On Understanding Women . . . or Not

I commence this post with the working title “On Understanding Women”.  I proceed with trepidation.  I proceed having finished a delightful meal of linguini con vongole and halfway through a bottle of moderately priced barolo.  I proceed considering carefully the counsel of a dear friend, a graduate of St. Bartholemew’s Elementary School, “He who fails to try, fails”.  I proceed with the second half of the barolo close at hand.

A few years ago, my son and I attended a Buddy Guy concert.  The man is an under-appreciated American treasure.  Midway through the concert, a man in the audience screamed out the name of a song he wanted to hear.  He was an idiot.  At that point, Mr. Guy was in the midst of an extraordinary performance/lecture on the history of the blues, linking Mississippi through Elvis through 60s rock en route to the current day.  A tour de force.   When Mozart and Clarence Clemons met in heaven they probably requested of St. Peter to hear this show. Back on Earth when said fan proffered his request Mr. Guy retorted, “why don’t you shut the fuck up and you just might learn something” . . .

. . . I flash back about five years to the final months of my marriage.  Specifically to the marriage counselor who attempted and failed to save it.  The psychologist was from the Bronx.   A no bullshit guy who wasn’t born Italian but got there as soon as he could.  Turned me on to Chelsea tomatoes. I liked him.  Over $200 per hour, rounding down.  He failed in his assigned task, but gave me a greater gift of insight.  Well to an extent at least.  Dr. Bronx put me through a battery of tests I thought silly.  The results, he said, revealed that I was as balanced and emotionally healthy as anyone he’d ever met.  Again, I liked him.  However, he also told me that there existed a critical gap between who I was and how I was perceived.  Seems that despite my healthy balance, I was likely perceived as emotionally remote.  I thought about this a great deal, him possessing a doctorate and all.  I asked a few people, friends.  I thought about it some more.  I didn’t fully grasp the significance, but as time passed and the thought simmered, I decided to learn from it, just in case he was right.  The question is, was who I was, real if my behavior didn’t reveal it?  Put another way, if he was right it was time to put up or shut up.  Armed with insight, I accepted that I may have been requesting songs I knew and lacking the insight to appreciate them or those I was missing.  I had been an idiot.

In his great song ‘Human Touch’, Mr. Springsteen says “you can’t shut out the risk and the pain without losing the love that remains”.  I had tried that, for – I’m embarrassed to admit 15 years or so.  It would get better I thought, eventually.  It didn’t.  Emotional stability wasn’t the answer.  Expressing it honestly was.

For the past 2 1/2 years, I have been very, very, very happily in the company of the incredible Number 21.   Beautiful.  An artist.  Smarter than me (hard to admit honestly, but true).  Insightful.  Intellectually stimulating.  Seductive.  Surprising.  A woman as desirable as I could imagine in every way.  Often refers to me as a dude in a manner that portrays some combination of bemused acceptance, fear and wonder.  There is love.  And that’s a gift I hadn’t expected at this point in my life. We talk alot.  That’s a good thing . . . when we’re having fun, when we’re watching TV, after dense movies, about topics she knows that I don’t grasp, about topics I know that she doesn’t grasp, about sex, about news and – this is maybe the most important thing – when something bothers one of us, when something is amiss, when one of us is frustrated or pissed, when one of us just doesn’t understand . . .

So the bottle of barolo is done.  Guys if you thought I had an answer you’re an idiot,  No one has it.  Not me.  Not Buddy Guy.  I can only share my story, and this counsel if you want to try to understand women.  Start by shutting the fuck up, listen, then talk and listen some more . . . alot . . . and you just might learn something.  Or not . . . but it’s worth a try.




So Why Haven’t You Written . . .

