Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Time Off

Regular followers of my unemployment blog (hey, you two!) will have noticed that I've been absent for a few days. Did I get a job? Have to prep for a big interview? Spend a lot of time networking, job-searching, writing seductive cover letters, or punching up the resume? No, no, sorry, and no again.

I took a three-day weekend. Three day weekends, were, when I was a member of the workforce, a little like the holy grail - pursued by the faithful but never fully believed in until grasped in ones own hand. Especially in retail, and that goes double for a holiday weekend. Holidays are meant for spending money these days. Extra time off for some so they can blow it all saving five bucks on shit they don't need from retail drones like me. Three-day weekends were decadent -- I used to daydream about them, fantasizing how I could fit nearly everything that I wanted to do into one luxurious block of uninterrupted time. Time that I could cordon off as my life, fitting in all the things I couldn't do when I was (ugh) working all the time.

Now all of my time is my life; I have to decide how to spend every minute of it, no longer constrained by the hours scratched out as belonging to "work." How does one take a vacation when all they have is free time?

One, get rid of the misnomer that all my time is "free." Before, ANY time not at work was potential free time; since we don't have any kids, there were few tasks that were do or die. Load of laundry? Not essential, I have some panties in the back of the drawer that I can wear, despite the frayed elastic. Cook dinner or grocery shop? We can always eat out, order in. Vacuum the house? No one's coming over, and the dog is shedding anyway. Pay bills? Ok, ten minutes online and that's done. Now, the filter for ordinary tasks is different, the lens has shifted. I can't pursue a new job 24 hours a day, I can't get on the hamster wheel of anxiety and stop sleeping, stay up worrying, and freak out nonstop about the state of affairs. I have had to seperate out what is work and what is not work. Tasks fall under new categories: 1) HAVE to do, like right now, today, mostly related to dealing with the unemployment office, paying bills, or finding ways to save money; 2) SHOULD-do's, mostly related to actively seeking and attempts to attain employment; 3) OUGHT-to-do's, which includes personal goals I set for myself in terms of doing housework, finding time to write, getting exercise, the things that keep my mind from drifting into darkness; 4) WANT-to-do's, those things that were luxuries I didn't get enough of when I worked like getting to the pool, baking muffins or cupcakes, cooking dinner, reading, or spending time with my parents and 5) FUCK-a-doo's, which are what happens whenever I don't plan, like eating a whole bag of chips, watching a What Not to Wear marathon, sulking and whining and feeling like a failure, and staying up too late and sleeping in too late.

So I wanted to actively, purposefully take time off from all the HAVES and SHOULDS and OUGHTS and WANTS without falling into the FUCKS. I wanted that three-day weekend that many of my working friends were having. The trick? I had to really plan it. I had to talk to my partner and find out what he needed to get done. I had to call people, see who would be in town, who wanted to attend fireworks, who might be up for company, what was going on around town. I had to coordinate, prioritize, communicate, and schedule in. This vacation was taking some work. And the work that I did paid off. We went to the zoo, I saw fireworks two nights in a row, I made holiday-themed cupcakes, there was grilling out and potato salad, and I even finished a mystery book in which the murder is solved at a 4th of July picnic. My three-day weekend was successful for about two days.

Unfortunately, on the third day I fell into the FUCKS a bit, and could not rise again. Instead of getting up for church, I woke up late on Sunday. Scratched some bug bites I got at the fireworks display. Ate a big bowl of potato salad for breakfast. Watched tv while eating. Ate more potato salad for lunch. Didn't shower, didn't dress, didn't want to go swimming. I argued with my boyfriend and ate a bologna sandwich. The closest I came to being active was shaking up some more lemonade mix.

I fell apart, a little bit. I glimpsed down and saw an unending stretch of time before me, and I wanted to lay down and wait for it to pass. Wait until it was time to get up and go to work. But that won't magically happen, I have to make it happen. I have to work for it.

And Monday came, and I went back to work. I worked overtime, even, applying for three jobs and one civil service test. Contacting more people, writing and replying to emails, writing those seductive cover letters and punching up my resume. Glimpsing the fear of boundless unfilled time was enough to make everything seem like a HAVE-to. I'm back to more of a balance now, doing some OUGHTS and WANTS, doing work and doing things for myself. And for you, faithful readers, for you too.


  1. My mom plans her life around watching "What Not To Wear"!

  2. Luckily, DVR makes watching all new episodes easy!