Sunday, July 24, 2016


When I lost my job last month, I had imagined that I would be able to blog and write to my heart's content; after all, it's not as though I have a real job to get to! However, I find that I have less time now than I did when I was full time. I spend my time trying to plug the gaping holes in my life that have suddenly yawned open, and I can smell the threat of destitution swelling and ebbing. I spend a great deal of time praying that the band-aid plugs hold for longer than I expect.

Some of my very good friends tell me that I should take this time to finish my book, that it is a gift from the Universe, a sure sign. I am very grateful for the comforting thought, but my book is finished, has been for a couple of years. I don't know how to work on it since I am too close to it and don't have an editor or anyone to advise or suggest. So touching that project is out of question for now. I continue to write stories and try to get them out; some of them are even accepted and nothing else helps like those. At any rate, my writing is a necessity and not contingent upon the amount of free time I have.

There is another activity that eats up my time, staring out of windows and worrying about all the big and small things that are now different. I stare outside the window with the cats and watch the leaves, worrying as the sky darkens and the rain begins. Staring into the internet window is a different kind of worrying: I scroll and apply most assiduously for all full time jobs that I am capable of. I worry that I am not visible to these jobs. I know what my perfect job looks like, and I think that I glimpse it often from the corner of my eye. However, the right constellations have wheeled away, some bridge has broken down, there is a cosmic disconnect somewhere, and it remains out of clear, direct sight.

Weekends are the worst. During the week, as I make phone calls, apply, grade papers, organize and prioritize, I have the illusion of doing something, somehow progressing. But on weekends, the world naps and I am at a loss. During my lowest times, I fear I have turned into a citizen of Eliot's Unreal City, of Wasteland; how could I have, when did I allow such a large part of my self be dependent on my job? By now, I should have begun to feel the relief of less responsibility. Granted, I am teaching part time at the same place, but I am teaching only the courses I have written and created from ground up; this situation should feel like a wonderful thing! And I must confess to enjoying the time in the classroom; yet it is tinged with the awareness that the institution and I owe no fealty to each other any longer, that our tomorrows are irretrievably severed, and as time goes by, these classes, these classrooms will only move farther away and finally set below my horizons.

I suppose what I miss the most, besides the obvious benefits that accompany the friendship of an institution, then, is belonging to an institution. There is so much comfort in owning a place of work as one's own; I would argue that it is as imperative to being meaningfully alive as having a room of one's own. It feels like one belongs to a wider circle of reference, and since the circle is wider, one will be well taken care of. This circle of reference provides a temenos and we all need firm land beneath our feet. This awareness of a temenos is what is liberating, not all these oodles and oodles of undefined hours. What I have right now is not free time; this is chthonic time. It does not belong to any earthly concern.

If my life were a research paper, this time would be indicated by ellipses enclosed in square brackets; not relevant to what came before or after.

July is almost done. Soon, the festivals will begin. The year wheels on and when I blink again, it might well be December. However, the Upanishads, one of my major touchstones, claim that there are forests of eternity contained between eye-blinks. This post goes out in hope that the eye-blinks wheel my world towards a belonging that brightens the horizons and puts my feet back on terra firma

Friday, July 1, 2016

Of Providence and Sparrows

It has been a week since my job veered away from me. There is a long weekend before I can become an official adjunct at the same place. It all feels like a century has whirled by since the time I was a full time employee, safe beneath a spreading shade of that status. I have been still, stunned, but the world around me has been spinning at twice its speed, and yet, I have perceived it like never before; that amazement is the reason why this week feels like a hundred years have passed.

Hemingway claims that courage is grace under pressure. I love imagining scenarios, and before last week, I had always imagined that I would be collected, graceful, and dignified, should a lay-off ever happen to me. This imagined self was more like a penny-dreadful heroine than a normal person. I would make cosmic, grand gestures and exit so that no one ever forgets and I'd leave behind a world that is more grey. However, no such thing happened when I was actually laid off. I don't remember much of it, mainly the disbelief, punctuated with spasms of devastation and panic. And I am going back next week, which makes me a little more nervous than I'd like to admit.

And then there was the desperate scrounging. I know that logically, I should have taken this week off, gone hiking, found a lake to build a cabin by, examined my place in the larger universe. I did no such thing; instead, I raced down cyber highways in search of a perfect place to apply for a job. I explored e-alleyways and e-market-squares alike, as though I were one of those Pac-Man mouth-figures of ancient video games, hungry for every imagined and real position, casting a ravenous eye on every ad that popped up, wondering at the full-time jobs that had birthed it. I wanted to strew the best pieces of myself all over the world, so that a job, just casually passing by, might notice something shiny and pick it, me up. I'd fallen off a carousel; it seemed unfair that I could still hear its music and watch the riders laugh.

I had many well-wishers at this time. People had many bits of advice: I should move to California, to Florence, to London (I can't! I live with cats!); I should completely reinvent myself and use my retirement nest egg to begin a business of my own (I can't! What if I run it to the ground?); and my favorite, I should write a best-seller, a la J. K. Rowling! The last one affected me enough to send me scuttling down the internet and I wasted a whole half hour Googling literary agents before giving myself a stern talking to, to get-a-grip-for-gods'-sake!

Finally, there is this incomprehension, this inability to do or grasp . Everywhere I e-went, I could see busy, busy words fluttering, about the best business practices, the latest skills and where to get them, how innovative motivation defeated the status quo,  what people felt about their full-time jobs, what these full-time jobs felt about the people working them, erudite reaction pieces to current events, everywhere, employers, employees and jobs, trending, tweeting. I often felt dizzy and cold as my fingers, helpless in their feverish scrolling scrambled around, trying to find a perch. It is no wonder that things that flit and flutter are not granted the quiet of long lives.

A lot of people have told me that this lay-off could be a blessing in disguise. If it is, it is well-disguised. I grant that it might be my myopia, but I can discern no special Providence in this flight of sparrows.

If I were writing a short story around what is happening to me, it'd be a caricature, and had I the skill, I'd illustrate it with single-dimensional stick figures, like paper dolls, blank on the back. Unfortunately, the desperation and rejection are all too real. I do see genuine sympathy and concern in the eyes of my family and friends, but like the rest of humanity, I would prefer to see admiration and envy instead.

Of course, I know that this season of my discontent will pass, like the monsoon. However, before it does, I seek the solace of the written word, to validate this spell I am living through. I take heart and think of the fairy tale of Brier Rose, or Sleeping Beauty: the stew remains unseasoned, the chicken un-plucked, the flies un-swatted for a hundred years as the princess sleeps; however, she does awake, and with a slap, a cluck, a splash, life returns.

This post goes out in hopes that this bleak century may be dreamed away, and that thorns and briers remember to bloom into flowers. After all, I must believe what I preach: life is exactly like a fairy tale!