“The worst sorrows in life are not
its losses and misfortunes, but its fears.”
– Arthur Christopher Benson 1862 – 1925
What is your greatest fear? Most of us have a few, but if you could pick only one, what would it be?
Frogs, clowns, deep water, darkness, public speaking, elevators, peaches (yeah I know, there’s a video on YouTube). We could do this all day and still miss something that affects someone else. I have a few, but the one that really gets me is (I can hardly type the word) centipedes. Shudder. I pause a moment to collect myself.
But such fears seem less menacing when staring the loss and misfortune of unemployment in the face. Not working brings with it a whole new abyss of terrors in the night and in broad daylight too.
The Practical Fear
How will I make rent? How do I pay bills? What happens when my credit card limit is breached, how will I buy groceries then?
The Relationship Fear
How will this affect my spouse? Can one salary support us? What do I tell the children about that trip to Disney? Can I afford to keep the dog (he eats more than I do)? (Gasp.) What will my mother say?
The Emotional Fear
Where did I go wrong, what should I have done differently? How will this affect my future? Is this my fault? What if I can’t find another job?
The list goes on.
And fear, I’m afraid, can be crippling. It can stop you from sleeping but yet keep you in bed. It can stop you from eating or help you eat too much. You can feel physical pain you can’t explain, your head hurts, your heart aches and your voice shrinks. You can, very easily, lose hope.
Other fears I won’t say are easily overcome. You may not suddenly or easily not kiss frogs, hug clowns, go diving or eat peaches. And as for me, the closest I care to come to overcoming my fear is from 12 feet away with a can of Bop in hand. But this particular predicament we’re in, this can be fixed.
The Practical Fix
Don’t keep it a secret. It may seem the last you want to do is tell people you owe that you’re not working and have no idea how you’re going to pay them. But if they don’t know you can’t come up with the best possible payment plan together. And that’s just what you need to do. Work it out based on how far your savings can take you. No savings? Give yourself 3 months to find a job and therefore work on a 4 month projection. You’d be amazed to know that some creditors will give you an interest waiver, reduce your monthly payment or extend your payment dates.
Sign-up for unemployment. We seem to find something demoralizing about queuing in line with equally depressed people to get a stamp and money from the government. But remember all those months and years before you lost your job when you paid taxes? Sure you do. That money is no handout, it’s a return on your investment and you deserve it. Work some of it into that payment schedule you’re building but hold some back and save it. Just in case your unemployment runs out before your job hunting does, you’ll need a fall back plan.
The Relationship Fix
Hug your spouse more and say “pig-head” less. You’re going to feel angry. How dare they get rid of you? That’s a perfectly normal feeling. Yell, scream, bang, kick-box, just don’t do any off that to the one person who supports you. This will be hard time for your spouse too. They will want to be there for you when you want to be alone. They will try to say the right thing when the only thing you want to hear is silence. They will help with the chores more than before and upset you because now you don’t have anything useful to do. Everything they do will be wrong. But don’t say so. Be honest, calmly. ‘Darling I’d like to be alone this evening’ may give both of you a much needed break. ‘Go away bird-brain’ will aggravate you both and right now, none of you needs it.
Your children understand more than you think. Have you played one of your children’s video games recently? How far did you get? Thought so. Plan what you want to say, write a list if it helps and tell your children the truth. There are going to be some changes. I’ll do the best I can but from now on we’re going to eat Flakes with Frosting instead of Frosted Flakes. Our summer vacation will be postponed, but Mickey will have more time to find pants. It won’t be easy, but children love you no matter what and if you keep it simple, they’ll just be happy for more time with you anyway.
Parents and in-laws, don’t even think about them. They may not admit to it but at some point they’ve been laid off too. Tell them over dinner, but before dessert, that way if they say anything you don’t like you won’t have to share the ice-cream. Usually though, they are very understanding and by giving them early notice, if you have to move in with them later, it won’t be a surprise.
The Emotional Fix
The Time Machine was just a movie. You can change it a million times in your head, but tomorrow morning when you wake up, nothing would have changed and you still don’t work there anymore. That’s because we can’t chance the past. You already knew that, so why are you holding on to it? Jog it out, stretch it out, cry it out and pray it off, but let it go. It’s taken me 6 months so don’t beat yourself up. Find the books and blogs and friends and eggnog to help, but the final release can only come from you. Know this though, whatever happened, happened. Learn from it and leave it. You’re now wiser than before and the company that let you go, can’t profit from your newly acquired wisdom. Sucks to be them.