October 4, 2001
Ground Rules


So here it is: the first day of my Temporary Voluntary Unemployment.

I am up and out of bed even earlier than normal this morning. No lollygagging for this girl: by 6 a.m. I am showered, dressed and sporting full Maybelline already. By 7 a.m., I am making orange juice and doling out vitamins. By 8 a.m. I am kissing my husband goodbye as he leaves for the office. By 9 a.m. I've made the bed, cleaned up last night's dinner mess, posted yesterday's unfinished *FootNotes* entry and installed Word on the new computer (so I can tinker with my résumé later).

By 10 a.m. ... I am ready for my nap.

I've already set a few critical ground rules to get me through the next few days of Temporary Voluntary Unemployment. (Days. It will only be DAYS.Keep telling ourselves that.) Mostly these rules are designed to make sure that I don't fall into the same dangerous, self-defeating patterns I've been known to fall into, during previous periods of not-so-temporary/not-so-"voluntary" unemployment. Some of these rules include:

  • No sweatpants.
  • No daytime TV.
  • No farting around on the Internet all day.
  • No eating stuff directly out of the fridge. (You can tell I've been unemployed before, can't you?)
And this one:
  • Naps are OK, but only if I'm legitimately tired.

And today I am 'legitimately tired.' Today, as a matter of fact, I am legitimately, genuinely, 100% falling-down exhausted.

I've still got a cold, for one thing: a nasty little allergy-exacerbated bit of viral business that has been sapping me of energy for two weeks now. Plus it's The Very Bad Day today, hormonally (and showing every indication of turning into The Very Bad Weekend). Plus I haven't had more than four minutes' of sleep on any given night, this entire week. There's something about quitting your job in the midst of a collapsing economy that sort of precludes eight hours of uninterrupted shut-eye.

Plus the past two days have been a veritable Steel Twister of emotions. If there is such a thing as an 'emotional hangover,' then that's what I'm feeling today.

I'll be vigorously job-hunting soon  --  I'll pick right up again tomorrow, honest  --  but today is all about letting down and letting go. So at 10 a.m. I load up the CD turntable with a bunch of soothing Celtic stuff ("Music To Slip Into A Coma By") and I take to bed with a Dean Koontz and an orange juice, preparing to snooze the next hour or two away.

Which of course is precisely the moment someone knocks on the door.

Nobody knocks on our door in the middle of the morning. (Or do they? Usually I'm AT WORK in the middle of the morning, so perhaps I'm not qualified to say for sure.) Suspiciously, I crack the door open. It is one of the apartment maintenance workers  --  the quietly hunky Asian-American guy who's usually walking around the complex, carrying a ladder or a leaf-blower or a couple of lawnmowers slung over one shoulder.

"Yes?" I ask, hoping I don't sound as annoyed as I feel.

"Payment your dorm," he says politely. "Lead your dorm over police."


He holds up a paintbrush and bucket of phlegm-colored Glidden SuperCoat. "Payment your dorm," he says again, more earnestly this time. "Lead your dorm over, police."

Ohhhh. You're painting my door, and you would like me to leave the door open, please.


They've been paymenting our apartment building for over a week now, and today is the day they finally get around to *our* dorm? Why couldn't they have paymented it yesterday, or the day before that, or the day before that? (Or any day, basically, that I'm not trying to take a sneaky mid-morning nap?)  Reluctantly, I swing the door open and watch as he sets the paint can on the ground. Nodding apologetically in my direction, he dips his brush into the icky brownish/greenish/yellowish paint and begins applying it to the door with excruciatingly slow, careful strokes.

I'm not about to wander into the next room and lay down now, of course. Not with a total stranger standing in the open doorway, watching my every move. So instead I plop down in front of the computer, a foot or two away from the door, where I can keep a sneaky eye on his reflection in the monitor.

This isn't his fault, I remind myself. He's only doing his job. (Remember having a JOB, Secra?)

When it becomes clear that this is going to take more than a minute or two  --  he is painting our door with the same careful attention to detail I imagine Michelango *employed* when he was paymenting the Sistine Chapel  --  I log onto the Internet. Might as well do something useful while I'm sitting here waiting, I tell myself. So I check my e-mail. Messages from Jaymi (she still hasn't received The Gap gift certificate I sent her last week) and from Kyle (he still hasn't received The CDNow gift certificate I sent him last week). Nothing from Kacie. A funny e-mail from Feef, all about her granddaughter. A couple of e-mails from readers, commenting on The Memo I sent the other day. (No, I didn't apologize to George.)  A forwarded e-mail from my stepmother. The usual handful of junkmails -- Viagra For Women, Hot Horny XXXTeensXXX, Does Bob Know What You Said About Him? -- which I delete without reading. I know should probably answer some of the legitimate e-mails, but I decide to wait until I feel slightly less frazzled.

I've got time, after all.

After I've checked e-mail, I start reading other online journals. Lately I've been really good about this  --  not only about reading the journals on my list, which I'm SUPPOSED to be reading every day  --  but also about exploring other, less familiar-to-me journals. In my head, I have them divided into two categories: The People Who Are Writing About It, and The People Who Aren't Writing About It. We all know what "It" is, of course. (I suppose there's a third, slightly more ambiguous category -- The People Who Are Incorporating It Into Their Entries (But Occasionally Writing About Other Stuff, Too). I think that's probably the category I want to belong to ... and the category I probably will belong to eventually, once I quit writing about my stoopid Temporary Voluntary Unemployment.) I know I should start adding some of these interesting new journals to my Other Journals list. The good news is that I will probably have time to do that, in the next few days.

When I've finished reading the journals, I wander over to the message boards. My forum is mostly dead, as usual. My fault. I planted the seed, and then I didn't have time to stick around and keep the poor thing properly watered and fertilized. Maybe now that I have a little extra time on my hands, I can get things rolling in there again. David's forum, on the other hand, is alive and well and chock-full of interesting voices and opinions. (Grrrrrr.)

After e-mail and online journals and message boards, I just sort of wander aimlessly around the Internet for a while. I check my bank balance online. I download a new security patch from the Norton website. I go to Classmates.com, to see if anybody new and/or groovy has joined the Glacier High School Class of '76 listings. I read today's Onion  ("A Shattered Nation Longs To Care About Stupid Bullshit Again"). I order "Word2002 For Dummies" from Amazon.com. I change the colors on my My Yahoo page. I look at my website statistics. I listen to an Australian radio station.

Eventually -- when I've run out of interesting stuff to look at/play with/listen to/download -- I wind up sitting in the computer chair, listlessly moving icons around on my Windows desktop.

It is only when the CD player suddenly clicks off -- when the twinkly Celtic music comes to an abrupt halt -- that I realized I'd been sitting there at the computer, frittering and diddling, for I-have-no-idea-how-long. The maintenance guy is long gone. I stick my head out the door and see that he has already moved three apartments down. Our dorm is not only fully paymented, it is already fully dry. And I am now completely, painfully wide awake.

So much for my No farting around on the Internet rule.

Oh well. It's only the first day of my Temporary Voluntary Unemployment, after all. I have plenty of time to get serious about serious stuff. In the meantime, I think I'll go slip into a nice pair of sweatpants ... turn on a little Judge Judy ... and see if there is any leftover ravioli in the fridge.

And then I'll take a nap, even though I'm not even tired anymore.

throw a rock