Category Archives: Mental & Emotional Health

Would you RATHER be living life laid off?

By Mariam Williams

I’ve had jobs I loathed so much that I would cry when my weekday alarm clock signaled the time had come to get up and get dressed to go to the office of misery.  Is unemployment better than that?  Definitely, even with all the hassles of sitting for hours at a time at the local unemployment office, all the glitches in the system, an automated system that only understands hourly work, never being able to earn extra income, and knowing I’m one out of something like 10 million people.  But it’s only better because I can still afford all the food I need and like, and I can still pay rent and most of my monthly bills without familial or charitable assistance.  If that weren’t the case, I would probably be waking up and crying just as hard as I once did over a depressing, unfulfilling job.

Since October 2008, I’ve tried to avoid going back to that situation by not applying for jobs that I know would leave me depressed.  (I’m presently wondering if that’s the reason there are supposedly millions of job openings out there that the unemployed aren’t filling.)  I have focused instead on jobs that match my interests, experience and skills, and even ones that I think would be fun.  For me, that’s the ideal: fun employment.

Not quite the same as funemployment, a new term I learned from an article in Sunday’s Courier-Journal.  The funemployed have learned to enjoy their employment hiatus by spending time with their children, on their hobbies or at various, mostly free attractions.  From what I gather, all of the funemployed featured in the article share my mindset: they’re still paying their bills on time and taking care of the essentials first.  And one has the enviable position of having a gainfully employed and supportive spouse who’s bringing home enough for the family.

Understand, I’m not saying housewifery—or house husbandry—or lollygagging along on government assistance is the ideal setup for every American household.  I am, however, suggesting that the ideal isn’t just to have a job that’s fun to go to every day; it’s to have a steady source of income and the time and ability to enjoy your passions each day, even if you don’t go to any job anywhere.

Puzzled as to how to be funemployed?  It’s really just a combination of a positive attitude and knowing how to fill your free time now that you’re living life laid off.  Here are some suggestions.  I’ve obviously done number 13.  Numbers 37, 41 and 84 are quite useful.  And I strongly recommend AVOIDING number 46, but clearly it’s all up to you.

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© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Filed under Mental & Emotional Health, money, Unemployment

Living life laid off complicates life in ways I never expected

Absolutely no one is going to read this blog today, the day after the untimely and tragic deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, but I’m awake updating it because, since a strange man pounded on my door at 3:30 this morning demanding to see people who do not live with me, I haven’t been able to go back to sleep.

When the loud beats on the front door of my apartment jolted me out of my slumber, I didn’t even take the time to put my glasses on.  I rushed to the door and looked out the peephole.  I could only make out a blurry image of a white male’s head; the rest was distorted by the peephole.  I think I asked, “Who is it?” or “What do you want?”  He asked if men I do not know were home.  I said, “You have the wrong apartment.”  He asked again.  I repeated my answer.  He asked if he could come in for a minute and call one of them.  I ran back to my bedroom, shut and locked the door, grabbed my cell phone, and with trembling hands, dialed 911.

Police arrived probably within three minutes.  I can’t be sure because I was using my body as a barricade to my bedroom door, in case the strange man decided to break down the front door, and I wasn’t about to move until I was sure that either he was gone or the police were outside.  I didn’t hear any sirens, and the angle of my windows to the parking lot combined with the lightning outside would’ve made the lights on top of the patrol cars difficult to distinguish.

I moved from the door when I felt things had been quiet long enough.  I went to my window and peeked through the blinds.  I saw three patrol cars in front of my building and one police officer standing outside the building that sits cattycorner to my own.  I heard muffled voices from the floors below and outside; fans on high covered up everything else.

Moments later, I heard another knock on the front door, this time loud but normal and solid, and a voice identifying itself as St. Matthews Police.  I looked through the peephole, this time with glasses on, and saw the distinct markings of a police uniform.  I opened the door.  A kind and concerned officer informed me that the man was homeless, had been seen around the area before, and was now in police custody.

