the chaos

I have lost my job again.

Yes, again.

For the second time in a little over a year, I am unemployed.

To describe how this makes me feel in detail would require me to give lots of information about my last job, so obviously I can’t do that here. And my two job losses are of a piece anyway, since they occurred so close together. I guess I can describe how it feels to be let go from one job, get another one a year later, and then get let go from that one the year after THAT.

I feel out of control.

The one detail I can share is that in neither case was it my particular fault. I was a good employee in both cases, and I didn’t do anything wrong. I know this intellectually, and most of the time I know it emotionally, too. But even if it wasn’t my fault, what could I have done differently? Surely there was something I could have said or done that would have changed things, right?

And that’s where the emotional part gets to me.

I am applying for other jobs, of course. Lots of other jobs. I have phone interviews and in-person interviews and all that. I weed the yard and clean the house and sew myself some new clothes. I do laundry. I go for walks. I apply for yet more jobs. I do everything I can.

My boyfriend was laid off on the same day I was. That didn’t matter much, because he had another job lined up, and there were only three days between when one job stopped and the other one started. He likes this one better already, and we’ll still have health insurance, so that’s good.

Two weeks after my boyfriend and I were both let go, my sister was laid off from her job. Then one of my boyfriend’s family members had to go to the hospital. Then a friend’s dog got a brain tumor and had to be put down.

4380159995_01e2e0e7baHang on, that doesn’t really describe that situation very well. How does one indicate that one was close to a dog? The dog’s owners are old friends, and my sister and her husband used to take care of the dog whenever they would go out of town, which was often. He got along well with Maude and Moki, so my sister would even bring him over to our house sometimes. He was in fact one of just five guests at my sister’s wedding, and I made him a flowered collar for the occasion. So how do I say that? A dog friend of mine had to be put down? A close dog friend died?

He was the same age as Maude is (thirteen), so that’s not great either.

It’s got me thinking about what people deserve. As an atheist, I don’t think there’s an entity that doles out things to people based on merit or anything, so it’s a strange line of thought for me to have. But all I want is to have a job that doesn’t suck and makes me enough money to live on, travel on (good god I miss traveling so much), and maybe buy a house with someday. That’s really all. Don’t I deserve that? Is that too much to ask?

Ask who, you say, and you’d be right. There’s a separate post in there somewhere about how, despite what most believers would say about atheism, I find mine to be enormously comforting. Most of the time.

So that’s how I feel about it.

only four of the seven dwarves

My foray into competitive sleeping began shortly after I was laid off in February of 2011.

It started slowly. I’d wake up early (as I was accustomed to doing during my office job), take the dogs out, eat breakfast, apply for a bunch of jobs, then bum around on the internet for awhile. After lunch I’d spend a few hours doing various craft projects–knitting, sewing, building whatever. Then I would get tired. So, so very tired. I’d lie down to read, fall asleep almost immediately, and wake up at least two hours later. After my nap I’d check for new job postings, bum around on the internet some more, maybe post to my craft blog, eat dinner, watch some TV while knitting, then go to bed at about 11 or 12.

The 2011 naps didn’t happen every day at first, but then summer came along. Summer in Texas in 2011 was brutally hot and dry. It was the worst drought in recorded history. Here in Austin it rained just a handful of times, and then only for brief periods. A girl from Houston who loves weather like I do expects rain on a regular basis, and to be without it for so long did something bad to my psyche. I’d take the dogs out at around noon, and while they sniffed around I’d stand there, aimless in the punishing sun, unable to remember what it felt like when it was nice outside (was it ever nice outside? what was that like?), unable to remember what it felt like in my freezing office. Would it ever rain again? Would I ever have a job?

I began sleeping off those burning afternoons like they were hangovers. It was too bright outside, too hot, too much, and the only thing I wanted was to lie down in my darkened bedroom with the fan on and a book propped on the cool pillow next to me.

