Afterthought – Bread of Affliction?

Today’s Machining World Archive: April 2010 Vol. 6, Issue 03

I am writing this column one week before the Jewish holiday of Passover. From sun down Monday, March 29th through Tuesday, April 6th I’ll be eating unleavened flat bread called “matzah” instead of the yeasty risen bread that I love so much for 51 weeks a year.

Matzah is regarded by Jews as the “bread of affliction” and also as the “bread of freedom.” Same constipating stuff with two dramatically different ways to look at it.

I feel similarly about the last two years, affliction and freedom personally and professionally. Two years ago my health was declining, culminating in cardiac chaos during IMTS 2008. It was terrifying to be told I was in heart failure as I was being rushed to the emergency room while having my clothes cut off. The heart attack was my affliction, but it liberated me from denial about my health and my mortality.

The quadruple bypass surgery gave me a new lease on life and a fresh intensity toward living each day. I see life in 3D now. I cry more today. These tears of emotion are much closer to the surface now than before the surgery. Occasionally I feel embarrassed by the tears—some people think men don’t cry, or at least shouldn’t. I see the tears as a symbol of being freed up to live the unknown number of days I get to spend with the people I love.

On the business side these last two years can be seen as an affliction. I’ve watched friends forced out of business, and my brother Jim and I have experienced our inventory, which comprises a good portion of our personal assets, melt in value. We’ve had many sleepless nights and painful days worrying about the health of our business, and doubted our own ability to make it work. We’ve agonized about cutting employees, and then did it—probably long after it should have been done. We’re still standing. Are we still eating the bread of affliction or the flat bread of liberation?

Our monthly expenses have been cut in half. The sled is lighter. I feel grateful for the freedom I have when running a business—to make my own hours, to change course, to work with people I enjoy. Is running your own business an affliction or a privilege? Do you get to do it or do you have to do it?

Do you believe these are choices we the living get to make?

This is the season to ask the tough questions. The matzah I eat is as bland as cardboard, but with jam or butter it is a delightful treat. I’ll be enjoying it.

Lloyd Graff

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