I was relieved but visibly shaken.  In fact, I was still shaking, hard, from head to toe, and then I started crying.  The officer asked three times if I was okay and said he wasn’t going to leave until I said that I was.  I took a few deep breaths, assured him that I was all right, took his card, shut and locked my door, and retreated to my bathroom with cell phone still in hand.

Another officer rang the doorbell about two minutes later.  This one asked if the man had tried to kick down the door.  I said no, I hadn’t waited long enough to see if he would.  I looked at the door for evidence of a hard kick but didn’t see any.  The officer said he doesn’t think the man was trying to break in; he was just wandering, and they were probably going to escort him to a homeless shelter rather than to a jail, which didn’t bother me.

I peeked out from the blinds again and caught an officer escort a tall, thin white male in blue jeans, a green t-shirt, a baseball cap and handcuffs, into the back of a patrol car.  They turned on aviator lights – the red ones inside the car – presumably to do paper work or input some data about the night into the computer in the car – and drove away.

I put the direct number to my neighborhood dispatch in my cell phone and lied down.  I called one person, who didn’t answer, and tried to think of others I could call who wouldn’t be so alarmed that they would make me even more nervous, but might be so concerned that they would drive here in the middle of a thunderstorm with bright lightning to help ease my fears.

I decided that making the request during a thunderstorm was unreasonable, and as I desperately sought elusive sleep, my mind raced.  What could have happened if … What do you do when safety – one of your most basic needs in the hierarchy of needs – is disrupted?  I want a dog.  A dog would’ve heard someone even coming up the steps and the barking probably would’ve scared him away.  Wait, I can feed myself fine, but pet food costs money.  And then there’s the initial expense of just buying the dog, getting it spayed or neutered, getting whatever shots it may need from the vet, then there’s regular vet check-ups … Okay then,  I need to move to a more secure apartment complex.  Application for rent.  Wait … they’ll want to know my monthly income before taxes.  And my employer.  And how long I’ve worked there.  God …

Living life laid off complicates things in ways I never expected.

At least I’m awake in time for the morning show tributes to the King of Pop.

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© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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If you missed it …

If you missed the discussion from April 8, 2009 on living life laid off, education, jobs in Kentucky, disillusionment, the arts, politics, the future of our country, and my ambitions and inspirations (wow, we covered a lot in an hour), click here to listen to the on-demand broadcast of “Staying Creative and Upbeat While Living Life Laid Off.”  Scroll down to “on demand episodes” and hit the play button.  There’s about 5 minutes of music first.

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Filed under Arts and Culture, Economy, education, Me in other media, Mental & Emotional Health, Unemployment

Realistic faith while living life laid off

by Mariam Williams

“My faith is the only real thing I have now, but faith doesn’t put bread on the table.”

The pastor of an Episcopalian parish said that Thursday on Oprah.  He and his wife lost their life savings in the stock market, and at 65 years old, they’re not sure if their resources will outlast their lives.

The more righteous among us might ask, “What kind of faith is that?”  I think it’s a realistic one, and it’s a perspective I share.  I thought about my level of faith, or maybe the reality of God’s provision, just hours before seeing the show, as I prayed for forgiveness for taking God’s provision for granted, realizing that I go through many days without even a quick blessing over my food, much less a genuine prayer of thanks for shelter, safety, health, transportation, or even the portion of the stimulus money I guiltily spent on new workout clothes at Target last week.  (While I haven’t quite felt guilty enough to return them-they do fit better than the pants that have gotten so loose no amount of drawstring tightening will keep my underwear from exposure-I’ve been too ashamed to leak my purchase to the blogosphere until now.)

As I made my petition Thursday morning, I felt an entitlement farmer plant a seed in my brain.  “What am I asking forgiveness for?” I thought.  “He’s God, and I’m his child.  He has to provide …”  But before the thought was complete, I recognized its fallacy, and that moment of clarity wasn’t just the Holy Spirit convicting me for the attitude of entitlement that had momentarily replaced my appreciation of grace.

