In which I talk about the struggles we face and the need to help one another through them.
rough draft of a story i wrote this week before finding out about the loss of a friend who took their own life. this story feels very raw and real to me but i think there’s a sort of truth in that that maybe someone can get somthing from.
There was no flash.
No playback of life’s good, bad, or ugly.
There was only anger, rage, pain, and the fall.
I’d like to tell you that there was something that made me do it. Some cataclysmic something that was the final straw, that was the final proof for me.
I’d like to tell you that the reason was enough, was enough to make everyone understand why, why, why.
I’d be lying though.
I can tell you that it was the culmination of years and years of something burning in me, beneath the surface, consuming my memories, my dreams, and my relationships until it finally broke through to the surface.
I can tell you that the occasional thoughts turned to day dreams turned to fantasies turned to reality.
I can tell you that a vague flower of sadness had blossomed into a flowering mushroom cloud that wiped out reason and left only action.
I can tell you it was a mistake I intended to make.
It wasn’t sadness or pain that guided me though but rage, pure, black, self-directed rage. It was the need to punish myself for another mistake, another fuck-up, real or imagined. I needed to hurt myself in order to hurt the world. There was no darkness that took me over though, there was just me and that fire in me that had finally gotten out of control.
When I think about it, when I force myself back to those moment, because that’s what they were really, moments, it seems like a dream.
My body a sparking wire, movements spastic, mind a shark searching out prey. I stormed into my apartment and searched everywhere for something, something, something…THERE!
I grabbed a detached electrical cord and quickly rushed to my closet and pulled open the door that was already ajar. I pulled coats and shirts out with my free hand and threw them onto the carpet until there was a small open space before me. I took the thin black cord in both hands and wrapped it around the closet rod and looped the two ends and created a knot. I started to make a loop but was struck by a thought and dropped the cord and turned to scan the one room apartment again. There, on the floor I saw it and rushed over and grabbed a dirty sock and then returned to the closet. I stepped within the darkness, crowded by clothes I never wore, and turned to face out once more.
There it all was, my life in clutters and piles.
A discarded guitar.
An abandoned basketball.
A forgotten suit, piled in a corner.
An unmade bed.
Dirty clothes mixed with clean.
I looked at it and all there was was hate and rage and it was with pure clarity that I wrapped that cord around my neck with the sock against my throat, and tied it off.
Just in case, a part of my thought, just in case it didn’t work I didn’t want to crush my windpipe or voicebox.
I tied the last knot and let myself drop, pulling my legs up as I did and I fell.
The cord pulled taut and there was a moment where I hung before my weight snapped proved too much and my noose snapped. My knees connected with the floor and pain ran down my shins and up my thighs. I fell forward into an abandoned pizza box and let out a rage filled sob.
I pushed myself up onto my knees, broken cord around my neck, and struggled to my feet, legs aching. I stumbled forward, intent on finding another way, some other way to do it. Tears ran down my eyes as I searched everywhere for something, something, ANYthing that could just end me.
That could make the pain that seemed so bottomless go away.
I fell onto my knees and let my shoulders slump.
I couldn’t even do this right.
All that came then were tears.
I closed my eyes and saw the face of my mother, ten years dead but smiling at me from a long-gone birthday.
Back when I was still a kid with the sky in my eyes and the sea in my heart.
I opened my eyes and my eyes caught a picture of my brothers and me at a baseball game, laughing, beers raised.
I clenched my fist and punched at the floor and stood on wobbly legs and put my hand down on my dresser and looked down and saw my hand on a letter from an ex that had tracked me down, wanting to know how I was. A letter that even now, after everything, after two weeks, still had me laughing.
I wiped a hand across my eyes and looked outside and caught sight of the setting sun and that was all I needed because it meant the day was ending. And if this day was ending then that meant there was a tomorrow.
It meant I’d have a tomorrow.
I made my way to my bed and sat heavily onto it and closed my eyes and started untying the noose from my neck and in the darkness of my mind I saw dad, napping on a lazy Sunday like a cat in the sun. I opened my eyes and looked around my apartment and put my focus on that and nothing else.
One at a time.
Like an addict drawn to death.
One day at a time.
I took a deep breath, wiped my face again, and then stood and started cleaning my place up.
Being just shy of forty-five, I have worked a lot of jobs.
A lot of jobs.
I started working when I was a teenager, doing occasional yard work for a neighbor for $5 an hour, which at the time seemed pretty amazing. From there I worked with my sister cleaning a couple offices my dad was connected to and I have worked every since. I grew up a spoiled kid but not one that didn’t appreciate that you had to work in life.
That’s just how the system is.
So, I worked.
Which is not to say that I LOVED work but that I did what I had to do, even working three jobs, seven days a week, for a brief run.
Through all those jobs, all that time, I had never really been fired.
I had been essentially laid off when there wasn’t a need for me but it was a matter of – we’re closing the store – or – we just can’t afford to keep you. Which isn’t a great feeling, but it’s one that I could shrug off.
I had never really been fired, not even when I wasn’t brought back on an interim job. It was frustrating and angering but the term of service ended and I wasn’t brought back, that was it.
I had never been fired.
Not until six months ago.
