Tag Archives: unemployment

autumn flotsam
Each week I share Rob Brezsny’s weekly astrology report for our signs with a friend of mine. Mine for this coming week is:

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Here’s your assignment: Get more organized and purposeful about having fun. Think harder about what makes you feel good, and plan more aggressively to bring those feel-good experiences into your life. In offering these prescriptions, I’m not advocating irresponsible hedonism. Not at all. In my view, you will become a better servant of those you care about by boosting your commitment to pleasure. You will carry out your duties with more aplomb and effectiveness. Raising your joy quotient is actually a formula for becoming a better human being.

I’m not in a very good place, right now, although it varies greatly from moment to moment. My own vacillation is driving me a little nuts. Or a lot. I guess it depends mostly upon who’s looking… or when. ::smile::

pretzel_traypretzelsCU

Gabriel made home made pretzels yesterday. I love the smell of yeast, which in turn reminds me of the yeast-risen doughs my mom used to make some of her pastries with (one favourite was an apple pastry, called almàs pite in Hungarian).

 

The sunsets have been gloriously beautiful. I didn’t get an email last night requesting that I show up to any last-minute temporary assignment, so guess I won’t be working today.

Maybe I’ll actually stick my nose outdoors. On second thought, I’ll absolutely have to stick my nose outdoors because I must run some errands, deposit the cheque I received for my work from last week, most of which will be vaporized on last month’s cellphone bill and food. I’m not quite sure yet in which proportion that will be – there won’t be enough to pay the whole bill and have enough for food. The money will get portioned out so that each area is a little, but not entirely, satisfied. I can’t allow myself to dwell much on the other bills that are coming in and stacking up like planes on a runway.

I never thought I’d ever reach this level of financial instability. I mean… I’ve never been one of those financially savvy people – ever – but when there was enough I would manage decently well. I know how to tighten a belt with the best of them. I also know just how much I am missing, having been fortunate enough to indulge in many things that are so far out of my reach at the moment that I can’t even entertain thinking about them. They get pushed out just as quickly as they come. Anything in the “it would be nice to have, but…” category. Certainly anything in the “I can make this at home myself, but…” category. (I’m definitely making at home everything that is necessary and humanly possible to make at home.)

I’m blaming myself for this tactical error much of the time…
for waiting to act upon getting another job (as though a perfect one would present itself like some kind of manna offering from the heavens)…
for waiting to try to see about shifting into another industry area…
for wasting precious time that I wiled away because I was incapable of making any choices, especially of the good kind.

I can say the same about my handling of money. I could have tightened the belt another notch; put even a tiny bit aside to compensate for the not enough that I now have.

I needle myself with worry. It takes the joy out of things, even the good stuff. So, essentially, this week’s astrology pep talk presents me with yet another growth opportunity, a challenge I’m not entirely sure I can live up to.

Mostly, my imagination has taken me to some pretty grim places. Some days I imagine that I’ll be stricken down with an as yet to be identified ailment of the terminal kind. I mourn my impending passing and imagine (to some extent) the relief of no longer having to worry about anything… about leaving behind things undone but being at peace with all of that, and getting to the place of “good enough” when the final moment comes.

Some days I think that I’ll be dragging this painful process out until the bitter end… until something shifts (in a way I could never have imagined because otherwise it wouldn’t come as a complete and utter surprise at the very moment when I’ve run out of ideas).

Some days I just enjoy the moments, as they come… like the musical clanking of the pipes in the forced air heating ducts in the Sun Tower building, or its beautiful frosted windows initialed with a “W”… like the swish of wind that briskly gathers up and ushers dried leaves off of tree limbs, lifting them high into the air and then letting them land askew, in random but perfectly beautiful mayhem, on the back balcony.

It’s on the days when I am at my lowest – and I express my alarm about things to those around me – that I most rue hearing “you’ll find something”. I know the intention is to reassure; it feels anything but. Dismissive rather than what I’m sure is intended as hopeful and bolstering. On those days my optimism levels are anemic, amnesiac.

