Two weeks ago, my husband told me he'd lost his job in a clean, P&L-based cut. And suddenly, that thing I feared ever since we got married and bought a house and birthed another mouth to feed happened, and I wasn't sure if we could live on my salary or not.
Whether or not we should be able to is beside the question. Of course we should be able to. But we weren't. My husband and I earn within a small range of each other's salaries, and we've always been a two-income family. We've both been laid off or about to be laid off three or four times each -- I've been in Internet publishing since 1999, and he's been in sales-related jobs since 2007 -- but only once before was it quite like this, and that was almost twelve years ago, before the little angel, before the mortgage, back when we were 27 and could just stop drinking beer for a week and everything would be fine.
There are other things I'm afraid of -- cancer, other terminal illness, the death of loved ones, finding a possum in my basement, the usual things -- but sudden, unexpected job loss without a back-up plan is something I've been afraid of since I was a little girl and my mom stayed home with us, so in my mind if my dad lost his job, we would immediately starve to death, like within days.
It's been two weeks, and surprisingly, we haven't starved. We haven't even been hungry. And though I have been through the usual gamut of emotions starting with shock and ripping through anger and fear, they didn't last long. I'm not sure why, actually. I cried last night for a completely unrelated reason, but that's the first time I've cried for more than about five seconds in the entire two weeks.
I have no doubt he'll have a new job that he likes eventually. He could probably have one right this minute if he were ready to go out of the frying pan and into the fire, but I've begged him not to do that, to be thoughtful in his journey. We're not spring chickens anymore, and I know as well as anyone that being unhappy with your work will rot your guts and raise your blood pressure. We're at that age where it would be good not to have work stress operate on your innards any more than it has to.
I don't know how long it will take, though. I'm staring at the tattoo on my arm of the word "now" and trying to mind it. It doesn't matter how long it takes, because I can't know, and I can't do anything about it, and right now, right this minute, I'm tapping this away on my laptop and listening to Drops of Jupiter and wondering when the leaves will drop. The grass that was so dormant it hurt your feet a month or so ago is lush again, the only evidence of the worst drought in years left in the dead patches scattered here and there, the lawn's scars from the summer of 2012.
When I was twenty-seven and this happened (again in a crazy P&L, lost-client situation), I was terrified and angry and took it all out on him. Even though it wasn't his fault, I thought he should've seen it coming, should've known, should've warned me so I could prepare myself. Then time passed, and the year 2000 happened, when I had three jobs, and then I heard a few jobs ago that I was going to get canned, and then I went somewhere else and lost projects and contracts and all manner of things until I guess I came to the place in which I currently reside: the place that knows there is no safety in the world of work, but there is usually a new gig around somewhere. There is no soft place, there are only places. Which sounds horrific but I find extremely comforting. Because if there are no soft places, then there are no hard places, either.
There are just places.
There. I just touched my "now" again, because in five minutes I might not feel so chill about our situation. I'm minute-to-minute with my anxiety disorder, but we don't have to be in a hard situation for that to happen. My anxiety disorder doesn't give one shit whether we just won the lottery or whether we just got sued for $100,000. It's all, HEY, YO, YOU AWAKE? LET'S FREAK OUT.
My thirty-eight-year-old self wants to grab my twenty-seven-year-old self and tell her what's the what: Two months from now, you and Beloved will get married. He'll have a new job within a week. He'll change careers twice again. He'll end up in the exact same place in eleven years. But you, my friend, will have lost or left SIX JOBS in eleven years. The bubble will burst. The economy will get shredded. You'll buy a house. You will love the house. You will invest money in the house. You will bring a baby home to the house. You will lose money when you sell the house. You will buy another house. Your cat will die. You will love the house. Your replacement cat will die. You will remodel the house, slowly, room by room. You will get yet another cat. You will teach yourself to garden. And then, when you're tempted to bemoan the fact that sometimes it feels like you're right back where you were in this minute, right now, twenty-seven-year-old self, you will realize that you and Beloved stuck through it together, every minute of it, and that's all that matters.
We're all the heroes in our own stories, and every story needs obstacles or they're fucking boring.
That's what I think in this bit of now.
So buck up, Rita.