Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘boomer unemployment’

I cannot believe that I have not written a word here in over six months. Perhaps I should break that statement up. I can’t believe that I have not written, period. And I can’t believe it is nearly six months.

Externally, nothing has changed. We remain unsettled, searching for employment so that we can have our own home again. But internally, where it counts, there’s been growth and healing. The battle isn’t over, but we feel like survivors. More than ever before, we recognize the strength of our union. Not all marriages could have withstood all that we have. We make a damned good team.

It’s easy to gloss over the difficulties we’ve experienced. Grief, worry, regret – every negative thought that had plagued us for over two years continued to lurk in the background these past months, waiting for those times when we seemed most vulnerable. Late night drives into our current subdivision brought flashbacks of the night of our move, and caused me to have panic attacks. I couldn’t sleep. Food suddenly caught in my throat as I ate. I was drowning in guilt over what I should have done differently. My husband was obsessed with feelings of failure. Gradually, though, we collected an arsenal of “weapons” to combat the pain we’ve felt. Such is survival. It’s instinctive.

The day-to-day needs of our new household became our lifeline. Mindless chores kept us from dwelling on our situation. We took our sweet little dog on long walks through the subdivision, the nearby park, the trails winding their way through the protected forests of the Oak Ridges Moraine. We compared one home’s choice of landscaping to the next, and laughed as our dog compulsively left his mark on every pole and tree he could find. It’s hard to stay depressed as you watch a tiny shih tzu attempt world domination in a half-hour walk.

There were times when we allowed ourselves to hope: the possibility of a contract being extended; companies that expressed interest in consulting contracts; success on the first day of a new sales job; a third interview for a new position that was a perfect fit. But inevitably, there were disappointments. A contract ended; a company decided against consulting when they checked their books and saw another month “in the red”; the realization that customers simply weren’t buying Toyotas, and that seeing just one customer a day left him earning less than minimum wage; a sudden silence after a third interview, and the suspicion that the only edge another candidate likely had on him was being younger.

Each time, we searched online for homes near these positions, so that if things worked out, we’d be ready to move. We collected a running list of “favourites,” keeping track of those that sold, and the new listings that came up. And when our hopes crashed, we learned to pull back for a while, stop looking, and give ourselves time to regroup. We read. We walked. We watched television and played mindless computer games. Did you know that Spider Solitaire can practically put you into a trance, if you play it long enough? I dreamed about playing it. It was better than not sleeping at all.

In many ways, those days in between the times of “hope” have felt timeless, a sort of limbo. Forced to live just in the moment, unable to predict the future and not wanting to revisit our past, our sense of time feels altered. One day melts into the next. We’ve been neither here nor there, our lives somewhat on hold, and subconsciously, I guess we’ve sometimes fooled ourselves into thinking the rest of the world has stopped as well. For example, summer was over before we knew it, and with that came a wardrobe dilemma I’d never anticipated. I never expected that we’d live with our friend so long, so I’d only brought summer clothing with me. When temperatures dropped in October, we drove to the storage facility to collect my warmer clothes, only to learn that the bins they were in were virtually inaccessible, lodged under and behind large pieces of furniture and boxes that couldn’t be moved. It was one more reminder of just how “out of sorts” our life felt.

Certain dates have also jolted us into reality and reminded us of the awkwardness of our situation. The first day of school, and no longer connected to that day as a teacher or parent; Thanksgiving, and the effort needed to show thankfulness; no longer preparing for Hallowe’en; and then, more than any other day, Christmas.

The first reminder saying “Just forty days left to shop for Christmas” was like a sucker punch. I felt sick and even more than that, I wondered how I’d possibly get through the day without becoming weepy and maudlin, ruining Christmas for everyone around me. I thought of our Christmas decorations stored away, how I loved to make our house look festive, the many friends who used to visit us, and Christmas morning, when my younger son and his girlfriend would arrive to join my husband, my oldest son, and myself to exchange presents. Where would we meet this year, with no family home to call our own? Whenever I allowed myself to dwell on the situation, my sadness grew, so I pushed it out of my mind, compartmentalizing it into the part of my brain reserved for regrets and losses.

Then I went shopping.

