D is for…deconstructing a deck

Last summer I went about demolishing a deck that runs the length of my pool. The problem with the old deck is it was in two sections of unequal height, and one section was crumbling away and beginning to rot at the foundations. It was functional but only just.  My boys and I had great delight in smashing it up, ripping it to pieces.  In its place now sits one continuous deck running the full length of the pool. Now it’s more than functional, its aesthetically pleasing too.

I remember at the time as I deconstructed the deteriorating deck that it was ironically symbolic. Deconstructing the two separate sections, clearing away the old 90mm painted pine, replacing the foundations on one side and raising the height level of the other before bridging the gap between the two former parts was like a metaphor of a season in life I went through. The deck now holds glistening merbau gracing the length of the pool.

It was about 18 months after dad had been diagnosed with cancer and the 6 weekly oncologist visits were in full swing. I was navigating the newness of separation and the transition of going from being a full-time hands-on dad to having my parental involvement subject to the whim and emotional pendulum swings of someone I once loved.

There was a 3 week window where things were black, and my memory of that time now largely blank. I’d been informed that I’d lost my job, something I now describe as being involuntarily terminated. Despite reassurances that my marriage separation would not impact my employment the reality was quite different.  The manner in which I learnt about the news was terrible.

I’d taken a couple of staff to Sydney for our national vision casting conference.  As the day progressed an announcement was made that not only made colleagues to spin heads around, but caused me to go “Did I really just hear what I thought I just heard?”

“We know that there are going to be changes in Victoria next year and Brendon won’t be continuing.” Say what?!?! This was the first I’d heard about it, no formal discussions, certainly no warnings or being alerted to being performance managed. I found out just like everyone else.  The shock was palpable, the unfolding implications for me took many years to come to terms with.

As we walked down the steep path towards lunch I’d confronted my former boss that he not only had no moral or ethical basis for such a decision, but worse he had no legal rights either. His response was evasive “you know why”. One of the witnesses who heard him say “It’s because of your marriage breakdown”, later told me he couldn’t believe I hadn’t decked him – something he felt like doing on my behalf.  Some five years later I spoke with an HR specialist who confirmed that my employer of the time had violated 3 federal employment acts. At the time however, simply surviving was all I could manage.

There have been many moments since when I wished I’d been stronger emotionally and psychologically and pursued legal action. The reality was I became a basket case. I burnout, completely. In the space of just 12 months dad was diagnosed with his brain tumour, I’d lost my marriage, my kids, my car, my house and now my job. I was financially screwed. My life was a mess…I was a mess.  That 3 week window of time I couldn’t even function.  I’d melted down. I remember during this time that the only prayer I could pray was “Please don’t let anything happen to my boys”.  I fear had that happened I would not be here today.

It’s hard to describe just how bad that window was. It really is a blur in my memory. I now recognise the significance of the trauma I experienced.

Destroying the old deck was a symbolic reminder of that time in my life…the old has gone. Rebuilding the new gap and bridging the gap between what was and what now is required reconstructive work on the deck. As it has in my life…perhaps in yours also?