career · clarity · exhaustion · fear · health · work

Numbers, Indignation, Holding Patterns: i.e. the Usual.

I have the delightful learned ability to read a health insurance coverage summary with a hawk’s eye. 
Post-cancer, I have become acutely aware of watch-words like “after deductible,” “co-insurance,” and particularly, “lab fees.”
Last week, I met with two of the 3 HR ladies I have worked with at the retail company I now work for. The first, Heidi, I met on the day I waltzed into the HR department with no plan and asked if they were hiring. I then had a wonderful impromptu interview and was subsequently hired. She’s great, personable, real. And someone with whom I can be honest. 
To finish up the health insurance thought, I met with another of the HR ladies last week to sign the “permanent hire” paperwork, and to get the particular HR documents I’ll need, and information on eventual benefits. 
I’d assumed, working for a large conglomerate corporation, that my health benefit coverage would be fantastic. More people = less $ from me, right? Wrong. 
This morning, I logged in to see what my options are, as I have to stay with the Kaiser health insurance, since that’s where all my cancer records and doctors are, plus it’s in walking distance of my house. 
I looked at the plan they offered. I saw many watch-words, including all those above. And then I brought out the plan that I’m currently under via COBRA through my old synagogue employer. 
My lord. What a better plan. 
As someone who needs to get lab tests done fairly regularly, I know that I now pay $10 for them to look and see if my blood is still blood, or if some of it has reverted to cancer. 
With the new plan I saw this morning, I’d have to meet a $4,000 deductible… and then I’ll still pay a 20% copay. Besides the hundred or so they’ll take out of my paycheck each month, just to have the plan. 
Now, this may all be boring to you. But, number-cruncher that I now am, COBRA costs me $400 a month = $4800 a year. 
So they’re kinda similar, now, ain’t they? 
How much is a lab test before deductible? I don’t know. A hundred, maybe? How ‘bout the other things I get checked through-out the year that the new plan says, “After deductible” next to. 
Knowing that the plan I currently have is a phenomenal one (having done the health exchange comparison, too), I asked the HR woman last week if they could do something about my pay if I keep my own health insurance. 
She’d never heard of such a thing. ??! 
It is common that if someone is covered by outside insurance, if the company is not paying for it, the employee can get a boost in salary, since the company would be paying insurance, but now can pay the employee instead. 
Again, she’d never heard of such a thing. And said, no, that would not be the case here. 
Enter the second HR conversation I had last week. It was post-holidays, post-working on New Year’s Day, and I was exhausted, upset, not happy. 
This retail, commission, fighting for customers with the other girls on the sales floor thing is not for me. 
I walked upstairs to see Heidi. I told her as much, in quite cushioned, complimentary, grateful words. 
And she said: I figured that wouldn’t be for you. 
But, we love you, you’re one of 2 of 70 employees kept on past the seasonal period. “Give me a week,” she said. 
Give me a week to think of another role for you here. We want to keep you, and let me think about where we can utilize you. I have some ideas already, but I have to check them out.
She knows me, sort of. She got one of those hand-made collage holiday cards. I’d gone in to talk to her previously about expectations for the sales positions, and how much hustle one has to do in that role in order to make a living. A living which would equal the paycheck I left at my non-profit desk job. 
She said last week that she could see I was someone who thought about the good of the whole, that one’s success is all’s success, and that cut-throat retail floors don’t allow for that. 
I later said to a friend, it’s like she called me a communist! But, funnily and astute observed, she’s right. For the good of all! And other Marxist ideologies!
It’s coming to the end of the week she’d asked me for. She was nearly plaintive in her asking me to give her the time to think of something.  — They really like me. 
In addition, I wrote her an email early this week saying that she needed to have all the information: I do theater. And that means nights and weekends. And if we can keep that in mind as we seek out a new role for me there, that’d be great
We’ll see what she comes up with. If anything. 
If I land back in front of a desk so I can get to theater rehearsals, so be it. As long as I’m earning more than I was at the non-profit. 
I mean, come on people. You’re an international corporation. I’m not 23 anymore. I have skills. 
Again, we’ll see. Before I go charging off to look for alternative companies, I’ve invested a lot in them already, as they’ve invested in me. 
But, should it look like I’ll be a salaried lady again — I’m asking for the health insurance off-set increase. 
Because screw that noise. 
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career · exhaustion · self-care · uncertainty