. . . in nearly two years?  Perhaps we could blame a lack of angst in my life.  But probably not.  Never really experienced angst so much as a sense of baffled wonder at the mysterious sequence of breaking pitches life threw my way for a few years.  On this, the fourth anniversary of my divorce, I honestly can’t say whether I’ve learned to hit the curve or the ball decided on its own to make contact with my bat again.  Either way, life has improved.  So angst isn’t to blame.  Perhaps it could be a deep anxiety, even despair that I had nothing original or insightful to share anymore.  But probably not; sounds too much like angst and after re-reading previous posts discovered little that was insightful before . . . except maybe to people who were suffering angst.  Maybe the fact that my nephew has published two books since last I could craft a few thoughtful paragraphs?  No, I’m actually quite proud of him and his ability to develop a compelling lead character ridden with angst.  Perhaps the culprit is my job, bordering on accountancy.  Can boredom lead to angst?  Hell I don’t know.  However I can pinpoint what motivated me this night to write.

I almost started writing again a few weeks ago when I read that the world’s greatest writer Tom Robbins had written an autobiographical book that was described as “generally well-reviewed”.  What?  I know he’s about to turn 82 and may have lost a yard on his fastball, but “generally well-reviewed”?  While outrageous; his problem not mine.  No that was not the motivator to drive pen to my hand.  It was this . . .

This evening I sat on the patio of my apartment savoring a delightful Padron Anniversario with accompanying snifter of Benedictine while listening to Sheryl Crow perform.  Not a recording, the real Sheryl Crow performing a live concert about 200 meters away.  I live that close to a major concert venue and sound travels nicely that far.  Life was good this particular evening . . . until Sheryl Crow completed her set and something called Rascal Flatts took the stage.  My God, the sainted Bruce Springsteen and sainted E Street Band had performed on that same stage not two months ago.  Now something called Rascal Flatts.  The horror.  After the frontman shrieked “<name of city>, are you ready to party” for the fourth time, I drained the Benedictine, surrendered the Padron with a prematurely final puff and headed inside to fire up the Startingoverat55 link.  At last, I had discovered angst.

AD-8: The Dancer

During over 20 years of marriage, I’m guessing my attitude toward other women was like most guys with a reasonable level of integrity.  Or at least most guys raised Catholic.  Married other women could be friends if they a) were married to a friend, b) were friends of the wife and the spouse wasn’t a deuchebag, c) had a kid in a common activity or d) were co-workers.  Single woman pretty much had to be co-workers, period.  The only other women allowed to be noticed were the hot ones, discreetly and then purely from a distance.   Or possibly ogled depending on company and level of drink consumed. This experience left me fully unprepared to select women I might want to date.

I needed a strategy, some guidelines to help on this new quest.  Other guys opinions on the matter were essentially useless excepting Joe’s suggestion that I lie about my age by five years and opt for women who professed to be at least that much younger than me. A sound start.  Clearly I didn’t want to pursue any women who reminded me of the former wife. Nor would I date anyone I already knew.  Soon it became apparent that “setups” from friends were also an unacceptable option.  I would approach this with a clean slate, a tabula rasa.  I would tackle this on my own and seek out the undiscovered. My primary objective would be to avoid the potentially boring.  The only bad date would be a boring date . . .

AD-8 (8th woman after divorce) represented a particularly daring choice.  I’d had only one date over two months of a work induced slump following four fun months with the delightful AD-5 and a month and a half with the stimulating but borderline boring AD-6.  I needed to shatter the box.  It was a surprise that 8 accepted my invitation, her being a dancer and me, well, not being much of one.  No matter as her form of dance was performance.  Belly dancing.  We met on a Friday night for a nice evening at the pub.  Fine.  Good conversation, not boring, an encouraging goodnight kiss.  For the first and only time in my dating experience, we met for date II the following night.  I don’t offer this as a warning, merely recommendation as risky protocol.