I don’t know why I keep writing here. I guess in this place of not feeling heard, I may as well voice myself in a familiar place. Sort of like yelling at the edge of a precipice to hear the echo of one’s voice speak back. At the very least it makes me feel just a little less silent, a little less alone with what feels like the weight of the world on my shoulders.

on grieving…

I think Western society (well – truthfully – most of them, for that matter) does not like grief. It’s uncomfortable and distracting, and essentially, when a person is grieving, they are not productive. So we feel compelled to internalize our grief and it eventually manifests as disease (dis-ease).

Or, when we are incapable of keeping it under wraps, we function within the same life framework we were in before but everything suffers; we truly are less productive.

This brings about a snowball effect… we become disengaged, our work quality suffers. Eventually the strain of the expectation of optimal performance during these times creates the sort of situation that exacerbates the already heavy stress that we are attempting to navigate our way through.

The only cure for grief is time – allowing for the healing process to unfold, hopefully helped along by people who can guide the process in a healthy and mindful way. Time heals all things.

Despite the fact that at one time or another most of us have gone through the process of grieving, people don’t know how to approach those who are grieving. I think this is due to the fact that the process of grieving is mishandled by society. The pain is not honoured. The transition is not respected. Pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps is probably something to do at some point in the process, but not when we are at our most raw; the expectation to be able to do so is ludicrous, and yet it is the norm.

So why am I speaking about grieving?

Well, if one was to take one of those psych tests which evaluates the external stressors in our lives which influence our internal lives, job loss would be one of them – and I am intimately familiar with this one point on the checklist, having recently lost my job.

Despite the fact that I had been mentally prepared to be one of the “staffing reassessment” casualties, I’ve been in a sort of tailspin since. Maybe it’s a midlife crisis kind of tail spin (I turned fifty yesterday). I wonder why I am having such a difficult time with “launching” at this stage of my life. The disparity with what it is and how I would like it to be (career wise) is so wide a gap that I can’t fathom how to bridge it. The thought of repeating the last thirty years of my working life is making me balk like never before.

All of this “free” time has afforded me some opportunity to check out what the rest of the world is doing these days. Not the one I was operating in, but the one *out there*… not the one that I was mistakenly assuming was drying up of opportunity but the one that is actually transforming into a more tenable way of living and working in this vast and quickly shifting world. Well, perhaps not so quickly, and this shift is happening with only a visible few, not the vast majority.

[Aside: So many companies are still working off of the industrial revolution SOPs. Evolving from full factory sized staffing to smaller crews, the thinking continues to be “lean and mean”, the mantra of the end of the twentieth century. Almost two decades in to the new millennium and they are still not getting, despite the fact that they conduct “engagement studies” and know the facts, that people must be engaged in order to thrive. To me engagement involves interesting work, and by compartmentalizing processes – particularly in an office environment – that equates to small bits of rote work effected by underpaid people. It may not be about the money, certs, but if people are not earning enough to live a comfortable life, they are operating in survival mode and can’t relax enough to unleash their creative brains – which would be irrelevant anyway, given the fact that any incentive to be creative is slowly being stripped away because of role uniformitization **this is an interesting article on technology and its sociological effects** … (more on all of this later, because this whole paragraph segues into a completely other thought that I don’t really want to speak to at the moment, and is tangental to the my initial thoughts on grieving).]

In any case, the common refrain I hear these days from my age group and peers is: it’s really tough out there; there are little opportunities for the young people these days.

(Which to me translates to: You’re fucked woman… you’re over the hill, overpaid, under-educated, a has-been… and if the kids can’t flourish, with all of their verve and vigour and downright enthusiasm, how do you think that you will?)

I don’t mean they are thinking this in relation to me per se. They are thinking it themselves in regard to their own prospects should they also find themselves amongst the rest of us in the unemployment line, and similarly wondering what the hell they can do to reinvent themselves at this late stage in the game.

I mean seriously… hipsters we ain’t. We’re not even hippies. Most of us are late-in-coming baby boomers or Gen-X’ers (who the hell thinks up these ridiculous naming conventions anyway?). We’re done with the baby ranching and the marriages (because most of them didn’t survive), and in the midst of being overburdened with debts and living expenses way beyond the comfortable quality of life “ratios” that were decided upon during different economic times, a shrinking middle class and a soft job market, we are now having to reinvent ourselves and our raison d’être in midlife, not necessarily by choice but because all of the structures that we had in place to ensure some semblance of security and material continuum are slowly but systematically being dismantled.

