800 Words

There are signs, and then there are Signs….

The day I wrote about losing confidence in my writing, I discovered a television series called “800 Words.”

“It’s a sign!” I thought.  The show is on the Acorn channel (British-y programming). It’s about an Australian columnist, a widower with two kids, whose column always comes in at exactly 800 words.

That’s a game I love to play, too. He even uses the same trick of hyphenating-things-to-count-as-one-word.

It’s more about grief and the stupid impulsive decisions (often stupid financial decisions) you make when coping with loss.

Sound familiar?

I watched the first episode of the first season and was hooked.

And then I discovered I had to pay a subscription fee to watch the rest of it.

Curses! I coughed up my Roku account and subscribed.

More money spent that I shouldn’t be spending, without a day job.

That sent me into another spiral of anxiety and doubt.

How could it be a sign? Yes, I like to write blog posts of exactly 800 words –  but my book is 60,000 words.

The protagonist on the show actually had a job as a newspaper columnist, left it, and was coaxed back.

I’ve lost or had to leave jobs I wanted and was never, ever “coaxed” or asked back. It was more like “don’t let the door hit you on your way out. Buh-bye.”

My recent job search experiences make me feel like I couldn’t buy a job – if I had any money to spend – which makes me more anxious about getting a job.

I’ve got an idea for a business, bought the domain, and I’m hoping to get a website designed and the business going by September.

But the numbers for this blog (over 5,300 views and 2,300 visitors, but only 162 followers) indicate I suck at social media self-promotion.

I’m going to have to force myself to return to Facebook to build pages for this blog again and for my new business. AAAAAK!!

I’d rather curl up in a little fetal ball and pull the covers over my head, but as I lie there whimpering, I’d be picturing myself wearing a name tag, saying things like, “would you like fries with that?” or “have you tried our new spicy shrimp?” or “can I get you that dress in another size?”

Between the morning workouts and the yard work and the house work and grocery shopping and the meal preparation and the caring for and helping Angelic Daughter, I can’t seem to find the time to write more than one or two blog posts a week, and no time at all to search for other places to submit writing for a chance to get paid.

Much less apply for that glorious future name tag job.

All the job search engines I’ve got going keep sending me jobs that have nothing to do with me.

LinkedIn seems to think I’m a nurse or other health-care worker, just because I’m looking for jobs in non-profits, and there’s a big non-profit hospital near me.

Glassdoor keeps sending me technical writing jobs that I probably could do but I’m sure I’d never get hired for, and the idea of making a mistake writing technical manuals or pharmaceutical label information sends me into paroxysms of anxiety.

All the NPO’s want fundraisers (“development” people) but asking people for money makes me squirm, and researching how much money people might have to give makes me feel like a creepy voyeur.

I indulge in silly rescue fantasies, typically involving younger men who know how to do things, and who are willing to do them for me, for free.

And who then move in and pay for things.

While also making wild, passionate love to me.

Hey, I said it was a fantasy.

I’ve figured out what’s wrong with me, and what went wrong in my career, but I can’t fix the past and the past follows me everywhere I go.

I try to focus on the now – on the incredible, cool air we have today, on the squash blossoms growing in the former chicken run, on the green beans starting to come in.

But I spend more time feeling frustrated by the dozens of bean seeds I planted that haven’t sprouted at all.

I’m a whiny, self-doubting mess.

The ancestresses are getting restless – I hear them telling me to get my ass outside and weed something. Not self-improvement, but yard-improvement, at least.

Perhaps other improvements will follow.

And as for signs?

Just as I was editing that line about anxiety and doubt, a monarch butterfly fluttered down and landed on the beans.

The ones that are growing.

Thanks for the Sign, Mike – of love and understanding – and the reminder to enjoy this beautiful day and stop taking myself so seriously.

Because what matters is now.

About-to-get-sweaty-and-dirty-and-feel-virtuous-about-it, I remain,

Your calming-down,

Ridiculouswomann

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Too Old and Too Expensive

The door closed. So where’s that open window?

