It’s four am and utterly silent outside while a storm rages within me. The writing job is, like the chair I sat in for over eight hours a day, being pulled out from under me. I rail and pace and study my half-toned abs, awake too early, sipping red wine in my plan to go back to bed, after I find the thing to kick, punch or scream at. Four am is dark, still and warm for February, an intimate pocket of reflection between night and morning.
Four am is the time when the meat of sleep is over and, should you be so inclined, you can rest a little longer in that next stage, which I suppose could be the side dish. I don’t want to sleep and I do. I don’t want that job and I do. I am not angry and I am. It is pitch black dark, no sound of a car engine can be heard and there are shimmering pools of streetlights far below my window. Both things-light and dark are here, as are bad and good news.
I’m exhausted, fried to a crisp. I need a week or two off from the job of writing (that I am so grateful for!). I could get on top of the feeling that I’m sliding into a pit of feeling hard done by. I need to just write my guts out and let this shit go. I’ll be a writer even after this—I write every day at that wretched post, so writing is like breathing, now. That’s the bigger reality. From afar, if I could lift myself up a few miles and look down, would I see that this is all rather benign and wasn’t it always a risky proposition, this concept of a work visa that has to be renewed annually?
It is becoming obvious that there are-in every moment-two contradictory truths. This thing that is happening at me: job insecurity, employers who aren’t sure if they can keep me and have asked me to stay and then asked me to wait for a few weeks to make sure they can offer me a job-that is all the noise, the distracting chatter, the background static still echoing in my head.
What is at the center, past this distracting crisis, is me putting my fingers onto a keyboard and producing my own song. Looking at my core muscles is important, since that is me, not the job. I am steeling myself, training to shatter the stuckness, the inertia, the weight of the world sticking to my ribs. My own foibles, folly and frailty. The place where I am trapped and waiting for a break just now is not unfamiliar. I have had this mosquito buzzing at my ear before, but I am aware this time around. Sort of. It’s all still a jumble I haven’t worked through. Writing about the Non-Farm Payrolls, about US job growth and wages rising, about unemployment of 4.1%. From an island that feels like kin to Greece, I write that 20% is a low estimate of that nation’s unemployment. I type away, badly, on a keyboard about these things, knowing I must empty my desk drawer in a week. It is…hard. And the joy rising in me is as beautiful as feeling really alive again is.
I haven’t lost my job. It’s right down there, I can see the lights from here. I know where it is- it’s 40 minutes’ drive every day into an office that is clinical, devoid of soul; an IKEA desk and chair and a computer that I switch on, plug into and produce work from. Fear of losing my pay check, losing my ability to pay rent, losing my home, has kept me bound to the pages I produce. In my uneasy sleep, I dream in the sections of the deadline I dread, and greet, again, every day. I don’t even like weekends, like this, since there’s never enough time to recharge, what with ironing my business attire and preparing lunches for the week ahead.
The massive blue, blood red super moon hidden behind the clouds is a herald of changes. The new year is still so fresh that my fearful thoughts of leaving my home and moving in with a friend seem dramatically unwarranted. I’m grateful for the options the company is holding out towards me—working freelance for them—that keep the pennies and pounds from heaven coming around the next bend. I’m also glad for my sister’s wisdom, learned as a perennial government contract worker, that a job ending isn’t something to take personally. No one says I can’t write, they are just sacking all of their writers, but they hope to keep me. That’s nice…ish. But still, I scan the horizon for what next?
My worst-case scenario is that I lose this job, that the option of staying on as a freelancer doesn’t materialize. That fills me with more excitement than fear. I get time to do the work I would rather do! I can finish my neglected memoir Token Yank! I am freed from the penance of hauling my dressed-up, mascara-ed ass in there and that squandered time is mine! I get to write about what I decide to write about at four am or 4 pm.
Write, move your body, write!
I can work out in between assignments; I can clock out, clear my mind and come back when I am biologically freshened. It is so hard to sit and churn it out for nine hours, five days a week… Each session is survival, then weeks pass, you stop being alive to yourself or anyone else. You are deeply tired, then exhausted. I limped in with a broken foot and never sought medical care that was within walking distance. I was afraid I’d loss my place if I took an hour off to see a doctor. Wow. That was what I was willing to sacrifice, what I’m letting go of.
I can make this work for me. Hell, now that I don’t have a broken foot, I can learn to type properly. That would be fun. It really is fun to begin shaking this job off, and I can get paid to write about more than job growth and unemployment rates. Well, either I can, or I can’t, and I’d get to find out what I can do, if I let go of this white knuckled desperation.
It’s five o’clock. The roosters are persistently crowing, as if urging the sun into the inky sky. All is well and so utterly screwed up. A pair of truths, one in each hand, exist in tandem. My eyelids heavy, it’s quieter inside of me than it was, now before the dawn of another Sunday.
It’s hard to know in your bones that you’re going to lose a job that’s paid you decently to write for two years. I got what I needed out of the bargain, and now, fearful or free, my apprenticeship concludes, my work to write better continues.
I wonder how much faster I can learn to type once I quit looking at the keyboard, unsure of myself and the truths I hold in my two hands?