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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Surviving Unemployment

I sat down to blog tonight unsure of what I wanted to blog about, but certain I was going to blog. This is because blogging can be hard work. And I need hard work right now.

My friend Tabitha returned to work this week. She had to stop working a few weeks before she gave birth and she asked me how in the world I don't go mad being unemployed. And the truth is, it's not easy.

I've been unemployed for over a year now. I won't go into the whys and hows because I've done that before, but I thought I'd share some of my strategies for staying sane.
  1. Reading. I love to read. I definitely read at least 52 books a year, probably more towards 100 or more. Reading is not only immensely enjoyable to me, it also keeps my brain stimulated and can also provide an escape. It de-stresses me.
  2. Pets. Or maybe this could be satisfied by plants, though I'm not much of a gardener so I don't get it. But to me Sophie, my dog, was definitely sent by God. Of course, everything was given to us by the Lord, but some things are just such sweet gifts! And I'm blessed enough to not just have Sophie but also Radar, my parent's dog, and the four cats: Mallory, Devlin, Corwin, and Ezra. They provide company, entertainment, affection, and comfort.
  3. Friends. (and facebook!) I already live for my friends, but wonderful conversations, messages, notes, and whatever other forms of communication have become lifelines. And most important is getting out of the house and being with them in person. Doesn't matter in the slightest what we're doing. Even being with them while they run errands is a change in routine. It restores my sanity every time and is immensely precious to me.
  4. Blogging. (or an ongoing personal project) For you, this may be any project or obsession. In case you haven't noticed I've been devoting a lot of time and energy to my blog. This has been very helpful, because it's an outlet that I feel like actually achieves something. For me, doing housework or other chores doesn't have the immense satisfaction of my blog because it's not 'out there'. My blog has the potential to impact people beyond my home and, being stuck here day after day, that's encouraging to me. I've not just dropped out of the world.
  5. Art. (or a short-term personal project) This has been accomplished mainly in little 'kicks', but I will suddenly paint a lot one week, or crochet, or write, or what have you. The satisfaction for me comes from making something expressive with my own hands. I could easily see this happening with woodworking or other physical ways of making something new. I actually love power tools, though I don't get to use them much.
  6. Cleaning. Okay, I admit, for me, that this is sometimes more of a drain to my sanity than a boost. But sometimes I get a frenzy in me and I grab a garbage bag and some cleaning solution and I just go at it! And the end result can be very satisfying... for a day. I admit I'm not a huge fan of cleaning because unlike art or blogging, it doesn't last. It's not like hitting that publish button or putting down the paint brush. Within a day or two of cleaning, my efforts will start eroding and I sink into a 'does anything I do even matter' mindset... so for me, cleaning is not always helpful. But if a short-term boost of morale is needed quickly, it works.
  7. Television. Okay, this is the one I'm most ashamed of... but the truth is I have the television on most hours I'm awake. I try to be selective of what I watch, and often it's really just on in the background. But it brings thoughts, interests, and noise to my life. I admit I like the noise. It also helps me feel connected to the outside world, which as I said before, is important. It should be limited, but it does genuinely help.
  8. Going Outside! This is important, though I admit I often forget it when I'm bogged down with life. But very few things can revive me when I'm getting a funk as well as song birds singing, soft sunshine, and grass beneath my toes. Star gazing, hiking, smelling flowers, dog walking, it doesn't really matter. Even getting rained on can be good! God gave us the gift of nature to help us be healthy, not only in body but in mind and spirit as well.
  9. Travel. By this I don't just mean taking long trips, it could just be driving a different way home from somewhere. But changes in scenery are awesome. Unemployed people often can't afford such luxuries, but they need it just as much. I took my trip to New Jersey for $34.50 round trip by going on Megabus. There are also other cheap travel options out there. So whether it's a day trip to Greenville, a weekend trip to Georgia, or a two week trip up north, travel makes me very happy and makes me feel hopeful and happy for some time before and after. In the upstate where I live, we're blessed to have both mountains and beaches close enough for day trips, and if you have family or friends to stay with, many places are close enough for weekend excursions.
  10. JESUS!! Yes, I saved best for last. But seriously, there is no way I wouldn't be super depressed by now without Him. But not only can I cling to Him and His Word, but I also can claim His promises. And I know He's got a plan. He hasn't just forgotten me this year, there's a reason for this unemployment. He's using and working with me even when I don't see it, and also, He's so loving and comforting. If I need to have a good cry, He's the best shoulder to cry on. If I need a good laugh, He'll provide a situation to have one. He is AWESOME and, slowly, if I keep my focus on Him I'll be changed until I'll be content in every circumstance.
You may notice I didn't mention job searching. That's because, while of course essential, it is the least comforting or sanity inspiring part of being unemployed. Nothing drains me or stresses me more quickly. I'm trying to work on it, but the longer I'm unemployed the more emotional the whole process gets. You send out enough copies of resumes, write enough cover letters, and fill out enough applications they become meaningless and the whole process seems more and more worthless and unfruitful. It's all vanity, vanity! Even getting an interview is as much a source of anxiety as hope at this point because the longer the unemployment goes on, the more pressure is pinned on it.

I don't mean to be despairing. I'm not really despairing, it's just my employed friends always seem apt and eager to discuss the job search with me. But the truth is, if I'm not actively applying for a job right that very second, I want to forget the entire job search and take a step back and just be!

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