October 22, 2001
Twenty Days

(or: "How I Spent My Temporary Voluntary Unemployment")

It hasn't exactly been a vacation.

Most vacations, at least as I understand the concept of 'vacation,' are supposed to be restful and fun and relatively anxiety-free.  And while the past twenty days have certainly been restful -- sleeping in until 6:15 a.m., long lazy mornings in front of the computer, long drooling naps in the afternoon -- and while there have been a fair share of *fun* moments along the way -- bike rides, dinner with David's parents, naughty i.m. conversations in the middle of the day -- I would hardly go so far as to describe the past three weeks as 'anxiety-free.'  I've been positively filled with anxiety at every turn, about everything from hormonal acne to the safety of airline travel ... from salary requirements to 'Survivor Africa' (I hate everybody so far! there isn't anybody that I'm even remotely interested in, this time!!) ... from broken molars to our temporarily iffy financial future.

While I waited to hear back from the architecture company, I was filled with anxiety about my 'performance' during the interview. Should I have told them the tuna label story? Or did that just make me sound like a big dumb doofus? After they turned me down, I was filled with anxiety about my ability to find a decent job before we ran out of life savings. (Or groceries.)

While I was considering the job offer from JoAnne's company, I was filled with anxiety about them not being able to meet my 'asking price.' Once they met it, I was filled with anxiety about the inconvenient commute (and how it will impact our daily routine).

While I've been writing lengthy morning e-mails to Daughter #1-A, every day, I've been filled with anxiety about Daughter #1-B, who has suddenly and inexplicably gone AWOL once again and refuses to contact anyone in the family, me included (or perhaps me especially: I don't know for sure).

And then of course there's the global anxiety we're all feeling as soon as we wake up in the morning and turn on the TV.  I wake up from a nightful of Overflowing Toilet Dreams -- or Car-Going-Over-The-Cliff-In-Slow Motion Dreams, or Teeth-Falling-Out-In-Your-Hand Dreams -- and the reality turns out to be worse than the nightmare.

Still, I believe I've managed to deal with it pretty well. I didn't stay in bed all day with the covers pulled over my head. I didn't systematically empty the contents of the refrigerator. I didn't allow my anxiety to manifest itself in cuticle destruction or marathon daytime TV-viewing. (And I didn't walk down to the corner and buy a sneaky bottle of wine while David was at work. I thought about it. I thought about it more than once, as a matter of fact. But thinking about it and doing it, fortunately, are two very different things.)

Mostly I just tried to stay busy, and to look for ways to use my time and my creative energies, and to remind myself periodically that leaving The Totem Pole Company was my idea, and that it was a good, smart, possibly sanity-saving decision, and that things will be OK in the long run. This is not the first time I've been unemployed. It almost certainly won't be the last.

And I did manage to tackle a handful of trivial (yet amazingly rewarding) personal/household tasks that might have gone untackled, had I not suddenly found myself with three weeks' worth of pseudo-vacation, smack-dab in the middle of a glorious Alameda autumn.

  • I updated my résumé.
  • I taught myself how to burn a CD.
  • I finally managed to read an entire book ("From The Corner of His Eye"), hopefully breaking this weird crippling *readers block* I've been experiencing the past few months.
  • I updated my Other Journals page.
  • I also updated my personal bio, although it's not ready for public consumption just yet. (I'm seriously hating 1997 Secra right now. I'm finding it difficult to make her sound at all sympathetic.)
  • I ordered our Christmas cards from Club Photo.
  • I rearranged the kitchen cupboards.
  • I squeezed into my first pair of Spandex riding pants ... and nothing exploded.
  • I cooked. A LOT. Last night it was roast chicken stuffed with rice and garlic. Tonight it will be leftover roast chicken stuffed with rice and garlic. (And tomorrow night ... and the night after that ... and the night after that.)
  • I colored my hair.
  • I ordered airline tickets for Jaymi's visit next month.
  • I tracked down an old friend from high school and wrote him an e-mail, asking him if he still believes in God. ("I'm asking you because you were the smartest Christian I ever knew," I wrote, "and because you seem like the right person to ask, and because I believe that you're going to give me an answer that I can understand and think about and live with.")
  • I read a newspaper every single day.
  • I watched the news every single day.
  • I took a walk every single day, even if it was just around the corner to the Post Office.
  • I listened to the Italian For Dummies tapes. ("Quanto vengono le albicocche?")
  • I had lunch with Bev.
  • I downloaded and installed the fabulous free Call Wave software on our computer. (Thank you thank you thank you, Lilu!)  Now we can ignore our incoming calls even when we're lollygagging on the Internet.
  • I bonded with the maintenance guy as he paymented our dorm.
  • I learned to locate Afghanistan on the map.
  • I weeded through the closets and gave all my *fat clothes* to the thrift store.

Plus I kept the apartment clean, I got 99% caught up on my e-mail AND I landed a decent job, which starts day after tomorrow. So it hasn't been a complete waste of twenty days.

Still -- the more I reflect on all of the anxiety I've felt this month, and how draining it's been, both emotionally and physically -- the more I realize that the past twenty days have been the real 'work.'

It's being employed again that will feel like a 'vacation.'

self-important blurb #1 will go here:
debuting the new design yesterday felt a little bit like showing up at school, the morning after your mom gives you a home perm. part of you hopes your friends tell you it looks nice ... while another part of you hopes like hell nobody even notices.

self-important blurb #2 will go here:
the tuna label story, for those of you who aren't familiar with it, goes like this: twenty-one-year-old Secra -- who was living in Redmond, Washington at the time: this was in 1978 -- had her choice of two jobs. one was working as the receptionist for a company that manufactured labels for canned tuna ... the other was working as the receptionist for some-or-another computer company up the road. twenty-one-year-old Secra, who considered computers only slightly less boring and unnecessary than eighth-grade algebra, went with the tuna label job. she spent the next two years of her life driving past the Microsoft campus every morning on her way to Ridgway Packaging Corp.

special *howdy* to:
my new pal ryoan. still holding, r?

amazingly profound thought of the day:
If you come to a fork in the road, take it.
~ yogi berra

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