Being one of the lucky ones, by the time I was offered Retirement Life, I already had several decades of therapy and personal development (self and otherwise) under my belt.
I could still recall someone in group therapy years before accusing me of being angry ( I believe the words he actually used were, “i wouldn’t want to meet you in an ally when you’re mad.”). I had been flabbergasted. “What do you mean?,” I’d sputtered angrily, “I’m not angry!”
The irony was that I had believed myself when I’d said that. For my entire life up to that point, I’d thought I was this mild-mannered, happy-go-lucky chap who knew only peace and love. I had no idea that I was a simmering bucket of pent up emotions and unexpressed feelings — ready to blow at anytime. It was an idea that was completely foreign to me. And it took several years for me to accept it and to work through it. Ahhh, the beauties of counseling!
So imagine my surprise about two weeks after they informed me of their decision when a fume of anger started to rise up inside of me.
Unbeknownst to me, feeling angry is a normal emotion to have when we’re “let go” — fired, retired, or whatever other glossy terms they try to give it. That anger took me completely by surprise, blew me out of the water, truly rocked my boat.
For one thing, I was offered “early retirement” at a time when I was just starting to fantacise about and taste normal retirement … which would have been about five years from that point.
Suddenly, and with very little warning (other than the rumors that abounded around the office), I was brought to a large conference room to be informed by four people of my altered fate. Five years before it was supposed to happen, I was being golden torpedoed.
And even though we all knew that somebody was going to be “let go” (it had been happening at the company with some regularity for over a year then), it still shook me to my foundation. I had been dreaming of retirement five years hence and this new development was NOT part of my five-year plan.
And, besides, they gave me this pink slip talk the day before I was to leave on vacation.
About a month and a half later, at a good-bye lunch, my soon-to-be former colleagues asked me how I had been feeling since I’d gotten the news. When I told them I had been surprised by an unexpected rise of anger, their eyes took on the look of that person in the therapy group so many years prior. It was as if they didn’t want to be trapped in any ally with this angry retired guy.
The funny thing was that by then, I wasn’t even upset. I wasn’t furious, PO’d, raging, resentful, or infuriated — not anymore, at least. For me, the anger had been more like a big, disagreeable belch of emotion, the kind that seems to come up in 3-D and in technicolor. It was real, palpable, and really unexpected.
I hadn’t expected it because the company had been very good-hearted and generous to me over the years and had — before the spat of downsizing and outsourcing — seemed more like a family to me than an employer.
But for a time, a flash, a few days only, anger and rage had reared its head. And then, just as quickly, had abated.
Which is what I highly recommend and hope for anybody in a similar situation. In any anger-producing situation — observe it rising up, feel it, and then let it go.
Why? Because anger harbored will kill you eventually and, if nothing else, will get in the way of the Sixth Stage of Retirement …