Day 10 – Spiritual Networking

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

September 7, 2014

Once a month, Mormons have what we call a “Testimony Meeting” that’s basically a one hour open mic session. The meeting is supposed to be centered on Christ, but inevitably people get a little too excited about having a pulpit from which to speak and take us all to crazy town with them. Sometimes they meander and get into too irrelevant details about vacations the rest of wish we went on, or the hair ball their cat coughed up that morning (which I suppose could be a spiritual experience, depending on size), but mostly what you hear are testimonies that are simple, tearful confessions of belief in the Savior. In a church largely without pageantry, this is as honest as it gets. And as pedestrian as the words used by the brave and timid souls who dare to share the deepest part of themselves may sometimes be, there isn’t really any denying the conviction behind them. These people know what they believe, and we know without doubt that they believe it.

I was the first one to the mic today, after the Bishop kicked it all off with a few of his own thoughts. I very rarely do this. I did it this time because I think there are times, like now, when you’ve got to recognize the hand of the Lord, publicly, or you’re just ungrateful. I also wanted to thank everyone in the congregation. Many of the blessings we’ve received in the past week and a half came directly from them.

NetworkingNot everyone knew about our situation, of course, so I led with a brief description of the 24 hours that found both me and my wife suddenly out of work. That got their attention. By the time I was done, I felt I had rambled sufficiently, didn’t have much of a clue what I’d said, and made enough of an impression that what was just an honest expression of faith that blessings are just around the corner for us turned into a big networking opportunity. People asked for my resume. Said they knew a guy. Told me to start my own business.

My name and resume are now out to the Fresno Unified School District, thanks to my testimony. I’ve flirted briefly with becoming a teacher over the years, but never seriously. I keep feeling like wherever I go next will be a big deal and a huge departure from what I was doing. Maybe that’s it.

My favorite interaction at church was the brother who tracked me down to proclaim loudly, “Boy, you wouldn’t have any luck at all if it weren’t bad!” That’s not entirely true, but it made me laugh and nod anyway.

Best advice I heard today: “It’s not your responsibility to make others feel better about your situation.” Made me think of my dad’s funeral, which I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and much of our time grieving is taken up by trying to prove to everyone that everything is going to be fine. This really is like a death. It’s like when people talk to us we’re both the grieving family members and the corpses.

I think it was a car crash. My wife died instantly. I died at the hospital a day later.

* * *

Erin got an email today telling her she’s eligible for the next step in the application/interview process in some sort of sales rep job. It’s local. It’s encouraging.

Day 9 – Sometimes It Feels Good to Hurt

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

September 6, 2014

My appetite came back this morning at around 10am when I was confronted with catering at a birthday party for a 3-year-old. Not only was it quite the lavish affair with lots of handmade party favors and a bounce house with a water slide attached to it, but they had quite the spread of Mexican food. I couldn’t not eat.

salt-lake-mormon-temple-featuredThe big happening today was that I finished up my resume and started applying for jobs. Only took forever. I found one really promising job that would put me in Salt Lake working for my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Utah isn’t necessarily my first choice for a place to live (too many dang Mormons), but I’ve got family there and, for some reason, I find my previous, California-bred hesitancies falling away. It actually sounds kind of exciting to me to deep dive into that oh-so-familiar culture now. We don’t want to move, but we accept that we may have to and–seriously, for a reason I cannot fathom or explain–I can see Utah. I can see those mountains and that ocean of decaffeinated soda and days off on July 24th and… it doesn’t look half bad.

Not that I’m placing all my bets on that one. I don’t want to miss a trick, so all interested parties, please feel free to peruse said completed resume:

Brock Resume

Erin sent out resumes like crazy today, both hers and mine.  She’s applying for a lot of account executive jobs, to do the Roger Sterling thing. She’d be amazing at it. She’s so good with people and can make a sale sound like a natural part of a conversation. She had no idea she had this skill until we worked a math convention in New Orleans earlier this year, and to her surprise she loved it. She loves sales. It’s incredibly strange.