“… at this time we are moving forward with other candidates that more closely fit our needs.”

This email came ten minutes after I finished screaming at reprimanding Angelic Daughter for WRITING ON MY NEWLY PAINTED WALL and then removing every privilege, excursion and cherished food I could think of from her foreseeable future, replacing them with cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and REPAINTING SAID WALL.

Well, karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?

The bullshit factor just rubs it in, because this is what they say when their lawyers have instructed them never to tell you the truth, to wit,  “you’re too old and too expensive.”

This was the second time in as many months this has happened to me – the callback interview went really well: I really thought I had this one in the bag. And just as I was thinking it would be another week or so before I heard, WHAMMO, the buzzer sounds.

Thank you for playing, NEXT!

The clock has also run out on me with the two agents I pitched at the Midwestern Writer’s Agent Fest – one who requested the full manuscript of my book right there at the pitch, the other who said she’d look at my query.

Pocket vetos, both.

So on a day when I screwed up badly as a Mom and feel horrible about it, I was rejected from a job I thought I had for sure, my confidence in my writing has sunk to a new low.

I know the problem with the book – in a very crowded market, a memoir has to be about something greater than the mere experience of the writer – they want grand social themes – Hillbilly Elegy, or Educated – from “marginalized voices.”

I’m a straight, suburban white woman. About as non-marginalized as it gets.

Except for one thing:

My age.

If there is one universally marginalized group of people on this planet, it is older women.

So much for “yippee! I’m sixty and invisible!”

That has quickly become, “Oh shit, I’m sixty and unemployable.”

And unpublishable too,  apparently.

They see my book as a “me-moir.”  It has to have more universality or social impact than is readily apparent. It can’t just be both heartwrenching and funny.  It has to connect to some broader social theme.

Really? Well, how about this:

There are nearly 12 million widows in the US.

And (pulled directly from the Family Caregiver Alliance website):

  • Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • Upwards of 75% of all caregivers are female, and may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than males. [Institute on Aging. (2016). Read How IOA Views Aging in America.]
  • Older caregivers are more likely to care for a spouse or partner. The average age of spousal caregivers is 62.3. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]

And the American Cancer Society predicts:

1,762,450 new cancer cases and 606,880 cancer deaths in 2019.

I want to believe that my story could help caregivers feel less invisible, and less alone. Caregiving can be terrifying, exhausting, fulfilling and heartbreaking.

It can drive you crazy. It did me, and made me do ridiculous things, to avoid facing the certainty of my husband’s premature death at just 54.

I don’t feel crazy anymore, just defeated. If I couldn’t land this job, a job for which I simply cannot believe another candidate could have been better qualified, then I give up.

And today I feel like giving up on my writing, too.

It’s going to be 95 tomorrow, 98 on Friday, and no air conditioning. We’ve been through it before, but sitting immobile in a damp bathing suit, periodically hosing oneself down, isn’t conducive to sparkling query letter writing.

And what if, even with my spot-on experience, I was rejected from the job because I blew the interview? How could that be? The interviewer said I was first on her list to contact, and started the interview by just asking me if I had questions. Kept me there meeting volunteers for half an hour longer than I planned.

Did I ask too  many questions? Give too much information? Was it because I explained my need for a little time to find a caregiver for Angelic Daughter?

If it was that, then, I wouldn’t want to work for you anyway.  Feh.

After my previous rejection, my sweet brother sent me this:

“Everytime I thought I was being REJECTED from something good, I was actually being REDIRECTED to something better.” – Steve Maraboli

I’ll hang on to that, and try to believe it, while I clean the bathroom and vacuum the floors.

But Angelic Daughter is going to repaint that wall.

Trying to find my redirection, I remain,

Your disappointed, self-doubting, wanting to find a way to keep trying,

Ridiculouswoman

A Token of Your Disrespect

Happy to be a token of your illusory search!

Oh, ok, NOW I remember – I should have asked, “are there any internal candidates for this position?”