I have a bookmark-a physical one that you use to mark your place in physical books-that directs me to certain scriptures for certain situations.  I guess it’s a biblical GPS for life and emotional breakdowns.  When worried, the bookmark says I should read Matthew 6:19-34.  Loosely summarized, verses 19 through 24 warn that focusing on temporary, material things leads to spiritual blindness, as it’s impossible to devote yourself to both God and money.  In verses 20 through 34, Jesus says not to worry about your life and body when it comes to food and clothes; there’s more to your life and your body than that.  Besides, he continues, God feeds the birds, and flowers are clothed more royally than King Solomon, the wisest, richest king of his time.  Come on, now.  Don’t you think God cares more about you than some flowers?

That scripture would have watered my entitlement seed if Matthew 25:31-46 hadn’t dug it back up.  In this scripture, Jesus talks about the day of final judgment.  He’ll separate the sheep from the goats, congratulating the sheep for feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, looking after the sick, and doing other charitable acts, and condemning the goats for not doing any of it.

What does all this have to do with living life laid off?  Simply this: one scripture says don’t worry about food and clothes while the other rewards the people who feed the hungry and clothe the naked.  This means that there will be people-during this recession and forever-who will not be fed like the birds or clothed like the lilies, and I’m absolutely sure that some of those people believe in God just as much as I do.  They may even be the shepherds of a church or parish.

I’m somewhat concerned about the people who will run to houses of worship in the midst of this economic crisis with sincere belief in a genie-god who will make a high-paying job or an unusually sympathetic banker appear.  I’ve been a Christian for nearly 17 years, and although I do believe that God is able to do “immeasurably more than [I] can ask or imagine” and that everything eventually works out for the best, I don’t believe he will always spare me from the worst.  This realistic faith is why I quickly reverted back to my original request: forgiveness for taking God’s provision for granted.  It’s also why I added a request for help to focus on what’s necessary and for a new perspective on wealth and on what’s important in life.

Suze Orman and I were on the same train of thought today.  Later in the show, the pastor on Oprah explained that his “faith in his creator and provider hasn’t wavered a bit,” but the system, the government working for him and people like him?  His faith in that is crushed.  Suze Orman followed his comment by begging the audience-I mean literally getting down on her knees on the Oprah show-to focus on what they have and forget about whatever jobs, riches, homes, or savings they lost.  She said that we’re not judged by how much money we make, a point I will likely debate in a later post, but “by who we are in the face of adversity.”

But just to warn you, we may not be spared from the worst.  At the end of the show, Suze Orman, who was right when she said years ago that we would soon be in this mess, predicted that it will be 2015 before everyone affected by the recession retrieves what was lost and each person’s hope is completely restored.  That means there’s an end in sight and plenty of time to reevaluate our priorities as 12.5 million of us continue living life laid off.

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See a summary of Suze Orman’s financial advice for the unemployed and everyone else here.

http://www.oprah.com/dated/oprahshow/oprahshow-20090311-suze-orman

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© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Filed under Economy, faith, Lifestyles, Mental & Emotional Health, Recession, Unemployment

Go Michigan State! (That hurt a little bit)

by Mariam Williams

As I turned off my TV yesterday to end the assault on my eyes before the Louisville-Michigan game in the NCAA Tournament actually ended, I thought, “I was really hoping Louisville would win.  This city could use a lift.”  But then I remembered that we were losing to Michigan State, and I suddenly didn’t feel as disappointed.

When I read this morning that GM Chairman and CEO Rick Waggoner had resigned at the request of the Obama Administration, I felt like rearranging my bracket again, with Michigan State taking the Tar Heels down.

