Working, or Not, Make It Work

Unemployment is beautiful. And unemployment is a vicious, evil, coward that devours your dignity and saunters away full-bellied leaving the scraps of who you were behind to rot. Both versions are right. It’s all a matter of perspective really. It all hangs on your point of view.

Not Working Sucks

Unemployment brings with it a luxury of time. The freedom to stay up watching TV until all hours, diligently doing your part to ensure the national anthem is played at the conclusion of programming hours (although this is tricky if you watch a 24-hour channel), only to rise to the heat of the noon-day sun, scratch, roll over and promptly resume slumber. You can swim, jog, hike, play, overindulge and underwhelm, do everything you want or nothing at all. It’s your choice. You have the time.

But here’s the catch, (you knew there would be one) you don’t necessarily have the money to do it. Doing everything you want has a price. And while we may not always think about it, so does doing nothing at all. (What, you didn’t think that TV was plugged into an almond tree, did you?) And that alone about sums up why unemployment sucks. Cause if you don’t work, you can’t afford to play. (Or eat. Let’s not forget eat.) And pretty soon you’ll whiter away, figuratively and literally.

Still, you can appreciate it for what it is and sometimes even for what it isn’t. Because for some of us, what it isn’t, is work.

Working Also Sucks

Working is beautiful. Working is that sharp-edged, steel pendulum that swings ever lower across your chest, day after exhausting day, scrapping away at skin and muscle and eventually bone, till it cuts you in half and leaves you to drain on the executioner’s table. Both versions are right. It’s all a matter of perspective really. It all hangs on your point of view.

When you’re gloriously employed and the bills are paid and the water is hot when you shower and the drinks are cold and the problem with cable is which channel to watch, it’s easy to take it all for granted. It gets easy to complain about getting up in the morning, too much traffic with the sun in your eyes, too little coffee and way too many meetings. And it’s so simple to nag about too many long hours, still too much traffic but now with the headlights in your eyes and way too little sleep. For some, the novelty of a uniform wears thin, or conversely, the enthusiasm of finding creative ways to make your 10 ‘must-have’ pieces into 260 Vogue-ready outfits, fades. Just listen. You’ll hear it all around you. Grumps. And if you entertain it, even though you’re working, you can whiter away too. Mostly figuratively. But you will whither.

You have got to get through the day. Getting through however you can, isn’t good enough. You have got to get through the day the best way you can. Eat well, rest well, play well and be well.

And if you can’t get through it alone, get help.

Making It Suck Less

Help can come in all forms. A pet, a friend, a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a boss. Stunned a few of you there huh? Didn’t see that one coming. I honestly didn’t either. But if you’re going to spend most of your waking hours at work, having a good boss sure helps. Mine is as good as they come. Extremely intelligent, quick wit, slow temper, knows her stuff and what she’s about and just the right mix of tough (B.A. Baracus would cringe) and fair. Known to encourage her team to go home and get a life. I’m working on mine.

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Find someone that works for you. Someone real. Someone to laugh, talk, motivate, walk, revitalize, scold, cuddle, cajole, listen, feel, care, heal, all of that good stuff and even some of the bad and that can do the same for you.

You just might find that with someone hanging in there with you, whether it’s in the land of wanting work or in the land of wanting out of it, hanging in, is easy.

And if it’s all a matter of perspective really, if it all just hangs on your point of view, wouldn’t you rather see it all, as beautiful?

Pin-stripes, Peep-toes, Pearls & Panic

I’m all set. I have steamed my suits, shined my shoes and polished my pearls, all in preparation to return to the glorious land of the employed. I have packed my bag, trimmed my hair, buffed my nails to manicured and pedicured perfection so they are glossy. Yes, I’m all set. Outwardly anyway. But inwardly, as the first day draws closer, there’s something I am still yet to prepare for and a familiar, haunting chill has commenced a slow, deliberate ascent up my spine.

…a familiar, haunting chill has commenced a slow, deliberate ascent up my spine…

We have been unemployed for awhile now. So long, in fact, it’s become the unintended norm. Do you recall the journey that brought us here?  Of course you do, we recall it well, how can we ever forget.

At first it wasn’t so bad. We thought of our new found unemployment as an unscheduled holiday. We went to the beach, read a few books, hiked through a gully or two (there aren’t any mountains mountains in Barbados) and caught up on all the day time programming. Then, in the early days, we were so hopeful, believing the work intermission would be brief, we would return (to the regularly scheduled program) in just a moment.

Then that hope was tested. We became bored. There’s only so much day-time television programming one can absorb. (Have I mentioned before that Maury and Jerry Springer need to call it quits? Seriously guys, retire.) I recall we started sleeping a lot as a means of escape and some of us fell into the steely grip of snacks, getting pudgy around the middle (but let’s not dwell on this). Then we got discouraged. It was the accumulated bills that tipped us over the edge. And here is when it all went wrong. All of a sudden we discovered the beach was unwelcoming, its waves too rough, the books were disenchanting, somehow the hero was always rich, the gullies you discovered, seemed now to be home to crawly critters you hadn’t noticed before and the TV, well, that had long ago been switched off.