Because if there are, my presence in this interview must be solely to provide the illusion of a “search,” when the outcome is a foregone conclusion. So check off that age/gender discrimination box, kids! You’re covered!

“Hey, we interviewed the old lady, but decided our (select all that apply) younger, maler, cheaper, insider-er candidate was a better, erm,….fit.”

Oh yeah? Well, nuts to you! I didn’t want to work at your boring old cube farm anyway, so there!

Here endeth the tantrum.

Back to the job boards, and “kondo-ing” the hell out of the house to find anything I can sell online that might squeeze out a buck or two.

Next on the list: call financial advisor. Confess you should have allowed her to re-balance portfolio before the most recent downturn. Nobody can time the market, right? But I should have seen this train coming.

Sigh.

Then, get back on that querying horse, now that I have a better idea of how to write a query letter and have figured out “comps” that might be applicable:

DETOUR IN CANCERLAND is like Jenny Lawson (Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, A Funny Book About Horrible Things) and Jen Lancaster (Bitter Is The New Black) if they were twenty years older, bereaved, and had been raised by Olive Kitteridge.”

Good old Olive. “No one’s cute who can’t stand up straight.” Sounds just like Mom.

I’m also going to get started on my next book, “The Widow Rules: In Which a Ridiculous Woman Desperately Fails to Meet Expectations.”

First line: “Well, the tits on a platter thing didn’t work out so well.”

Working on it.

In the meantime, I remain,

Your preparing-to-deliver-the-stuff-I-sold-online-in-a busy parking-lot-right-across-from- the-pizza-shop-where-we-are-regulars-which-is-owned-by-a-big-strong-neighbor-guy-and-staffed-by-several-other-guys-who-recognize-me-and-could-keep-an-eye-out,

Ridiculouswoman

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

False Start

So much for that Men Who Know How to Do Stuff thing…

I’m not a quitter. If anything, I have a bad habit of staying at jobs for way too long.

But arising at 4 a.m. in order to work for four hours to earn (almost) one tank of gas?

Um, no.

Plus, the Men Who Know How to Do Stuff were all the way on the other side of the place.

Feh.

I had promised myself I’d stay in my lane, and work hard to get the kind of job that I really need – one that pays the bills and provides insurance benefits.

I can’t do that if I’m staggering around sleep deprived and wracked with Mom worry.

So the answer to the question, “why did I do this to myself?” would appear to be, “damned if I know.”

Unless it was to get me used to occasionally getting up at 4 a.m., when things are quiet, because today I got my book pitch written, timed and practiced for my upcoming agent-fest writer’s event. So there’s that.

But job-wise, it’s back to the starting blocks. I actually remembered that thing called “networking” when I saw some jobs I could apply for at a place where a college classmate works.

And this morning, I had a phone interview for a much more “in my lane” job at another place.

I hope that means the universe is telling me I did the right thing, quitting the four in the morning job.

Which it seems it is, because the phone interview went well, and I will be called in for an in-person interview, probably next week.

WARDROBE CRISIS!!!

(We can’t let a good thing happen without a little anxiety attack, now can we?)

It’s been a while since I’ve had an interview for an actual office-y kind of job. I wore jeans to the last three job interviews I had, for the last three jobs I got, at places where I wore jeans.

I genuinely don’t know what women wear to job interviews for office-y kind’s of jobs anymore. I got rid of all my suits. I own two pairs of OK looking trousers, but sitting around worrying has added a few pounds, so they’ll be snug and any blouses I have to go with them will come with gaps at the buttons.

Let’s go shopping. Suggestions for appropriate office-y job attire are hereby solicited and welcome. Crisis averted?

Anyway, during the phone interview, the very pleasant interviewer used a phrase that Angelic Daughter also uses regularly, to coach herself through her days, and used in conversation with me, shortly after the call ended.

Don’t want to jinx it, but I’ll take that as a good sign.

Until then, I remain,

Your trying-to-be-realistic-but-also-hopeful-and-optimistic-while-trying-to-figure-out-what-to-wear-

Ridiculouswoman

(Featured image by Gabe Raggio from Pixabay)

Survivor

I’m still here.

