Day 63 – The Full Picture is Not Painted with Only Happy Colors

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.

Friday – October 31, 2014

Even this photo, which popped up when I searched "bright colors" has real darkness in it. We can't recognize the bright without the dark.

Even this photo, which popped up when I searched “bright colors” has real darkness in it. We can’t recognize the bright without the dark.

Fair warning: there are highs and lows with this unemployment thing and, sadly, today is another low.

* * *

Erin and I had an early morning meeting with Cami’s teachers to discuss her IEP (Individual Education Plan) goals. Every kid with special needs who goes to school has an IEP that’s refreshed every year. We weren’t due to discuss it until January, but the meeting was called early for the most surprising and pleasant of reasons: Cami hit her goals early. This has never happened before. Usually, Cami doesn’t hit her goals at all and we have to roll them into the next year. The kid grows and develops like she’s running against a much different, slower clock than the rest of us. We’re pretty much floored by this new, overachieving Cami. The mysterious, sets-her-own-pace Cami has trained us too well.

Together, we made new, short term goals with the hope she’ll hit them by the real IEP meeting at the first of next year.

At the end of the meeting, and after two months of picking up and dropping off Cami at school and looking mostly like an unshaven caveman monster while doing it, I finally had to explain to Cami’s teachers that Erin and I are unemployed. We weren’t hiding it (clearly, says my crusty face), but today they asked if we were going back to work now that the meeting was over. This was an odd question, so I’m sure they must have suspected something was up and this was the first real opportunity they had to ask.

It is always, always, always humiliating to admit we’re out of work. I don’t hide it and I will tell anyone who asks, but that openness is something that, at times, I force because I know it’s good for me and I know, intellectually, that there’s no shame attached to it. But there’s a part of me that doesn’t get that and that part shrinks and flushes red.

Cami’s teachers were kind and sympathetic and said they’d keep their ears out for any opportunities. This is the exact right response.

* * *

Halloween tonight. The kids all went out and knocked doors. They got a lot of candy. I’m going to get fat.

* * *

I don’t know if it was because of the way the meeting ended with Cami’s teachers or just because of the reality of our current situation, but I’m feeling utterly hopeless today. The leads have basically dried up and we’re back to square one. Days like this we feel like we’re really, truly in trouble. At least with a lead or interviews being scheduled we can point and say, “See, there’s something that could work out.” But that’s not today.

Today is hard. Today, things look bleak.

I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll say it again: we’re going to be fine. I don’t doubt that, but today is tough and my inability to see past today is bothering me more than usual. As I said in a recent blog, “The present does not always shake hands with the future.”

I share these down periods and the hopelessness we feel at times freely in the interest of the full picture. It drives me crazy when people give no thought to the narrative they’re putting out there. And we all have a narrative. As soon as you put more than one thing about yourself out there as public information, you’re creating a narrative about your life. If you’re not careful, you can create a misperception about yourself that leaves others feeling either worried about you (if your narrative weighs toward the negative) or disbelieving you and feeling bad about themselves (if your narrative strays towards the overly rosy and positive). I strive for my narrative to be positive, but honest (or, accurate).

The full picture cannot be painted with only bright, happy colors. Not in this life anyway.

So, yes, today is tough. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.



Day 26 – Kindergarten was Right: Why Sharing is Important

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.

Tuesday – September 23, 2014

file5591268154864Big stuff this morning as I had my phone interview for the job up in Northern California. That’s the second phone interview I’ve had since this all started and I think I’m getting better at this as it goes on. Felt a bit tongue tied here and there, but it seemed to go well overall and it’s looking good for moving on to the next step. Would be a dream to work for them.

Crazy thing: just an hour before the interview I got a lead on another job in Maryland that is another just flat-out amazing opportunity. I think it would be bad form to say exactly what any of these jobs are at this point, but I sure wish I could.

And I wasn’t the only one to interview today–Erin had one this morning as well and it went quite well. I think we’d be shocked if there isn’t some sort of follow-up or offer or something from them.

