A LITTLE ANXIOUS
September 12, 1998
I've seen people go through hardships I think would make my brain explode and my soul shatter. These people all say the same thing, "These things happen for a reason." I'm not so perverse as to think that all those thousands of people are wrong. I willing to admit that "these things" happens for a reason. I'm just trying to figure out is why.
I got laid off - from the second time by the same company. That's got to be some kind of record. I'm having a hard time dealing with it. I mean, if they are going to down-size something - why can't it be my thighs???
The first time I was laid off they got about 100 other people at the same time. They gave us 6 months notice. They used the whole carrot and stick method top keep us around. If you stayed through the bitter end (and believe me, it got bitter) then you got a weeks pay for every year of employment. I'd only been there about 3 years so my carrot wasn't that big. Plus, I knew what the stick was and I wasn't going to get whacked.
I left but did I learn? No I did not. I worked at a great company with great people at a job I liked for almost a year and then I got the call. My old company, the one that laid me off, wanted me back. They were willing to pay premium, too.
They kept me on long enough for me to become vested in the company and then - WHACK - that stick came flying out of the air again. This time it was a smaller lay off, me and 2 others. I'm trying not to take it personally but I can't help feeling a little like someone is out to get me. They offered me another position but I figured enough is enough - you can only lay me off a certain number of times and then that's it. I get the hint.
This time they gave us 2 months. I tried to avoid the impulse to run like the rats on Titanic. This time I was vested and they offered me about six weeks of pay if I stayed on. I can be bought, but I ain't cheap.
So, I'm unemployed and trying not to freak out too much. I filed for unemployment. They do it over the phone now - like ordering a bad pizza.
"Yes, I'd like a check because I'm out of work." "Will that be with or without taxes?" "Uhm, with please. And how long will it take?" "About three weeks but we don't pay for the first week."
That's the kicker. You don't work for the first two weeks and then they only pay for one. I guess it's like the hand gun waiting period. If I'm really mad about being laid off, at least I don't have the money to go and buy the gun for a couple of weeks. By then I'll either have another job or be so desperate I won't want to waste the time driving to K-Mart and picking out the gun.
Leslie's been great through this whole thing. I have a tendency to get depressed and weird when bad things happen - I have a twisted ego that makes me feel inferior and yet important enough for the whole universe to be out to get me.
She tries to help keep that delicate balance between keeping me focused on finding a job and distracted enough to function in the real world. That means I spend a lot of time looking through the want ads and shopping.
I think in times of stress, like this, you find out what sort of people you are dealing with. Also, you find out a lot about your own coping skills. In my case, I found out more than I was ever interested in knowing.
My coping mechanisms consist primarily of drinking, having sex with strange women, yelling and fighting. Since I don't drink anymore, am in a monogamous relationship and am so out of shape I'd probably be killed, the only thing that's left is yelling. Leslie gets very tired, very quickly at my yelling hissy fits. I had to come up with another way to cope: I worry.
I am among the world champions of ceaseless and fruitless worriers of the world. I worry in my dreams and when I wake up. I worry out loud and to myself. I'll worry while cooking, driving, shopping and showering. If left to my own devises, I worry while making love. That's how worried I can be.
What do I worry about? The list is endless but I'll give you a peek - Never getting a job again, ever. Getting a job I end up hating. Never writing again. Getting cancer. Leslie leaving me for a smarter, funnier woman. My dad being right about me all along. The dog getting out and getting hit by a car. Terrorists attacks. Violent personal attacks. Losing the house. Something really going wrong with the house. Earthquakes. God and faith and on and on.
I recently heard an interview with the author of a book on stress. It's called, "Why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers." or something like that. Here's the idea; humans are animals and as such our bodies react to stress just like animals. When we are threatened, i.e. a report is due in two hours and the computer just took a dump, our adrenal glands go to town to try to help us avoid being killed. Other systems in our bodies go down during this fight or flee episode. Men stop producing sperm and hair. Women stop producing hormones and start to store fat.
In the wild, these things make sense because the stress or the threat passes quickly and then we can get back to the business of eating and procreating. In our world, though, these things do not pass. This is our lives.
The good news is that he found no correlation between stress and cancer. That's about the only piece of good news, though. Everything else - ill health, hair loss, weight gain, impotence - all could be related back to pronounced and constant stress.
This worries me.
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Copyright 1998 by Laura Jiménez.