(This is an edited version of a previously published post. Why edited? Panic. Anyway, it still makes my point, although it is shorter now; but shorter is better in a blog post, don’t you think?)

“Survived by his wife.”

This was the punchline of a famous routine by a great comedian, Alan King.

Incidentally, King was “survived by his wife.”

King fails to note the male habit of marrying younger women, and addresses every woman he approaches as “dear,” a term I now employ solely to demean and diminutize (safely from inside my car) drivers who have done something stupid, or failed to do something required: “Oh, nice move, dear! Ever heard of a blinker? You know, that little stick on the side of your steering wheel that pushes down to flash “blinkablinkablinka” for left and up for right? But it’s not your fault, right? Because you were raised blonde? DEAR?

But I digress – the routine is still really funny and worth watching, start to finish. There’s even a quick blonde joke. HA! Dear.

Anyway, so what’s with the boots again? And what does the Alan King routine have to do with anything?

I have accepted employment at yet another place where boots are appropriate; nay, even necessary.

It is temporary and part-time, which means no benefits. After taxes, I might almost bring home barely enough to pay for health insurance.

A finger in the dam of the rapidly draining reservoir, no more.

I got dinged on the only two interviews I’ve been granted in the last six months. And, despite a long, and I believe impressive, resume, no one else, including several recruiters who (apparently accidentally?) have viewed my profile on LinkedIn, has contacted me.

Ageism, anyone? Ya think?

But a funny thing happens on the way to rejection: when I have to reiterate my entire 34 year work history, even though the job poster already has it in my uploaded resume, I realize:

I have survived several of my former employers, both human and corporate.

Bankruptcy or merger has taken a few of those corporate “persons” (don’t get me started).

Human former supervisors were taken by the usual things – age and disease.

One of the applications I had been trying to complete required me to reiterate all 34 years of jobs, as well as all the education that preceded them, which no doubt causes the HR bots to drop me like a hot potato when they see that I hold a law degree  (AUGH! Run for the hills!) and that I left law practice after just three years, because…hmm, let’s see – how shall I put this? Because I realized law practice was a soul-crushing, closed system of enrichment for white males willing to have their souls crushed in exchange for (a lot of) money?  Or maybe, because I preferred solving problems to perpetuating them?

Or, maybe just because I hated conflict.

Plus, I hadn’t considered that law is a really bad career choice for a person with OCD, especially when she doesn’t yet realize that she probably has OCD. (“I’m not obsessive! I’m DETAIL ORIENTED!!!”)

This new job will keep me on my feet for a few hours several days a week, require me to work outside, and will put me in proximity to Men Who Know How To Do Stuff (yeah, yeah, women too, but I’m on the “I like men” team, remember? Is that OKAY? Is that ALLOWED? Call me cis (honestly I’m having a hard time keeping up with the lingo for all this – help, Steve Goodman!), straight and naive, but I like men. I believe nice ones exist. Some. Somewhere.)

I’ll have to curb my Betty White oggling tendencies. But still.

I’ll have to get up at 4 a.m.

I could apply for that Bar Bingo host job – three times the money for half the hours. I’m sure they’ll hire a woman as funny, engaging…and old…as me. HA! But my roots and my boobs are my own, dammit!

Meanwhile, somewhere, there must a full-time job and a nice man for me. With benefits.  Both. HA!

Until then, I remain,

Your underemployed again but surviving,

Ridiculouswoman

Passion vs. Practicality; or, Is That A Burning Heart, or Just Heartburn?

My redecorating has taken on an aura of set design – creating spaces for an imaginary life.

(Spoilers ahead, if you haven’t watched all four seasons of “Mozart in the Jungle.”)

They play “with the blood.”

They drink, do drugs, and jump into bed with each other spontaneously, joyfully, seamlessly.

No fumbling around with condoms, no awkward conversations about past sexual and health history, no qualms, no jealousy, no regrets. Coitus with no consequences.

Artistic lives. Hollywood sex.

Passion unfettered with practical concerns.

