Monday, November 28, 2011

What Am I Doing?: The Mental Mantra of the Unemployed

 Each morning when I wake up, I lie in bed for a bit staring out
the window above our headboard. Apparently, I need to clean
some big smudges off of it. But I just can't seem to find the time...

It is 12:00 p.m. and I am still in my workout clothes. Haven't brushed my teeth. Won't take a shower until after lunch.

I'm having a hard time getting myself on a schedule.

It's not like I'm sitting around watching FoodNetwork all day. I definitely feel busy. I just don't fully know what I've been doing the past few weeks. Sure, I've regularly combed the job boards to see what's out there. I've emailed contacts about freelance. I've completed a draft of a manifesting workbook I've been noodling for 3 years. I've scribbled down scenarios and notes for a few different novel ideas. I've visited friends. I've spent time with family. I've filled two big Etsy orders. Done a whole lot of laundry and sweeping of the hardwood floors. 

But I don't really feel like I've been productive.

Particularly when I see someone I haven't seen in awhile and they say, "SO, what have you been up to since you stopped working?"

It's like I go blank. I have no idea what I've been up to. But I know it's been keeping me on my toes every day until Mr. W gets home from work at 9:00 p.m.

The questions from other people just underscore the big ones bouncing around in my own head. What am I doing? Who am I working on becoming? Where am I going to be in 3 months or a year?

So many thoughts flood my mind when I ask these questions, that I become paralyzed. How do you know which path is the right one to pursue? How do you know where you should be focusing your time—and how much time when you know some things might be pipe dreams that may not ever pay you your previous salary?

It all feels too large to comprehend. It pokes at my anxiety, coaxing it to come out and play.

A couple weeks ago, I was having heart palpitations when I left the house. As soon as I got in the car, I started thinking, "What if I run out of money? What if I never get a job?" This happened more than once. A far cry from my previously cocky attitude.

And the thing is, I don't need to be worrying about these things. Financially, I'm fine. And if and when the right job comes along, I'm sure the Universe will swoop in and hand it to me.

In the meantime, I think I need to change the questions I'm asking myself. Instead of "What am I doing?" maybe "What am I going to do today?" Instead of "What if I run out of money?" maybe "What if I end up making more money than I ever dreamed of?" Maybe that'll help with the paralysis. And the well-meaning questions from friends.

I will remind myself that things take time to work themselves out. And that one day I will wish I had the luxury of waiting until noon to brush my teeth.


  1. I feel like I'm a pro at having time off. Every year to year and a half I'm faced with this same scenario. I lose time and struggle to find time to do all the grand things I want to do when I'm not working. So I make a list of all those things, big and small, so that each day as I find time slipping away sometime between morning coffee and afternoon coffee, I have a reminder of what it is I want to do.
    It seems to help give me the motivation to keep on track. You're doing more than you think, it just may not be as glamorous as a book signing deal... yet.

  2. Oh, you know I know this feeling. And although our job situations changed for different reasons, there is still that waiting feeling, because until you get into the new normal it's hard to picture yourself making something happen. But you will.

  3. Do you think people ask that out of their own fear of being unemployed? Like they imagine freaking out with no job and all that free time? Maybe? I mean when I am off for a day I can easily lose 3/4 of it to I don't know what. I'll think back on it and be like- I did a lot of little things and didn't get dressed in proper clothes. And then when you do get a job, you will wish you had enjoyed the free time more, right? You just can't win. So go easy on yourself.

  4. It seems in today's world, "productivity" is a form of validation. You don't necessarily have to DO anything within the day to be considered productive or worthy. As an "older" woman, who has worked, raised children and often wondered what my purpose was and why on earth I was beating my head against the wall day after day, I finally have realized that many times our smallest deeds are the greatest. Treasure this time in your life and just like finding Mr. W., when you least expect it, something will come along!

  5. OMG, you've do more unemployed than I do at work all day! I guess it's that whole "the grass is greener on the other side, but it still has to get mowed." I imagine what I'd do with time. Hunker down and write that novel. Be the rock star wife.

    I admire your Etsy shop and am excited to see what your creative noggin comes up with next!

  6. When I had my 3 months jobless, I'm pretty sure I completely lost track of time. I was spending money so quickly somehow, but I had no money coming in. I was going insane sitting around, so I threw myself into completely re-painting my childhood bedroom (hey, at least you're not living w/ your parents), watching movies, breathing and looking for a job. The days draaaagged. It's insane how you can have so much time but yet get nothing done.

    I can say with ease that you're going to be awesome no matter what you do, even if it's doing nothing. :)

  7. I'm with Mr. W. You certainly sound like you're doing a ton of stuff, lady! I wrote not a thing and filled no etsy orders while I was unemployed! I actually regret not spending more time just visiting my sister and brother who live up north and I rarely see.

    You definitely brought back memories of when I was in your shoes...especially the thoughts about "What if I never get a job?" Everyone said to me, of course you will and I will say the same to you. OF COURSE YOU WILL!

    You're going to look back at this time and think, why did I stress so much and not enjoy the freedom a bit more. It's hard to see now but you will only grow from this hiatus, I promise.

  8. It is unsettling having the one thing we crave when we were working at corporate gigs: Time. I find that as long as I write SOMETHING, ANYTHING in the day, I feel accomplished. And this helps keep the anxiety at bay.

    Though I started showering and putting makeup on immediately after my morning coffee. That helps with the routine.

  9. So, this post made me all teary eyed. That change in attitude with the questions at the end? Spot on! But, you know what else? I think girls like us - the ones who were smart, independent and self-sufficient before we got married - we forget that our spouses are supposed to be there for us ... that's what they've signed up for ... good times AND bad. Sometimes it takes the BAD times to really comprehend what that means.

    For me, it was when Gavin was born early and spent 5 weeks in the NICU. Sweets and I were closer than ever during that time. He was my rock when I was an emotional wreck (at times, not the entire 5 weeks).

    And for you? I think you should remind yourself that if your money runs out, Mr W is there to help you. Maybe his salary won't cut it for both of you forever (or maybe it could). But, my guess is the two of you could make do if you had to. And while it's hard to admit you might need help like that, just remind yourself that you'd do it in a heartbeat for him ... so, you have to let him do it for you.

  10. You are all such sweet, amazing readers. Thank you for your encouragement and all your kind words. It's really neat to know I have a support team at the ready whenever I need you all. :)


Well, whatdya think?