We kept each other going, you and I. I tried to encourage you and more than you know, so often, you encouraged me. (Thank you). But the feelings that come with unemployment can’t be ironed out, dusted away or rubbed off easily, feelings are not like our suits and shoes and pretty 3-tiered necklaces.

With unemployment there are a few things that plague us. Feelings of guilt, doubt, despair, loneliness, confusion, frustration, anger, failure and (while we don’t want to admit it) shame. These don’t just go away. Getting your emotional state back to ‘normal’ is a job all in itself. And this is the source of that wondering chill. This battle of feelings, attempting to return to their original state of virtue, certainty, joy, security, clarity, calm, success and assurance. This fight to return to normalcy, this is the source of my panic.

Will I be myself? Can I do this? Will I be good enough? Will I do well? Am I ready? Are they?

But as I get dressed (my personal dry-rehearsal before the curtain is raised), as I slip into my suit, step into my shoes and fasten my pearls securely around my neck, something else comes over me, like a warm blanket still hot from the dryer and draped over cold shoulders on a cool night. I am at peace.

…something else comes over me, like a warm blanket still hot from the dryer and draped over cold shoulders on a cool night…

I will be fine. And I assure you, you will be fine too. What’s done is done, we leave it behind and as we embrace all that the future has to offer, I am excited. Excited for all of us who’ve endured and come through. And I am excited for those of us still enduring, an end is in sight. I am sure.

I’m all set. I really am. I am ready. So, ready or not world, here I come.

Birth

I watched with the sleep still heavy on my lids as the sun started to creep over the horizon. It seemed he too was still heavy with sleep, so slow was his ascent. As the first rays of light kissed the leaves on the tree outside my bedroom window, I noted the sounds of the morning as the neighbourhood failed in its collective effort to cling to slumber.

The birds were up and announced their waking with a chorus of chirps and the clipped peeps of song. The intermittent chug of a garbage truck, still down the block, could weakly be detected clambering its way towards our house. I heard the faint echoes of the bins striking pavement as they were carelessly disregarded once emptied. (This was not the habit of my king, but another.) The postman was on his way. His progress preceded by the sounds of dogs barking in turn. The sound of their sizes and distance marking his path so distinctly, I knew the moment he stepped off his motorbike to make a deposit in our mailbox. And I knew when he had rounded the corner and slipped into the other avenue.

By now the sun too had woken in full. His light touched my toes and warmed them with such enthusiasm I knew a hot day was surely in store. They were all at work. The birds were constructing, the garbage-collectors collecting, the postman delivering, the dogs were busy barking, the sun shining, and I, unemployed, lay in bed.

The heat on my toes propelled me from my safety between the sheets to face the misery of daylight. I too would find some gainful employment today. But first, a bowl of cereal is in order. Flakes of the frosted variety, the sugar negated by the 2% milk. (Or so I try to convince myself). While I peered into my bowl and pondered the mystery of the raisin, (don’t ask, how my mind works, it baffles me too) although notably, there weren’t any raisins in my bowl, the phone rang. It took me a moment to register it was my phone and I answered it with an eager cheeriness I didn’t feel. I listened. I can’t recall precisely what I said, so absorbed was I with the caller on the other end. But I recall distinctly the moment my spoon fell from my hand, the sound it made as it fell to the tiled floor with a repetitive clang and the grin that stretched across my face and threatened to shift my ears forever. An offer.

I had refused to let myself be pleased with the three gruelling interviews. They had gone well I thought, still, I had thought things had gone well before. But this time they were calling with an offer. When can I get back to them with answer? Get back to you? (Seriously?). If it’s alright with you, I should like to accept now please. (With immediate effect.) Yes thanks. And just like that, I have a job.

I’m elated. And so grateful. Lord knows my faith was dangerously low. The red light had just begun flashing on the dashboard. (Thank you Lord.)
It has been nine months. I don’t think it’s coincidental that a pregnancy is the same length of time. I believe these nine months have been a preparation for me to birth something new and exciting. I have gone through all the expected emotions, the hope, sickness, excitement, heartache, growth, nervousness, exhaustion, confusion, even the cravings (giggle) and surely the labours. But in the end I am confident in what has been birthed. I am stronger, braver and I think I have even learned a few things. Things that will serve me well in the days that lay ahead. Things that I hope have served you well too.

It is a busy day today. So much is happening. They are many at work and many more still waiting to join the effort. The birds continue constructing, garbage-collectors are still collecting, the postman keeps delivering, the dogs continue barking, the sun is gloriously shining and I, now employed, am getting ready for work. (Amen.)