"Waiting" to "Pausing"

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I’m waiting to hear the outcome of my third, two-hour long
interview from Monday. I was put in a mock session of what the job would
entail, and though not mind-blowing, it would be a nice stop-gap for the time
being, I think.
But, there’s the trouble. I’m thinking about it a lot.
Trying to angle whether this is a good fit for me, if it’s better than the
unknowable, and … I’m tired.
I’m tired of the questioning, I’m physically exhausted,
emotionally, mentally. When I was on the phone with my mentor on Sunday, after
unloading and processing through a lot of muck, she began to respond, and I
stopped her by saying, hang on, I just want to finish:
then I told her all the plans I had for the week. Everything
I was going to do to support my job search, cleaning up my home, other
housekeeping style work like going down to the parking ticket office.
And when I was done with my litany, she said, Wow, it’s
really hard for you to let yourself rest, isn’t it?
And here I was thinking that my “positive action” sequence
was … positive. That it was showing I’m not slipping into despair, that I’m
keeping the jackals at bay with all my activity. Isn’t that what an unemployed
person is supposed to do? Keep busy? Do the footwork?
Even if they’re so tired they are on the verge of tears?
And so, this morning, already two cups of coffee into my
day, with plans to get out of the house and meet up with people, I went back to
bed for an hour. The caffeine kept me from sleep, but the resting was good. I
am exhausted. It’s been mentally and spiritually challenging to show up as I
have these past few months. It’s been hard, and I feel at the end of a
grin-and-bear-it period, without the relief that comes when you stop grinning.
So, … not today, but perhaps tomorrow, I’ll commit to
letting myself actually sleep in, to restore what’s been missing, and to gather
energy for what’s next.
There’s already a lot to do today, tomorrow, Friday. You’d
think being unemployed would mean a break, but I’ve got shit to do I can’t
excuse myself from. However, I can sleep in, and let myself have that relief. I
can allow it not to mean I’m lazy or going to fail or am being irresponsible.
Turns out, the most responsible thing I can do for myself at
the moment is to take extra special care of myself, even if it makes me squirm. 

career · dreams · exhaustion · fulfillment · meditation · theater · work

Day 21

Today ends the 21-Day Meditation “Challenge” by Deepak Chopra and Oprah I’ve been following this last month. Today’s “thought” is about Fulfillment.

And despite coming home on Tuesday night (finally tucking into bed after a chaotic day of work and a busy night of rehearsal) and bursting into quiet tears of overwhelm, today as I get ready for the day, the soft tears are of a different sort.

Fulfillment.

Two years ago on Yom Kippur I was diagnosed with Leukemia. Last year around this time, I hosted an “I Didn’t Die” party and played in a band on the bass I’d carried for over a decade but never learned to play. This year on and around the anniversary of my diagnosis, you’ll find me onstage in musical theater, another dream set down for over a decade.

Fulfillment.

In workland, I continue to feel like the hockey player who gets checked into the boards, my own path crowded out by the demands of others and by the very nature of the perpetually-behind game in which I find myself. I continue to know that things need to change, want to change them, do research on changing them, … and haven’t (yet) changed them.

I continue to desire giving myself the “right” kind of time to flesh out ideas for a different mode of working, one that means more fulfillment, less time, more stability. I continue to lament that the nature of the game I’m in doesn’t allow for pausing. Except when you’ve been sent to the bench. Which I call Netflix-binging. But that kind of pause isn’t productive, and I know this.

I am looking for the space in which to create a different kind of life, to have the space to dream and plan and implement. And, it’s not this exact moment. Which can be really hard for me. Believing as I do, that my stasis in this position (over-working and underearning) creates a dissatisfaction in me that bleeds into other areas of my life, and keeps me feeling less-than and stuck and not ready or viable or worthy.

And yet.

As I’ve spoken of it, one foot may be in the bear trap, but the other is passionately trying to walk anyway – or, as in the Addams show, to tango. I continue to have one foot in the direction … no – in the reality of a vision and a dream of mine. It’s not the direction, it’s the reality.

And truly, how different I know this is than it was. To be in it, instead of dreaming of or lamenting it.

Can you be half-way fulfilled? I dunno. But, I do know that the hours spent in band, in rehearsal, in laughter, and in friendship are times of pure engagement, presence, and self-forgetting (sometimes!). That absence of commentary, of doubt, feels like the presence of fulfillment.