* * *

I think sharing is important. It’s why I write this blog and why I post on Facebook. I think by sharing–the good and the bad–we strengthen each other and learn from each other’s experiences. This is a good thing. But it has to be both to really work–the bad and the good.

I struggled today to share something positive. This was maybe the worst day for Erin and me, emotionally and mentally, since this whole unemployment thing started. I wanted to share something positive almost as a counteragent. Positive is the way I prefer to be and I have a real disdain for cynicism, but I had almost nothing for it today.

I know we’re blessed, even on hard days like this. It’s not even that I suddenly don’t think things will be better, it’s just that the more our new lives take shape the more overwhelming it all begins to feel. Are we going to find jobs in time? Are we going to stay in Fresno? Will we be forced to move?

The present is a stressful thing. I sometimes feel like I’m a stranger in my own house. Even though I know legally we’re allowed to be here and we’re all paid up on our mortgage, I’m not totally sure where the next payment is coming from. If our lender knew our precarious position, how would they (the admittedly cold, unfeeling, Terminator-like banking machine) feel about that? Might they say we don’t deserve to live in this house? That’s how I feel sometimes, like we’re squatters or something.

* * *

After dinner, Erin I took a long walk around the neighborhood with our two dogs. It was night out and a little breezy. I think the last time it felt this good outdoors in this dry, dry, dry, 1000x dry and warm climate was May. Erin was mad at me for not wearing shoes, fearing I’d walk on glass or something else sharp and not shiny in the dark. Sure enough, my feet got cut up, though not by glass. Walking barefoot on asphalt over the course of an hour will just do that.

I didn’t care. I loved the firm sensation of the balls of my feet pivoting on the flat, sandpaper street; of the wet grass in my toes when we walked close enough to a park to detour; and of my heel slapping down on a small puddle of water produced by sprinklers that probably shouldn’t have been on during this severe drought we’re having. I even loved it when I felt my soles go raw and, maybe, a little bloody. I loved the distracting, confirming sensation of it.

I find I’m living for those times–moments, really–when something rises up to make me forget we’re not entirely employed. Even if it’s kind of odd and masochistic, there’s a strange satisfaction to it.

Day 8 – George Bailey Moments

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

September 5, 2014

Violet and Erin, who are awesome.

Violet and Erin, who are awesome.

Not gonna lie, today was a tough one. Woke up barely able to lift my head from the pillow and wanting to puke again. Didn’t eat anything until Cami was home from school, at around 3pm. Even then, it wasn’t much. Violet, our youngest (age 3), caught me:

Violet: What are you eating?

Me: A sucker. This is my diet today: suckers and popcorn.

Violet: Suckers and popcorn is not good.

GeorgeBaileyIt’s hard to look at my kids sometimes. I have George Bailey moments where I feel like I’ve failed so badly it would better if I hadn’t been around in the first place to get everyone into this mess. Erin tells me Angels don’t really get their wings every time a bell rings, so don’t do anything stupid. We have no bridges around here. I think I’m safe.

Finally got around to starting my resume today. I’m worried I’ve been out of the job hunt so long that I completely misunderstand even the basic requirements of how to present myself. I’d love to do something with writing, but my work history doesn’t reflect that too much. As a graphic designer by trade, I’m worried my boring, Microsoft-Worded Up one pager is woefully unimpressive, but without my work computer I have no access to any of the programs I need to do a decent design job.

* * *

Friends came by again tonight to play games. If we’re somebody’s project aimed at making sure Erin and I aren’t alone and free to wallow in our miserable state, I’m glad for it. Playing games of any sort seems to be the only thing that takes my mind off the stress and the worry.

