Friday, August 21, 2009


Whenever I'm working at my desk at home and the cats start bothering me, a good way to distract them is by crumpling up a piece of paper and tossing it out into the hallway. Hours of fun: first batting it across the floor, skipping it over the wood like a stone hitting the surface of the water; chew on it when tired, working apart the wrinkles and digging in to the center of the ball. Left alone, the ball will slowly lose the tight shape my gripping fist forced it into, slightly springing back, at rest.

Monday the call didn't come, but I didn't expect it then. Tuesday would be the day I'd hear -- if I was going to hear, of course. Tuesday came and went, and I thought maybe Wednesday would be the day. The hiring manager I'd interviewed with had told me the decision would come mid-week, and there was Wednesday, smack dab in the middle of the week, full of possibility. Wednesday wouldn't get done quickly enough. I melted down at 8:15 in the morning, after realizing that I hadn't renewed the $60 license on the computer security software. After the sobbing on my pillow subsided and my boyfriend left for school, I dressed, ate, watched tv, and tried to motivate myself out of the house. Left the house twenty minutes late because I decided the refrigerator door had to be scrubbed clean today. Couldn't find parking downtown and was rushing up to the 28th floor where the state administers civil service tests. Held everyone up in the parking garage writing an eight dollar check; I only had two singles and eight quarters in my purse. Dropped off a resume in person, thinking that would make a better impression. The HR guy pulled a face at me. My reflection in the elevator showed a big new snag in my three dollar thrift store slacks. The cats have evidently been climbing the clothes in my closet. I cried over a part in my book in which a dog gets put to sleep, reaching over the side of my bed to pet my own dog. Imagining her old age and death, my tears turned into choking sobs.

By Thursday, I know I've been passed over. It wasn't the right job, I tell myself. It would have been miraculous, getting a job from my first interview after less than two months after the layoff. I'm going to have to keep doing this, over and over, dragging myself back and forth. Smiling and shaking hands, never letting terror or desperation show. That night, I make spinach and cheese rolls almost from scratch, marinate the steaks my mom gave me, cook corn with plenty of butter and pepper, sear the meat, wash the dishes, watch t.v. Stay up too late finishing the book with the dead dog. I'm tired, have been up since 7 am. I walked two miles, training for a fundraising walk I'm in. I've been up all day, kept busy, but haven't done a damn thing.

I was wound so tight when I was working. I would run and skitter from place to place in the store, bouncing back and forth endlessly, set in motion by the commands, list of duties, expectations, desires of others. Left alone, I was at first set free from the omnipresent tension, dropped the sense of dread I carried around. I mistook this feeling for freedom, only to come to the realization that I was still a crumpled-up ball, deformed from my original shape, retaining the marks of being in a tight vise grip for so long.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Short But Sweet

I had a job interview last week. I prepared well, was even over-prepared, and spoke with the hiring manager for an hour. I'll find out this week if I got the job. While driving home from the interview, I realized that if I get the job, it won't be the end of my problems. I'll just be handed another set.

See, I know this, intellectually. Know it in my head. But there's this sibilant whisper that fades in and out that tells me that all I really need is a job. That'll fix everything.

I also had a moment of panic that I don't want this job. That I'll get stuck, make a bad decision. That I'll be, as a dear friend told me, settling, when instead I could shine. My placement specialist at the career center told me that if I need to take a "survival job" that I should do it -- it's hard out there, right now, duh! But that we will still continue to work together to get me my dream job, whatever that may be. Which is great, and exactly the mindset that I need to keep, because I noticed how easy it is to settle.

The next two days after the interview were a struggle -- I couldn't stay motivated to get more applications out, to re-write that goddamn resume another time for another job that would get no reply whatsoever. . . . I was already investing in The New Job. The New Job that I don't yet have. The New Job that I don't really want. The New Job that could dull the polish of my shine, if I let it. I was putting the eggs all in the basket. I've done this before, and been crushed when a rejection came, crushed enough that I didn't want to try.

All you need is That New Job. Trust me, sweetie, it'll all work out; The Job will fix everything. That voice is numbing, dumbing, seductive, hypnotic. I can't drum it out of my head. It holds me in its cloying embrace, soothing, sticky-sweet, with a fakey-bitter aftertaste.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Writing is always the first thing to go when I'm stressed. It's been two weeks since I've written, and I've given up on either berating or encouraging myself. Even my bargaining has been half-assed, insincere. I know it's a matter of I'll do it or not. Writing helps me think, helps me slow down, gives a direction to my errant thoughts during the day. When I'm writing regularly, there is a certain part of my brain that is activated, and it keeps buzzing, nourished by the small jolts it gets when my fingers tap out over and over on the keyboard. A window in my soul opens up, and something within wakens, stretches out and waits. Left alone, and the erratic buzz flickers, the bulb in my brain dims, the window in my soul darkens, airless, unmoving curtains at the window limply idle. If writing is so great, then why do I ever stop?

Ususally, what stops me is fear, my eternal answer to the "why not?" Being that open invites vulnerability, leaves my heart unlocked which feels unsafe. Stress sends blood shooting through my veins, pumping harder, heart racing. Clamping down and shutting out is soothing.

Sometimes though, what stops me from writing is simply this: life gets too big to handle, and there's too much to put on the page. I get overwhelmed.

In my currently jobless state, I've been happy with how balanced I've felt. Each day has been a struggle, but the net result has been positive. There's been time to look for a job, take classes at the career center, go swimming in the afternoon, walk the dog, spend time with my friends, play with the new kittens, update my resume and even engage in some dreaded networking. I didn't realize how unstable this jenga pile of responsibilities was, how all I needed was one big, blocky, ugly shaped piece to bring it all down around me. That piece was my grandmother's death, and all events associated with it. I wrote a rememberance for her that I read at her funeral, words that weren't appropriate for this forum. People praised me for reading what I'd written, and while I appreciated their kind words, it made me profoundly uncomfortable. I'd written it as a penance of sorts to her, conjuring up the very best of our relationship, the parts that were easy and lovely and wonderful. What I left out was why I squirmed under others' praise. I didn't visit or call her enough, wasn't kind enough or forgiving enough, didn't give her the care she'd given so many others. I had chosen not to engage on some levels, and was now bereft of that opportunity. So my words, fucking words that she would never hear, felt meaningless and small. How could I come back here and whine about not having a job?

So I fell into a small hole of inactivity, worrying about how my living situation might change, as the property that I'm renting belonged to my grandmother, and might be sold. I spent two days not talking to anyone, watching tv, eating too much ice cream, and worrying my boyfriend. And then I got back up and started looking for a job again. I'd lost a week of productive job-related activities, and needed to catch back up on life, looming huge in front of me, a stark white billboard in front of me, brightly lit, reading: UNCERTAINTY in black capital letters.

Life will always be bigger than writing. Writing sometimes feels like a weak attempt to corral the unmanageable and give it shape. Other times, when it works, when it's real, when it matters, it transforms the raw data of life, shining a light into the darkest places and illuminating the day to day of living.