31 January 2009

Emotional whiplash

The last half week has been an amazing journey. Planning to sell a house and move across the planet with no notice is frantic making.

First, the important part. We're not leaving for Australia right away after all. Oops. Sorry for alarming everyone.

The rest of the story...

Back on December 12, it was announced that as a precursor to a round of layoffs, my company was offering a generous voluntary separation package to a limited number of people. After discussing it, Rod and I decided that a) we would apply and b) if we were accepted, we would take it as a sign from the universe and use the money to settle things up here and move to Australia.

We do intend to move close to Rod's family, though we had hoped to do it with a certain amount of dignity -- you know: a job awaiting and enough cash to set ourselves up, a market in which we can sell our home for at least enough to pay off the mortgage, that sort of thing. However, since the total layoffs coming are HUGE and the economy here in Michigan is such that I can't expect to find a job if I lose this one, Plan B seemed the most prudent approach. (The financial crisis is world-wide but, if it comes to that, Australia is a much better place to be poor and we are not likely to have such a big lump of money offered to us very often.) I applied and we went on with our lives.

I got a letter on Christmas Eve saying that my voluntary separation offer had not been accepted, but there was no indication why, so I assumed that it was because I had been too late. ( Only the first hundred applicants would have their separation offers accepted, and I hadn't managed to reach Rod to discuss it until many hours after the announcement was made. I understand that I was about #187 on the list.)

Then, on Wednesday, as I was heading home for the evening, I checked my mail one more time and found the announcement that, for various reasons, everyone who had applied was now being offered the separation package, unless they had been disqualified because their skills were considered "critical".

I had never had any indication that *my* skills were critical or even particularly singular, so I jumped to conclusions.

It took me two days (and much investigation of inconsistencies in the situation) to discover that my name had been added to a critical skills list and I was not actually eligible for the separation package.


So...we aren't moving precipitously after all. The good news is that since my skills are listed as critical for the time being, I will be relatively safe during this current round of layoffs.

(No promises can be made about the next round, of course...this is the auto industry. In Michigan. We can but live in hope.)

However, this experience crystallized in Rod's mind his need to be home. He came here seven years ago leaving his close-knit family behind "for a while" and he has become aware of how deeply he misses them.

And so, as alarming as this experience was, it has kicked off a whole new epoch for team Smiffy. We won't be going in six weeks, but in four or five years, we expect to have worked ourselves into a situation where we can leave with dignity and plenty of time for civilized goodbyes. It has become much more than a vague 'someday" plan for us.

In the meanwhile, as Rod mentioned over at Astrosage, the coming times are going to be hard ones. Since we will evidently have the relative luxury of a home and an income, we plan to focus a lot of our energy on helping to build the community support network we see as a critical piece of the answer to how shall we all survive. Plans are sketchy at the moment, though Rod and Jack are off at a shelter preparing breakfast for women and children in crisis right now -- but I'm sure we'll have more to say about that as plans crystalize.

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