Just before our friends arrived, things were tense in the house. There was nothing particularly wrong between Erin and me, but everything we said to each other sounded like an attack to the other person. Once our friends came through the door, all that garbage went away. We’ve weathered a lot of storms together (some worse than this), and we’ll be okay, but sometimes the bad overwhelms the good. Not on the whole, but there are certainly times–pocket moments–when at least I lose sight of the great blessing that is all we’ve already endured and I temptingly think, “This is it. It will never be as good as it was and this is the beginning of our slippery slide downhill. We should get used to this depressed state because it’s all we have now.” I think those kinds of thoughts are where the darkness we sometimes feel comes from.

They’re lies.

 

A brief note: This blog operates about 12 days in the past (check the dates at the top of each post). That’s causing some confusion for me in real life as I have people reacting to what I write here as though it is currently happening (spoiler alert: my appetite returns). I’m going to try to narrow the gap a little and do two posts in one day here and there. Expect Day 9 later this evening. 

Day 7 – Two Diplomas, No Jobs

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

The big news today is that I actually woke up with an appetite and ate breakfast for the first time in a week. I ate an actual bowl of cereal. With milk and everything. My stomach didn’t really know what to do with it.

Since Erin was out at the Dentist (we should probably figure out how to pay him) and running errands with Violet, I had most of the day to myself. I cranked up the stereo, disturbed the dogs and cat with a bit of living room dancing, and finished up Erin’s resume. Are you looking for an amazing video presenter who projects realness and warmth like a just opened oven? Look no further:

Erin’s Resume

After that was done, I went over to the church to do a little bit of clerical work. We don’t have any paid ministry in our church, so work like that falls to the rank and file, which is everyone. It just happens to be my turn to do that sort of thing right now, which means somebody made a grave mistake. I know exactly two places to file documents: 1. Where I will never remember I put them there, and 2. In the trash. The only reason you’d have me record data and file papers is if you can’t afford a shredder.

When I came home from the church, Erin was already there and had a surprise for me: our college diplomas, framed on the giant empty wall in our bedroom.

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I’ve been carrying my diploma around in my work bag for ten years. For most of that time, I didn’t even know it was there (Filing place #1). Not really sure why I put it there in  the first place, but my guess is I didn’t know where else to stick it and I didn’t really care. I never wanted to go to college. Didn’t see the value, sounded boring.

Once I got my diploma, I felt almost no sense of accomplishment. College was just this thing I did because I didn’t know what else do with my life and Marvel and DC Comics weren’t exactly knocking down my door. Erin really pushed me hard during that time. I probably wouldn’t have graduated without her. My 37-year-old self kind of wants to smack my 26-year-old self upside the head for being an idiot, but at least he finished it.

I’m not sure how Erin’s mom got it out of my work bag, but she has my thanks for this gift of a daily reminder that, no matter our present circumstance, Erin and I are pretty capable after all. Maybe somebody with some money will agree with that soon.

* * *

Bunch of friends came over to play games once again tonight. I don’t know if they know how useful the distraction is or not, but I’m grateful for it. They stayed until 3am. Tonight also marked the first time someone made jokes about my lack of job. Everyone laughed, at my expense. I guess we’ve crossed a new threshold there. Probably a good thing.

Day 6 – The Difference Between Being Let Go and Letting Go

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is part of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

September 3, 2014

Me at my desk at work on a very different day. (I didn't usually wear such things to work. I think I had gone to a funeral the day this was taken.)

Me at my desk at work on a very different day. (I didn’t usually wear such things to work. I think I had gone to a funeral the day this was taken.)

Erin let me sleep in after a late night of doing everything I could to drive myself to distraction. I woke up so sick to my stomach I thought I was going to puke right there in my bed. Today was the day I went back to work to clear out my desk and talk to my old boss.

Lost another pound and a half overnight. I’ve learned this is how my body responds to stress: I lose all appetite. When I was younger and insecure and completely infatuated with a girl at school, I went about a year and a half sustained by very little. Food was gross. The act of eating was a chore. My stomach was so constantly empty that people around me would make a face at revulsion at the loud grumbling emanating from my mid section, but I couldn’t have cared less.

