This is the start of my second week as a jobless writer. So far, it’s a mess.
I was asked what my first week was like after almost 24 years with the same employer. I said it was like a maiden skydive, those first five seconds after you jump. It’s too much. A torrent of emotion and hormones floods the brain. Your head checks out.
I’m in a completely uncharted land. I’m in the weeds, man. I’m going to need help.
I stubbornly fight to set my ego aside and be open for help. If feel ashamed to ask for it. I feel like a failure. I’m also afraid of accepting help and then failing. A two-for-one fail, so to speak. I have to remind myself that failure is not an end. I have to remind myself that self-sufficiency is a lie I can’t afford to believe anymore.
Would it be a surprise if I confess that I haven’t written much? I’ve been preoccupied with covering my ass and have grown a handsome cold sore on my lower lip from the stress. I applied for unemployment, but since I voluntarily quit, it’s a long shot. I signed up for national healthcare. I’m waiting for paperwork so I can cash out my 401k. At best, these will slow my decent temporarily. They certainly aren’t parachutes.
The truth is, my job starved me out. The grocery industry is not a middle class job anymore. That fact is infinitely more true for single parents. In hindsight, I stuck around too long. I was bound by some twisted sense of obligation and penance for believing I was not so great at life. See: shame. I could see the inevitable unsustainability of it all but I hung on until circumstances ripped me from my crumbling perch.
I could get into the details of the convergence of my bitterness and my employer’s relentless pursuit of ever-cheaper labor, of the death of the middle class and dysfunctional politics, of the distorted economy and financial make-believe we have all bought into, but it doesn’t matter. The last length of metaphorical tracks of my old life have ended at the edge of a cliff. It’s a final death.
It’s also a freefall birth. It’s time to motherfucking evolve.
In the past five years, every time I have made a colon-quaking decision to change my life in drastic ways there has always been that moment of hesitation:
That big-ass boulder you are about to fling into the stagnant stillness of your life is going to make waves, dude. Crazy waves. Shit might sink. People are going to flip out in ways that are going to make these changes even more nut-breaking difficult to navigate. You sure this is what you want?
I forgot about rare full moons. And Friday the 13th. And that I share too much.
I was hesitant of breaking the news to my ex-wife until I had some pieces of my “employment afterlife” in place. She read my blog post the day before I was going to tell her. This is what happens when you are a divorced parent and writer of overly personal prose. She called me Friday night as I was putting our son to bed, her voice on the edge of panic because she’s worried that our son doesn’t have medical coverage anymore. It’s also about money. Neither of us have (or HAD, in my case) jobs that pay well. Money is always an issue for both of us.
Divorce is hard. But once it’s done, it’s the end… Unless you have a young child together and you both still want to be parents. Then it’s like the radioactive half-life of a marriage. When the child has Type 1 Diabetes, an incurable autoimmune disease, things get even more complicated. There’s a constant push and pull between teamwork and independence. Fear flares attempts to control which flares defensiveness which threatens cooperation and communication.
She demanded to make an appointment with our mediator. The mediator who was just diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, chose to have a double mastectomy and is now undergoing chemotherapy.
Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck.
I tried not to get defensive. I apologized for not telling her before I wrote about it. I asked her to wait so we could talk. Our son stood in the stairwell listening to us argue. I told her that I was putting our son to bed and it wasn’t a good time.
I spent the next hour talking to our son, telling him that everything was going to be okay. I told him I quit my job. I told him that we might have to sell the house eventually. I told him that no matter what happens, I was going to take care of him.
Eventually he asked me to stop talking. He was tired and wanted to go to bed.
After I tucked him in I started beating myself up. Why do I share too much?
I’m a big fan of the overly-personal. I crave the truth of things. Mostly because we are all cowards hiding behind denial and shame and ego. The no-bullshit truth is it all goes back to fear. Beyond impending death as it’s trigger, fear is like a malignant invisible sun. All the things that hold us back from thriving can be traced back to it.
Writing naked is an extremely vulnerable place. I have tiny panic attacks often. My scars, faults, weaknesses and blunders rest at your feet. You can kick them, scorn them, judge them. Ignore them. You can use my veilless words against me or warp them of their intended meaning.
BUT — maybe you find validation and connection. Maybe my bleeding in public inspires some beneficial change within you. Maybe you find hope. Strength.
All I can do is choose what words to write or to not write at all. And let me tell you, those are hard choices when you want to be authentic. Not writing means I’m not a writer. AND I’M A GODDAMN WRITER so that leaves me with only one choice.
What words will I use? The real ones.