was pounding, and my hands were shaky. When the employee arrived for the 1-on-1 meeting I'd scheduled, I had to make small talk for five minutes before the HR person arrived. She had taken Monday off to be on the beach for her birthday, and she said the moon is as close to earth as it ever gets, and it was incredibly beautiful. Badly shaken inside, but still outwardly in control of myself when the HR guy came in, I delivered the required short speech and left according to policy. I could see the employee was shocked - she turned startlingly pale - but then she was as professional as anyone I've ever seen in this difficult situation. I admired her poise, I was numb, I have no idea how I looked. I got through it, knowing that as hard as that had been for me, it was harder for her.
I had some carefully planned meetings and conversations with other employees affected by the changes, but for everyone else it was just changes of management, not loss of a job. Those conversations were also emotional and complicated, but they all went well. I have a change of boss, as well, but it's one I've expected and hoped for for almost a year.
I could feel emotions gradually coming back on line all morning. It was like a caffeine buzz. My new boss called me around noon to see how I was doing. He knew how hard the morning had been for me - he had no other purpose for the call. "If this ever gets easy for you," he said, "You need to go see a psychiatrist." Later that afternoon, when I saw him in person, my emotions were in full swing, and like a ball held deep in a swimming pool, they now shot way up into the air. I deliberately gave them some free reign, as I'm doing now, to say some things that need saying. I told him that I was eager to work for him for two reasons. First, because he knows what the hell he's doing. And second, because he cares about people - some of the directors he brought in have worked for him before, and one, in particular would follow him into a lion's den. I told him I saw that and appreciated that, and the phone call he'd made to me earlier was typical, and I was grateful for it. He's a quiet man - he laughed out loud and thanked me heartily.
On the way home this evening I stopped on the road to call the employee I'd let go. I asked how she was doing. She was OK - feeling like she'd been kicked in the stomach, she said, but OK. I told her that the morning had been so difficult that I had stuck to the corporate speech, but I regretted that I had not then told her how incredibly grateful I had been for her years of hard work, and her heartfelt devotion to the company, to the team, to her product. And that I wanted to help in any way I could with her next opportunity. She said this made her feel better - she was really glad I'd called.
I stopped to eat at an Applebees on the way home, to wait out the daily traffic jams in one part of the route. I had a waitress who also had a trainee with her. They were both quick to look right in my eyes, and to smile. I probably smiled hugely back, because the trainee, who was on her last day of training, and handled me more or less alone after the initial introductions, smiled more and more each time she checked on me. I read (as I like to do when I eat out alone) and relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed my dinner, and even had a chocolate dessert - a rarity for me. The waitress, when she brought my bill, gave me a particularly unguarded smile and said she hoped I'd enjoyed the meal. I said, "I did, and I enjoyed you, your service, very much." She positively lit up. I left a large tip.
At the table beside me was a young couple, and I'd unobtrusively enjoyed watching them throughout my dinner. The young lady was beautiful, guileless in her laughter, and so unaware of her charm. She glowed with pleasure to be in conversation with the young man. He was good looking, pleasantly well muscled, relaxed, quietly confident as only the unhurt can be, and also charmingly unaware of his beauty. He had eyes only for her. As I was leaving I wanted to step up to them and say, "You, sweet lady, are enchanting. And you, young man, seem gentle enough and attentive enough to deserve her. While you will not always look as beautiful as you do now, you can see each other this way for the rest of your lives, if you love each other enough."
Because this is how I see my Dearest. She and I both are growing older and more interesting to look at, but when we are really seeing each other we are as radiantly young as when we first met, when we first fell in love. Every time we get really close in conversation, and every time we make love, all this light pours out, and it feels like another stitch is taken, sewing us closer and closer together, the connection now running for miles and years. Time has made the bond quieter and more intense at once, with some of our unions being so powerful I can hardly breathe. I lie in bed with her sleeping in my arms, and my heart shouts silently to God my amazement and my ferocious flying joy. I wanted to tell this young couple what their young love can become, how huge and potent it can be. How it can burn the world down in one minute and renew it in the next.
On the remaining long drive home I was listening to the CD I'd thrown together and burned for this trip - the CD I'd heard now for over seven hours of driving, and which was full of emotional songs that kept me alive on the way down, and now sent me reeling on the way back. For the last leg of the journey I turned east on I-40, and the moon rose enormous and orange over the distant horizon. I cried out to God with my surprise, and with all the suppressed emotions of the last two weeks, and with wonder and awe that our planet is made this way. I thought again of the lady who had reacted with courage and grace to the bad news this morning, and who was warm hearted enough to care about me and how it had been for me when we spoke on the phone later. I was overwhelmed with how wonderfully WE are made, and how powerful we can be for each other.
And I realized that feeling these things, and reacting to the world around me with art and tears and loud laughter and gentle quiet makes me feel more manly than anything else I do. I know how little I felt that way when I was in my teens and early twenties, and it dawned on me (again) that I have become this man in particular by watching my reflection in the eyes of my Dearest. It made me love her all over again.