It was a job that I didn’t love, that I didn’t excel at, and that I didn’t feel like I fit doing but it was a job and at my age, that’s the prison we put ourselves in. The hell of it was that the people I worked with were pretty nice, I liked the work we were doing, and it was good to be part of something working in the community. I went into something I didn’t know, didn’t quite understand, and wasn’t fully trained for and did the best I could.
It wasn’t good enough.
And I get it.
I got it.
I saw the writing on the wall long before the big day but it didn’t make it easier. It’s hard to give a damn when you know you are doomed. It’s hard to help when you know that your time is almost up. I had gone through the drawn-out death of my mother and then the awful death of a puppy we had just adopted and then work started to go downhill and it’s hard to keep your head up when you are drowning.
The worst of it was how it went down.
How isolating it felt.
How needlessly cruel.
How I knew I was about to be fired when I was told I was requested for a meeting with my boss on Tuesday for the coming Friday.
Everyone knows what Friday meetings are.
I hated the game.
I had to be a part of firing someone in the program I was an admin on who had been caught stealing.
I was going to be expected to attend a full staff meeting of our division the day before I was to be fired.
It was like there was a secret that I had overheard.
And when it happened, and it was all done, the year and change I had worked there, with these people, was gone.
I was gone.
A break-up like any other.
I had been unemployed before, been in the system before, but not for the duration. Not until it ran out.
They definitely made it easier, made it more streamlined than it used to be, but it’s still a huge system that you fall into and try to navigate.
How people are expected to survive on unemployment I can’t say. Were I not married and with an understanding father that owns the house we’re paying off, I’d have been on the street.
It’s funny to read about how great the job market when we live in a gig economy. When we live in a time where people have to get multiple jobs to make things work. Hey, it’s a ‘gig economy’, we hear. It’s awesome to have to be a cab driver with no union, and using your own car. I have been looking for work, with a Bachelor’s Degree and years of work in professional offices, and I still can’t even get interviews.
I am at a point where I have started to look for work far below what I want or need to live because I am out of time and out of hope. I started to sell some things. I lucked into a side gig for a moment. I applied and applied and applied, to over a hundred jobs in six months hoping something would come through. And it gets laughable, the things these places want for what they pay. Wanting administrative assistants to do work like website maintenance or marketing when those are professions on their own. It’s like there’s no investment in people any longer. The market shrunk and now it’s a buyer’s market. The idea that adults can live off of part time work, can survive without benefits or insurance, and can thrive on temporary work is insane.
We don’t care about the worker any longer though, it’s all about the corporate persona and its ever hungry leadership as they consume the wages and drive the company into the grave.
And when that company dies, the leadership pulls their golden parachute and heads off to another company to suck on its blood.
Wages haven’t grown.
Opportunity hasn’t grown.
The only growth is at the top.
We are no longer people, we are a collection of jobs and skills and people who know people.
We aren’t seen as investments, we are seen as parts for a larger machine which are easily changed out.
And I sit here, scouring ads looking for jobs that make sense, that I can do, that I might be able to get, and the hole feels deeper and deeper and deeper.
The past year has been an utter nightmare that I can’t find an end to.
I know it will end.
I know I will get through it but I just don’t know how or when or how I survive it.
It’s heartbreaking to know that all of my hard work, experience, and time has led to a dead end. It’s a shame that we’ve turned the workplace into a grinder, a beast that must be fed at all costs.
It’s a shame that we’ve accepted this ‘gig economy’ as normal.
I have yet to find the bottom of this hole but like every hole it will have one and from there I can only go up.
The one where I talk about hope in horror and junk.
In this rapidly changing world I think we tend to lose sight of the fact that we want and oft times demand things of people at a speed that is unreasonable. We want to put the past on trial every few years, looking at it with new eyes and new social and cultural viewpoints and want to try the lives of people and how they lived based on how we live.
Starting over is never easy, and rarely sought after but it’s a reality of the world. Starting over at forty-four was not what I was hoping to do at this point in my life. Not to say that I ever had some grand plan for things.
I tend to build with the blocks from where they fall, making it work instead of obsessing over why it doesn’t.
Sometimes it is what it is.
In all my years I can’t say I have been fired. I was let go when a place I worked for was closing and I had a lady I did yard work for as a kid decide she didn’t need me any longer but never had I been fired.
It was weird.
It is weird.
I am not going to dive into it other than to say how weird it is and how similar to a romantic break up it was. How the friendship, the connection, and that bond dissolves before your eyes and then it is what it is.
I haven’t been unemployed for a long time. I have been working since I was fifteen and have faced times when I was out of work or was barely working but had never been let go like this. I am still reeling from it because it’s hard to process, like a break up, and hard to come to terms with how A lead to D, even when I know that the path was there, was clear enough for me to clear out my stuff before the act because I could read the way the road was being layed out before me.
But it still stings.
I haven’t been outta work in a while.
A lot is the same – just a little different.
You still register with the unemployment agency. I still had to go into MichWorks to register and to put my information into the system. It was fast, it was easy, and the system seems to have evolved since the last time I went in. I can register online every two weeks instead of calling a phone number.
The feeling of shame is still there, of having to turn to unemployment when I should still have a job.
The fear of What Next. That remains.
As I look for a path forward, for signs in the sky and for a trail in the wilds.
But there’s a tomorrow. And a hundred tomorrows after that.
There’s a future with hope and a new beginning.
Things are just a little overcast right now but the sun remains.
I just need to keep moving forward until it re-emerges.