Unlike Erin, all of my best leads are coming from other people, not from applications I’m filling out and sending into the ether. I have to think–because I do that sometimes when I’ve had enough sleep and Vitamin C–that this blog is no small contributor to my ability to acquire these leads in the first place. Typically, when a tragedy occurs, people rush to you to comfort, console and support. This is one of the big benefits of having friends and family, and it’s the kind of support we need in hard times. But not all hard times end as quickly as that support often fades. It’s not that people are cruel or don’t care anymore, it’s just that other troubles or needs or their own concerns rise up, and it can be easy to forget or think that the suffering family is no longer in as much trouble or has as much need (which can often seem especially true when that family is receiving so much help and assistance from others in the first place). This blog seems to help make it so that, rather than just forget about us, we’re present in people’s minds and they understand the reality of the situation without us having to explain it over and over again. That would make this blog effective enough in and of itself, but the other, bigger bonus is that we’re present in people’s minds enough so that when they stumble upon a potential opportunity, they remember us. Next thing you know, an interview gets set up.

In a very real way, the single best decision I made on the day I was let go was to immediately start writing about it.

I’ve talked about this before, but really the worst thing you can do in a situation like ours is to shut up about it. We’ve got an innate need to share, and I think not sharing this struggle in this way would have been not only suffocating for me, but also would have simply gone against how things are supposed to work.

We are supposed to share one another’s burdens, but if I don’t tell you about my burden, then how are you supposed to share it? You can’t, so I’ve got just as much a responsibility here as you do. That is actually a very hard thing to wrap my brain around because my inclination (despite all evidence to the contrary) is to hide my burdens and deal with them myself. I don’t want to be a burden, so that’s something I have to actively fight against. This blog is how I fight it.

If I see someone in trouble and I can help, then I will. If you see me in trouble and you can help, then you do that. This is very simple stuff, but it’s important stuff. We share because it’s important to share. It’s maybe the most important thing because it is quite simply the most Christlike thing we can do. He took on the ultimate burden by paying the price for our sins, but he spent years beforehand exploring and understanding those sins and the great weights we all carry. He allowed us to share with him, and then he shared every part of himself with us.

Sharing is how we connect with others, it’s how we learn from each other, it’s how we help each other, it’s how we know we’re not alone. It is, ultimately, how we eschew selfishness.

Again, this is very simple stuff.

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.

Can’t I Just Get a Win?

Jar Jar knows what I'm talking about.

Jar Jar knows what I’m talking about.

In the interest of providing balance (like it or not, we brand ourselves to others with what we choose to share), may I just say the past day has been a little rough? Nothing big has happened, just the usual pressures of life getting me down a little.

I know failure is valuable and without it no one ever truly succeeds, but I realized yesterday that I’ve accepted the important place failure has in my life and in my learning so fully that I haven’t been noticing that it’s been a long, long time since I’ve seen a measurable success. I would really like to have a success, just one I can point to and say “See? That worked.” At the moment, I feel quite done with potential and promise and talent. I would like a win. Something achieved. A gain.

A success.

This is whining. This is what whining looks like, I know. I don’t share any of this in denial of my great blessings–my family, the roof that keeps the rain off our heads, my wife’s excellent cooking, etc.–but once in a while even the happiest of us gets low and I think it’s important to acknowledge those times to others and ourselves in the interest of balance and growth. I’ve got to process the bad feelings to understand them. Pretending they aren’t there or that I shouldn’t have them is stupid.

So, yes, it would be nice if success didn’t feel like a constantly moving target. When that happens so consistently, you become fearful. You can’t just lose, lose, lose all the time. Eventually, you’ll run out of the ability to even experience loss because you won’t have anything. So I would like a win. Just one to prove it’s still possible.

This is kind of like a prayer. Don’t think you’re the first person I’ve said this to (you, the collective internet) because Heavenly Father and I have been going at it on this for a little while. Oddly, for all the sadness I feel right now, I also feel peace. I assume that’s by comforting design.

I don’t share any of this as a plea for assurances. Please don’t do that. As I said, I’m done with promise and potential and talent. Or at least I’m done with pointing to those things as proof that there is an end to my personal losing streak. If effort, ability and sheer force of will had the power to correct this situation, I’m sure it would have happened a long time ago.

My suspicion is that this is simply going to take some time and that I’ll feel much better for having said these things. Success is also a matter of timing. I’ve experienced too many losses that lead to great gains in my life to be too overly depressed by all this. Still, it’s frustrating to find that the older I get the more elongated these lessons become–and the more patient I need to be.

Maybe that’s the point.