When I’m going through a tough time, every so often, I’d like for someone to ask me how I am doing and be interested in the answer. More often than not, when people ask how you are, they don’t really want to hear any response other than great, or fine.
I’m not naïve enough to think that being without a job is the end of the world, and of course, I can imagine dozens of scenarios that would be a lot worse. Still, it takes its toll. Days become weeks, weeks become months. Enthusiasm wanes, hope begin to fade and self-worth and confidence are under attack by the thoughts that bounce around my ‘self’.
Expectations, whether they are my own or others’, seem to persist that I should have been working by now; let alone I should be positive and hopeful, I should be faith-filled, upbeat and encouraged. And I am all of those things. But in the silence of a still moment when the quiet is all that I hear, the reality crashes over me threatening to draw me into the despair and swallow me in its darkness. I fight to stay on the edge of the fear holding on with all my might so that I can be supportive to my family modeling a positive frame of mind for them.
Once in a while though, it would be nice for one of them to ask me how I’m doing and be interested in the answer. Perhaps, though, the answer is something they don’t want to hear lest the ground under their feet might start to crumble as well.
It does tug at me, mostly in those quiet moments where my eyes and hands are not busy, whether ego or fear, starts speaking to me and the tears that are always threatening to appear start to burn my eyes and spill down my cheeks. Besides the obvious lack of income, I also miss the social interactions of friends at work, the exchanges that contribute to a working day. I miss accomplishments and the satisfaction of earning.
Ask me how I am and I want to say, I am sad. I am crumbling. I am disappointed. I am afraid. But I’m more likely to smile and say I am fine.
While the stress, hurt, worry, frustration, sadness and struggle for hope in this experience is very real, isn’t it a privilege in a way? Aren’t I completely Blessed to be feeling at all? For along with these emotions I am also bestowed the ability to feel love, joy, wonder, and the connection of kindred spirits. Perhaps it’s a sort of penance for past transgressions – too Catholic? Perhaps it’s a reminder that I’m still alive. I’m here, I’m feeling and I’m living. Hopefully, I’m learning too.
Then judgement comes my way. Is it my self-judgement projected on others? Is it only perceived? What people think is a factor, although I suppose, I should not care. I wonder though if the questions I hear in my head – am I doing enough, is there more I should do, why don’t I get a part-time job while I’m waiting – are these the questions of others or myself? I’ve been consciously trying to be less judging of others lately and have discouraged my family from judging as well. Yet, is it hypocritical if I continue to judge myself so harshly? Ahh, self-judgement is something I slip into so easily like an old pair of comfortable slippers. The familiar phrases, shame, the list of inadequacies, the short-comings, the many ways I could be a better me easily flood my thoughts and the rescuer in me bravely steps forward and reminds me that I am a unique child of God with values and talents that have worth beyond my dress size, the number on the scale, the lack of university degree or the job I don’t currently have.
Last night in a dream my father visited me. We walked. Then we sat and he put his arms around me. He was dressed in light colours. He asked me how I was and he was interested in the answer. His strong, comforting embrace renewed my hope and reminded me that love is the richness in life. Those protective arms represented strength, acceptance and caring. Maybe that wonderful feeling is something I can learn to give myself.