Gone vs. Still Have

I went to a seminar on healthcare options for people who formerly had healthcare coverage through their employer but lost it when their job went away. It was fascinating—not the healthcare part, but how all of us around the table were handling the job transition differently.

One of the women in the room (the group was all women) had been let go in February after sixteen years and was swirling with emotion. I had to remember to take deep breaths when I felt myself slipping from compassion to correction.

The woman had recently earned her real estate license and I was glad for that—she had a plan, was working it, and I could see her succeeding in this new line of work. In her slim black dress and Sandra Bullock hair and big diamond ring and bracelets, she looked like a real estate agent. But she was angry and afraid about the lack of a regular paycheck. She kept repeating herself, “You don’t understand. Real estate isn’t like a salary. It’s complicated.”

She was being imprecise in her language. It’s not complicated. It’s inconsistent. She needs to plan for the inconsistency. The facilitator asked the woman what her family’s monthly bill for COBRA medical insurance will be when her severance stops. Her answer: $2700 a month. I was shocked. Now I understood her fear/anger. Now I had empathy.

The facilitator said we should estimate our income in 2020 in order to select appropriate coverage. The woman asked if she should use nine months of her former salary as an estimate. A word popped into my head: irrelevant. I bit my tongue. The facilitator said, “Your former salary doesn’t matter. You are no longer employed with a regular paycheck, you are now self-employed as a real estate agent.”

People get confused during change. They tally incorrectly. In the Gone vs. Still Have columns, the woman needed to put ‘salary’ in the Gone column. That’s hard to do. But fortunately for her, there is a long list in the Still Have column: her skills, her intelligence, her drive. She’s already closed on the sale of four houses but mentally she’s looking back, trying to count the salary that isn’t there.

I realize that I have it easier than the other women around that table. I initiated the change, they didn’t. I’m not facing unexpected insurance bills, they are. This time the change was my choice and I’m glad I made that choice, that I was willing to make the leap. But I can’t be arrogant about this. There are plenty of times I didn’t choose to leap. There are plenty of times when I pounded my fists in the air over the Gone column, for years. But I can learn. I can change.

PS: More about the woman… after the session, in the parking lot, she said she had always wanted to be a real estate agent but was afraid to leave her job. My take on it: the woman had just gotten a giant kick in the butt from the Universe and she is only a short time away from waking up in a life loves.


Chewing the Cud of Good

Because she gave to all of us. For those of us who could never understand, she gave us a taste.

Toni Morrison, photo © Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

2 thoughts on “Gone vs. Still Have”

  1. Thank you, I realized I’m still holding on to one thing in my Gone column, in the old way when I could be looking for a completely new way in my new world

    1. Anna, I’m sorry for the delay… I’ve been a place with spotty internet.
      As for the Gone column, it is alluring. It can feel strange to let go, it can feel empty. But when we let go then we can touch the present.

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