Heard Myself

My life is going in a good direction slowly.

I am now working a house-flipper. He’s very interesting. He just started his company about two months ago. He has no system, so I am helping him the way I helped the Chinese lady, entering his receipts onto an Excel spreadsheet and keeping track of them. I can do a lot for him.

My normal job search has not gone well. But I know it is not just me. I apply for a job I see posted online. I interview for it. I don’t get it. And I keep seeing the same job posted over and over. I am not what they want, but clearly neither is anyone else because the position is going unfilled.  Whatever the local employers are looking for is simply not in the labor pool. Everyone keeps telling me that the problem is not me. I believe them now.

The issue is one of skill range versus wage range. The skill requirements for these jobs range wildly, from burger-flipping to high-end administrative skills (three years experience of data entry, two years of customer service, and must be familiar with databases). However, the pay range is minuscule, from $10/hr to about $14/hr. Reality check #1: absolutely nobody with the skills being demanded for some of these jobs is going to apply for them at $10/hr, unless they just got out of rehab or prison. Reality check #2: nobody in their right mind is going to go up to their eyeballs in student loan debt for a raise of $1 or $2/hr. Employers get what they pay for. A $10/hr employee might need time off to see their parole officer or some leeway if the buses are running late because $10/hour is insufficient pay to support yourself and own a car.

Long story short: employers in Michigan are driving away everybody with an education and real skills with their low wages and zero opportunity for advancement.

About six years ago, my friend who now lives in Maryland graduated law school and was looking for a job. I kept telling her, “You have an amazing and unique skill set. I do believe there is a fabulous job out there for you–but you will likely have to move to another state.”

A week or two ago, she repeated it back to me practically verbatim. Suddenly I understood. It sank in.

So I have expanded my job search area to include Grand Rapids to the west, Jackson to the South, Brighton to the east, and Dewitt/St Johns to the north. For the time being while I live in Michigan.

But my long-term plans are elsewhere. I am looking at other job markets: Columbia, Missouri, Charleston, West Virginia, and even Columbus, Ohio. Places with reasonable rental costs and abundant jobs all at the same time. But it would be hilarious to go to Columbus, home of the nemesis of both U of M and MSU: the Buckeyes.

In the mean time, I am helping the house-flipper by getting him organized, doing data entry, and doing research for him.

My future is bright. Michigan’s, not so much.


A Good Sign?

I have been dealing with strong feelings. There is the “OMG! Why doesn’t anyone want me?!” panic, with occasional bouts of optimism.

Why is this a possible good sign? Because it takes a certain amount of energy to panic. Having dealt with depression since I was about 10, I know that true depression precludes panic or even giving a rat’s ass about anything. Serious depression means simply not caring about what is going on because there is a zero percent chance that any possible event would have an  emotional impact to make one feel better.

I see my life right now as having crashed. My car has crashed from Barry’s passing. I have gotten out of the car with the smoking engine. I am standing in the middle of nowhere, scratching my head. Everything in the car has splattered on the inside of the windshield from the abrupt halt. I am okay, but really, really lost.

A friend suggested I start looking for jobs in Grand Rapids. I might do that. Lansing has nothing. I seriously mean nothing. Just the same old re-posts of jobs I have already applied for. This tells me that neither I nor anyone else is meeting the expectations of employers. Whatever it is they are looking for, they are not finding it. At all. It is so not me.

I can’t even imagine hunting for a job with an opioid addiction or felony on my record. I am squeaky clean and having these issues. These people must be ready to off themselves. I am not kidding.

Trying to be Positive

I’ve been trying to keep a positive attitude lately, with varying degrees of success. I concluded that I am pushing too hard to find a job and that is part of why I have not been doing well at it. So that is one part of what is going on.

Then there are people’s physical problems. I found out last week a friend has cervical cancer. She does not know how serious it is because she just went to the doctor for the first time since she was a teenager and she is in her early 50’s now. Who knows how long it has been spreading? And she has little insurance. And then there are my brothers. One has COPD. Another had a heart attack last year and didn’t tell anyone for a few months. And the other, you guessed it, has cancer, a baseball-sized lump on his collar bone.

And a couple weeks ago, I found out that the cemetery had not even started the paperwork for Barry’s grave marker. I was giving them the benefit of the doubt because we had had such a soggy spring. They just put in the paperwork about a week ago and things should take six to eight weeks.

The only person in my life whose life is going uphill, as opposed to sliding down the slippery slope of entropy and self-neglect, is my friend out in Maryland. She is studying for the bar in PA. However, the only reason she has the time to do so is because she got fired in March.

One of my thoughts has been that perhaps I haven’t been fortunate getting a job because my friend may need rides to chemo, radiation, or whatever.

