I spend a lot of my time actively not thinking about where my life is right now. It's nowhere near where I want it to be, but over the last year, I have managed to strengthen my denial muscle. I blithely move throughout my days, doing little projects, volunteering at church, picking up odd jobs here and there, pretending I'm not standing on a razor thin wire of hope that's growing more and more tenuous each day. There are the days that I forget to hold the denial muscle tight (like when I glance at my bank account) and I get a little bit sucker punched by the weight of all that I am not doing or cannot change. There is a physical pain in my stomach and a weight pressing on my chest that often takes my breath away with how suddenly it hits. But I take a few deep breaths and pull the muscle taut again. I just keep moving, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Because what other choice do I have?
But then there are days, days like today, when something happens and the denial muscle snaps and sprains and hangs limp. When I get an early morning phone call telling me that I ONCE AGAIN did not get a job. A job I interviewed for less than twenty-four hours before. An interview that used up four hours of my life, 90 miles' worth of gas, and an hour and a half's worth of patience while I waited around for a second interview that never happened. On those days, everything comes into stark focus and my denial muscle is useless from the effort of holding it all at bay. On those days, I get up in the morning and I make my coffee and I sit on the couch and I just cry.
Major areas of my life are in shambles. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but they all feel pretty broken to me. The biggest and most pressing is the job issue. It has been 422 days since I have worked. Four hundred and twenty-two. (That's longer than it takes to gestate a human baby. Or a horse. But less than an elephant. So, you know, hope...?) I've taken a temp job here and there, I've done two stints as a week-long overnight nanny, and I've house-sat for almost everyone in my church. But I have not held a real nine-to-five-here's-a-paycheck-every-two-weeks-and-also-some-benefits-so-you-don't-die-of-scurvy kind of job in 13 months. And my bank account grows sadly smaller every day.
I have no idea how I'm going to do Christmas this year. I am blessed to have a family that doesn't care about gifts, but it makes me feel so...small...that I can't participate in the simplest things. When we go out to lunch as a family, my father pays the bill with his credit card and everyone hands over cash for their portion. Except for me, because I can't. My parents recently bought themselves a new car and gave me my mother's old one. To replace the one I had been driving, which was my fathers old car. And I can't even afford the insurance on either of these borrowed cars, so they pay that, too. I haven't paid rent to Sister since August. But my family doesn't blink, they just give. They know I'll settle up when things get better. But things aren't getting better. 422 days, you guys.
Another thing that pulls me down and discourages me is my weight. I am heavier than I have ever been in my whole life. I have gained back all of the weight I worked so hard to lose in college. And then some. And then some more. I don't fit into most of my clothes, but I can't really afford to replace them, even if I had the emotional fortitude to go try things on right now. I see new stretch marks in the mirror every day and my ass is the size of Montana. My double ass.
And I KNOW, alright? I know that I have complete control over how much I weigh. I know the simple formula of calories in minus more calories out equals weight-loss. And I have PLENTY OF TIME to exercise, what with the not working ever. That knowledge just makes everything harder, because (and this is going to sound like the giant excuse that it is) I am just so demoralized. I have absolutely no motivation. You'd think the above paragraph would be enough to spur me into activity (and it is, on occasion, for about three days). But it's cold and dark here and food makes me happy. On days when I'm not sure that things are ever going to turn around for me, it's one of the only things that does.
And this leads me directly to the another GIANT VACUUM OF LACK: love, marriage, and children. Because who wants to marry a sad, unemployed, stretch-marked loser who sits on her couch all day? No one, as my experience has taught me. As much as it pains me to admit this, I KNOW I'm not in any frame of mind to be someone's partner, to enter into a deep and meaningful relationship right now. That's probably the hardest part--I am aware of how defeated I have become and I HATE it (see the previous
Part of me (the pragmatic, logical part of me) is okay with that, because this is NOT who I want to be in a relationship. But when I get to thinking on a broader scale of where I want my life to be, the thing that comes to the forefront each and every time is that I want to be a wife and mother. I don't want to be an accountant; I don't want to be a graphic designer; I don't want to run for office or fly to the moon. I just want to be someone's wife and someone's mom. I'm not opposed to working (seriously, COME ON, I have been searching for a job for over a year) and I'm not opposed to being a working mom if that's what I need to do. But I was MADE to be a mom. I can feel it in my bones, every time I play with my godkids or hear a funny story about my niece or nephew. The weeks of nannying, while difficult for many reasons, felt like I'd scored an exclusive internships for the top job in my field.
So when I look at my life, I feel a little hopeless. I feel like I can't gain any traction on my weight-loss until I get a job that will take me out of this house and away from the ever-present pantry. And I can't even begin to contemplate putting myself out there romantically until I feel a little bit better about my body. And I can't seem to find a job to save my life. Are you sensing a Cycle of Apathy and Self-Loathing? Yeah, me, too. I feel trapped in limbo and something has got to give soon.
Don't get me wrong. I have SO MANY good things in my life. Compared to some of the stories I read on the internet and things I see on the news, I have it SO GOOD. I have a warm home (despite being unable to pay rent) that has not been damaged by a hurricane or is otherwise unsafe for me to live in. I never have to deal with the exhaustion that comes from dysfunctional family drama or the heartache of loving someone with a chronic or terminal illness (for the most part--we recently discovered that my mother's brain tumor is back, but it's not nearly as terrifying as it sounds and I'll get to that in another post). I, myself, am not suffering from any debilitating health problems; I don't live in chronic pain. And, as much as I want to be a mom, I'm thankful I don't have children that are going hungry because of my financial situation. I am young and healthy and blessed and I will bounce back from this. Eventually.
So I try to focus on those things. I truly do. But on days like this, I can't help but think that those good things don't make the bad things any less bad. It doesn't matter how much worse off someone else is. This sucks! My life is HARD right now, even if it's not as difficult as it could be.
If there's one thing I've learned in this past year, it's that perspective can be a cold comfort. Lots of people want to give me advice right now and, as well-meaning as it can be, it drives me crazy when they tell me it could be worse. Because the comparison game is a two-edged sword. It reveals our blessings, which can be useful for finding our footing in the chaos. But it also serves to artificially downplay our own pain. Which is completely unfair. Because it IS painful. And it's OUR pain, not someone else's. It's happening to US and it's happening RIGHT NOW and it should be okay to say that it HURTS.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that there IS a silver lining to this terribly stormy cloud, even if it's hard to see when you're stuck in the rain or feel like you're trapped inside the vapor. And it's NOT perspective, which you probably have plenty of already, and it's not all of the blessings in your life, which I know you're aware of (how could you not be, when they may be all you have left to hold on to?). It's that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. And it's okay to say it hurts.
So please, if you're feeling as lost as I am, talk to me. Tell me how hard it's been. Scream and rant and rave in my comment section. I'm hurting, too, and together we might be able to find some light in this darkness. It will get better. I've been told again and again that it will. And I believe it. Most days. But on days like to day, I just need to say that it hurts. And maybe you do, too.