I’ve spent 17 out of the last 33 months unemployed—in three different stints. And 8 of the employed months were only half time. My employer of 9 years had brought me back because the CEO thought they needed my marketing expertise to help staunch the bleeding. But debt factors and industry economics were too much of a burden. After my final layoff, the 30-year-old family company struggled for another year and then closed its doors for good, flooding the local economy with dozens of tradespeople used to being well-paid.
My goodbye cake and lunchtime testimonials really moved me. It was almost worth coming back just to get that hefty card with its 35 good luck messages, and to hear my boss say, “Wherever you go and whatever you do, I know you will do it with the creativity, passion and devotion that is your hallmark.” This quote has served me well in the closing paragraph of nearly 100 cover letters.
For the first several weeks, unemployment felt like a blessing. The lines left my forehead, I got the sleep I needed, I exercised every day and felt light, healthy. When the severance check was gone, and I started withdrawing from my savings account, I got uneasy. Unemployment compensation, meager as it was (just enough per month to cover my rent plus $50) helped, but I knew even that was a finite support. My primary task became taking care of my psychological health.
My psyche is what is troubling me this morning, beginning the third month of my third round of searching for right livelihood. Last week had hope. A promising second interview, compliments on that lovely Ann Taylor spring suit I could not afford, enthusiastic reports from consulted references who told me the prospective CEO “sounds like she really wants you.” Last evening, I took a breather, turned on my television and watched a movie. It was a Dickensian story of poor wretches in London slums and aristocratic families fallen on hard times, complete with an assortment of villains, secret pasts, acts of supreme courage and loyalty, and of course, a love story.
I had good excuse to tear up during the poignant moments in the film and got tired enough to fall asleep without too much mental grinding. But as I continue to wait for the phone call that was to come “for sure Friday or Monday” about a local position I worked very hard to prepare and interview for, I feel like crap. It’s well into the afternoon of the second notification day, and my body says, “Ummm, Jennie, I don’t think so.” Two cups of herbal tea is not calming my stomach. Did I jinx the job by talking to too many folks about the possibility?
It’s the same deal waiting for a return phone call from a cute guy I met at a party (another subject, another time…). How to keep sowing seeds (and I have been wildly tossing them in every area of my creative life, not just 9-to-5 related) without “saying uncle”?
Thanks to poet Kay Ryan (read her work featured in this month’s POETRY magazine) for our recent conversation and her wonderful book, Say Uncle, with the title poem about not giving up.
The light in my day is what I do, for the pure joy of it, as a volunteer producer of literary arts programming for public radio. Wouldn’t it be grand to get paid for doing that?