I love reading in bed. I love the comfort, the silence, the lack of outside stimulus. I remember one winter afternoon in college when I got under the covers with my copy of The Hours, listened to the wind make the tree branches scratch against my window, and thought, it doesn’t get much better than this. Such a deliciously blank feeling, to shut everything out and just read.

It cooled down a lot when fall came, but I still didn’t have a job, so I continued to sleep through the afternoons. I was fairly good at being unemployed as those things go–I kept busy, I did lots of job hunting, I was never bored, despite not being able to afford to go out much–but every day around one or two in the afternoon I’d start to feel listless. Overstimulated. Drowsy. So off to bed I’d go.

In October I landed a brief onsite contract job at a marketing agency just outside of Austin. It took about a half hour to get there in the morning and an hour to get back, so every evening I’d arrive home from work exhausted. On four of the eight workdays I had that job, I came home, ate dinner, got in bed at about 7pm, and stayed there until it was time to get up the next morning. When I told my sister and her Brazilian husband L about this, L laughed and said, “Next time I go to Brazil, I bring you back cocaine.”*

I began to think that maybe something was wrong with me. I took a few online sleep-disorder tests, and they all seemed to indicate that I was normal. No, I don’t get sleepy while driving. No, I don’t get sleepy when sitting at my desk at work. No, I don’t gasp for breath in the middle of the night. I checked with my psychiatrist, and she said that I might just be a person who needs 10 hours of sleep a night. “I spend most of my time trying to get my patients to go to sleep, so maybe you shouldn’t knock it,” she said. I asked my mother about her sleep patterns, since I get most of my medical history from her, and she said, “I sleep a lot, too.”

I stopped worrying about all my sleeping, and started to think of myself as “just a person who needs a lot of sleep.” As in, sure, I took two naps this weekend, but I’m just a person who needs a lot of sleep. Sure, sometimes I go to bed at 8pm, but I’m just a person who needs a lot of sleep.

I got a job in January of 2012, and oh, how I rejoiced! Our long national nightmare was finally over! After my first day of work I came home and took a nap, and that’s been my weekday schedule for the last fifteen months. Up at 6:30, to work and then home at 4:30, asleep until 7, awake until 10, for a total of 11 hours of sleep a day. On the weekends I take at least one nap per day, sometimes two.

This past Sunday I slept for 16 hours. Not at one stretch, but still. 16 hours! That’s only eight hours of awake time, and that’s not going to work. When I sleep that much it feels like a prison to me. I want to do laundry and clean the house and do some sewing or knitting, but I can’t, because I’m trapped in unconsciousness. When I talk about my oversleeping to friends or people on Facebook, lots of them say that they’re envious of all the sleep I get, but they shouldn’t be. A stolen nap feels amazing, but 16 hours of nap feels like having your head held underwater.

I’d heard from a few friends that oversleeping can be caused by a vitamin D deficiency. I’m not out in the sun much, don’t drink a lot of milk, and don’t take a multivitamin, so I thought that might be my problem. On Monday morning I went out and bought some vitamin D pills, and I haven’t taken a nap since. I know it’s only been three days, but I’m optimistic. I don’t get that drowsy feeling in the afternoons like I used to.

What I do still feel, however, is a desire for lack of stimulus. I get home from work and I’m so overwhelmed with everything that’s happened during the day, all the working and talking to people and listening to the radio and driving, that I need to do absolutely nothing for awhile. So I lie down in my darkened bedroom with the fan on and a book propped on the cool pillow next to me, and I just read.

*Note to any immigration or customs-enforcement agents who are reading this: MY BROTHER-IN-LAW IS A LEGAL U.S. RESIDENT AND HE WAS TOTALLY KIDDING ABOUT THE COKE, OKAY?

(If you’d like to give me some medical advice, please do! Just type your advice into the comment box below, then close the browser window without clicking Post Comment. Thanks!)

my twenties: a review

“People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.”