I want to be around people whose lives are improving, not deteriorating. I want to be inspired. I want to start my life over. What is going on?

Struggling in Some Ways

I am no longer numb, that’s for sure.

I have been applying for so many jobs and getting nothing. The worst part is that some of the jobs are full-time even though they are listed as part-time. That means I am deceived into going to interviews for jobs I don’t even want. And then somehow feeling like a loser when I don’t get them. “What’s wrong with me?! Why doesn’t anybody want me?!” The emotional drama is exhausting. I don’t do drama well, even my own.

All I am looking for is some experience before I high-tail it out of Michigan. I would like to live here maybe one more year.

I am not sleeping well. Sometimes it feels like a weight is on my chest.

On the fifth was the memorial. It was great. There was a beautiful cake with a bulldog face and it said, “Dogs rule, cats drool.” I was out of it for the next few days. It took everything out of me. But Barry was honored and my parents thought the Toastmasters really made me a better speaker.

I miss Barry so bad. Not the guy that died, but the guy I married. I’m sure the guy that died is way more comfortable in the afterlife than he was in that hospital bed. His life at the end was miserable for both of us. But I was seriously unprepared for the loneliness. I haven’t been single since I lived with my parents before I got married. There is the one friend I want to talk to but I will not call simply because I do not want to listen to her talk about her husband and her boyfriend. I resent her putting me in this position. So, even though I am painfully lonely, I do not call her because I might go off on her. And no one needs that. Life throws so much drama at us. Why do some people insist on creating more of it?

I have decided to take it easy on myself. I am giving myself credit for putting myself out there and looking for a job. I am making the effort.

But now I see why some women run out to the bars looking for a new mate. I hate bars and drinking. But being alone just feels wrong on some level. All this freedom gives new widows opportunities to make poor choices that never had the chance to make earlier in their lives.

My challenge now is to figure out what I want to give to the world. I feel like I have a lot to offer, but I need something very meaningful. There is almost nothing I couldn’t do, if I just knew what it was.

Some Sort of Shift

I feel like my life is moving and shifting right now. It is an odd feeling, but also right.

Saturday, I had Barry’s memorial service. It was very nice. I got through it, with a lot of crying. One of his sponsors spoke. Some other AA people spoke. It was very beautiful and inspirational. The cake, which my cat pal bought and brought, was beautiful. It said, “Dogs Rule, Cats Drool.” The bulldog face, made of frosting, was wonderful. It even had that canine under-bite. It was so cool. We had DeLuca’s pizza. It doesn’t get any better than that.

I am having interviews all over the place. I knew that once people figured out the skills I have, and the currently unlimited availability, someone would want me. I have an interview on Friday and then another one next Monday. And that doesn’t even count the house-flipping guy I might help out on the side.

What has been odd has been how people seem to want my absolution, like I am a priest or something. For example, the people on Barry’s grandsons’s side of the family did not show up. The grandma clearly wanted me to say, “It’s okay that you went to someone else’s funeral. I understand why absolutely nobody from that side came.” I did not comply. I reminded her that this was the only memorial service for Barry I would ever put on and that having nobody from that side show up added an element of tragedy to the service. I never expected everyone from that side to show up. Her agenda was for me to make her feel better and I very tactfully, yet clearly and undeniably, stated my opinion. I was like, “Uh…No. Having nobody from that side show up was sad. And, by the way, someday, the boys will realize that nobody from that side bothered to take them to their grandpa Barry’s funeral. Now you get to take that to your grave.” She was looking for absolution and I reminded her of karma, basically. I got over the anger, but I am still a little taken aback by the expectation that people should be able to disregard my or Barry’s needs and I should be A-okay with it. Barry got crapped on his whole life and I was his only advocate. And that tradition continued even after his death. That’s the reality.

I have also had other people want me to reassure them lately that their behavior is okay with me. And I often do not comply.  Is it my age? Nobody gave a rat’s ass what I thought twenty years ago. I don’t get it. People behave in completely self-destructive ways and expect my blessing. What are they thinking? Where is this expectation coming from?

Today, my mom and I put together my bed. I wanted her help so I would be able to know how to do it myself when I move someday. I feel like I am preparing to move, but I have no idea when that will be. But the interview on Monday is for the company that asked online my willingness to travel or even move and I clicked on 100% on both.

Things are changing and I truly feel like I have begun the next phase of my life. Woo-hoo!

A Complicated Obsession

I have a friend whose behavior is driving me nuts and, frankly, scaring me. My basic issue with her is that she does not seem to be learning. I have tried to warn her about consequences of her actions for years in person, on the phone, and even through email. She is not learning. She possesses no insight. Now she is not sleeping due to,  in my opinion, a guilty conscience. I cannot help her.

