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  • Writer's pictureunkillbilly

Four Letter Word

See? This is what it feels like to not work.

It's hard to describe, isn't it? I liken it to an altered state. 'Least, that's what it feels like. It's like being stoned, to the extent that once you're high, everything is different. From sensations coming at you non-stop to thoughts springing from beliefs to interactions with families and friends, everything is just a little…off.

I see lots of articles about/by people who are suddenly out of work due to the pandemic. Many of them sound a theme: I always wanted to have such free time, so I can do that project I've talking about my whole life, but now that the free time is here…I'm paralyzed. What we thought would be a time of rampant productivity is instead an uncomfortable, enigmatic, and debilitating response that appears to be cut off from the full function of my neocortex. People are down.

And I know it's at least impolite…to kick someone while they're down.

Sorry, I gotta say it: now you know how I feel.

I know, not an expression of sympathy, even though I am totally sympathetic. You see, I know what you're going through. I do. When at fifty-something my mental illness caught up with me and I became unemployable. When I discovered just how thick the stigma is for mental illness. People don't get it—the phucking confirmation bias. They only see you when you're not cycling, so they assume you're always stable.

For years, I've had plenty of skepticism, most of it indirect, but some of it right in my face. "What do you do?" How should I respond to that? How would you? The implication I'm a loaf. And my thinking on that is so I'm a loaf! The universe got something out of me and my little span. I don't have any regrets in that regard. But there's that stigma. Coming internally as much as externally. Serious, I have low regard for myself sometimes, but then, understanding catches up to me, and I see the truth. I worked as hard as anyone for my 40 years of gainful employment.

And to be clear, I never was on a career ladder. What I had was a career surfboard. Catchin' rogue waves, wiping out plenty, but eventually garnering a small collection of reputable work. I got plaques in the military, a bunch of 'em, and two medals—and threw all that shit away sometime in my 30s. I've always been funny about rewards.

Now—people know. With the massive unemployment, perhaps people will understand the sense of loss, the massive grief. Losing things you're attached to through no fault of your own can lead to some serious gloom and doom. The kind of stuff that cripples the best intentions to produce!

It's tempting to look backwards, with our perfect hindsight, thinking there must be answers. I just can't do that. I've lived that so many times, only to find that nothing from the original situation really has any bearing on the present. The hand has written and, having written, moves on. (Omar would kick me right in the sack for mangling his line, but it's close enough for government work.)

With time on your hands, it's important to understand the loss, do the stages of grief, and keep moving.

I know there's a lot of things to be grieving besides your job. And perhaps you've had more than one devastating loss, like your job and a loved one succumbing to Covid-19. As far as I'm concerned, loss of sports is a real serious loss! My approach is to treat one loss at a time. I can compartmentalize the sports until I can give it the full treatment. Right now, I'm concentrating on the global health crisis and the career threatening financial meltdown. And it sure feels like not very damn much is ever going to be the same again…

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