Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Unemployment or Cancer, which is worse?

I still don't know how to be unemployed! This is an extremely unsettling and uncomfortable time for me. Sometimes I feel like I'm in a sleepwalking-like state of shock", still not fully aware of this new state of existence, but at least I have not fallen into a deep depression, unable to get out of bed, which I hear is can sometimes happen when faced with unemployment. A constant sea of thoughts races through my mind and I just keep asking myself over and over, “What in the world do I do now?” I think my pal, Tess, nailed it she said I"m dealing the loss of my identity. After all, I've been in the domestic violence field for almost 25 years. Yes, it has been a big part of my identity. When we become unemployed, we lose the security that we normally take for granted. Having a job gives us a sense of belonging, a place to go, something to be a part of, and meaning in our lives, as well as providing means to live. In our culture, personal identity and employment are tightly coupled. More often than not, the first question you get asked at a party is “What do you do?”. In the absence of a job, that question produces stutters, mumbles and embarrassment. I'm definitely feeling useless, unwanted and adrift!
When I learned I had cancer, I knew that the tumor could be cut out. It was a tangible thing. I could "learn" how to deal with cancer and fight death. I'm not sure how to "find" myself. I feel hollow. There's a shell here, for the outside world to see. Everyone sees the shell, and they talk to it and they act like it's me, but I no longer feel like me. It's just a cover, a mask. My carefully honed defense mechanism that I have tweaked over the years. My antennae is razor-sharp, reading the signals, ready to react, ready to duck for cover if needed. Yet inside, nothing. A great big, empty, gaping, hollow space. A chasm if you will; a vortex, a bottomless pit. And if I look too closely at the vortex, I will spin out of control until I separate into a million little pieces, mixing invisibly with the matter of the universe. So I cling to the side and I don't look. I know where my real self is. She's off there, to the left and a little in front of me. But I can't reach her.
One of the things experts suggest is to figure out if you can (and should) reinvent yourself. Writer Robert Brault says, "Never mind searching for who you are. Search for the person you aspire to be". I like that! Maybe it's time to let the "old" Tami go and spin-off in a new direction?!

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