Monday, December 6, 2010

The Innocuous Question

There was this moment shortly after my first husband's mother passed away. It was the first time he and I had ventured to leave the house, where most of the family had spent the last few days hunkered down, all sleeping in one bedroom because no one could bear to be alone. But we needed groceries, so out we went to hunt and gather for the herd. The supermarket lights were so bright, and the plethora of food choices immensely confusing. I remember staring slack-jawed at the rows and rows of food, too stunned to get a grip on what was expected.

An acquaintance met us in one of the aisles. "Hey, how are you guys? What's new?"

And it was like the world shut down. Only, it hadn't. Our world had shut down, and the rest of the world had kept going, and now not only did we need to put the pieces back together but we had to deal with getting questions like this from random people, every day. Even a waitress, a cashier, a taxi driver will ask you how you're doing, and we all know the answer they expect. But that simple question can slam into you with such force that you're actually physically winded as you are forced to face the profound misalignment between Where You Are and Where You're Supposed To Be.

So here's the thing. It's not that Friday's post wasn't honest - it was absolutely true. And yet, there was something incredibly incongruous about posting this excited, silly, potty-related entry on that particular day. Because it was certainly not the most important thing going on in our lives just then. Two days before that post appeared, we learned that Chris had lost his job. And our world spun off its axis.

I've tried writing this post a few times now, and it's not easy. There's so much to say, and it's all so painful. There are good moments and bad moments, but the feeling of profound disorientation never goes away. Yesterday, Chris and I were in a courtesy car heading to pick up my vehicle at the dealership after servicing. "So, how's business?" the driver asked Chris. "Are you working in town these days, or out of town?" You know, how are you guys? What's new?

The truth is, Chris has never much liked this job, and I have always despised it. The way this company does business is completely ridiculous. In an age of climate change and peak oil, they send their salesmen up and down the Island every day to call on clients in person rather than by phone - and pay for all that fuel. Not only is that an irresponsible way to do business, it's also expensive. So no surprise they are feeling the pinch. There is a lot more I could say about how they treat their employees, but really, wasting my energy on that kind of vitriol just doesn't appeal to me right now. The important thing, which we remind ourselves about constantly, is that we will not miss this company. We both feel very strongly that this will prove to be a positive step, and one that Chris - who describes himself as "a wheel looking for a rut" - would never take unless forced.

In a good moment, I can look at this as an adventure. I can get excited about Chris finally putting some effort into figuring out what kind of job he'd like to do, and support him in his efforts to get such a job. I can look forward to a time when he'll come home from work and tell me about his day. I can even feel productive and gratified in approaching the next stage of our lives as a project, a problem to be solved with low-cost cookbooks and co-operation. I truly am grateful for so many things right now, and so few of them have anything to do with money. Our daughter is amazing, and at a perfect age to remember none of this upheaval. My job is awesome and my colleagues are incredibly supportive. We live in a beautiful place and are close, both geographically and personally, to supportive family and friends. I can peacefully reflect that at this time last year, I was in a very unsupportive work environment, working at a job that was worse than unstable: it was going to end, guaranteed, at some short-term but yet unknown date. Had Chris lost his job at that time, we'd be far worse off - both financially and emotionally - than we are now.

Those are the good moments. I don't have the words yet to talk about the bad ones.

The metaphor of our life right now is this: "God never shuts a door without opening a window. However, there's usually a period of time where you're stumbling around in the dark, bumping into things and breaking your toe and cursing a blue streak and it really frigging sucks." We're in the dark right now, and it's scary and painful and unknown. That's how we are, and I needed to tell you.


Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry to hear about this tough situation. It sounds like you have a great perspective on how it will all work out in the end, but that doesn't mean that the medium term won't have it's challenges.

My thoughts will be with Chris as he negotiates the process of figuring out what he wants to do next, and making it happen. I wish you guys all the best.

Surprised Suburban Wife said...

Brutal. Losing a job is such a huge transition. I'm glad you shared this though, because honestly it happens to everyone, and it can be one of those elephants that us polite Canadians want to ignore ("money? heavens, we don't talk openly about money!" etc).
Here is my story - my dad lost his job when I was around 13. After a year of soul and career searching, he started his own business doing exactly the part of his job he had loved and none of the other 75% of his job he had hated (and sucked at)....21 years later he is still running his business, has made far more money working far fewer hours, and I think had a much happier time of it.
Best of luck to your family and Chris in creating an amazing opportunity out of this sudden chaos.


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