Date II with 8 proceeded well with a late dinner at my favored italian restaurant. Very nice. At quarter to 11, 8 asked if I’d be okay going to see a dancer from her troupe at the local Arabic night spot.  Said Arabic establishment would prove to be the size of a small Walmart with a large stage and sea of packed tables surrounded by howling Arabic men.  8 and I were informed no one ever left, and directed to the bar where a houka soon appeared.  Her friend the dancer performed.  I was suitably impressed.  For the next hour, a fat male singer performed his lounge act in Arabic while I awaited the next dancer.  Then another hour. What the hell, why was this guy still delivering vibrato throaty screams in another language?  More troubling, why was the crowd enjoying it with such fervor?  I apparently knew little about the culture, said 8.  This guy was the main event.  Fine, at least it wasn’t boring.  In fact I kinda got into the evening, danced with the dancer, enjoyed the houka and numerous cocktails until it was time to depart.  That will be $240!  Again what the hell? You mean the houka was rented by the minute and all those shisha refills weren’t complementary?

I was invited back to 8’s place.  It would be okay.  On arrival, I was ordered to remove my shoes.  The decor of the place was fascinating.  A cross between bedouin and circus tent.  And then they caught my eye.  Two fabulous scimitars (i.e. curved Arabic swords) hanging on the wall.  8 returned to the main room, noticing that my interest had been piqued.  Want me to show you, 8 asked.  “No” would have been an absurd answer under the circumstances.  The show commenced.  8 placed one scimitar on top of her head, blade side down.  She then placed the other atop that perpendicular, again blade side down and proceeded into her dance.  Extraordinary.  The scimitars never wavered . . . until she grabbed the handles and swirled the blades madly as she rotated . . . blades passing swiftly within inches of my throat.  Great balance, beautiful form, fabulous fake scimitars.  What a great date this was shaping up to be.

The dance ended.  Wow!  Let me check out those fake . . . er, wait a minute.  Those scimitars are real! And f’ing sharp! My head was still attached to my neck only by the grace of, of, of skills that could have taken out Uma Thurman in Kill Bill.  My God, how many drinks had she had?  Why hadn’t Quentin Tarantino found her?  Horror. Intense Excitement.  Fear. Intimidation. Desire . . . to cite a few of the emotions I may have been feeling . . .

. . . Skipping forward, I wouldn’t see 8 again after that.  There would be other factors to preclude my comfort to proceed.  Nonetheless, I always will remember 8 fondly, a special evening.  Not boring.  Not at all.

Dating Again . . . after 30 years

The day after my 28th wedding anniversary and two days before my granddaughter was born, the divorce was final.  The event was just a signature on a piece of paper.  No tears, no celebration, just a signature authored by the trusty montblanc.  Then I went out to shoot hoops.  It wasn’t what I expected.  Many years before a guy had told me the only thing worse than divorce is a bad marriage.  I hadn’t understood until then; well, until the emotional turning point a couple months earlier.  Prior to that I had resisted.  Then for no apparent reason a cathartic burst of clarity.  Resistance would be futile.  I was to be single again.  I would be okay with it. 

As the reality manifested itself, I seized an unanticipated jolt of liberation.  It was a freedom only modestly mitigated by the fact that my income was six figures less than a year prior.  No matter.  Change had not proven a bad thing so far.  In fact it had proven an enticing dalliance with opportunity.  Just as I had found the pursuit of professional opportunity invigorating (if unrequited), so too would I be free to pursue any woman I chose.  I considered the really attractive women with whom I’d been acquainted in my professional travels throughout Europe.  And the ones with whom I had made eye contact or exchanged witty banter in a bar.  For God’s sake I had maintained a second office in Sweden for five years.  All those women previously off-limits, were now available.  Not only would I be okay with single, it could be a frenzy.

Nine months later, I had lunch with a friend from my  fantasy football league, we’ll call him Joe.  We’ll call him that because his name is Joe.   It was to have been a business lunch.  Instead, Joe changed my life that day.  After exchanging marketing talk through much of the meal, Joe inquired about my dating.  Who was I seeing?  Well no one really.  Joe seemed puzzled, what with me being a fairly handsome, personable and by then gainfully employed sort of guy.  Why not?  Perhaps because I still hadn’t dated anyone since my divorce. Oh I had gone out regularly, discovered some fabulous live music establishments, some wonderful pubs, became buddies with my son (broke up with his girlfriend some time before) who was and is great company, and was having fun.  I was, really.  Joe said “you’ve met my wife”.  I had.  “She’s really great”.  Yup.  “I met her on match.com.  You need to try it”. I demurred, not really looking for a wife at this point.  Unlike his reaction to my fantasy football trade offerings, Joe pursued the matter.  “Last night I was at a party, there were five couples there.  Four met on match.”  Dude – I rarely preface my sentences with that but emphasis was demanded – Dude, I’m really not looking for another wife. Silence.  Joe had taken my point.  Then he spoke again.  “You’ll get laid”.

