Covid 19 – Addiction Part 5

Covid-19 or not, there are people looking to hire. Sometimes I’ll send out a resume. The job has to be fairly close so the drive isn’t long, salary somewhat close to mine because much as I bitch about work I’m paid well for what I do, no insistence on Powerpoint or advanced proficiency in Word and Excel because I’m more basic proficiency when it comes to those. Go learn Power Point, everyone says. It’s easy. Sure. Easy. I spent over $300 taking advanced Word and Excel classes. The Adult School I went to does not allow handouts, so we were being taught complicated formulas without notes to refer back to. Plus nothing we learned is anything I needed to use when I was working and when it comes to software, use it or lose it. I could’ve taken that money and bought a lovely pair of shoes and at least I’d have had something to show for it.

But I do need a job. My boss hired me back after initially laying me off due to Covid, but business didn’t pick up so its back to unemployment and serious job hunting. This feels surreal. In part I feel protected because with unemployment I’ll have about three more months of income. But that’s it – the reality is I need a job and I am terrified. The idea of presenting myself to someone…who would want me? What do I have to offer? This year my age has come into play. I am 62. I have long felt that my age doesn’t matter – I look younger than I am, I’m in good health, I have a lot of energy. But faced with job hunting I feel old. Who wants to hire someone close to retirement age? What I know is that all of this is a racket in my head that I should ignore and just look for a job. My heart and my head are at war.

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July 2019. I was suffering the loss of my girlfriend and tired of smoking weed. So I stopped. And there it was – the space in my life I didn’t know how to fill, still don’t know how to. Over and over I told myself it was up to me, but I couldn’t come up with what I wanted to do. I was lonely and grieving the end of a relationship and all I did was sit around hating myself because there was  a whole world out there and I couldn’t join in. I was living in a world I didn’t belong in and I didn’t know how to be okay with my life. I told myself to travel, take yoga classes, go for a walk, call someone , figure out how to get out there and do it. I was – I am – paralyzed.

Before my lay off, I had a long talk with my boss. He told me his history of drinking and how he got himself under control. How every three months or so he and his girlfriend call up their friends, get in an Uber, go to the city and have a blast. Most of the time when I’m listening to someone I’m deciding who is living the better life and I am always the loser. Not that I need to go have a “blast” but just the idea of wanting to do something and having enough friends to do it with. I am never part of a crowd. I don’t have a group – I have a friend here and a friend there and no matter how many here-and-theres it is never enough. I am lonely but I don’t reach out.

AA seemed a solution. It’s a spiritual program and people make friends there. People love it there. People are always talking about their gratitude about being sober and of all the friends they’ve made along the way. If I say that like it’s a bad thing, I don’t mean it that way. It’s more of a foreign thing. I don’t get how to become part of it. Maybe it’s more accurate to say I don’t want to do the things to be more part of it. I could join a group, take a commitment, go to their business meeting, call people. Now that there are Zoom meetings instead of live meetings it makes it even harder. I resist.

I went back to AA last September. In March the pandemic hit. Much as I’ve been faithfully Zooming in on meetings through it all, I never stop wondering what I’m doing there. I try to pay attention but I don’t feel like these people do. At least the ones who are sharing. I’m often in meetings of upward of 50 people, and maybe 15 of them share in any given meeting. Surely there are people who feel disconnected, who are uncomfortable with others’ depiction of how God works in their lives because much as AA teaches to find your own conception of a higher power, most people buy the one where God’s directing your life and you have to sit back and accept the ride. I actually don’t have too much argument about that. At least the acceptance part. I don’t believe in a God that’s involved in the minutiae of my life, but I do believe life is a force greater than me. I can’t control it, I can only stop resisting it.

And that includes Philip’s death. Lately I feel crushed when I think of him – how in the world am I supposed to go on when he will never again come through my door? It’s been seven-and-a-half years and I am still deeply lonely for him. I yearn for him. So how do I hold my grief yet try to live? The loneliness in living is coupled with my grief and what I need to learn is how to hold two things together. Grieving him yet learning to live. It’s not a betrayal but it feels like one. I thought I was past this but grief is a spiral, not a straight line. As is life. I still struggle with wanting to live. It feels easier to give in to the grief, to let it suck the life out of me…is this an excuse? Do I use his death as a reason not to live? My grief is real, yet is it honest?

I go to meetings because I am trying to find something that eludes me. I drank because it made me feel better. By the third drink there was a “click” – I was home. Life was okay. I could talk to people, I could connect, temporary as it was. That’s what I ‘m looking for – that “click.” There are people in meetings who have clearly clicked. Their earnestness fascinates me. How did they get there? How are they not consumed by their darkness? Am I that unique that it can’t be me? That can’t be so, yet here I am stuck and waiting, waiting for my click.

