I have been fighting my true nature these past few weeks, and over the weekend my bravado blew up in my face. Somewhere between fighting with the confusingly written, yet immensely condescending, unemployment site (hey, guys, you could really use my help – that thing’s a mess) and realizing that I either have to tank my credit score or become homeless and turning off autopay on all of my credit accounts, I just crumbled.
I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to protect myself from exactly this situation. And you can’t do it! There’s no home safe enough, there’s no country nice enough, there’s no relationship secure enough. You’re just setting yourself up for an even bigger fall, and having an incredibly boring time in the process.
-Kate, French Kiss
Welcome to my life. Boring. Messy. Now featuring a huge dollop of fear on top.
So I went down the rabbit hole. I won’t be able to find another job, I thought. I will destroy my credit, which has survived divorce, two 3-month maternity leaves, moving, and being the breadwinner of a family while working one part-time job plus freelancing. Without good credit, I will live the rest of my life in crappy rental homes, driving beat-up used cars, and wearing ratty clothes. (But we have food, thanks to my FIL’s recent apocalypse kick. There’s that.)
I am tired. So freaking tired. I have been scraping by for over a decade now, and just when I was getting back on my feet, the rug was yanked out from under me. I can’t even see the damned rug now.
Cue meltdown. Crying, and cleaning (it’s a coping mechanism of mine), and not eating. My daughter was sad, and scared; I am not normally an emotional person, and she doesn’t know what to do with me when I cry. My son obviously could not articulate his feelings, but he’s been unsettled as well: restless and cranky and acting out.
Even once I managed to stop crying, my stomach churned, my muscles knotted. I could not rest. I could not eat. All of the things that usually provide me escape – planning our wedding, window-shopping for houses, looking at social media, reading blog articles on parenthood and productivity – seemed frivolous at best, and some even depressed me further. (Why look at wedding dresses when we can’t afford a wedding? And forget buying a house. I will never buy a house.)
It’s been a few days; the storm has passed. But I still don’t feel any better about anything. I am, it would appear, powerless in the face of my unemployment. I just happened to pick a field in which there are few opportunities where I live, and little remote work. (Why? I can edit just as well from my house as I can from your cubicle.)
The other morning, I turned off my 6:30 alarm and snoozed a bit more. Kai’s been teething, and I have been quite sleep deprived as a result. So I was in bed when my daughter awoke at 7:30. She snuggled close to me, and cradled her brother between us. R cuddled up close, as well. One big fam sammy. And I felt…safe. I felt loved. All the more so because I’d been feeling the exact opposite for days.
I remembered my vow to fight off the precise train of thought I have been suffocating beneath. I realized that just recognizing it isn’t enough; I need to figure out how to head it off at the pass.
Going for a walk normally helps. But that morning I had an editing test, so I didn’t have time. I need to make time. I need a schedule. A wake-up time. Scheduled time for work. Scheduled time for play. Time for exercise, meditation, self-care. If I don’t have enough work to fill the allotted time, I can do something fun in that window. If I have more, I will need to juggle my other scheduled tasks accordingly. But self-care and play time are not negotiable. I need those each and every day.
And snuggle time. That’s the most important to-do of all.