I haven’t really felt like that again until this week.

Erin accompanied me to help me pack up my workspace while I downloaded twelve years of personal files from off my computer. We went to Home Depot first for boxes. The shipping department later scolded us for that, saying they’d have been glad to provide. We just didn’t want to be a bother.

My old boss was in a meeting when we got there, but when he found out I was waiting to speak with him he left to come talk to me. He was much more than just a boss to me, and I was a lot more than an employee to him. We had a long talk that ultimately ended with a long hug and expressions of love. That’s one conversation I won’t be having in my head for the rest of my life because I actually got to have it.

There were lots of tears as Erin and I went around to all the offices to say goodbye. Even I teared up, and I’m not terribly prone to do that. The previous two and a half years were the best time I’ve ever had on a job. The people I worked with were largely responsible for that and I will miss them terribly.

Earlier in the morning I thought I might shake apart for all the anxiety I was feeling. Now, as Erin and I walked the parking lot back to our car for the last time, I smiled. I hadn’t been able to see past today since the moment I was let go. But just because they let me go didn’t mean I’d let them go. This was my turn. Now, it was over.

Erin insisted we go to my favorite nearby sandwich place, Sunnyside Deli, for lunch. We spent more money we don’t how to replenish, but at least I ate again. I ate an entire Hot Pastrami sandwich. Tasted so good I might have had another if it weren’t for the instant stomach ache it gave me.

When we got home, we played Mario Kart 8. I read a study recently that said playing Mario Kart relieves stress. I think that’s true.

* * *

Once again friends blessed us by bringing by dinner. Since our emotional exhaustion seemed to be having such a physical impact and the last thing Erin could imagine doing was cooking, we were grateful.

I’ve been getting messages of support and a few donations from loyal readers of my online comic, The SuperFogeys. Many of them are recommending we put the comic up on Patreon to garner some actual, regular monetary support. It’s a different kind of love that suggestion–the love of strangers–but it’s nonetheless a suggestion that keeps this little gratitude train we’re on rolling. Who tells you they want to pay for something you’re giving away for free? People who care, that’s who.

Next steps had to be taken tonight, so Erin and I wasted no time this evening cracking open our brains and working on her resume. This is so very real. I officially separated from old job. Tomorrow is my first real day of unemployment.

* * *

Had three brownies tonight after everyone went to bed. Didn’t throw up.

Day 5 – It’s Not Nice to Snap at Your Wife When You’ve Both Been Fired

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

September 2, 2014

This is Erin's angry face. I'm... not entirely sure why she took this picture, but I think my duty bound to share it with the world.

This is Erin’s angry face. I’m… not entirely sure why she took this picture, but I think my duty bound to share it with the world.

I woke up with lots of anger today. I’ve maintained a mostly even keel through all this unemployment business, but days like today it all just gets under my skin and just the… crushing unfairness of it all weighs me down. Which is stupid. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from so many who have reached out in the past several days it is that just about everyone has gone through a bout of unemployment. Some for an incredibly, heartbreakingly long time. Those people, every time I talk to them, I think “Please, not me. Not us. Let it end soon.”

I think of “me” first. Then my family. I don’t like thinking that way. We’re all in this together and even though my two youngest may not be able to even process or understand what’s going on (and why should they? All they know is Daddy is available to play “Hotel” 24/7 and turn on Frozen more), they’re affected nonetheless. I also need to remember I’m not the only one who lost a job. Erin makes it easy to forget. She has such utter confidence we’re going to be okay and though she has her moments, she handles the whole situation with much more grace than I currently am capable of.

Case in point: I snapped at Erin this morning.

