What unemployment is sometimes

By isak, April 21, 2009

I have to share this post from Jobless and Less, Norm Elrod’s “blog for the employmentally challenged.” I think all of life has a cycle and in each month, there is the downside of the ride. I am slipping into it for this month, so when I stumbled over this post this morning, my feelings lifted a bit as I see how NOT alone I am. Thanks, Norm.

The cycle of feeling sorry for myself

Every so often a funk grabs a hold of me, for no good reason. And not the sequined Rick James funk of awesomeness either. I feel sorry for myself. I lament my unemployment and the general state of my life. I start to envy all the things everyone else has and I don’t – big apartments, cars, jobs, stuff. It’s an ugly scene, and the envy can reach ridiculous proportions. The other day I found myself begrudging Matthew McConaughey his success as an actor. Why should I care? I don’t even want to be the male lead in bad romance comedies that should go straight to DVD. The six-pack abs would be nice though. And the million-dollar paychecks… I’d take those.

When in these funks, I feel like the only person who is struggling – a ridiculous notion, but true in the world of me, myself and I. This is a selfish and irrational way of looking at things. And people would be right to call me out on it in the forums and comments sections. Hell, you have my permission to walk right up on the street and slap me across the face if you have to. I forget to give equal weight to all the good things in my life – family, health, etc. They get minimized and pushed aside. The feeling sorry for myself isn’t productive. But it happens every now and again, often enough that I recognize the cycle for what it is.

My birthday was such a good time that the letdown afterward probably sparked this latest round of woe is me. But any little slight or setback can do it. Getting out of bed that next morning took some serious effort. I lay there staring at the insides of my eyelids, thinking that more sleep might make everything better. But more sleep only makes me feel guilty for wasting the morning. So I dragged my ass up, put on my workout clothes and headed off to the gym.

This funk-y workout wasn’t very good as workouts go. They never are. I tried to harness the negative feelings to push myself harder. In the movie version of my life, this would be the montage scene before the moment of truth. Alas, without the ’80s music, the cameras and the inspiration, this tactic didn’t work. Rocky had Drago. Lane Meyer had Roy Stalin, that blond-haired skier guy. I have unemployment as my nemesis. There was no face to picture when eking out that last set. There wasn’t even a last set. I just wanted to go home and stay there.

Home is the best place when I’m in a funk. The only people around the apartment during the day are the cats. And they just sleep and leave behind tumbleweed-like fur balls. I did go out that afternoon for cookies and coffee – the bread and nectar of life. I have to stay strong in case a potential employer wants to interview me. I can’t be scaring children like Michael Jackson or Sophia Loren if I ever want to work again. Walking the streets was a challenge. People were everywhere and always in my way. Part of that is just my neighborhood, Jackson Heights, where most of South America now lives. Everyone seemed to be going important places and doing important things. Most of them, of course, were not. But I saw everything through a lens of negativity. It made me want to just push people out of my way.

Nothing seemed to work right during the funk. My muscles felt heavy. My brain couldn’t hold a thought. I moved with lethargy and less purpose, avoiding new tasks and lingering over tasks that are second nature. My attitude was poor, and my temper short. I complained about really stupid, unimportant stuff. And I got teary-eyed and emotional over sappy TV. (Damn you Sarah McLachlan for showing me hurt animals!) The frustration, boredom and dissatisfaction inside leaked out in weird ways.

Something always pulls me back into real life. This time it was a two-year-old boy on the subway discovering the world outside. He stood on the seat watching the passing buildings, pointing and laughing as his mother held him steady. I sat across the aisle, iPod on, watching him. Something about the scene made me feel better. Maybe it was his joy. Maybe it was his innocence. Maybe the chemicals in my body picked that moment to readjust in a way that improved my mood. I don’t know, but I’m glad it’s over.

We all have ups and downs in our moods. They’re part of life. But unemployment can make the peaks higher and, in my case, the valleys lower. I go through these cycles often enough to recognize them. If I could steer clear, I would. That hasn’t worked so far, so I just try to just be productive and minimize the downtime. My best is the most I can ask of myself.

reprinted from Jobless and Less by Norm Elrod

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