So there is much mourning going on at the fort.

Job loss. Mid-life. And, frankly, disillusionment – the realization that we must fight for relevance, but not of the sort that I’ve been waging a war for over the last three decades.

For many years, at least the first decade of my working life, relevance meant accumulating more job-specific skills in the area I was working in (which were obtainable on-the-job and considered valid training and education, perhaps even more so than a certificate or a diploma). That was the challenge that kept me reaching for greater responsibility, professional respect, and career advancement. I find that is not true of the job market and the opportunities for growth within companies today. They are stiff with their requirements, and even less flexible with promoting people into more challenging roles if they do not already have the set of skills and qualifications that the job requires, despite the potential of the employee or candidate.

Much of my career-centric views changed after the birth of my son. My priorities shifted greatly and I was focused on parenting and trying to keep our family unit functioning (and together – much of my marital challenges were present from the very beginning, and deepened as time went on).

I wasn’t thinking about career at that point – I was thinking about survival of the family unit; OUR family unit. I’m sorry that I didn’t focus more on myself and my higher needs, and demanded the support in a way that wasn’t negotiable. That was a huge tactical error. I self-soothed in all of the wrong ways, and lacked the ability to make my way through the forest, and likewise lacked a capable partner to accompany me throughout the journey.

All this rumination has made me realize that I am grieving. Despite the fact that I did not (recently) lose a loved one; that my marriage has been over for a long while and the divorce papers were filed last spring; that my job (for all intents and purposes) summarily sucked and I was not being utilized to my fullest potential (which, incidentally, I’m not even sure how to quantify anymore, because for me a good job has always meant room for potential growth and I’ve clearly maxed out on what that is in relation to what I am currently considering my “profession”).

So… what to do? I am seriously in paralysis mode.

I get up, and I do things: eat, sort and do laundry, load the dishwasher, make meals, sleep, (sometimes) get dressed, (sometimes) go outside, listen to music and podcasts and YouTube videos, intermittently shower and groom myself, read, occasionally talk to people for longer than three minutes, make some art, journal, dust, vacuum, scrub out the tub and the toilet and sink, (sometimes) make my bed, write. Mostly, though, there is a sense that my world has completely collapsed in on itself (think post-apocalypse) and I’m staring at the steaming ruins and wondering where to pick up the pieces – which things are salvageable from the piles of debris and which ones I just need to let be and walk away from. Throughout all of this, I beat myself about the head and shoulders for not moving on.

And so I ran across this excellent young woman’s blog, who had this post (excerpt follows), and I said YES! that’s it, that’s how I feel, and then thought that the letter, What To Say (To Yourself) When You Are Grieving, was… brilliant:

Dear Self,

I am grieving.

Grief is natural.

But I was not born to grieve — I was born to love, and laugh, and live.

Grief is only my waiting room — for the moment.

And one day, soon, I will step out of that waiting room, and back into my life.

I’ll take one small step today, right now, by {insert itty-bitty action step, here}.

That one small step will feel loving, and beautiful, and good.

And that one small step is all I need to do — for now.

Love,

{your name}

XO.

I’m grieving. Ha!

Society doesn’t know how to deal with grief (see above), ME included.

I’m learning, with every crisis and major life change – I’m learning.

I’m learning that the only way over is through, and that progress is slow, because *all the debris and shit* … and that I need to remember to breathe and pick small steps, because that is all the lizard brain that I’m operating from at the moment is capable of. Eventually, though, it will make the transition back to higher-order thinking and we’ll be in business again. Until then I’ll eat Scottish shortbread cookies for lunch and veggies and hummus for breakfast if I want to and be okay with it, keeping in mind that there will be a flip side. There always is.

going mental…

Seems it’s that time of year, when things have been a bit too dark, for a bit too long. I read an incredible blog post today from Tam which spoke to that. We spend too much time and effort sweeping this stuff under the happy carpet, and it’s taken a very long time for those of us who spend our lives straddling that divide between lightness and darkness to feel less marginalized.

