Friday, June 23, 2006


The following is the first in a series of writing exercises I'm going to be working on. I got this book with ideas of how to inspire yourself to get started, to get your juices flowing, so to speak, and this is the first thing that came bubbling out of my psyche.

The summer of my discontent began innocently enough, although annoyingly. Summer actually started back in spring, the first time it hit 90. As the temperatures rose, so did the tension and stress levels, it seemed. People at work were edgier, wound tighter, less likely to go out to eat than to huddle at their desk and furtively read blogs while “working” through lunch. It seemed the world became more sluggish, as the burning sun sapped the strength and energy out of everything. Work even slowed down, at such an alarming rate that layoffs were necessary, and yours truly was one of the casualties. Spending so much energy trying not to take it personally is exhausting. Takes the fire right out of you.

Unemployment is a lonely affair. Suddenly, the people who have been part of your daily life for years are ...not. It is like on top of losing one’s self respect and dignity, one also lose a family of sorts. One day you’re “in”, the next day you’re “out” -- with zero time to absorb the transition. And it's somewhat awkward when you do meet up with your work friends; is it okay for them to talk about work? Do you really want to hear that they're sooooo busy right now, that the company that laid you off because business was slow is now doing fabulously? or would you rather hear that the company is tanking? It's all so complicated, and you don't even know yourself.

Those close to you assume that being unemployed means you have tons of free time to skip and play and stay out till all hours of the night; to go to the park all day long, writing lazily on a laptop while floating down the river on a raft. They imagine all the time they’d have to work out, to really get in shape, or to learn to cook or get organized; they ponder all the wine they would drink. Even better, all the unlimited time to travel, unfettered by deadlines for once in their life. Oh, the possibilities seem so limitless and unattainable, to those who have never been laid off.

But they’re missing a huge chunk squarely from the center of the puzzle. They’re not seeing the part of you that is wounded, the gap where your heart was, your soul, whatever that part was that believed in your worth and motivated you to get up every morning and do something productive. Being laid off is like being forced to open the door to a burning room – the unbearable heat sucks you in, singing your pride and killing your sense of humor. And it is a slow, painful death. How long one can pretend is a personal matter. I started tanking after a couple of months, gradually withdrawing into my own little bland, colorless world. Who in their right mind would want to join me here? Here sucks right now.

Here's the thing. Traveling costs money; wine costs money; partying costs money. And writing on your laptop at a funky coffee house all afternoon? Costs money. Basically, leaving the house AT ALL costs you something. Your social life is slowly disintegrating because, think about it – when was the last time you had a friendly gathering and didn’t drink wine? Or order pizza? Or make margaritas? See a movie? Everything. Costs. Money. And it’s awkward for those who have it as well as those who don’t.

What this summer has become is hours of fitful sleep, at all the wrong times. A constant knawing in the pit of my stomach, worrying about the next job lead – or lack thereof. While job searching, you lose your ability to trust pretty quickly. Positive feedback or even promises are empty until the ink is dry – and it's pretty fucking humid in Texas. The process will always take much longer than they tell you it will. In the meantime, you burrow further into your cocoon.

Only this time, way deep inside my fuzzy cocoon, I’m doing something: I’m writing.


Still no definitive job news. Trust me, I'll shout it from the rooftops when and if I hear something fabulous.


Dipu said...

On the one hand, I was able to avoid what you describe for the first 2/3 of my unemployment. On the other, the last 1/3 was almost exactly as you wrote. And which part sticks with me more and still affects my mood and outlook? Of course, not the happy 2/3.

I hope you hear something soon one way or the other. The waiting, the unknown, is the worst part of it all...

Nicole said...

Part of what you wrote actually reminded me of how it was with a newborn baby and living on a single income. We didn't have a dime to spare and there were days I didn't even get dressed. Lots and lots of them actually. But some of the best advice I heard was that you have to make yourself get up and get dressed every day no matter what. It helps your outlook...

I wish I could be there to hang out with you! Sorry it's so hard. I liked your post though, no matter how hard it was to read it and picture you feeling that way.

Lisabell said...

Dipu -- with any luck, this IS the last 1/3 of my unemployment ;) Yes, the waiting and the powerlessness is the very worst.

Sistah -- I can totally see how that would be true. Hopefully there is an end in sight, and soon i'll be THERE to hang out with YOU!