When work and life collide.

Trust the process. Even when both AC units fail on a holiday weekend, and you have to rearrange or rethink whatever it was you had planned, like spending the early morning hours writing and editing.

Trust the process. That’s the ultimate message. Here’s the first part of the story (though you know it’s going to be a series, right?):

Six years and four months ago, I hit a breaking point in what had been a long and productive career in corporate marketing.

The short version? I declined a safe, stable job as a matter of principle after a corporate merger, and I took a buyout instead.

The matter of principle was humanity. I believed then, and believe even more now, that people are more than spreadsheet metrics. Taking the safe, stable job offered by the new corporate conglomerate would have required me to live by “objective” performance indicators and abandon everything I’d come to know, trust, and believe in my 25 years of professional development. Also, I would have had to earn my stripes all over again, working with a new group of vile women who were both obsequious and cutthroat.

So, I said no.

What was I going to do, to keep paying the mortgage and supporting my family? I had no idea. But I knew I’d figure it out.

I made a handful of phone calls to people I trusted (see, there’s that word again), to get things rolling. Two days later, one of them called me back with a lead.

It was a marketing job, or at least that’s what the search committee thought. They were looking for someone with marketing and communications skills to lead an established organization out of stagnation and toward growth. Marketing, that’s what they needed.

I’d spent the better part of three decades honing skills in creative development, marketing strategy, corporate communications, and message management, mostly in the private sector working for high-pressure start-ups or turnarounds. Marketing? For a $2.5 million organization? Yeah; I could do that in my sleep.

Except it turned out not to be just a marketing job, and I definitely could not do it in my sleep.

When I was in my early 30s I worked for a big telecom company that was acquired by a bigger telecom company and then split into pieces. In that last split, I was offered a buyout and I took it. (See a pattern here?)

I used the cash and the time to start a business. I had grand dreams of building a new kind of agency, one that didn’t operate in the old model of ad agencies in any way. No, my company was going to be innovative, driven by transformative ideas and creative, custom solutions.

My niche was going to be high-end special events that supported high-stakes business relationships. What I knew about myself then was that I had a knack for corporate match-making along with a dozen years of experience in trade show marketing and experience-focused events. There wasn’t much competition in that niche at the time (or still).

Yes, I wanted to build a creative company.

And I also wanted to be a mother.

Both “wants” had countdown clocks, one financial and the other biological. Fed by 90s feminism, I naïvely believed I could do both. I could have it all, all at the same time. The first big hurdle I hit was health insurance.

I panicked.

Instead of holding to the dream of building something myself, I struck a deal with an agency that wanted to open a Memphis office. My clients would become their clients, and I would get a steady paycheck. And insurance.

The easy-peasy marketing job that wasn’t actually a marketing job? It was a turnaround, and I was going to get it done in three years, with a lot of hard work on the front end. That was my plan.

I was going to do it in three years and use the experience to find my way back to what I really wanted to do with my life and career. Just a short delay, that’s how I saw it, six years ago.

Dig in. Work hard. Get out.

Onlly on my first day of that new job — the job that I was going to do for three years only, the one that was a short interruption between what I had to do and what I wanted to do — a magical young woman gave me a card. On the inside of the card she’d hand-written this poem:

For A New Beginning
by John O’Donohue

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

See you tomorrow? I’ll look forward to it.