For the second night in a row I found my dreams haunted by the job I was dismissed from a little over two weeks ago. In last night’s dream my company wasn’t just a company. It was a city populated by thousands and I found myself an exile forced to walk in the desert and look longingly on from a distance. I was cut-off and isolated not only from the company and the people I’d known there but also from the rest of mankind. The company, apparently, represented the entirety of society. This honestly isn’t a bad analogy for the way I feel at the moment and it takes a bit of probing in my psyche to determine exactly why.
I’m a person who tends to keep people in one of three circles. There are a few people, numbering less than a half dozen that I consider the ‘inner circle’. These are the people for whom you not only do anything but do it without thinking about it and realize only later that you’ve done something important. And when you do have that realization you don’t even think about it because it was second nature. The second circle is people with whom you aren’t as intimate but that you might actively seek out for conversation; the ones that you’ve invited out countless times to do something after work but they never seem to have time. To the third belong all the people that you crack jokes with in the hallway in passing or talk to only in meetings. You know them well and you may like them but for whatever reason the interaction just hasn’t gone social.
As I sit here on a Saturday morning I realize just what my dismissal has done to my social hierarchy. When Laura came home last night she noted that I was just a machine of chatter. Cracking silly jokes and babbling on endlessly and this is at least in part because I just have so much of it pent up. The third circle that used to suffer through my witticisms and conversation is utterly gone. This need to babble, I suspect, explains the tendency of many retirees to strike up random conversations with strangers. They’ve lost their own third circle and the conversation just has to go somewhere.
In addition to losing the third circle, this has an impact on the second circle as well. Work was a great place for the second circle to congregate. If you put a few people together from this group it typically results in a great interaction. Now, without the common bond of a workplace, the second circlers have nowhere to come together (well, they come together, it’s just without me and it’s behind the locked fortress walls of the workplace) and the dynamic is changed. I was always mystified at the phenomenon of the high school reunion. Why would anyone want to get together with a bunch of random people from 20 years ago? I see now that it’s an attempt to reform the second circle of days gone by.
Starting out I was jotting down some notes for this missive and thought initially that this sense of loss was probably an indication that my life was too work-centered. Having babbled on for 550 words though I’m not so sure that’s the case. I think this may just be the natural order of things and that I’m just feeling this loss more acutely because I’ve been stationed in one place for so long.
Yes, the third circle is gone, but those are easily enough reformed. The cohesiveness of the second circle is shattered forever, but another can be built. Those people in the second circle with whom I have sufficient things in common will persist, perhaps to enter the first circle or perhaps to perpetually float on the fringes. Either way, this is the nature of things. Life is not a stockpiling of relationships but rather a dance. Today’s close and favored dance partner is tomorrow’s distant memory. One must revel in the moment and enjoy what is and hope that eventually the dreams will stop waking us at 7am on a Saturday morning.