And in the end, Christmas was as it should be. Free of the massive debt we’d accumulated, Christmas didn’t carry the usual worry for us. We exchanged gifts in the morning with our friend and his family, and then we shared a hearty Christmas brunch casserole I’d made the night before, along with hot cinnamon buns, orange juice, egg nog, and coffee. In the afternoon, I prepared dishes to take to my sister’s for Christmas dinner, then arrived to find her house sparkling with decorations and filled with family and the laughter of children. My son and his girlfriend were able to join us, and though we missed exchanging gifts under our own tree, as we always had, nothing could touch the happiness we felt at having them there with us. Joy bubbled inside me until I worried it might spill over in blubbering sentiment and embarass the men in my family. I held it tight inside, something precious and wondrous that no one could take away.

Philsophers say that all growth comes from pain, that clarity of thought is the gift you are left with when the trappings of material wealth are no longer clouding your vision. For so long, I’ve worried and agonized and despaired and grieved over the changes in my life. I’ve felt detached and disenfranchised. I’ve used the solitude of the shower to shed my tears. I don’t ever want to feel that way again.

I know that our difficulties are not over, that our situation is far from settled, but I also recognize the gifts I have gained. I’ve had seen the good in people in unexpected gestures of kindness and generousity’ and that has strengthened my spirit and resolve. I’ve arrived at a place where I can look at the worst that might happen in our lives, and still say with all conviction “I am blessed.”

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

People talk about the difficulties of youth – their struggle to not only find themselves, but settle on goals and work towards them. Once done, they think there is nothing but smooth sailing ahead, particularly if a few darling little children have already rounded out and enriched their lives.

Don’t be embarrassed by your naivete. I felt exactly the same way at your age. Life was full of promise. Because we’d had some heartbreak in our first few years of marriage, I firmly believed our share was spent, that life could only get better from that point on. It was self-delusion in its grandest form and it predicted a perfect future.

I’m here to be a wet blanket, someone to tell you what you don’t want to hear – at least I didn’t want to at your age. The truth is this. You can set goals and plan and do all the right things, but if you grow too comfortable and rest on your laurels, your nice little life can all be pulled out from under you in the blink of an eye. In the worst of cases, your health or that of a loved one can fail. Sometimes, it’s one or two bad decisions on your part; sometimes it’s the people who decide you’re not “right,” and work to make a case against you. Often it’s the young up-and-coming executive who decide to protect his ass over yours. Yes, some people lie or choose to forget the truth, even people you thought were your friends, because when push comes to shove, the future of their career is usually more important than yours anyday, dear friend.

Hence, this poem written a few years back about a similar person who single-handledly started the 8-ball ruling that triggered the end of my husband’s corporate career.

MR. POLITICALLY CORRECT

He is really nothing special,
down deep feels it too, you know,
so he’s learned to play the charmer,
see how far the game can go.

His shoes are always shiny,
his suit pants nicely pressed,
his golf score breaks a ninety,
his very life seems blessed.

He flatters all the ladies,
he “yes, sirs” all he can,
finds a way to flee the radar
when the feces hit the fan.

He knows to smile when needed,
seems modest with his blush,
feigns innocence to save his hide,
maintains his Midas touch.

He’s young and climbing upward,
he’s old and scared to fall,
friend or not, you can’t trust him,
when his back’s against the wall

A year in employment limbo, a downsized positon where he was set up to fail, and finally, the pink slip. Six years later and we’re still feeling the effects, both monetarily anad psychologically, of that one momentous loss.

When you’re young, you can start out on a path where it seems you are invincible. Employers convince you that you have a brilliant future ahead of you as long as you “stick with the programme, and toe the line.” It’s a horrible thing to suddenly realize that you’ve planned poorly; that you’ve underestimated everyone else’s ambition and overestimated their loyalty to you. You’ve suddenly missed the boat; that in the game of musical chairs, you’re one of the people left standing. What’s even worse is knowing you’re 58 or 59, and your chances of regaining what you’ve lost are unlikely.

The one good thing we have gained, though, is that we’re much more realistic now. We’ve been through hell in the past six years and proven we are tough enough to endure just about anything. It’s a difficult transition, not knowing what comes next. We just have to rely on ourselves to make something happen, because it’s more and more obvious every day that no former colleague is going to turn this situation around and make it right for us. In fact, former colleagues seem to avoid us, perhaps victims of survivor guilt. For one or two people, it’s possibly even justified.

Everyone thinks it’s hard for young people who are just starting out in the work force, but at least they have years ahead, to win through trial and error. We have no time to waste, no time to completely fix what’s wrong.

I just keep telling myself “if it is to be, it’s up to me.” If we all say that, something good has to happen, don’t you think?

Read Full Post »