Five Stages of Furlough

According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, we experience five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Elisabeth developed the model through her studies of the terminally ill and later suggested the model applies to any form of catastrophic loss. Most of us have heard of the model and have learned to observe our own thoughts and feelings as we travel through each stage. Here is a snapshot of my current journey:

Denial – Of course it’s possible the government will shut down but really, they know the damage it can cause to the economy and not just nationally but how it impacts economies around the globe. I don’t think they will do it.

Anger – Those sons of bitches! WTF? They really did it and this time I’m not taking the high road, “It’s everybody’s fault.” This time I blame the Tea Partiers and NOT reasonable Democrats and Republicans. And oh by the way Miss Katie Poo, you are no innocent! You of all people should be financially strong and stable at this stage of your life. Look at what a mess you’ve made of things and the self suffering you’ve created!

Bargaining – I can’t really bargain with the cause of the situation and there is no need to try and bargain with some God who is willing to make deals if I do something differently. Instead, I make bargains with myself about how I will respond if the shutdown goes too long and I end up with financial challenges that will take me down a road I haven’t wanted to travel – basically, some type of bankruptcy. I’ve even looked into early retirement so I have the information I need to look at different financial scenarios. I’m wondering how life would be if I got an early retirement, walked out on the debt, and moved to a foreign country. And oh yeah, I promise I will never allow myself to go into debt again – that’s my part of the bargain!

Depression – This happened for me on Sunday. While still in denial (one can experience more than one stage at one time and these stages aren’t linear) – I can easily move back and forth between stages – Sunday I was in a funk all day. I felt tired of struggling and facing every challenge on my own. Now don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of friends and family who support me and love me. But this day I wanted to go down the rabbit hole a little bit and remind my twice divorced self what it was like to have someone to face these challenges with. Of course I quickly reminded myself that the grass is always greener and going through tough times with those men was no picnic either! I confided to a couple of friends that I was in a funk. Fat lot ‘a good their happy selves did for me! But that was my ego demanding to be heard and in pain…

Acceptance – Yesterday I was angry because I had to go into the office. I knew I needed to work through that anger, otherwise I would be across the street at The Dizz eating a $6 slice of Red Velvet Cake. I came home from the office and took a beautiful walk that helped me feel at peace with the situation. I began to think about things I could do to support myself and others through this challenge. I came home fired up and ready to face any fears. I created a group on Facebook called Feds for Fearless Furloughs. And then I sunk back into a bit of a depression and hung out the rest of the day with Paz, Jaxson, and my new Gal Pal Jessica Fletcher (who by the way seems to bring murder and mayhem everywhere she goes – Lovely as she is, I would not invite her as a houseguest!).

By the end of yesterday I took stock in how I felt. I made a hair appointment for later the next day (today) – that will make me feel better, and made an agenda for the day to help guard against spending another day with Jessica. As much as I don’t like lists, sometimes I need structure in my daily life to avoid the pitfalls of laziness.

I’ve survived paydays that were reduced by two full days of work so I wasn’t too worried about going to bed with no signs of relief. Of course when I allow myself to go past two days – what happens tomorrow – it’s easy to go back to stage one and travel through the entire model all over again. Fortunately I have a faith and beliefs that carry me through these challenges and while I experience fear, anxiety, and depression, I also know that crisis is often the catalyst for something great and all of these options I’m looking at through bargaining might really be answers if I’m willing to surrender or as they say in NA/AA, Let Go & Let God.

This morning I woke up grateful for the day off. I allowed my body to wake when it was fully rested. I woke up sometime after 8 I believe and then set a timer for 30 minutes of meditation. I love beginning my day with 30 minutes of meditation and when I work my normal hours, I don’t often give myself the time or the mental break.

After I took care of the boys I went for my morning walk and added a route that would ensure a minimum of four miles. It is another glorious fall day and I’m really grateful to have so many walking opportunities in my neighborhood. I’ve noticed gym equipment at the park and this time I got on one IMG_1308 How lovely that it’s in the shade! I hopped on and started giving my arms, as well as my legs, a really good workout. A man came over and joined me – his first time on the equipment too. It’s true that when we are having fun, we invite others to have fun too!

Walking to the park I noticed that at the beginning I was all in my head thinking about this, plotting against that, and dare I admit, worrying. But the further I walked, the less my mind was interested in stories. I started noticing the slight changes in the color of the leaves, the deep blue of the morning sky, and the crispness in the air. I became present, relaxed, and one with the motion and rhythm of life. Every now and then my mind would pop back to a thought that sometimes brought the fury of fear and anxiety. I noticed how my feet felt and that led me to think that I need new sneakers, which led me to think how expensive a good sneaker is…I don’t have money for that right now…I used to have money for that…if I hadn’t done xyz I would still have money for that…


I observed the thoughts…let them go…noticed the sun on my arms and gave thanks for the Vitamin D I was taking in…

I’m starting to spend a lot of time with this guy…IMG_1309 He watches as I walk by and nods to my new healthy habits and behaviors. I nod to his ability to just be.

I took a different turn on the way home and came across a sign about a lost dog. I can’t even imagine the horror of not knowing where Paz or Jaxson might be. So for those of you in Baltimore, I provide this: IMG_1310

My boss posted something on Facebook today about possibly canceling his leave due to rumors that this shutdown may last well into the month. No matter what happens, I’m grateful for the work of people like Elisabeth who have given me tools I can use to understand my own process, teachers like Bhante Wimala, Wayne Dyer, and Tosha Silver who have helped me see myself and the Divine. Friends who are too numerous to mention as I might leave out a very important name or two – you all know who you are anyway. And family who, even at 56 years old, check in on baby sister and offers to help if needed.

I do believe that like the furlough, this shutdown is giving me an opportunity to face my fears and move into more grace, more compassion, and more light. I really am grateful. And while the caterpillar may suffer through its transformation, I surrender to that transformation and trust that one day I will fly…..


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3 Responses to Five Stages of Furlough

  1. Carol-Ann says:

    Love you brave beautiful women that you are—did I mention also an inspiration.

  2. Much love to you Carol-Ann! Thank you! xoxo

  3. Sami says:

    BriLLiAnT!!!! ;D ;D

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