Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Working Life: Transition Discomfort

I've been seriously remiss with these blog posts. I apologize to my readers.

I've been spending most of my time pondering what I'm supposed to do next and planning the rest of December. Several interesting feelings have been coming up for me.
  • Guilt over not being employed. It just feels really wrong to not be working.
  • Worry about having a finite amount of money in my bank account. It's really scary knowing that another paycheck isn't coming in anytime soon.
  • Lack of motivation. I just don't feel like doing much of anything, but I still manage to get things done anyway.
  • A worrisome nagging suspicion that I don't necessarily want to go to another "company" and do what I was doing before.
I've come up with different ways of dealing with the above feelings. The company provided me with access to an employment placement agency who will help me assess my skills, look over my resume, and help me come up with a job hunting plan. I heard that a lot people who are laid off don't bother with these services even if their former employer offers to pay for them, but I have to say I've enjoyed attending all the seminars they've offered so far. Plus, I think it will help me with my desire to "assess" my skills and see if I could do some other kind of work.

I've been going through "Apartment Therapy," a book with an eight week program for getting your apartment in shape. I've also been going through the Gotham Writers' Workshop book "Writing Fiction." I wanted to take an actual online class, but can't afford it right now. The book was $15 and is a writing course in itself. I also just bought a book called "Time Off! The Leisure Guide to San Francisco." It's about low cost ways to enjoy the City especially if you've been laid off, and goes into detail about how to use your newfound time, and how to deal with job hunting, finances, etc.

It feels really uncomfortable not working. I keep thinking I should get on the ball and get cracking, but I really want to take the time to figure what kind of work situation I want to be in. There are huge alarms going off in my head and they're saying "WAIT! WAIT! Don't rush into anything! Explore, ponder and figure things out!!!!"

I guess that means I need to take this time off rather than throwing myself at another high paying, but soul sucking job. I'm very close to considering doing something really different and taking a pay cut. I need to figure out what that something is.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Llewelyn and Me

"An adventure, perhaps?"

"No, sir, not now." Mr. Gryphon says nothing more. I am gazing out over the dry dusty land. We are sitting on an overlook, the hot rough stones are jagged and unforgiving. Below us is the desert floor dotted with scrubby bushes. I can hear the sound of his boots on the ground. I look over my right shoulder at Moss approaching the cliff. He's wearing a straw cowboy hat, his dark hair sticks out here and there, his brown cowboy boots have taken a beating. He's also carrying a shotgun. He can't see Mr. Gryphon and me sitting nearby. Moss is looking down on a group of trucks and SUVs below us. They are parked in a rough wagon style circle. He squints his eyes and then looks at the scene through his binoculars.

I look out beyond the vehicles at the line of scrub in the distance, above is the open blue sky.

"Bad things down there, Miss Turtle."

"Hm yes. Heroin deal gone wrong," I say absently, still looking out beyond. I can't see all the dead bodies lying on the ground, but I know they're there.

"It's hot," Mr. Gryphon observes. I look at him directly. He is wearing Raybans and clutching a large transparent yellow bottle of water with a straw sticking out. Pieces of ice float in the water. Llewelyn Moss is making his way down to the trucks. I want to watch the rest of it, want to follow Llewelyn on his journey through hell, but I'm only distracting myself again.

I stand up with effort, dust myself off. "All right, Mr. Gryphon." He stands up as well and we turn to go back the way Llewelyn came in. I take the bottle of water from Mr. Gryphon and drink deeply. A door appears after about a quarter mile of walking in the beating heat. It's hanging in mid-air, fading slowly in and out, like a ghost door that got separated from its haunted house. I reach for the doorknob and give it a turn. The door goes solid and it's dark blue color comes into focus. I open the door and walk through. Mr. Gryphon follows and pulls the door shut behind us.

We are back in the newly constructed giant maze in the new wing of the living quarters of my imagination. I'm tired and a little hungry. I walk through the twisting corridors to the front entrance, climb the stairs and move towards the huge kitchen down the long hallway.

After we get there, Mr. Gryphon bustles around the kitchen after shooing the Cook away. He is making a smoothie for me (blueberries and raspberries). I am sitting at the counter, not doing anything.

"I keep thinking I need a manual, an outline for how to live, Mr. Gryphon."

He looks at me before turning on the blender. He knows better than not to say anything when I start talking like this.

"Thing is, I can't seem to find that manual. What about a code? Do you think that will help? What am I supposed to do next?" I watch Mr. Gryphon pour out the purple contents of the smoothie into a tall glass. He pours out another one for himself.

"I just don't know what to do," I say, "I mean, the stakes are much higher now. I mean, I don't have a job anymore so I have to figure something out soon, right?" He places the smoothie in front of me and slips a clean straw into it. I take a drink. It's wonderfully cold.

"If I were Llewelyn my purpose would be very clear, take the money and run from the horrific evil that's pursuing you, but I got no horrific evil pursuing me."

"We could find that evil if you want, Miss Turtle," says Mr. Gryphon carefully. I look at him over beautiful stone counter tops and shiny new gas stove.

"Seems a little counterproductive, don't you think? Shouldn't I be focusing on larger issues?" I ask.

"There is no larger issue that running to save your own life. Nothing like it to bring everything into focus," Mr. Gryphon sits next to me and takes a sip from his smoothie.

"Maybe that's what I need more focus, less mission statement, less broad overview. More specificity," the tiles on the back spash above the sink are a repeat of the beautiful stone countertop but also have hand painted tiles here and there to add color.