So I signed up that night.  Had my first date a few weeks later.  And didn’t, er fulfill Joe’s prophecy for another few months.  But my life had changed again.  Just a little of that human touch, B. Springsteen once wrote.  I felt I had been reissued my man card.  But really, it would be all about rediscovering the unexpected.  And learning anew how to be fully baffled by life.

A Meal in Paris

Another Prequel (ref: Lapin in Savannah) circa 2007 . . . another meal from the road by myself (ref Lapin in Savannah), this time Paris . . . another note to the genial Irishman and superior human being, Pat whose dream I was at the time living (ref Lapin in Savannah) . . .

. . .  It’s late in Paris and the warm glow in my stomach argues with St. Emilion in my head.  The good saint is fair minded and having had only three conversations this eve and despite being from Houston, this night intellect will reign, at least as far as I can judge.   There are many thoughts to share, but then the French edition of Pirates of the Caribbean on TV seems an easier path to much needed rest.  Oh what the hell.  Johnny Depp lives here and seems much less exotic than at home.

 Caveats.  I choose not to employ the word frickin’ or its more robust relative in this essay, chronicle or whatever the hell it turns out to be.  It’s not my way.  Had I chosen otherwise, the words would have been directed as adjectives and used exclusively in a positive sense.  As in frickin’ amazing, frickin’ incredible or frickin’ unbelievable (depending on context this latter application could convey either bewilderment or rapture, let context rule).   As a reader, you may use your good judgment and relative taste to insert the aforementioned modifier, or its more robust relative, as needed – much like one would use Tabasco.  Your call.  And for the second caveat, let’s be clear that I have worked for each of the last couple of days, probably well over eight hours and at odd hours.  Also traveled on the weekend so no predictable shit in retort to these musings, or, again, essay/chronicle etc.

Let’s get back to the warm glow I mentioned earlier.  Have you ever wanted to rub warm green mushy food into your skin?  Or lamb (cooked, not wool).  Neither had I, but shortly after the man said “bon gestation” – another caveat, don’t fuss about any French spellings – I experienced if not a cathartic moment or even nirvana, at least a taste, as in sensory not judgmental, that melted away the distraction of the two too-generic-American-touristy-white bread women at the facing table and the heavy-not fat but heavy balding-not bald but balding guy in the far corner who insisted a second time on ordering steak after rejecting the waiter’s order confirmation of boeuf as too fancy for a guy like him.  I wasn’t dipping on a conversation, he was that loud.  The only thing that drew my interest beyond annoyance was a perception that had he been 100 pounds heavier and a monk, he might have been cast in a Canterbury Tale.  Or at least an extra in the Middle Ages.  He looked over at my table too much for my taste.  I recall feeling that I hoped he wasn’t from Texas; maybe some immaterial western state or better yet Massachusetts.  But I digress.  In fairness to complete the tableau, or digression in this case, to my left was an Asian couple – let’s say Japanese – and to their left, or at least the left of the one who was facing the same direction as me was a bald guy who seemed to be enjoying his meal as much as I.  Otherwise everyone seemed French or I just didn’t notice.

