It's not every day that I get an e-mail from a client that starts with those foreboding words, "Thank you for your service."
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence in today's economy. But fortunately, my skin is rhino-thick from years of rejection by literary agents and publishers.
Or, so I thought.
While I'm not new to literary agents' form letters (my first novel netted me 138 of those suckers, and I've saved every one), I'm a newbie at getting dumped by a client. Apparently, one teensy patch of my skin is not as tough as the rest of my hide. Call it my "freelancers' heel."
It sounds like an affliction, doesn't it? Maybe we can have a telethon, raise some money, start an awareness campaign. Assign a day to it. Sell a boatload of those rubber bracelets.
But anyway, thanks to a friend who has been a spiritual mentor, I've deepened my understanding of the relationship between crisis and opportunity. My usual pattern was to face a crisis with what I call "act, then collapse." First, I calmly do what needs to be done -- call 911, tie a tourniquet around the wound, make an incision and suck out the snake venom, place the appropriate phone calls to the appropriate service providers -- and then fall in a heap when I feel like the crisis is under control.
Perhaps even come down with a cold.
This woman challenged me to stare into the teeth of a crisis and find the lessons. Not six months later, after I've wallowed about staring at the rubble, but as the tornado is sweeping me into the next state. While the monsoon is monsooning. When I see the head of human resources walking toward my office wearing a black suit and thousand-yard stare, carrying what looks like important paperwork.
I tried staring into those gnarly, unbrushed teeth today. As I was reading and rereading the e-mail, I thought about a former boss who, when asked in the middle of an economic downturn what would happen if he were fired, said, "It might be the best thing that ever happened to me."
So this might be for me as well. The assignment was hardly a trial -- I really enjoyed it -- but I thought about what I would gain by losing it. I could reallocate the time I spent on it toward looking for new opportunities. Finding new clients. Building my business.
I'm already getting excited about the possibilities that await me.
If this had happened to me a year ago, I might have been crushed. But now I know that life goes on after rejection of all stripes. Excuse me, my monsoon is calling.