"More specificity," I mutter. Mr. Gryphon says nothing more. I am tired from talking about it. I am tired from wondering about it. I'm just plain tired. I feel like my brain is on overload. I feel like my brain is exerting too much effort even for the simplest of decisions. I even have difficulty trying to decide what to eat for dinner nowadays. I need quiet and rest.

Maybe I should go back and start following Llewelyn around until I get my bearings again.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Movie Musings: A Movie is Nothing

The floor of the old convenience store is wooden and dirty. I walk slowly towards the counter. Things are slow and easy in my world, as familiar as the sound of my cowboy boots on the old wood.

A man, useless and red faced, is standing at the counter.

"How much for these? And the gas?" I say picking up a small bag of sunflower seeds. I open them slowly and begin eating them one at a time.
"Will there be anything else for you, sir?" he asks as if he didn't hear me.

Weak and stupidly polite. The rest of our exchange seems so mildly confrontational, but in the end we are negotiating for the man's life and he knows it.

Today I saw the movie "No Country for Old Men." And I'll confess because I'm sort of proud of this even though most of you might think it's nuts, but who cares what you all think of my movie goings? I saw "No Country for Old Men " at the 1:55 pm show and then again at the 4:50 pm show. Same theater, paid for it twice.

Why did I do that? Because I can do whatever the fuck I want, that's why. I don't have anybody to bitch at me or anyone to tell me that what I REALLY want to do is somehow wrong or stupid or not what THEY want to do.

Now when I say I couldn't take my eyes off this film, I mean that literally and I have the movie tickets to prove it. I loved this film. I loved it's uncompromising ending. I loved the cast, but especially Javier Bardem. If you want something that's going to be a clean, tidy and satisfying ending on a meditation about the nature of evil then don't go see this movie because you won't like it.

What I liked best about it was watching the characters closely. They are all vividly drawn and a wonderful study for when I think about my own characters. Even the minor characters, the ones who only had a part of a scene, are vivid and distinctive. The dialog is just great. Some great lines there.

On the other hand, a movie is nothing. It's a bunch of lies called a story that flashes up there on the screen so you can sit in the dark (or in your living room) staring. Sometimes such a thing can elicit an emotional response or make you think or be enjoyable, but that's it. I don't think it's all that much. I passed two young women on the way out of the mall where the movie was playing and they were chatting about how "cute" all these useless Christmas displays were, how much they loved certain stores. I looked around and everyone was carrying a large shopping bag. I can't believe I used to be like those girls at one time. I can't believe I used to believe that shopping was a recreational activity.

(and what's more, I can't believe that men want to fall in love with such shallow girls, even men my age. they don't seem to care about them shopping and cooing about Christmas displays. as long as they're young, thin and "hot" that's all they're interested in).

Which is "better" watching a bunch of lies called a movie (or book for that matter) or supporting our economy by going shopping (and sounding like a dipshit while you're at it)? Since I consider myself one of the "liars" who make up stories, I'm going to go with making up a bunch of "lies" as the better activity. At least I'm moved and intrigued. Is that better? I don't know.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Working Life: The Big Kiss Off

Approximately 12 hours ago I was sitting in bed having taken a mental health day off. Absolutely nothing was going on at work and I had just finished with a big project so I felt like I earned it.

I got an email on my Blackberry from a girlfriend who mentioned that "[The company] has been laying people off, I heard." Eager to get some details, I called my girlfriend on my cell phone when a call from the company came through at the same time. I took the call. It was my boss.

She started out by telling me that she didn't feel right having to say what she needed to say on the phone and asked me if I wanted to come into the office. "Just say what you need to say, right now," I said, my voice cold and even. I was already reaching for my pen and a random pad of paper. She explained to me that my position had been eliminated and I no longer had a job effective at that moment. She explained the severance package a little. I took notes. She faltered in the middle saying again that she felt it was wrong to have to tell me all this on the phone and not in person. I merely replied "Keep Talking. Finish Saying What You Need to Say to Me." We made arrangements for me to get my severance package delivered.

My voice broke and cracked only at the end of our conversation. I was glad of that. I sat staring into space after I clicked my phone off. I was out of a job. It came with no warning. I wasn't the only one. In fact, there were a bunch of us in the same boat.

The next few hours were a whirlwind of phone calls, tears, reviewing of paperwork, reviewing of my financial situation, more phone calls, more tears, more calls to the company to find out who else was being piled into the boat with me.

After a while I managed to get over my initial panic because I realized I had enough money to last me for at least six to eight months, if necessary. If my unemployment lasts longer than that I still have options, I can still start over. I felt very lucky. Much luckier than many of the others I'm in this same boat with because I'm a single woman with no mortgage, no kids, no car payment and a very supportive family. The fact that this has happened right before the Holidays is not going to make things more difficult for me.

Many people asked me what I'm going to do. The current plan is to relax for at least a week and then slowly get back into looking for another job. The Holidays are a lousy time to job hunt so I don't expect much to happen. After the first of the year, I'll be pounding the pavement along with everybody else. Of course, this plan is subject to change.

Life has really gotten strange now. 24 hours ago I was waxing poetic about the Momentary Dance and musing about how I see myself differently because a man pulled me into his arms a few weeks ago. Now the company has given me one huge kiss off. Oddly enough I sense that these two happenings, unrelated as they are, will twine together around me. How I change and stay the same will be affected by these two events. It's going to be an interesting ride.