Thursday, July 03, 2008

Without a Net

It is as I feared, and sooner: the internet has gone away from my house, which means that my posting here will probably be scattered.

This is my first week of unemployment. The first day I was starting to get anxious about how many hours there are to be filled; I resisted taking a nap because that would have postponed bedtime, and I wanted to be asleep as soon as possible to make the day over.

Since then I've been trying to make plans with every day, rationing out walks downtown to check my PO box or visit the farmer's market. I installed a screen on the back door, worked in the garden, cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. Visited some friends. It helps that a neighbor is also recently laid off, so we take trips together downtown. Somewhere there's a worry that I will run out of projects, but I am supposing that I will find things to do. I got seven pieces of mail from the unemployment office, each one needing to be filled out and mail back: that's the better part of a morning's work right there.

A kind friend recently sent me a quote (from a book that I lent her, but never mind) that she thought I would appreciate, and she was right. It's from an essay called Blueprints and Hardwires by Cassie Peterson, from Michelle Tea's Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class. I completely identify, without the Maury Povich. For me it's Season 1 of Six Feet Under.:

It's like flatlining, losing your job. From thirty-five hours a week to zero. Zero hours. Zero structure. Zero dollars. I've been unemployed before, but it was always by choice. I was emotionally and financially prepared. But when someone else pulls the plug, it sends you reeling into the now empty seven days of your work week. Anyone who's been laid off will tell you that it takes a full two weeks just to get out of your pajamas. You order a lot of take-out and watch a lot of Maury Povich.

And then the money goes. And then you get dressed.I am overwhelmed by the rigmarole of bureaucratic paperwork. I can't keep it all straight-the unemployment forms, the food-stamp applications, the drastically increasing number of ID cards that I am being forced to carry around with me. Being poor is a full-time job. Every minute the government demands that you prove your current economic status, leaving absolutely no time for you to improve it. I have to schedule job interviews between all my other red-tape appointments.

I am in a three-hour line in the social services building...I am filling out more forms. Always more forms. I use red pen, losing my patience and writing snide answers in the margins, like, 'No, I have no new income to report. Don't you fucking get it? I'm broke. Just like yesterday and the day before.' The man at the window is not amused. He shoots me a scolding look and hands me a fresh form to fill out. 'Just mark the correct boxes,' he warns.

2 comments:

Zack said...

Thanks for the quote - it resonated. I started writing snide remarks on my work search log under the "result" column after a month, and I still fight boredom daily. What helped: I do a daily schedule for myself so that even if it seems as if I have nothing to do, I have something written down to follow. It makes days go by more quickly. I invented projects - working on an article to submit to a journal, working on stuff for potential self-employment, and gardening. Lots of gardening.

You'll be fine. When you're overwhelmed by stress, just take some time to breathe. You will be OK.

Dawn on MDI said...

I know what you're going through. As Americans, we wrap our identity up in what we do for work. "Hi. Nice to meet you. What do you do for work?" It is how we identify ourselves, how we find our role in the machine of society, how we establish our place in the social hierarchy.

You've been here before. You know what to do. You will survive. It may not be comfortable, it may not be pleasant, but you and your daughter will get through it and be stronger for it. I believe in you.

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