The issue of not learning is extraordinarily complicated. The brain’s health is related to diet and sleep, in addition to a gazillion other possibilities. Learning is related to consciousness. There are different, including altered, states of consciousness. There is the whole “what gets rewarded, gets repeated” aspect. There is also the concept of addiction, which puts a grinding halt to learning and maturing as a whole. One definition of addiction that I like is that of creating a fantasy world and then trying to live there. That about sums it up.

I spent thirty years helping Barry to be straight and sober. No alcohol on the premises. Taking him to meeting when he stopped being able to drive. Celebrating sobriety anniversaries. That kind of thing.

I have spent most of my life wrapped around these issues in one form or another. It started out with reading about addiction and codependence in the late 80s and early 90s. That got me into the concept of “automatic pilot” and how similar it is to altered states of consciousness. I also got into brain wave frequencies (gamma, beta, alpha, theta, and delta). All of this, to some degree, is nutrition-dependent. Then there is the whole social aspect. Here is all the systems theory anyone ever needs to know: what gets rewarded, gets repeated. People do what has worked for them in the past on some level. If they are no longer getting the reward (prestige, money, high, their way), their behavior can become extinct in moments (not days, weeks, months, or years). None of this even touches the various ways people learn or the forms of ADD, Aspergers, etc.

I have spent close to thirty years reading on subjects that are not in the same section of the bookstore. Addiction. Buddhism (meditation and mindfulness). Religion of every kind. Quantum physics. The autism spectrum. Child rearing (every human should read Alice Miller). Organizational psychology.

I am to a point where I feel I should write a book. Seriously. I have connected dots that I don’t think others have.

And then my friend makes me want to tear my hair out. She is getting older but not wiser. She is aging but not maturing. And since she is not sleeping, the downward spiral has commenced. How long will it take to hit bottom? Will she, can she, learn anything from this? This is tripping all my issues. Every time I have had someone in my life that has done one of these downward spirals, I have tried to warn them. I have been ignored. Eventually, I lose the relationship entirely because I refuse to go down the road they are on. That has included my family. Their life crumbles and I get accused of being a bad whatever. I feel that when you see a train that is going to run over a loved one, there is a certain moral obligation to give fair warning. But I cannot and will not try to convince anyone of anything anymore. I have had my lifetime fill of that. Once I warn you, you are on your own. The next step is for me to get my ass off the tracks.

I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I am sure that it won’t be pretty.

Being Pulled in the Future

So much has been happening lately.

I was drinking my coffee the morning of the fifth. I get a call from the career services lady of my alma mater, DU. She says there is a woman who has data entry to do through the end of April. Would I be interested? I call the woman instantly. Suddenly, I have a job through the end of the month, or at least the end of this week. I have gotten more done than she imagined I could in a short time.

This is the deal with her. She is of Chinese descent, but her citizenship is Swiss and she grew up in mid-Michigan. She resigned from a company that has something to do with crypto-currencies. She has been traveling and lecturing years all over the world and needs someone to sort receipts and enter them into spreadsheets. That would be me. Anything she cannot document with receipts, she cannot be reimbursed for by the Swiss company she resigned from. She does not get paid for anything that cannot be documented. We are talking January 2017 through March 2018. One the one hand, she is really picky and there is no way to make her happy. On the other hand, I am saving her butt. There is an old saying that applies: a lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine. I do the very best I can. I am in this for the good reference. But her stress level is purely self-induced. She did this to herself. Period. I have been the reliable worker from the beginning. Others help when they can, but I have done the bulk of the work myself.

I feel like I am being pulled from the future.

And I am trying to honor Barry. The memorial at the AA club is in a few weeks. I have very few pictures of him. My entire life, I have struggled with depression and not particularly wanting to live. I have been very thorough at making sure that there are almost no visual reminders of my existence. Whenever I have seen a camera, I have made every effort to get behind it, not in front of it. It worked. Almost no one has pictures of me from the past few decades of my life. So now, after years of refusing to take pictures of anything, I have few pictures of Barry to put on poster board for his memorial.

I feel like the next phase of my life is starting. I would be fine free-lancing in the occupational world. I have health insurance and a pension, thanks to Barry. Working is not urgent. But I love being useful and there will always be work out there I can do that needs to be done. But I need to honor my past with Barry, all thirty years of it. We were married for 29. I married at 21 and am now 50 and single.

It is hard letting go of the past, but the future is so much brighter than the past ever was. I miss Barry, a lot sometimes. But there are so many parts of our past I cannot imagine missing. I am slowly recovering.