My son had been doing poorly in school for quite some time, and no amount of offering my assistance was helpful – in fact, on the day that I was supposed to be laid off from my job, his school had called me in for an emergency meeting with the vice-principal (thus delaying the inevitable by one whole day). My son was facing a temporary suspension with the ultimatum that in order to stay at the school there would have to be no more unexcused absences nor nonproductive attendance.

For some time now, I suspected that there were other issues at play, but each time I suggested he speak to a psychologist he shrugged and said he didn’t need one, and more recently that it would simply feel like an additional burden to attend to. I suppose this bleak turn of events finally convinced him to make an appointment so I dialled our EAP service provider’s hotline and he asked to meet with a counsellor (his first appointment didn’t actually happen until early December).

He is on the last few sessions and my extended healthcare has run out. The counsellor called me yesterday; we played phone tag a few times and finally ended up speaking today, chatting a bit about what is going on and what some of his concerns were. She said that he is depressed, mildly now, but it was more severe when he first started going.

I had issues with melancholy in my teens too, and well into my adulthood. In my twenties we had at some point determined that I had Seasonal Affective Disorder (which was helped immediately -and amazingly- with light therapy). I had what I semi-jokingly coin my big meltdown in my late thirties (which at the time was termed “Major Depression”) and I still occasionally have struggles with regulating my mood, though my coping mechanisms have improved immensely over the years because I’ve spent so much time on “self-help”, adjunctly assisted by occasional therapy.

One of my son’s issues at the moment is anxiety over our not having enough financial resources… for food… for a roof over our heads… etc. … as a result of my unemployment. Yeah, it kind of sucks to be unemployed, and yes, it definitely affects the ease with which we can carry on with our daily lives, but we haven’t come to the point of having to be concerned about losing our place to live (even though it is crazy expensive on our current budget).

She encouraged me to speak to him about it. Not to merely placate him by saying things like “things will be okay” but acknowledge that there will be some struggle and offer what the solution will be – at least enough of one to put his mind at ease.

I want to posit that this escalation of worry is partly his dad’s doing, in that he discusses with our son my seeming incapability of being an adequate provider, and instead of offering support and assurance, offers his criticism and discusses the hardship the current situation causes him due to his having to assist more during this time of heightened struggle.

But also I think that my son has had it so good throughout his whole life that he doesn’t know that so many people struggle like this every day, all the time. Worse, even. Many, many … much, much worse. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we live in a very affluent neighbourhood, and that most of the kids that he goes to school with are so spoiled that they have lost sight of what is important and meaningful.

I grew up with socio-economic diversity, and witnessed it daily with the kids I went to school with. I came from a middle class home but there were little kids in my first and second grade classes who were undernourished, unkempt and shabbily dressed. I remember one time a brother and sister were segregated from the rest because they were found to have head lice and the school didn’t want there to be an epidemic. Some of the other kids were unkind to them, taunting them after that. I felt like my heart would break when I saw how they were being treated and I went over with my colouring book and coloured pencils and we coloured together, the three of us; it was my way of showing my solidarity – that we are all equal and the same.

I want to say that in our society we will always have “enough” if we apply ourselves “enough” so as to go out there and not give up, either on ourselves or on the things that we believe in.

I want to say that we have people that care around us. Kind people, who will help us when we need it, not because we owe them anything or that they expect to be repaid but because we mean something to them… because of how we treat others, and how we offer support where we can and embody a generous spirit, always.

I want to say that this feeling of hardship will be a familiar one throughout life, whether it is of a material kind, or one of spirit (and that is the hardest of the two to deal with), and that resilience is the greatest trait that one can learn to develop in life, and like any muscle, it requires a working out in order for it to gain in strength and be able to provide support when one needs it.

I want to say that being grateful and remaining hopeful is most of the battle, and that kindness will always beget kindness.

And I want to say that I love him, and would take the food out of my mouth and the clothes off of my back before I see him unfed and without shelter.