Day 1 – Double Unemployment

This oft-neglected blog now has something it’s never had before–my undivided attention. Congratulations, blog, I’m unemployed. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful. 

Friday – August 29, 2014

CharlieBrownFootballI got laid off today and it was awesome. I don’t mean “awesome” in the overused, exulting sense, but in the “Aw, #$%@!” sense. I guess I sort of saw it coming because I woke up sick to my stomach every morning this week for no discernible reason. I wasn’t ill, I hadn’t eaten anything problematic the nights before. I just felt vomity anxiety. Didn’t think it was leading to getting laid off, but there you go. Basically, I was Charlie Brown. I should have maybe guessed Lucy would take the football away, but I sure didn’t expect her to up and run off with it.

I walked out of the boss’ office feeling numb and panicky and kind of dead. I was the undead, really. I was still animated, but I’d died and passed on to this next life called “unemployment;” a purgatory where I’d now get to sit and stew until moving on to the next next life: either the pit of hell called homelessness or the heavenly gift that would be new employment in a dream job I could not yet imagine. (There was no middle ground in that moment.) My morning nausea returned immediately, and I now cursed the coworker who’d unexpectedly bought me lunch at the cafeteria just a couple hours earlier.

Oh man, he didn’t know did he? Was that my last meal before execution? I’d have asked for lobster.

After gathering my things, I headed downstairs to fill out a bit of paperwork. The HR rep was a jewel and about as distraught as I was. I thanked her for being kind to me, and to Erin the day before.

Oh, yeah.

My wife got fired too, just 24 hours before I did. We worked at the same place and, at the time of her firing, I was of course comforted by the fact that at least I still had my job. She was too.

This is probably why she thought I was joking when she came home from our oldest daughter’s cross country race to find me pacing frantically in the hallway and claiming like a jerk that I’d joined her terrible, terrible club. Sorry, sweetheart, my jokes can trend towards the morbid (“Your dad is cooler than my dad? Oh yeah? Well, my dad is deader than your dad.”), but not this time.

The unemployment rate in the US currently sits at 6.2%. We are the 6.2%.

Facebook was equally shocked. Granted, Facebook is shocked a lot, particularly when the date matches up with the exact day Marty McFly arrived in the future for the hundredth time, but in this case their shock was justified. I wrote in a status update:

“Apparently, I’ve got the wrong last name. Yesterday, Erin got laid off. Today, it was my turn. (Yes, we did work for the same place.)

Feeling oddly peaceful. Little angry, sure, but peaceful. Have NO clue what’s next.

I think I’ll focus on feeling up to eating again for now.”

So I did, and Erin and I took our girls out to dinner to spend money we might need later to keep our lights on. But, crab cakes. And clam chowder. Erin and I split a meal. They say God helps those who help themselves, so I figure splitting a restaurant meal between us instead of buying two whole ones is kind of like meeting God halfway. Right? Probably not, but there are far greater sacrifices ahead, I’m sure. Greater blessings as well.

I find nothing useful about cynicism. It is the disease that kills sincerity by disguising pessimism as truth. I also hate cliches because they siphon intelligence out of expression. And yet, for maybe the first time in my life, as the cliches about closing doors and opening doors came in from Facebook with some heaping side helpings of love and well wishes, I believed every single one of those stupid cliches. They comforted me. They seemed dipped in truth. They reeked of it. Something better has to be coming our way after a hit like this.

Right?

After contemplating those soon-to-be-open doors for a little while, it occurred to me that I could lose my house and be happy. I know that’s an odd leap, but when people tell you about how they know things will be better off in the long run and you believe it, you’re pretty much okay with whatever has to happen to get there. Great blessings require great sacrifice. I have to be okay with that. I have to be okay with whatever needs to be inflicted so the blessings can come. And I say that in recognition of the fact that the affliction and the blessing are often one and the same.

So, take my house. If that’s what’s needed, then take it. I’ve got my wife and my girls and my cat. (I’d like to keep the cat. The dogs are negotiable.) And cookies. Friends brought us warm cookies this first night.

No one ever brought me warm cookies when I had a job.

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At the Crossroads and Frustrated

You may have noticed I haven’t been exactly present on this site for the past week. Some great comments were left on my post Should Adults Wear Shorts? and I didn’t respond to any of them. (Just so you know, message received: wear shorts, stop being a jerk about it.) I’m not totally sure why I didn’t respond, but I think a lot of it has to do with the incredible amount of frustration I’ve been feeling lately.

This is gonna be tricky because I don’t think the time to get into specifics is right now. Basically, I’m at a crossroads.

In all of the most important ways my life is better than it’s ever been. My wife and I have always been strong partners and very much in love, but now, even after 12 years of marriage, we’ve managed to discover a new peak. Our kids are fantastic and healthy. The emotional stress and confusion and doubts that have been with us ever since our daughter with special needs was born have largely subsided. Honestly never thought that would happen. New responsibilities at work have given me a new sense of purpose there. I love my calling at church. They actually made an Avengers movie. And it’s good.

So what’s the problem? Sorry, that’s just for me. Suffice it to say, the dissatisfaction and lack of direction in another, critical area of my life is leaving me frustrated and, at times, angry. Great change is coming, for good or ill, and I’m at the very tipping point. Plans I made have not worked out like I thought they would and I’m facing an undesirable alternative I’ve been avoiding for a long time. I thought I was on the path I was supposed to be on. It is hard, now, to see how things could possibly work out in my favor.

I’m being vague, but it doesn’t really matter what I’m talking about.

I seek God’s counsel continually. I thought He was backing me up on this one. Crud, I thought it was all His idea in the first place. Am I mad at Him? Of course not.

This is where my true frustration is coming from: underneath the disappointment I feel for my situation, I’m more disappointed with myself. How many times in my life have the dark and grim things later revealed themselves as just steps on the path to something great? Many times. Many, many times. God tests our faith continually, but it’s pretty much always the same test.

So, I have to wait this out. But waiting at a crossroads is pretty much the most stultifying thing a person can do. Instead of moving forward or backward or left or right, I’m left at the fork in the road to ponder and pray and scold myself for being so dissatisfied when I have so much that is so great. In the moments of my deepest frustration, I feel unworthy of the blessings given to me. There’s nothing I hate more than ingratitude, both in myself and in others.

I know this is only a moment in my life. I guess I just wish it was over by now.

More than that, I wish I didn’t wish that.