“I was old enough, and I'd messed up enough already, that I just said ..
‘You know, I realize this is a lucky break. I was unlikely to get another, and so I made very careful choices in that environment. Was very determined not to f<> up again'” ~ Anthony Bourdain
It began in May, with a phone call
All the late nights, the wonderful people I'd worked with along the way, the nearly twenty-year career. I listen as if eavesdropping on the conversation of someone else, thinking, of course, it couldn't be me who was losing their job.
I was wrong
I fumble through, offer my home address where further instruction was to be sent. The puppies sit nearby, wide-eyed as I hang up the phone, put my head in my hands, and begin to cry.
It is not yet 5 pm
I summon all of my courage, call my husband and apologize profusely for what, I'm not sure. He assures me it's not the end of the world. People are laid off every day. We'll be fine. You'll be fine. I corral the dogs into the car and go for a drive, stopping at the grocery for avocados, bananas, bread.
A splurge on kombucha for a treat
Back home, I fuss with their leashes and hit the button to open the back door. The distinct sound of a dense plastic bag rolling, overturning, glass and kombucha exploding onto the driveway below
“What's with today?” my neighbor asks from across the street
Two weeks later it was my marriage
The look in his eyes as he told me to “Get Out” The disbelief as he points to the door. The panic that sets in as I realize that without a job, I don't have many options. The profound anxiety that comes when your home, your refuge, is taken away from you
The sadness and disappointment of not having someone to lean on, at a time when I needed him most
“But don't you understand? Life is full of lots of beautiful moments and lots of not-so-beautiful moments,” I say to myself
It doesn't take long before neighbors start to look the other way
A part of me understands because I'm not sure I'd know what to say to someone in my situation either. Many fitful nights of sleep, the morning-after-feeling when you wake, remembering you're jobless, homeless, marriageless, and nearly friendless
“What's with this summer?” I say to no one at all
My first husband and I built a house once, or rather, I should say, my father was the brains behind the entire project and kept it afloat
There was a fireplace in the living room, and aside from the big bathtub, it was my favorite spot in the entire house. I'd searched high and low for the perfect gas insert with a rounded top and a natural-looking flame. It was at least four times over budget and to this day, is one of my favorite things I've ever owned
I was put in charge of installing slate tiles on the front, which were exceptionally heavy. Every morning I'd wake to discover most had fallen off and I'd have to start again
One of the last times I sat in front of it, was a few days before someone decided to make an offer. It was late afternoon, maybe early evening. A few days before Christmas. My father was standing in the doorway, one shoulder against the frame. We'd been keeping each other company for weeks fixing odds and ends .. but mostly saying a long goodbye to something we'd both come to love
I was tired and nervous, preoccupied with how much was left to do and how little time there seemed to be. “This is too hard” I announced, slumping over my thighs
All I could see was my fear of leaving the place I'd called home, afraid of leaving what was familiar, afraid of the unknown, afraid of being a failure
“Well, my dear, you'd better get used to it. Life is hard. That's just how it is”
I looked for the telling smile. The twinkle in his eye. It wasn't there. A weird, crackling silence filled the room. He shoved off the door jamb and busied himself somewhere in the basement
My father was in his young 60s at the time. He's always been in good health, had yet to retire, and was living in the house that he and my mother completely renovated, one board at a time. He never once fell apart or ran away when times got tough. He was happy, in spite of silently dragging along all of the aches and pains and piles of personal garbage that a human accumulates over many decades of living
I've learned it's best to believe him, even if I don't want to. His words have stayed with me
I wonder at them sometimes, bat them around, tug at them like the hair tie I keep in my pocket. I always think of him amid Big Life Things: marriage, birth, death, divorce, wayward children, and now job loss. The moments, when life feels too big to hold all by myself
The times I ask God .. “Why do I have to start over, yet again? Will I get to be ok? For how long?”
After a couple of months, I was offered a new job and moved to an apartment on the eighteenth floor of an old, historic building in downtown Des Moines. Outside of the year, before I married my husband, I haven't lived alone
I can hardly let myself think of the puppies I had to leave behind because most apartments only allow dogs that are little. Whose cheesy eggs does Harry steal off of their breakfast plate in the mornings? How is the family of bunnies that Sally always checked on when we were out for our walks? It's strange not to vacuum twice a day
My two kitties were able to come. For the better part of a first week, Lucy was beside himself. Meowing directly into my ear at all hours of the night. “I know big guy; I wish we could go home too. ”
After a couple of weeks now, the strangeness has started to give way to something different. It's still strange but strangely less awful. I've made it through all of the moving boxes and started to make the space my own. My parents came to hang curtains and tackle some IKEA put-together projects. We celebrated with beers at a local brew-pub. That was a good day
The apartment has huge windows that let in the most beautiful light. I'm deathly afraid of heights, and it was several days before I could even get close to them, but now it's a lot better. At night, I lay in bed and look out at all of the lights until I'm able to fall asleep
Sometimes I wonder how long it will take to feel better. My soul feels weary. Still underwater. But every day I get out of bed and do my best to create a new normal
A nap. A bike ride. An afternoon at the library. Tea at a new coffee shop. A walk around the lake. A phone call to a friend. Dinner at a new restaurant. Saturday mornings at the farmers market. Cautious steps into a new and different life, even in the smallest degree
And this, one of my grandson's favorite jokes that I framed and hung by my bed
Will you remember me in a year?
Will you remember me in a month?
Will you remember me in a week?
See? You forgot me already!
A whispered prayer that we don't
ps: Thank you to everyone who has reached out over the past few months. I'm humbled by and so very grateful for your kindness. I've missed writing more than I can say. Many days my heart was too broken to find words and the energy I did have was directed toward finding a new job
I sincerely hope I have the opportunity to repay you and/or pay it forward one day; thank you so very, very much
(Featured image photo credit – Instagram – @bymariandrew)