Lucky 13

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October 13, 2009

Funny, that number 13.

Some places skip the designation on doors and elevators to keep the fear associated with the superstitious digits at bay. My unlucky run-in with the number has an entire day associated with it. 

A life I had known was taken from me.

I opened the door to find everyone sitting in silence. Their faces, once vibrant with color, now showed more pallor and panic.

They knew. I knew. It was time.

I looked over at him. I heard his breath draw in – still strong, steady, succinct – delivering the last words I would ever hear him say: “ . . . the economy . . . and as a result, we’re laying you off.”

October 13, 2009. Something in my little heart died. I was no longer a creative writer at an ad agency.

 Heavy

Just like that, the world became heavy.

Boxes were made heavy as I filled nearly four years of brainstorming ideas and taglines into them. My words and concepts were now suffocating inside musty cardboard, smothered by salt packs, staplers and lavender hand lotion.

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Home. Work.

Thoughts were heavy: “I’ll drive across the country tomorrow . . . I’m driving to the unemployment office now . . . I’m afraid to drive for fear of an accident and dealing with insurance costs . . . I’m driving myself crazy . . .” The barrage of mixed emotions left me feeling fully menopausal at 35.

Even the air felt heavy as a few others received the same news after me that day, October 13, 2009. 

Suddenly, I felt undefined. After all, “what do you do for a living?” is often the first thing people ask. What you “do” conveys personality, ambition, ability. Heck, it even appears first in an obituary, coming even before the list of beloved family members left behind.

However, in heaviness comes hope. Prior to leaving, I looked at my office door. Two months before, I taped a picture of a tiny dog mustering up a bold expression, the words “BE BRAVE” alongside. I did not cry. Instead, someone got my scented candle, another inherited my plant. With that, I left on my journey to “be brave.”

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Forge on.

Blueberry Muffins & Gary Wright

I once wrote something about the company saying, “if you’re here just for a paycheck, then it’s time for a reality check.”

We worked hard and played hard. In between early morning work arrivals and last-minute ad campaign frenzies were made up stories of the semi-fictitious Jean, her love of blueberry muffins and her passion for the Greek singer Yanni. 

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Jean's Favorite

There were unique nicknames, unique knickknacks and indoor badminton where Gary Wright’s Dream Weaver served as the game’s unusual soundtrack. 

Oh sure, like anyplace else, it had its moments. There was my five second “well then you write the damn copy!” outburst, (I proudly say, the only one I had there). The ever-present ebb and flow of egos and eccentricity that we all had  – all of those idiosyncrasies – made it refreshingly real, allowing me to be . . . and to be me.

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Jen Lilley (aka Betty to some, J'Lil to others) at work back in the day

Lightening Up

Sigh. But that was then. As of this writing, it is now November 13 (a Friday, no less), exactly one month later.

Reality is, one is not defined by a name on a business card. There’s a ton of options out there. It’s time I explore them. Time to lighten up and “BE BRAVE.”

The world sits before me. Just like those half unpacked boxes. And somehow, neither feels so heavy anymore. 

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Jen Lilley Getting Heaviness Out of the Way.

Jennifer Lilley, 35,  is ready for the adventure to begin. She lives in Freehold, NJ.

 © Jennifer Lilley and Jen Lilley’s Thought Buffet, 2009.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lilley and Jen Lilley’s Thought Buffet with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Back to Basics

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The Upside of a Down Economy

My friends and I were reminiscing recently about the good ‘ole days:  learning to type (using honest to goodness typewriters) in high school, the advent of word processors, faxing as a primary means of exchanging business information, and actually sitting down to write our grandmother a letter. With a pen. Using the post office. 

Then suddenly, today’s reality slapped me in the face: It was an email from a business publication announcing that NJ, my state of employment, lost 17,200 jobs in March. Geesh. From there, a domino effect of job losses seemed to erupt around me: one friend in NYC says he’s seeing people being let go every other week. Another just sent a text to say her last day is this Friday.

Sigh.

Oh, to be reading a letter from Grandma now where the “bad” news is about an unexpected snowfall that ruined her tulip garden.

Then it hit me. There IS something good about all this economic stress. And to me, nothing captures it better than this beautifully-created Allstate television commercial.  

Back to Basics

The commercial acknowledges the tough times we live in while brilliantly showing that through it all, people often returnor yearn to returnto simpler, more meaningful times. In the end, they get through it all.

The commercial, “back to basics” shows images of yester years, capturing memories of times gone by. Beautifully-timed, thoughtful pauses make you thinkreally thinkabout what is being said: “a home cooked meal. Time with loved ones. Appreciating the things we do have . . . the things we can count on. It’s back to basics, and the basics are good. Protect them.”

It’s a message that really hits home. Let’s face it, with all the news around us,  isn’t it refreshing to just thinkeven if only for a momentabout that fishing trip you took 5 years ago? That time you and your sister sold lemonade? That concert with a friend? 

Isn’t it nice to pause for a moment and literally smell the flowers (not the ones that glow and glitter via electronic forwarding from a friend, but the real ones)? To get out and experience everything the world has to offer rather than do it with a living room TV bowling alley?

And if we can brave a little self-mocking here, isn’t it a little amusing that a family of, ohjust oneneeds to buy groceries in a vehicle the size of a small jet? Do we not scratch our heads in amazement at national news of a woman so hurt by the economy that she must now simplify by trading in her 5,000 square-foot home in for (gasp!) a 1,500 one?

Less IS More

Somewhere along the lines, society got wrapped up in the notion that more is more. Wouldn’t you know it though. . . turns out that getting back to basics might not be a bad thing after all. In the end, sometimes less really is more. Seems to me that it’s a bit passé, if not semi-comical or even just void of common sense practicality, to hold on to that notion that the bigger the house, price tag or brand name makes one a bigger person. Not today, anyway.

And that’s all I’m talking about it. The point of my writing this isn’t intended to get into the heavy “reasons why”  behind it all or blame the politics behind new presidencies or ones past. Nor is it intended to downplay the significance of a hurting America or discount families severely affected by today’s challenges. And it’s certainly not meant to suggest we enter a world of plug-my-ears-shut-la-la-la escapism.

I’m well aware that thoughts of having home cooked mealsas the commercial talks aboutmay not even be a reality for many, and that time with loved ones could very well mean time spent sitting together wondering where they’ll be living next.

I’m simply pointing out the truth: the basics really are good, no matter how the economy has touched your life, no matter your political party, or that you may hold anxieties about what tomorrow has in store.  

Uncertain times? Yes. But hopefullyif we haven’t been all along anywaywe’re learning to appreciate the value of family and friends just as much as we’ve (now, finally) come to appreciate the value of a dollar.

Here’s to the basics. Grandma, I’m sending your letter out today.   

Jennifer Lilley, 34, lives with her husband in a Cape Cod-style house. She recently had an enjoyable dinner with her parents. Burgers and root beerkept it simple.

© Jennifer Lilley and Jen Lilley’s Thought Buffet, 2009.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lilley and Jen Lilley’s Thought Buffet with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.