We may be unemployed no longer, but I want to return for a moment to one of the facets of joblessness that we, and so many others have faced – the elephant in the room, if you will – fear of the unknown.
(pictures featured in this post were taken by Papa on our honeymoon trip to Ireland in 2004)
What happens when you lose your job, when the job market is horrible, and when you are forced to decide between housing and groceries? What happens when the answers are not clear and the future is in question?
I found an article in the July 4, 2011 issue of Time magazine on where the jobs are. In Papa’s industry of construction, the rate of unemployment is more like 16%, and for every job opening there are 12 workers looking for employment. That’s a lot of jobless people, and that’s only one line of work.
The future is unknown for so many Americans and fear is a common reaction, leaving marriages and families in shambles, and individuals with serious health problems, or worse.
To suggest that there is a certain way anyone should handle a job loss feels inappropriate to me because everyone is different; different expectations, personal and family needs, goals, etc. There is no on-size-fits-all plan that an unemployed person can carry out to get themselves back in line with success, and to suggest that would also be presumptuous for us, who are still living in substandard (though comfortable) conditions.
However, there were two things Papa and I did do that I think every unemployed family should do, for the sake of their family and their sanity.
Facing the unknown can be a bit scary, but it is imperative that you face it together, and you face it with a positive attitude. Money problems are one of the top marriage killers, but unemployment due to a layoff is not anyone’s fault, and arguing about it is not going to make the road any easier. We can’t see it as something happening to one of us that the other has to deal with. We are a team, and we will face the unknown together.
My grandparents took a trip to Alaska a couple years ago to celebrate their 50th anniversary, and they blessed us with a copy of their book of experiences from that journey. In the front was a handwritten note to Papa and I that read:
“The world can be green and rich. It can also be dark and foreboding. Walking through it together is joyful when green and so much more possible when dark and risky, so clasp hands and walk boldly to see what wonders await.”
They also quoted from an old song:
“We ain’t got a barrel of money, we may look ragged and funny, but we travel along singing our son side by side.”
Second (and how do you follow up with wisdom like that?), unemployment is not the end of the world. You can’t always plan when it will happen, or what you will do if it happens, but there are so many creative possibilities for living without a job that you have to be able to see the unknown, not as a scary place, but as an adventure, an opportunity for growth and change. Perspective is where it’s all at.
If you find yourself without a job, and you’re waiting in line at the unemployment office, unsure how to explain your situation to others, stop. Stop sitting in the fear, stop fretting about the unknown. You can do this! Start imagining the possibilities of a career change, a change of living space, or other adventure you’ve wanted to attempt but never dared commit to. What is the best thing you can do with the resources you still have? Run yourself into the ground trying to keep your house? Stressing yourself out to the point of emergency room visits? Fighting with your spouse about the expense column? Or is there something better for you and your family?
Perspective. It’s all in the perspective.
To quote from Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame:
“Today, to him gazing south with a new-born need stirring in his heart, the clear sky over their long outline seemed to pulsate with promise; today, the unseen was everything, the unknown the only real fact of life. On this side of the hills was now the real blank, on the other lay the crowded and colored panorama that his inner eye was seeing so clearly.”
Is the unknown really something to be feared? Or, is it an adventure waiting to be had? Clasp hands and walk boldly to see what wonders await.