Hawaiian Wave - Oil Pastel on Paper
approx 8 x 10
Art and Photo by Gillian Cornwall, c. 1988
Available for purchase - contact for price
For the last twenty years I have made a conscious choice to serve my employment community in the jobs I selected as the best course or career path available to me at that organization at those times of hire. I have served on 3 volunteer committees within this same employment community to further the advancement of human rights, diversity, equity, intersectionality and advocacy with the goal of making it a better and safer place for all. I am sure I have had successes and failures on this path - depending on who you ask.
This week I received my layoff notice. My position has been made redundant and my duties absorbed into other positions.
I am a 54 year old lesbian with no gender identity: I don't buy into the social constructs of gender - I behave akin to my soul and not to societal expectations of a female-bodied person. I wear what pleases me. I do not identify with terms like lady or gentleman, but I do accept she and her as my pronouns because I am proud of and grateful for my female-sexed body (to the best of my assessment anyway, without having had tests done to check for any intersex conditions).
I have no children born of my own anatomy though I have two beautiful young adult children born of a previous partner. I consider them all to be family in addition to my blood relatives. I do not have a degree - I was traumatized during my two year post-secondary experience because of my identity and never got back to school because every day became a testament to survival, processing the loss of my mother to ALS when she was 58 and I was 20, and paying thousands in counselling fees to improve my state from a life of physical assaults, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, discrimination, harassment and PTSD symptoms such as convulsions and night terrors. Despite all of this, I have worked to make my life and my community better.
Anyway, that is your backgrounder for this piece. All of it has impacted my financial / employment history and present.
I have been spending every hour since I was given the layoff notice trying to gather information from a variety of places in order to make an informed decision within a few days. It feels like being told you are worthless and then having to immediately enter a reality show like Survivor mixed with the board game, Risk, with a hint of Dragon's Den....
I have an active brain. When I have choices (and choices are usually good), I spend a considerable amount of time determining the ramifications of each possibility and how it terraces into concurrent and resultant possibilities. This is my life we are talking about here and I need to be able to make informed choices. I don't have room for error. I have been without a safe home and food before and I do not want that to happen again.
So in the midst of reviewing my options and trying to understand the epic rodeo that is my life at this moment, I went to my home desk drawer to pull out a pad of paper to attempt to write down all of the questions I have for the union, the human resources department and questions around my own needs and desires (because those should factor in here somewhere right?) and to develop a flow chart of potential actions and the ramifications that could arise from them.
I hadn't used this pad since last year. This is what I had written to myself on the first page on December 8, 2015:
"There will never be anything as simple as this again. The beauty of now, having spent an evening working on my writing, now, when all that lies ahead is the prospect of quiet sleep and a reasonable sense of well-being. You have a peaceful home, you are loved by an amazing woman and you have a few good friends. This is the stuff of life, true enough.
You have touched hearts with your writing. You have shared your truth and your love, freely as a gift. You have seen your cousin and walked on England's verdant soil again. You have gone to your homeland and gained a greater understanding of yourself.
You are free - free to choose, to go or to stay, to engage in the very gift of your life. Do as you will; it is your life to live now."
I sat back with this, in awe. I thought, "What has changed?" I wouldn't have chosen to be laid off, made redundant or had it follow the procedures it did, but even in the course of it I am trying to help the employer, the union and others who follow do better next time. If I can not lay good ground through my example, then what lesson is my life? As I have no assets to speak of, my life example is the only inheritance I can leave to all of you.
So I look at this piece of paper and I ask myself again, "What has changed since I wrote this?"
I still have choice - just not the choices for which I had hoped. No one can take my writing away from me nor my voice. I still have the love of that same woman, I still have a peaceful home and I have some very good friends. I miss my cousin, Karen, and I carry her with me everywhere and in all I do. I still have my homeland and I will get there again - one way or another. I still have the beauty of now - the precipice of possibility - and I will go forward with a good heart and an informed mind, on my terms of ethics and good practice and accept what consequences may come from that. What more can I do?
If this happens to you, my advice is to step back if you can. Make sure you have supports and information. Take the situation in bite-sized pieces so you do not choke. Ask your questions and ask them again until you understand.
I was not laid off for doing anything wrong. There was nothing disciplinary in the action. I have not been fired. There are choices. It is EXTREMELY hard to believe, but this is not a reflection of a person's worth. Each of us is unique and necessary and perfect in the universal flow. Our jobs are not our identities.
Above all, we are beings of love and light and conduits for all of the universal energy. I tell myself this as much as anyone going through a similar circumstance. Feel sad. Feel loss. Allow yourself the space to integrate this epic change into your being. Ask for what you need. You deserve it!
For everyone out there who is losing or has lost their livelihood (and there are hundreds of thousands of us worldwide) and struggling to maintain food, shelter and safety for themselves and those they love, my heart is with you.
I recognize the privilege of my position as a white person in a union in a rich nation. I have taken space to work and commune on the unceded lands of the Coast and Straits Salish people on the site of an old Lekwungen village. My gratitude goes to all the people of these lands, particularly to the elders, for the stories and lessons they have shared that have helped me to walk softly on this territory and on the lands of my ancestors in England.
As I wrote above, may we all remember:
We are free - free to choose, to go or to stay, to engage in the very gift of our lives. Do as you will; it is your life to live now.
-Gillian Cornwall, c. April 10, 2016
Parker Ranch Land, Near Kamuela, Big Island of Hawaii
Oil Pastel on Paper
Photo and art by Gillian Cornwall, c. 2009
Available for purchase - Contact for price