 The green stuff was crème brulee pistache (io).  Unbelievable.  The reason I wanted to rub it into my skin was in hopes of slowing the rate of absorption to prolong the pleasure.  I envisioned a little first on the nose, then maybe proceeding to the cheeks and neck, kind of like suntan lotion.  As it was a small bowl, I would have run out shortly thereafter.  Sorry to disappoint.  Of course there was also the regular flavor crème brulee plus, making it one short of a quartet, the chocolate which I didn’t eat out of fear that it could not handle the pressure of standards established by the others.  This is what dessert should be, not fruit, not ice cream – well let’s not get too carried away – not cheese and port, pistachio crème brulee is it.  Then the waiter brought the bill and another St. Emilion.  Can’t be sure this would be the case throughout France, but at this particular brasserie, it was a bottomless glass.  Much like Coke or Dr. Pepper at home.  Buy one, get two free St. Emilions.  Not quite turning water into wine, but this might explain the roots of sainthood accorded this grape.  Or maybe the waiter just liked my attempt at French, or perhaps felt guilty about putting a blackboard with the English version of the menu about two inches from my face earlier in the meal.  When I asked about the French blackboard it was because the handwriting was bad, not a language deficiency.  Awright no big deal.  Well earned redemption for the waiter.

Back to the lamb.  Knife you say?  Fork?  No need.  Thyme rubbed was not nearly sufficient on the menu description.  This thing absorbed some juice over more hours than I have traveled this week and oozed thyme/olive oil/truffles like a pompous lawyer breathes Latin.  It was a shoulder they said, but it couldn’t have worked out much.  The texture was what veal aspired to be if it grew up.  Until the arrival of the crème brulee, I thought I might need a cigarette.  Then a guy showed up at the front in a grey pinstriped suit with a handkerchief creased so sharp in his pocket that it looked like it could slice bread.  The blonde at the counter saw it too, but then she’d seen it before and stretched a smile around her cheek in my direction that beat the turn of her head by what seemed like Secretariat’s margin of victory in the Belmont. . . Oops, got carried away there.  No guy in pinstripes.  No blonde with an elastic smile.  Been reading Raymond Chandler of late and it’s infectious.  Anyway, I was glad I had worked out earlier tonight.  The 240 calories burned on the stationery bike seem a wash.

 Too tired to go on though if I did I might examine why the Japanese woman to my left reached in front of me to snatch the salt and pepper without asking, then after applying it to her raw meal, put it on the table to her left.  Or why everything the Japanese couple ate looked raw even though there was nothing raw on the menu, even the French menu with the bad handwriting.

Later, yesterday’s moule e’ frittes/Abbey ales/ Donmar Theatre evening.  The business meeting really went well too.

Lapin in Savannah

Prior to my world collapsing and thus necessitating the Starting Over, I travelled alot.  For work.  To desirable places.  When travelling for business to desirable places, one sometimes finds oneself alone in the evening.  Cannot expect even the most hospitable hosts – most were  – to come out and play with you every night.  I’m not an eat-the-hotel-food-and-watch-a-porn-movie sort of guy.  Gotta check out the environs and satiate that expense account.  To me, this mandates a great restaurant and I possess a finely honed ability to sniff ’em out.  The dilemma is . . . eating alone.  The issue is where to look, with whom to make or avoid eye contact.  Women would be the obvious answer, but I was married and sought not to be led into temptation.  To paraphrase Seinfeld, I could only glance, get a sense of them lest it be like looking into the sun.  A great friend, a genial irishman named Pat resolved the dilemma by introducing me to the art of dipping, or listening in on other people’s conversations.  With experience, I learned not even to hear the conversation but imagined what they might be saying.  In fact it eventually became clear my scripting of what they should have said transcended what they likely could have produced if I had heard.  Anyway, Pat loved my tales from the road, the meals and the characters my dipping imagination enhanced.  Here’s a letter I wrote to Pat circa March 2008, a Prequel to this blog:

Dateline Savannah . . .  So I’m in Georgia.  Why?  One could argue that it is thanks to Alf the Ax (the bastard behind the bastard that would eventually whack me).  He doesn’t like me.  Perhaps he will reconsider now that I’m a part-time numbers guy again.  I am renewing my finance roots in acquisition work.  It‘s okay and even interesting in limited dosage. A strategic sleight-of-hand to link me to the income statement and remain relevant to the company’s 2008 reality. I salute the guy who came up with the idea.  I am authorized to create a new title for myself to validate my dual letters and numbers responsibilities.  SVP Corporate Growth and Communications?  SVP Strategic Planning and Communications? SVP Acronym?  CzarDude?  Perhaps simply HomosRobustus (it’s Latin don’t get any wrong ideas)?  I digress.

