Thursday, July 17, 2008

On Being Unemployed

I have been out of work for ten months now. It has been an ordeal.

Not working means not having money for things like…paying the bills.

I’ll bet you thought I was going to say something like not having money for going to the movies or buying books or going out to dinner with friends. Well, that is correct. All those things are out as well. Things that were part of my life before. So now I have this idea that I am being punished for having been so shallow and self-indulgent, because I know it was a privilege to have those things that I never gave a second thought to. I irrationally think maybe I’m being penalized for taking my luxuries for granted.

No, more than anything, being unemployed means you cannot pay the bills.

It means you no longer even answer the phone if you don’t recognize the caller ID.

It means when the plumber, the nicest man in the world who has been doing work for you for years, fixes your disgusting outflow pipe you ask him if you can pay him the following week. But then you forget because some new disaster has arisen. And he sheepishly shows up at your back door one day and at first you are confused and think he has stopped by to say hi which would be very odd and then you are horrified to remember you never paid the man and you write a check for $240 even though you don’t have it.

It means eating almond butter for breakfast, lunch and dinner some days. But that is ok, because you like almond butter. It is full of protein and lots of lovely fat.

It means going to the neurologist, feeling so, so sick, and having a GREAT BIG NOTE on your chart that you have to see the billing person before you see the doctor. The billing person, we’ll call her Mean Petty Little Cow, is a 20-something snot with a flat affect and a personality disorder. She treats you as if you have just robbed the Bank of England with a machine gun and taken out 20 people because you have a balance of $115. She sneers (literally, I am not kidding) when you offer to pay half and lectures you on financial responsibility. This despite the fact you spoke to someone else the week before offering to make payments and they said that was fine. And then to add to the humiliation, when you finally are allowed to see the doctor, you can’t stop crying.

It means owing everyone you see money.

It means not being able to pay your mortgage and watching your beloved home slip further and further out of your grasp.

It means holding your breath for so long you almost forget how to breathe.

I’ve sent out hundreds of resumes. And it’s a good resume. I have a Master’s Degree and years of experience. But I have had six interviews in ten months and no offers.

After months of worrying, sleepless nights and enough nervous energy to use up a bazillion calories (although I still stay fat), all of a sudden one day the worrying stops. It could be the decades of therapy. It could be the Cymbalta. But it also could be that I am just incapable of worrying for one more second about something I have absolutely no control over. I am simply worried out.

Just because I am not worrying [as much – I will never completely stop worrying, sheesh] does not mean I don’t care. It mostly means I have stopped bursting into tears in public. I still think about my dire financial state almost all the time.

At physical therapy the other day I was doing leg curls designed to strengthen my legs. My mind was focused, as usual, on my problems. So this was me:

Legs up: Can’t pay the mortgage.
Legs down: What am I going to do?
Legs up: Can’t pay the mortgage.
Legs down: What am I going to do?

It was quite the depressing little rhythm I had going. All the while I am idly looking around the room, watching the other patients, looking out the window, looking at my feet going up and down, when my eyes rested on this:

And I thought, why on earth is there a bottle that says “PRAYER” at physical therapy? Spray prayer? Is it a joke? And then the light bulb came on. The bottle actually said “SPRAYER” but was turned so the “S” wasn’t showing.

So I took it as a sign. This is the action I need to take. There are no easy answers or solutions. Nothing is going to fall into my lap. Therefore, I have been praying more. Not for specific corporeal things, but for support and direction and strength and courage. I think we all need these things the most. Everything else can slip into place with those gifts.

Good thing the bottle didn’t say “TAKE THE GAS PIPE”.


Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say...but I guess praying and trying to find inner peace is important despite all the chaos.I really hope things will look up for you soon!

Marie said...

Jessica, you are just such a sweet, lovely girl!! I wish you weren't an ocean away so I could give you a real hug. A virtual one will have to do. :)

Thank you for your good wishes.

Da Old Man said...

Just wanted to wish you well.

Lyn Collins said...

Marie, Prayer is the answer. God doesn't always answer the way we want him to, but he is always with you to guide you through the problems life brings. God Bless you Marie. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Lyn

Marie said...

Man and Lyn, thanks so much for your kind words and good thoughts. I am really grateful.

Marie :)

Mark said...

Prayer will yield more than ceaseless activity at this time. Be calm and the Lord will guide you to a new path. Peace,


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a courageous post. You are a courageous person1 Look at you; you don't respond to this difficult situation going on in your life by rage and acting out of anger, hurting other people or yourself. You dedide that to just hope, prayer for example. And that tells me how great the human spirit is. 1)Hang in there 2)where can I send you a little something to help?

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm starting to write the review about your blog for HerProBlog and I felt the need to leave you my comment to say that I'll pray for you too, that I believe God is wonderful and chances come when it's the right moment, so abandon yourself totally to Him adn He'll surely show you the way.

In addition, I can suggest you a very nice place where to blog as pro blogger, if you want; I started to cooperate with them in May and I must say that they're really reliable! If you want, you can write me at and I'll explain you everything.

I'll let you know when your review is published, in the meanwhile I send you a lot of hugs and greetings from Italy!!

Marie said...

Mark and Desi - Thank you so much. I am so grateful for your encouragement.

Inkandescence - Thank you for lovely words and your incredibly generous offer!! I am hanging in there, but thank you so much for thinking of me. What a beautiful gesture to a stranger!

Anonymous said...

"Good thing the bottle didn't say TAKE THE GAS PIPE" indeed! Nice line, Marie. And, of course, no one can take your sense of humour from you.

Marie said...

Thanks Paul! If I couldn't still laugh, I would really be in trouble. :)

And no one makes me laugh better than me! lol

Anonymous said...

One of the hardest things about unemployment besides the financial is the feeling that you don't matter, that you're not part of the game. I really wish you luck and strength to get what you want. You can do it!

Marie said...

Ian, that is so true! "I am what I do" has always been a part of my work ethic. But letting that go has been one advantage of being home for so long.

I am looking forward to having a different, and healthier, perspective when I get back to work.

Thanks for your kind words and encouragement. :)

Jane Turley said...

I haven't stopped laughing! Don't ever take the gas pipe route!

Funny how little things sometimes have the most enormous signifcence...

Marie said...

Jane, I think that is so true. I mean I was sitting there saying in my head, "What am I going to do, what am I going to do" and the word 'prayer' pops out at me.

I do believe it was significant and I do believe in the power of prayer.

It was obviously the reminder and nudge I needed. And now here I am, back to work.


Anonymous said...

Marie...I come to this post well after it was written, but it is a great reminder of where the answers are...don't tell me there is such a thing as a coincidence....