I tried to do the morning drop-offs at schools. With Violet, I got completely lost. She’s attending preschool in a home in a neighborhood with the most convoluted street layout devised by man. I half expect to run into a minotaur every time I venture in there. That wasn’t the real problem though. The real problem was that I completely forgot where this labyrinth actually was. I spent 20 minutes driving in a circle. Violet was late, so Erin asked what took me so long when I finally returned home. This is when I snapped.

Erin didn’t retaliate. She knew as well as I did my morning’s “ordeal” wasn’t the real issue.

For the rest of the day, we tried to keep as busy as possible by playing games both video and tabletop with my brother and his wife before they return to their home in the Portland area. The constant diversion served its purpose well, so we did it again with friends this evening. Other friends brought by another gift basket, complete with an offer to babysit and movie tickets. This is our life right now: surrounded by generosity and friends who genuinely care for us to a degree we perhaps don’t deserve. I can’t comprehend with anything other than aching gratitude.

At the same time, I know these kindnesses are somewhat temporary. I’m reminded of my father’s death and funeral and how much attention was paid to my family at that time and how it all went away eventually. People will have to move on as our new state of unemployment becomes old and normal. This is how it should be, I think, but I doubt we’ll be any more okay with it all than we are now.

* * *

I’ve dropped a lot of weight since this all started. About three pounds since Friday. I was actually dieting before I was let go, but I haven’t seen this side of 180 in about a year. It’s hard not to think of it as a good thing even when I know I’m probably terribly unhealthy right now. Even as I sit here typing with my stomach screaming hunger pangs at me, I find I have no appetite.

Tomorrow I go back to work to say goodbye. Not everyone knows I’m leaving. Maybe I’ll eat after that.

Day 4 – “That’s Just Butts”

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

September 1, 2014

Today was Labor Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 5.38.56 PMDay, a day set apart to celebrate all the good people who set up unions and other protections that prevent 6-year-olds from pounding shoe leather for twelve straight hours and three pennies a day. I wonder what a union could have done for me.

My favorite comment on our situation, via Facebook and courtesy of my friend, Heidi: So, you picked yourself up and went to work at a place that had JUST fired your wife the day before and THEN they fired you? Oh for Pete’s sake.

Me: That’s about the size of it, Heidi.

Heidi: That’s just butts.

* * *

I spent the entire first half of the day finalizing the edit on a video I made for my Grandpa and his wife, Susan. A couple of years ago they gave all of their married grandchildren $2,000 with the stipulation that they go on an adventure with it. Preferably outdoors. No cruises. And we weren’t allowed to do something sensible with it like pay bills. Grandpa has Parkinson’s and is wheelchair bound, so I kind of thought maybe he wanted to send us out into the world to do the things he can’t. I mean, hopefully that’s the reason. Otherwise I just made a cruel video showing him all the things he only wishes he could do.

Erin and I brought our kids along, and put our $2,000 together with the $2,000 my brother and his wife got. With our combined 5 kids, we did a solid week and a half of an adventure a day. This was challenging because our kids all have different needs, and my middle child has special needs. She loved the berry picking the best, as we figured she would. This video shows off a small part of it. I shot 90% of it with my little sport camera, so I’m only in it here and there. Which is fine. Everyone else is much better looking.

Summer Adventure 2014 from Brock Heasley on Vimeo.

We celebrated Labor Day with family and food. I alternated between being irritated that scarcely a mention was made of our situation, and grateful it wasn’t made into a big deal. To remind them, Erin and I started a little mini-meme with ourselves by shouting “I lost my job!” every time things didn’t go our way in the tabletop game we played around the kitchen table. It’s possible we made everyone uncomfortable, but more importantly we made ourselves laugh.

I seem to be especially appreciative of entertainment these days. Usually, I watch movies or TV or even play board games like a jerk, constantly analyzing and trying to divine what makes them good or bad and making notes about which aspects of them I might want to avoid/co-opt in my own work. But in the past four days I’ve been retreating to entertainments gladly as they distract me enough that I can forget this unemployment beast is even there. I’ve never had alcohol, but I get wanting to numb yourself.