Sorry North Carolina, but I remember how the Rams winning Super Bowl XXXIV brightened the city.  I was a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis at the time, and although the university is a bubble somewhat set apart from the city, residents of the city worked on our campus, and many students interacted with the city through their own jobs or volunteer work.  I honestly don’t remember a difference in attitude among my professors, but the blue-collar workers among us–those to whom I usually spoke in passing while hurriedly paying for the lunch they had just fixed for me–were happier in the days leading up to the Super Bowl than I could ever remember seeing them before, and they remained in their lifted state for several days thereafter.  They sported caps and jerseys over or under their uniforms, created Super Bowl Soup and Sandwich Specials out of the usual menu, served with increased pep, and got smiles and laughter out of the snobbiest of students in the longest of lines.  The children in the kindergarten class I tutored were (more) well-behaved, probably because every teacher in the school was more relaxed.  And the night of the big game, we the dorm residents, enclosed in our little bubble, stepped away from our books, gathered around big-screen TVs in lounges on the dorms’ main floors, and cheered with our city.

MSU is a college basketball team from the same state as the city where the Final Four and national championship will be played and not a pro team directly representing the city, but so what?  In these times, I say you should take whatever good, legal, healthy “stimulus package” you can get.  And with an unemployment rate of 13% (higher than the state unemployment rate of 12%), I hope Detroit residents can cheer their state’s university and gain a win for their city.

And while a double win would’ve been better, I think the Louisville Women can still do it for my city.

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© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Filed under Economy, Mental & Emotional Health, Unemployment

In a state of unhappiness

by Mariam Williams

At least now I have an excuse for the funk I’ve been in lately.

My whole state is unhappy!  Kentucky ranked 49th on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index TM, which measures the overall health – the physical, mental, and social well-being – of each state and each Congressional district within each state.

When I took a closer look at the map provided on ahiphiwire.org, I saw that Kentucky’s 5th district is ranked last of all the districts in overall well-being, while the district I live in is ranked somewhere in between the lowest 20% and the middle 20% of all districts within the United States.  Quite frankly, that still sucks.

Because I’m a trained researcher and a nerd, the whole study fascinates me, but for the purpose of this blog, I want to highlight one quote in the AP story on the findings:

“‘It’s not just about physical health,’ said Eric Nielsen, a spokesman for Gallup. ‘It’s about their ability to contribute at work and be more productive, and it’s about feeling engaged in a community and wanting to improve that community.'”

In this economy, I have to argue that it’s also about a person’s ability to find work.  I said it in a previous post: a certain amount of pride and dignity comes with having a job.  If the job pays enough, you can take care of all your needs.  If it doesn’t, and you have to work several jobs to provide for yourself, at least you can say you’re a productive member of society.

My current job is to find full-time work.  When my employment hiatus began in October, I remarked that I had forgotten that finding a full-time job is a full-time job.  I think the dead ends – the lack of responses, the generic “we found someone else who better fits our qualifications” letters, the daily reminders from the news and from strangers’ comments of just how difficult it is to find a job right now – have contributed to a slowdown in my productivity.  I haven’t reached the point where I see a job I’m interested in but think to myself, “Why bother?  I won’t get it anyway,” or, “Why even look?  There’s nothing out there.”  But I am to the point where I might wait several days before applying for one of the good full-time positions I’ve been holding out for.  (And the job market is to the point where I don’t see those jobs very often at all.)  There are days when email, Facebook, whatever random, useless information I can find online, the dishes, the laundry, a little spot on the floor, a good workout, or even this blog seem more important than sending in an application.

On Tuesday’s Tom Joyner Morning Show, commentator Jeff Johnson talked about the “depression created from the recession … A level of depression that comes when working class people – who don’t mind working to pay the bills … can’t find work.”  To get out of the depression, Johnson recommended, first and foremost, thinking positive.  He also recommended trying something you’ve never done before, learning a new profession, going back to school for something completely different, or in his words, “taking a risk.”

