Sometimes, even when you sharpen all your No. 2 pencils, cram all afternoon but get a good night’s sleep, show up early to the test site with your belly full of fortifying oatmeal, and fill in your bubbles perfectly, you still fail the test. Or, in my case, you never get to take the test at all. Friday was the day of my big phone interview with Unemployment to sort out the bureaucratic mess I’ve found myself in by wanting to (gasp!) work part-time while still collecting a portion of benefits for the job I lost. I spent the night before writing down all the answers to the questions they were going to ask so I had them at my fingertips, confirming childcare for Olive, and charging my phone.
The 2 hour window in which they would call came, and I was as ready as I ever would be to actually get to talk to a human about where my claim had gone awry. While we waited, we played — Olive’s friend Ophie was over with her mom, my friend Giselle, and when EDD called the plan was for me to step out into the hall and take the call while she watched the girls. I kept the phone literally in my hand, because my phone is rubbish and I didn’t want to even chance missing the call. She and I jumped at every sound either of our phones made, but none of them were “the” call. An hour and a half in to my nerve-wracking wait, I got a notice that I had a voicemail. My heart dropped, and I knew instantly that what I specifically prayed wouldn’t happen had indeed occurred. MY PHONE DIDN’T EVEN MOTHERFUCKING RING.
I had a message from a benign-sounding woman, a worker who probably would have been sane and normal to discuss my situation with. Her voice mail said that I’d missed my chance, and EDD would now determine my eligibility based on what information they have. Subtext: you’re a jackass for not answering your phone, you are going to be denied benefits because this state is hellza broke and has been trying not to pay you this whole time, so good job giving us a reason to do so. My only real hope is that I can appeal, which will entail standing before a judge, and lots of hand-wringing on my part. My cuticles are shite already.
Not wanting to totally lose my mind and start cursing in front of the toddlers, I said, “Okay… I guess this is just my luck today.” My friend countered, “This is definitely not okay! It’s really important and it is so frustrating that your phone didn’t ring!” I loved her even more in that moment, for voicing what I was simply too upset and defeated to even name. The silver lining of the morning was that Olive got to hang out with one of her all-time favorite friends, whom she’s known since they were in the womb. I caught these shots of Olive being ultra-affectionate with her gal Ophie, and it cheered me to no end:
After they left, I spent the rest of the day and evening doing as much sulking and self-castigating as was humanly possible, while running around after a toddler. We had a second playdate with another awesome mom & daughter friend combo, and they were very helpful as well. But nothing could pull me out of the funk I was in, not even leftovers of the incredible fried chicken, mashed taters, collards and corn dinner my husband had made the previous night. And if soul food can’t lift your spirits, maybe nothing will.
I woke up the next day still pissed off at missing my chance to straighten out the mess, worried we were going to not be able to ever pay our bills, and mad at myself for not upgrading to a better phone sooner. I dragged my butt to dance class, and as I shook and shimmied, I could feel something loosening. I decided, “I cannot control this, even a little bit. That is what is making me so damned unhappy, and that is the very thing I can use to get out of this dismal mood. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I’m giving myself the long weekend off from thinking about it, worrying about it, and researching what to do next. I’m just going to enjoy this time with my family and not give in to the madness.” Basically, this:
And it has worked. I have had a wonderful, relaxing weekend, in which every time I’ve felt the fear creeping in to encase my heart in teflon, I’ve made a conscious, creaky effort to choose love and joy instead. The fear will be there when I go back to the situation tomorrow. But maybe it will be different from having put it down for three days. I’m digging reading A Wise Heart, and in it, Jack Kornfield writes, “In every life, pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame keep showing up, no matter how hard we struggle to have only pleasure, gain, and praise. Buddhist psychology offers a different approach to happiness, teaching that states of consciousness are far more crucial than outer circumstances.” So, my finances are a shit-show. However, I’m leaning on friends, dance, my amazing family, and my spirituality to not live in that reality all the time, while also not necessarily avoiding it. I think it’s sort of working. I’ll let you know.