Oh, except the first violinist/concert master with three daughters in college who tried to run an insurance scam by faking the theft of his priceless instrument.

By now, you will have figured out that I have been binge-watching “Mozart in the Jungle,” and getting a vicarious thrill out of the character’s lives in classical music. Who knew these longhairs (that’s what classical musicians were called when the cool kids were sporting crew cuts – before beatniks, before hippies, before I was born) were so lusty, so wanton, so drunk, so high?

They live with no boundaries, other than the demands of their art. Their hearts burn for music, for love. They play “with the blood.”

I finished season four last night.

Only then did I discover that the series has been cancelled.

Mozart disappeared. Rodrigo got fired and doesn’t know what’s next. Hai-lai (Hayley) seems to have taken over the symphony, based on Rodrigo’s faith in her, plus an unrealistically small amount of training and practice as a conductor and a second place finish in a major competition.

We’ll never know what happens next.

Bwaaaah! Curse you, Amazon! Why?

Back to the real world, where I impulsively signed up to go to the Midwest Writer’s Conference “agent fest” in early May (go for it, Annie! pursue your passion for writing! maybe you’ll meet someone! burn for love!) while worrying about spending the money on it (did I say money? I meant credit) and about how I’m going to manage care for my daughter for the one night I’ll be away.

What’s that pain in my chest?

The musicians in the show travel internationally on someone else’s dime and never seem to worry about who is taking care of the kids, if they have any.

Meanwhile back in heartburn land I watch my funds dwindle and frantically apply for jobs. Had two interviews, both went well, but I’m not hopeful. Even if I’m offered the weekend job I don’t think I can take it – two hour commute each way, on the weekends, when the trains and buses run slower and less frequently. The other is temp and part time, but it’s close to home and would bring in some funds, for a little while, anyway.

My redecorating has taken on an aura of set design – I seem to be creating spaces for an imaginary life.  I set up my “boudoir:” the little fantasy I created in my bedroom, which should have had that very expensive art-deco-y mauve chaise, but instead has an oddly oversized, mid-century style, eggplant-colored fake velvet chair, and a weird little round Moroccan leather footstool that’s just a bit too low and a bit too blue, purchased from a warehouse full of unsold, unwanted items crammed in long dark aisles under a crumbling, water-stained ceiling.  Together they cost a tenth of what the chaise alone would have cost.

Across from the chair is the TV with the Roku stick, connected to a network that has, oddly, gotten slower and weaker after the fraught installation of a new router, even with the signal booster.

There’s a chrome and glass bar cart, optimistically (who am I kidding, more like ludicrously) supplied with two champagne glasses, two cordial glasses, two cocktail glasses.  I sit alone in the cheap purple fake velvet chair, next to the cheap (but really cute) glass and chrome side table, watching stories on the cheap TV of people who live brave, passionate, unfettered lives, with hearts aflame, mysteriously available funds and few regrets.

Passion! Music! Bubbly! Wealthy patrons! La vie en rose!

In between job applications and query letters, I’ll keep writing, imagining that before I die I will add the words “author of….” after my name on Linkedin (in lieu of “non-profit/higher education administrator” and “certified forklift/electric pallet jack operator.”)

I’ll go to that “agent fest” I can’t really afford, pitch my book and dream of a deal, but happily settle for some good advice.

As the money dwindles, I’ll wear a name tag and clean toilets if I have to.

But I’m damned if I’ll drive a forklift again.

Pinballing between dreams and reality, with heart occasionally aflame but mostly just with heartburn, I remain,

Your occasionally optimistic, frequently floating in fantasy,  but mostly moored in the mundane,

Ridiculouswoman

Humble — or Humble Pie?

Humility is an aspiration. Humiliation is an imposition.

Haven’t read “Charlotte’s Web?”  There’s no help for you. But alright, already…

SPOILER ALERT…..

spider-213722_640

Charlotte dies in the end.