Specifically I am in Savannah which is a surprisingly lovely city.  I am enamored with it in fact.  If Scarlett O’Hara walked down the street it would fit, except for the fact that in this classically southern, elegantly shaded and multi-shady-parked-in-the-middle-of-main-streets architectural delight, no one speaks with a southern accent.  At least no one I’ve yet met.  That would include the hotel check-in clerk, valet parking guy, rental car clerk, waiter, maitre de, guy in the parking lot in a pin striped suit, chef (I wrote him a note on the bill which sufficiently impressed him to yield a conversation), random guy on the sidewalk and someone wondering why I walked thru the BofA drive thru to get cash (there was no other ATM).  Not a statistically meaningful sample size perhaps, but not insignificant.

To the point.  I enjoyed an exemplary meal tonight.  One of the best I’ve had.  The place was named Local 11-10 or as the hotel clerk termed it, “one of the new restaurants”.  No one at the Marriott could tell me where it was.  Fortunately I found it.  Eating alone, I was seated at a table for two near the bar.  Food for two could not have fit on the table.  No matter.  I got to see everyone enter and leave, as well as wait for their table.  Couldn’t really dip into conversations but a great seat to observe.  The cast included:

  • Older woman wearing a smart black outfit with large broach which may have dated to Scarlett O’Hara, seated with an older though younger looking husband (?) and middle aged generic (son?) – she was attached to oxygen.  Let’s call her Bliss.
  • Two women sitting together on one side of the table facing me.  This is significant only because they were in front of the window so I had to look in their direction to view the street activity.  This meant smiles of misdirected acknowledgement.  Let’s call them the Daisy Twins.
  • Bar people.  All well dressed and incapable of eye contact with another human being.  No names for them.
  • A family with three daughters.  Dad in a blue sweater, Mom fit and bright and the daughters ranging in age from about 8-14.  I imagine all play soccer.
  • A couple who did not fit.  These I liked the best.  Hispanic I would guess though not so obviously that I could not be wrong.  I would project the guy to be a writer.  Hair too long, but not long enough to be stylish.  Some gray.  Not tormented enough to be an artist, not geeky enough to be a generic office professional and not sufficiently dynamic to pass for an executive.  You see why I am interested.  The woman was frumpily built yet with a pleasing persona.  Wish I know what they ordered.

My waiter was named Viscic.  No idea as to the proper spelling or pronunciation.  He did well.  A fine off-the-menu wine special by the glass to start.  This was a guy I clearly could trust so I strayed from my usual protocol and asked for his thoughts on the menu.  He offered a series of referrals, enough of which piqued my interest that I ordered on faith.  The local oysters to start.  From South Carolina and in season.  I could sense that Bliss approved.  The trendsetters at the bar seemed not to care.  Extraordinary.  Too good in fact to cover with the conventional red sauce/horseradish sauce.  Should have served these in multiple dozens.  These oysters were raised in upper middle class neighborhoods and attended private schools.  Got presents they didn’t need for Christmas.  Played soccer and had cell phones at a young age.  Were given new cars at age 16.  I felt fulfilled to have eaten them before they spoiled.  These may have been genetically engineered oysters.  No way their mollusk parents ever had sex in the Gulf waters even on spring break.

Some bread appeared – later I would learn it was panna – and another glass of the wonder red.  The Daisy Twins hadn’t yet ordered.  Bliss was getting louder and the Hispanics pretty much ignored everything except each other.  Again, I was pleased by them.

