Coming home to our deliciously drafty San Francisco apartment after a week of being in overheated East Coast houses was like entering my natural habitat. We are on the top floor, and the old windows shake so much from the wind that it feels like living in a ship, which I absolutely adore. It was a new year, and a new era for me — I was coming home to fall headlong into uncertainty, unsure of where I am going to work next, live next, what shape my days were going to take. I returned home with a killer cold, so I spent the first few days fending it off with tea and rest. Gratefully, Joel had the week off, so he enjoyed a staycation playing with Olive while I watched movies set in or about the 1970’s American dance world.
Once I got past the so-stuffed-up-I-can’t-move-or-think stage, I set to going through the arduous, complicated and often dismaying process of getting unemployment for myself, and health coverage for my daughter and I. Suffice it to say that what I learned is if you are very poor and no one is working in your home, there are plenty of services for you, but if you work even a little, even if you don’t make a living wage, there is not much to help you get back on your feet. In any event, I worked enough out that I feel properly perched on this delicate tree branch of a life stage, not sure where I will go when I alight but balanced okay for now.
On our way home Thursday night from seeing incredible Bay Area youth perform their hip-hop tracks (Olive broke it down on the dance floor, which was insanely cute), we walked by a bespeckled gentleman sitting at a typewriter at 16th & Valencia St., with a sign that promised:
“PICK A SUBJECT
AND A PRICE
I gave him the money I had in pocket (the amount was so measly it was embarrassing, but I really wanted a poem) to write me a poem about being unemployed. He thoughtfully rapped out this gem on his Smith-Corona:
Don’t tell me of the greatest city
Pretty watering the grass long
So it can play along to a lost luster
But can not muster an explanation
For why this is the second most
Expensive city in the nation
But can’t afford to give those
willing to work a job
And now I stand jobless
Holding hopes and dreams
That lose steam wondering
How I’ll thrive on nothing
Maybe by making an imaginary stew
Like lost boys do
Or waking to find I need another city
~ Lynn Gentry
You too can have a prophetic poem of your choosing, even if you can’t watch him type it out while you wait on the street corner: http://www.lynngentryprose.com/pick-a-subject.html
I say it is a prophetic poem because it tapped into what is constantly a question for Joel and I: can we afford to live in this city, that we hold so dear, in which poets are waiting at street corners and beauty is at nearly every turn? Or is it an unrequited love? For now, we are here, and as I start my first real week of solo Work At Home Mom status, I am incredibly grateful for that. Our city boasts mild climates that allow me to take long walks with my daughter almost any day of the year, has great Parks & Rec programs that allow us to take classes together at a low fee, and every day we seem to make new friends.
To say that I am jobless, however, is not exactly accurate, as I have both a part-time job that I can do mostly from home, and a full-time job of being Olive’s care provider. And that is how I am seeing these next few months with Olive — as my new career. Heck, I was paying someone else to do it three days a week before, so it’s veritably a worthy career choice. I am going to go into it with the same focus and care that I would a job that pays monetarily — I’ll get up at the same time every day, get dressed and prepare the day’s tasks, and “complete” them with as much quality control and know-how as I can. I believe it will be infinitely harder than any of my previous jobs, and this coming from someone who has worked in the trenches. The reason being, I could always leave that work at the office and come home to relax. This job is 24/7, and I have to do it while looking for paying future work, which will only be possible if Olive takes a good chunky afternoon nap (please Nap Gods, be good to me). So, wish me luck, wish me favor in nap timings, wish me the ability to be as present as possible with this gift of time with my daughter, not to be swept away by the sea of What-Comes-Next thinking.