We started “movie night,” to get used to watching TV in the basement, but also as an excuse to eat popcorn (which, contrary to old diet advice, is NOT a great snack, even unbuttered, because it is made of CORN and CORN is all CARBS and CARBS turn into SUGAR and SUGAR is EVIL, which doesn’t keep us from eating it…but you knew that already. I digress.)

My daughter chose “Charlotte’s Web.”  It had amazing animatronics,  or whatever the technology of making live animals look like they are talking is called.

She watched the whole thing, from beginning to end.  The first time she had ever watched any movie, with me, all the way through.

Probably because I said no popcorn unless she did, but still.

Add to that, two scenes:

First, kindly country doctor calms down Mom, who worries that her daughter Fern believes she can talk to animals.

Circa 1950-something doctor explains, “it’s a phase. She’ll grow out of it.”

Wow. Now, that Mom would walk out with a costly psychopharmacopia and her wonderful, imaginative, magical kid would be drugged into submission, stat. GAAAH!

(But, Fern can talk to animals. So can Doctor Doolittle. So can I. You should hear the conversations I have with Sophie cat at feeding time. She says “Mah-AAAAHHHHM, MAHaaaaaaaahmm Mahm! Mahm MAAAAAAAAHM!” exactly like a whiny, Midwestern toddler. And horses read my mind. But I digress. Again).

Second: Charlotte explains to Wilbur the pig that she has made her “magnum opus,” an egg sac, is languishing, and will die, as all living things do, when their time is up.

My daughter next to me on the couch, holding her now-empty bowl of popcorn, perfectly still, listening.

Thinking about her Dad. (Yes. I converse with cats, silently talk to horses that read my mind, and listen to my daughter think.)

It was the best explanation of death yet offered her, given in Charlotte’s gentle voice.

Sniff. Sob.

Before she died, Charlotte wove one last word into her web, after “some pig,” “terrific,” and “radiant,” trying to literally save Wilbur’s bacon, so he can be a spring pig who lives to see the winter snow:

“Humble.”

Humility.  You let others have the spotlight. You do good deeds without reward or recognition. You are nice, to people and animals (animals are easier). You never think you are better than they.

You do what you have to do without complaint, gratefully.

Stress and caregiving imposed several career setbacks over the years. I did what I had to do.  Worked two jobs for a while – 18 hour days — as a headset monkey in a call center (OK, that was snarky, but it was a call center) and in retail at a mall-based department store, a/k/a the 12th circle of  hell. I did it to buy food, pay bills and provide health insurance, not always succeeding at all three simultaneously.

The headset monkey employer asked applicants to complete an “optional” assessment.   Optional! No pressure here, desperate applicants! Invasive, offensive, personal questions that had nothing to do with job skills, but allegedly could “predict success.”

Our situation was dire.

I sucked it up, filled it out, and took the job.

That was not humility.

That was humiliation.

It just happened again.

While completing an online application that did a good job of pre-populating fields off my uploaded resume, WHAM – another “assessment.” This one, required.

I don’t mind skills-based tests that show you can do things related to the job.

But I do mind having to “strongly agree” or “somewhat disagree” about tossing litter on the street, doing things I didn’t tell others about, obeying the law, or whether I’m a happy person.

During this “assessment,” my sweet daughter wrapped a blanket around me.

She startled me.  I missed a question. I barked at her.

For this stupid, invasive, offensive, inappropriately personal “assessment.”

If your job application makes me snap at my kid, you know where you can put your job.

Yep. Just as high up in there as you can get it.

Another place used a questionnaire that essentially asked “when did you stop beating your spouse?,”  assuming applicants drink and do drugs on the job, fight with each other, and steal things.

I aspire to be humble, but I’m saying no to humiliation.

I have faith. I believe things will work out. Same day, I got a call for a job more suited to me.  I will turn the other cheek (meaning offer the cheek of an equal, not the cheek of an inferior) and never be humiliated like that again.

Trying to regain some dignity and be especially nice to my daughter, I remain,

Your mad-I-completed-the-thing and hoping-they-shove-my-answers-high-up-there-with-the-job,

Ridiculouswoman