If I have created, and worked hard toward creating, a third of my waking hours to be ones of fulfillment, I have to acknowledge that the scale is tipping. It isn’t there yet. I still lament and cry and question if I will pursue, but those hours spent in joy …

*insert silent wonder*

action · career · despair · exhaustion · friendship · hope · hopeless · job · jobs · miracle · perseverance · persistence

"We Need Back-up!"

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I have no back-up, she said.
My friend with two kids, impending divorce, move, life,
told me a few weeks ago. Trying to figure out if she could go back east
for a family reunion and see her great-aunt probably for the last time. To
figure out if she should bring her kids, even though she couldn’t afford it.
Trying to figure out who would take care of them if she went, because “he”
wasn’t available.
She felt alone, lost, and hopeless.
When I was leaving, she picked up her phone to check a text.
The kids’ other grandmother would be happy to come up and stay with them, it read. No
problem.
Her eyes went wide. She laughed. I laughed. We laughed about
the energy we put into feeling terrible about things. 
A few days ago, I saw her again. She was telling some of our
friends how she’d found a house in the town she wanted to be in because of its school system for her son. I hadn’t heard this part yet. Only how pained she’d been in the
looking, months and months of looking. Fearing, wondering.
She regaled us with how she went online on Wednesday, saw
the house on Thursday, and on Friday, signed the lease.
She told us how there was another house that she really wanted for $800 more a month. The kind of dream house she “really” saw herself living in.
But guess how much the tuition will be for her girl at the
school she wanted to be in? $800 a
month.
The litany of things that lined up were astonishing.
Each little piece of it having fallen firmly into miraculous and perfect place.
Each need met, better than anticipated. And “right on time.”
My friend was ecstatic and a bit winded with all the
resolutions that worked out in her favor. Eventually.
I said that it was like the “Universe” was tittering with a
present hidden behind its back. “Oooh… Look how upset she is that she has
nothing, that nothing’s coming out right – She’s gonna be SO BOMBED when I show
her what I have for her!! What I’ve had for her this whole time — Ha! It’s
gonna be AWESOME!”
And it’s true. It’s not that these things just came about
“miraculously.” It’s that she had been reaching out for help, grasping at any
straws, and finally, some of those straws bore fruit (to mix metaphors).
Desperate and despairing though she was, really distraught
at feeling abandoned by the Universe, lost in this HUGE transition in her life, she was asking for help. She
was taking action.
And that’s what
produced the miracles… to my mind, at least.
I report this whole story, I think, for obvious reasons.
I am currently grasping at so many straws, I could line the Augean stables.
I am reaching out to places I haven’t before, and listening
when people have things to say. (Even if I’ve heard their advice or platitudes
before and are silently telling them to shut it.)
I am feeling so lost and desperate and hopeless and
wondering and flailing and floundering. In short, I am feeling just as she was.
I know that we humans are meaning-making animals. We, or at
least I, want to make sense of
everything, even the things that don’t. So, I know that I want to make meaning
out of her story, make it into a tale of heroic action and
divine
desperate
patience.
I want to make this story Job. Because if it is, then in the
end I get a flock of sheep, too. 

* Epilogue

Look. I know this sounds like a lot of self-obsessed, self-centered bullshit. I know this isn’t Rwanda, or even East Oakland. I know that no matter what happens, I’ll likely have clean water to drink.

I suppose, having always been a late bloomer, I just am getting an advanced jump on the whole mid-life crisis thing.

I think the argument with authenticity is an important one to have. I think the screamings of a soul that feels trapped is an important one to answer. I get that that looks like a lot of navel-gazing sometimes, and I get the pain all that staring causes in my neck.

But I just want to say that I see both sides, here. I see that I have it immensely “better” than a hundred million people around me. I get that my life is infinitely better than it was 10 years ago.

But, I also have the capacity to listen to myself at a level that I have never been keen enough to hear before.

Last night, someone recommended I read the chapter on Withdrawal in a 12-step book. I did. This “not quitting my job without having another one lined up” thing IS withdrawal for me. It’s causing me pain. It’s causing me to act out. It’s causing me to have conversations and intrigue with inappropriate people, and to eat enough cupcakes to stock a shop.

I’m in pain, and it comes out here. This is my place. I feel badly about putting it up so that you have to read daily about it. But, you don’t have to read. And I don’t have to feel.

And yet. Here we both are. Xo.m