This sentiment has been expressed in lots of different ways by lots of different people, but I first heard it from Don Draper, and it has resonated with me ever since. It might embarrass some other English majors to have one of their favorite quotes come from a television show, but this English major slash TV junkie is fine with it.

Listen, my twenties were terrible. And exciting. And then terrible again. And then exciting, but in a really, really terrible way. My friend Helen Jane would say that years 20-30 are everyone’s time to be stupid and crazy, and she’s right, but lord was I ever stupid and crazy.

  • I was in ten different monogamous relationships, three of them with people at least nine years older than myself.
  • I had three nervous breakdowns.
  • I got arrested.
  • I sort of broke up with one person twice.
  • I flirted briefly with alcoholism.
  • For three years, I hardly ever left the house.

I was kind to people who were cruel to me and cruel to people who were kind, and above all, I was unspeakably cruel to myself. I sat around waiting for my life to start, berating myself day and night for waiting for my life to start. I existed in a constant liminal state–between jobs, between relationships, between careers or goals. I convinced myself I wasn’t good enough for anything or anyone.

But mostly, the problem was the dating. I’m the child of parents who are both very straightforward and honest. They don’t manipulate people, they don’t say things they don’t mean, and they’ll own up when they’ve done something wrong. For those and other qualities I’ll always love them, but I went into the world somewhat unprepared for people who lack those qualities. I didn’t listen when people told me who they were, and I paid for it.

So this is what happened. I dated someone whose backpack made a loud CLUNK on the table whenever he came to stay at my house, indicating that he’d brought his gun over again. I dated someone I was afraid of, and the first time we broke up, I took him back because I was afraid of him. I dated someone who’d had a recent stint in a mental hospital, and we got drunk together every night. I dated someone whose son kicked my dog. I dated someone who found my email password and used it. I dated someone who made me change my locks.

The things that happened to me in my twenties make me feel like I’m different from other people. My friend J has dated lots, too. She said once that she has a hard time discussing her relationship issues with her close friend M, because M married someone she met in college and therefore doesn’t understand What It’s Like. And I get that, but I think J was referring to What It’s Like to be really lonely for a long time, and that’s not how I feel different.

I have never had much trouble with loneliness. I’ve always spent lots of time by myself, and can avoid feeling lonely even when single if I maintain some close friendships. The thing I miss most when single is having someone to whom I can tell really boring stories. Some asshole ran a stop sign on my way home from work! I read this article online about blah blah blah today. Tonight for dinner I ate a peanut butter and chocolate syrup sandwich. That sort of thing. But otherwise it’s not a huge problem.

I have a divorced friend who is currently single and looking for the right guy to be with. She gets upset when she talks about it sometimes, and again, I get that. But that particular longing, that “When will I find my someone?” feeling, isn’t one I’ve experienced much. Loneliness looks pretty bad when you’re comparing it to being with someone who is right for you, but compared to being with someone who is wrong for you, it’s fucking cake.

I feel different from other people because I think all that disastrous dating has made me a little, well, callused. Untrusting. And another word I can’t think of. It’s not introverted, because I’m pretty outgoing. It’s something that means that I don’t reach out to people emotionally like I used to, or that I let my inner life take priority over the needs of others. I don’t know if I ever believed in the idea of a Right Person for everyone, but I definitely don’t believe in it now.

I am in a relationship now, and have been for the past four years. He’s a wonderful guy, I love him lots, and I trust him nearly unconditionally. We live together, but we have no current plans to get married. Given everything I’ve been through, getting married feels like pushing my luck.

Soon after I turned 30, the turmoil of my twenties just sort of went away, like a calm after a drama hurricane. Part of that is due to my boyfriend, who is refreshingly easygoing and straightforward (and doesn’t have much of an internet presence, god bless him), but part of it is also due to getting older. Whatever was in me that made me do all the regrettable things I did in my twenties just isn’t there anymore, and I’m glad.

(I hate when people end their blog posts with questions for people to answer in the comments, but, uh, I really want to know if your twenties were as insane as mine.)