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.