Covid-19 – 04/10/20

As of this moment, neither I nor anyone I know and/or love has been infected with Covid-19. That said, it’s easy for me to look at the brighter side of this pandemic as it affects me.

I am laid off and I could not be happier. I no longer wake up and wonder what I’m here for. I don’t walk around with the stress of my boss looking over my shoulder (real or imagined) or the obsessive and soul-sucking need to please him. His presence looms dark and large and while I fear it, I am freed of it.

But what do I do? How can I go back there if he reopens? I would rather stay on unemployment and look for a job – but what will the world look like when this thing calms down? Will there be jobs available? No one can answer that. Can I take that risk?

While I’ve known for a long time that I need to look for a job, I couldn’t force myself to do so. I have an absolutely crazy dynamic with my boss. He is angry and critical, I resent him for that but try desperately and foolishly to please him. Yet I also have an overpowering feeling that to leave him is to desert him and how can I do that to him?

There’s much talk of living in the now. Because now is all there is. On a simple level, paying attention to what you’re doing or who you’re with without letting thoughts distract you is living in the moment. It’s a practice, as our monkey mind chatters always. But living in the now is more than that. I am letting my past inform my present when I treat my boss the way I do. I react to him the way I learned to react to my mother.  As a child I had to figure out how to cope with her verbal abuse and active unhappiness. But my boss is not my mother and still I act as a hurt child who just wants to be seen and loved.

This is not news to me. I have known this for the three years I have worked for him. I actually thought this would be a good thing because given a replay of my childhood drama would give me a chance to work it out. I could learn to handle him like an adult, not like a child. But there’s too much in play here – he’s smart, he’s intimidating, he’s nasty, he’s demanding. He rarely misses a thing and if a mistake is made, he flips. If that weren’t enough there’s this: he’s tall, dark and handsome and he has a LOT of money. I would like to say that doesn’t matter, but if I’m honest, it does. Much as I resist, it’s difficult for me not to buy into the fact that people who have a lot of money are better than I am and people who are beautiful are better than I am and if people have both I’m invisible to them. Add it all up and I wear a mantel of darkness that is stressful and exhausting.

The answer seems simple. Get out and get a new job. Besides dealing with the drama I’ve just taken you through, I am terrified to look for a job. I am paid well for what I do and when I look at similar jobs, the pay is way lower. Okay. I might have to take a cut for my sanity. I also feel unskilled – I can use basic Word and Excel, I can use Outlook. Most jobs want proficiency in Microsoft Suite and often want Quickbooks. I took some classes in Word and Excel to help myself, but if you don’t use it, you lose it.

I am almost 62. I am not planning on retiring soon, but I’m at a point where I want a job I like that will be my last.

The difference in the way I experience life has drastically changed because I got laid off. I do not take seriously enough the effect my job has on me. I used to wake up wondering why I was still alive, how was I supposed to get through another day? No more. I just wake up. I work my way slowly into the world and at some point decide what I want to do. I’m not depressed. I’m experiencing other feelings about self quarantine, but not depression. And that is a blessing.

Part of what’s saving me is that I’m a homebody. There’s a comfort to be asked to stay inside. It gives legitimacy to all the staying in I already do. I can watch as much TV as I want without judgment. My judgment. I give myself a hard time about what I do. What I don’t do. When life was as we used to know it, I would come home from work worn out and I wouldn’t want to do anything. Some nights I’d go to an AA meeting. I always thought I should be doing something I’m wasn’t. I would envy those people who have a lot of friends who do things together and can talk about their shared experiences. What do I do? Go to work, come home, go to a meeting (sometimes) and then home. Maybe see a friend on the weekend, maybe stay alone. In this I find great shame – and it’s not so easy to tame that.

But I do get antsy at times being homebound. I’ve been cooking and baking cookies. I went to the dentist. I take trips to the grocery store with its empty shelves. I even senior-shopped once as you have to be over 60 to qualify – yikes! I go AA Zoom meetings, sometimes bored and sometimes not. I text, talk on the phone, read, FaceTime, House Party. I watch a lot of TV . On Saturday mornings I deliver food to seniors.

And I feel safe. I feel protected.* When I can slow down, when I can feel Philip’s presence, I feel okay to be alive. If you’ve read my last posts you see the struggle I have to take my part in life. But Philip is ever here, ever loving. When someone dies their love remains. Cold comfort when all you want is for them to please come home. But they won’t, so we live with what we have, what is real. And what is real is Love.

*This has nothing to do with the virus – masks and gloves are necessary.

© 2020 Denise Smyth