Then, the rabbit course.  Served in a casing blended with fig over a wide-brimmed pasta with an assortment of cool local vegetables and mushrooms.  The waiter, a guy who walked around picking up plates, another guy who may have been part-owner and another waiter stopped by to congratulate me on my order and see how I liked it.  Was I the first to eat this?  Even the Hispanics now seemed interested.  Bliss was staring.  A guy arrived to join the daisy twins – thank God I could look out into the street without an obligatory smile again.  This was an exceptional meal.  Hence the note to the chef, actually on the back of my business card, not the bill.

An amaretto and out.  And oh yeah, they billed me $5 for the panna which I didn’t order.  No objection warranted.  As I left, Bliss was being served her meal.  What the hell had she and her table been doing for two hours?

Regards from Savannah.

Anatomy of a Job Search

I am gainfully employed.  Have been for the past year and a half.  I find this helpful in paying bills.  Regrettably, I experienced a 26 month intermission between the terminus of my last position and the commencement of this one.  In retrospect I regret not having used the time better.  Pretty confident I could have not looked for work during 13 or 14 of those months with similar success, and done something grossly irresponsible, or perhaps learned a language, or gone to law school or mastered the ability to bend spoons with my mind.  I did develop culinary skills and a close relationship with the cat.  Deciphered the lyrics to Dark Side of the Moon.  Watched every game of soccer’s quadrennial World Cup.  Bob Dylan once wrote, “there is no success like failure and failure is no success at all”.   What else needs to be said?  As Starting Over posts accumulate, I will be neither surprised nor disappointed should Mr. Dylan’s concept evolve as a defining theme.  

At about month 19 of the sabbatical/intermission/deadbeat phase,  I was asked to deliver a presentation on how to do a job search to a high-level gathering of recently displaced angry former executives. The fact that I had not landed a position in 19 months was not lost on the host of the gathering. My outlook would inspire the group, he said. To me it more resembled a Monty Python plot line. So I took the gig.  Following is a summary of that presentation, in hopes it may help those who need it . . .

STAGE 1—The Sabbatical

Also known as the ‘do nothing’ phase, assuming there is some severance. Anger is both characteristic and, I think healthy. Feelings of urgency appear and disappear. Gradually the head clears and recognizes that I had not taken more than two weeks off in a row in over 30 years. Had I been smart, I might have bought a dive shop in the Caribbean and started writing a book, or gone to law school, but alas, old habits die hard. The anger subsided, the head cleared and I proceeded to . . .

STAGE 2—The Job Search

Eventually I would learn that this stage is a pain in the ass, but having never been without work in my adult life, I approached it with confidence. The process started with the outplacement service. My counselor, a guy who put out oil fires and appreciates the exotic, points me in the right direction and becomes a friend. I attend training and take assessments that conclude I would be a great CEO, though possibly unhappy as one. I prepare a dozen drafts of a resume and am presented with a foolproof methodology to expand my network in some geometric algorithm. I dive in. I attend luncheons and coffees and get new contacts for more lunches and coffees and social networking events. I learn that much of our population are personal coaches, some of whom qualified. My network expands rapidly but I generate very few opportunities until I proceed to . . .

STAGE 3—Having Fun With the Job Search

John Wooden once said “never mistake activity for accomplishment”. He was referring I think, to Stage 2. After scanning my network list one late evening, finding that I couldn’t identify many of the names on it, I had a cathartic moment. I had to do this my way. Size was not important, at least in terms of network. Actually knowing the people in it was. I sharpened my focus and undertook activities that made sense to me, defined clearer objectives and omigod, discovered this could be fun too. Launched a consultancy (which paid some of the bills, the smaller ones), attended fewer meetings but ones in which I was interested, developed fresh networking avenues and in the process was able to define a preferred future. More real opportunities began to appear. Although the hairline may slowly be receding, I’m not pulling it out. And hope prospers.

STAGE 4—The New Job

How the hell would I know what to write here (Ha, I do now)? I love freedom but a little money would be nice . . .

Okay, I didn’t include this part in the presentation. I do include several practical approaches that the audience absorbs with enthusiasm. They are grateful and less angry than before. The host, straight of face, suggests I consider a career in comedy, Funny guy.


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