I don’t find many job postings I’m excited about anymore because I know that what I really want to do isn’t listed.  I want to pursue – and perhaps am called to pursue – a profession that forces me to open myself up to rejection, to not depend on an employer for health care and retirement benefits, to not depend on cubicle mates for companionship, to not always be on someone else’s clock, but rather to have the kind of freedom that also takes great responsibility.  To pursue this career takes great risk, and I believe the fear of failure, or maybe of all the responsibility and pressure that success would bring, is manifesting itself in distractions and lethargy.  Lately it takes more effort for me to put a coherent sentence together than it does to clean the house.  And I HATE cleaning.

Hmm.  I guess I don’t have an excuse for the funk I’ve been in lately.  The funk is the excuse, and I have to get out of it if I want to stop living life laid off.

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Filed under Economy, Health, Layoffs, Mental & Emotional Health, Recession, Unemployment

Where did the silver lining to living life laid off go?

by Mariam Williams

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

This is my favorite verse from “My Favorite Things,” the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic that helps to seal Maria’s bond with the captain’s children in The Sound of Music.  Girls and snowflakes don’t do much for me; I don’t like children (although I could see how a white dress with a blue satin sash could make a girl happy), and I hate snow.  The “silver white winters that melt into springs” make this verse my favorite.  The winters are melting, meaning there’s a process, and it could take all season, but there’s something happening, and the bitter cold will turn into a season I enjoy.

When the dog bites

Between the headache that made me feel as though a power tool was drilling through the back of my head and into my eyes, and all the depressing economic news I read this weekend, it’s becoming more difficult to remember that a new season is coming.   The front page of Sunday’s Couier-Journal pictured a sheriff’s deputy and members of his eviction crew emptying the contents of a home.  The story encouraged readers with news of an increase in evictions – from two a month to two a day – a struggling charity that serves the homeless debating whether or not to close on weekends; an appraiser willing to travel up to 150 miles to appraise homes for bankruptcy instead of for refinancing; a man forced to seek help from a food bank for the first time; and a couple of the kinds of lesser-known stories that make newspapers so great, like one about a couple living in their barn due to the delay in the building of their houseboat and one about plastic surgeons seeing a decline in elective surgeries.  That last one is a pretty big deal for one of America’s vainest cities.

When the bee stings

When I turned to the features section of the C-J, I read about an Atlanta man who had moved to Louisville for work; got laid off from each job he found here; couldn’t draw unemployment because he hadn’t worked long enough; and is currently three months behind on his rent and passing out hand-made business cards to seek out construction work.

When I’m feeling sad

Monday morning, I read an op-ed piece in the New York Times that noted that not only is this recession worse in shear numbers than the one that hit in 1981-82, but it’s worse for me, one of the 2.2 million people ages 16 to 29 who have lost their jobs in this recession.  And “this follows an already steep decline in employment opportunities for young workers over the past several years.”  Guess I should be more excited to have only one more year in my 20s.

Then I read in Ad Age that ad spending in traditional media will continue to decline into 2013.  So much for trying to stay in my field.

I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

A stockpile of soup and cereal purchased on sale and with coupons

Sleep

Rent paid consistently and on time

The fact that I still have more than I need and more than most of the world

My mom taking care of my gym membership

Benefits of exercise

A supportive boyfriend who truly believes that I have enough gifts to seriously change my life

The escapism of “24” and “Heroes”

hulu.com, which allows me to watch both of those shows, despite their competing time slots

Cathartic writing sessions

Random and interesting things my friends have posted on Facebook, like this video snagged from youtube:

My CeCe Winans cd (yes, a cd!)

The song “Praise Is What I Do” by Shekinah Glory Ministry

Ecclesiastes 3:1.  The translation I currently like best reads, “There is an appointed time for everything.”

Silver white winters that melt into springs …

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Go ahead: make a comment.  What are few of your favorite things, or anything that’s making you not feel so bad?

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© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Filed under Economy, Layoffs, Mental & Emotional Health, Recession, Unemployment