Thursday, May 29, 2014

On the days it all comes crashing down...

Today my husband received yet another “Thank you for applying, but….” e-mail. 
Today that e-mail was the tipping point. 
While I dealt with my own emotions, which welled up and overflowed on a level that showed this was about much more than just not getting the job, I also needed to respond supportively to my husband’s needs as he processed the rejection. 

As my thoughts swirled around in my head, I acknowledged that most of the things people say in similar situations were not expressions I was comfortable using. You know things like:

When a door closes a window opens.
The right job will come along at the right time.
There’s a better job out there.
Everything will be o.k.   
What you think about you bring about.
You need to manifest __________ in your life.
God has a plan. 
All in God’s timing.
And all the other trite, faith based, or LOA type platitudes that people offer up when someone suffers a disappointment. 

What could I say to my husband that was supportive? What could I say to myself to help me get past the tears and the feelings of wanting to “Hulk-Out” and smash things?  

My husband has been unemployed for 20 months. He is charismatic, a quality employee, a self-starter, a creative problem solver, and extremely knowledgeable in the fields of Early Childhood Education, Parent Education and, ever increasingly, Adult Basic Education. He has 3.5 degrees. He’s published a book on parenting and written a novel that he’s waiting on his beta readers to get through so he can make revisions. He’s awesome. But after a while, and by that I mean almost two decades of underemployment and low wages, previous unemployment and the last 20 months, the hope wears thin. My ability to generate enthusiasm for prospective jobs decreases. His enthusiasm for spending hours and hours filling out applications and supplemental questions, drafting cover letters and tweaking his resume falters. 

So what do I say when yet another “Thanks for applying but you weren’t selected” e-mail shows up in his inbox? Particularly when this particular rejection came from people who know him, who should be aware of just how awesome he is? 

My response is, “That sucks.” Simple, to the point, and no hope required. Because if your friends won’t hire you what hope do you have that someone who has never met you is going to pluck your resume out of the pile? It stings, it’s frustrating, it’s pretty much soul crushing. And as the wife of this amazing man I want to take away those feelings, I want to make it all better, and I can’t. 

And so I well up with tears of frustration and impotence. Anger surfaces. It sucks. And there is nothing immediate that I can do to make it better. At the same time, all the inadequacies of our house, life, resources, and larger situation come crashing down. Our kids are now teens and there are so many things we haven’t gotten to do with them or provide for them. Their childhood is over and it wasn’t what I’d envisioned. 

The possibility that we may live the rest of our lives in poverty, all that we have to offer the world forever unrecognized or not utilized, looms large. What if it never gets better? What if this is as good as it gets? Because if you come by my house you’ll see that this isn’t really all that great. And the tears welled up again, but this time in mourning for the childhood that has slipped by in a blur of trying to keep the bills paid and the challenges of health issues. 

What do I do in moments like this, when it all comes crashing down? When one thing causes a cascade of feelings that aren’t necessarily directly related to the original trigger? I recognize that I’ve felt this way before and I’ll probably feel this way again. I acknowledge the crappiness of what’s going on. I don’t try and talk myself out of it, but I do recognize that these feelings will pass. 

Gradually I find the good in my life again. I hang out with my girls as we watch an episode of “Chuck” together, go for a walk with one of them, make them yummy food, and do some dishes. I get back to living life as it is. 

Eventually I’ll find hope again. It’s possible that in a few days some other possibility will be on the horizon, or it won’t, there’s no way to know. It’s possible some day we’ll live on the coast or spend a year in Hawaii. It’s possible that someone will hire my husband and pay him a wage that can support our family or he’ll write a book that will become wildly popular. It’s possible that I’ll write something that will be generate an income or I’ll end up with a career that supports our family so my husband has the opportunity to pursue his passions without the pressure of keeping the bills paid. Things may get better. Until then I’ll be honest with myself about how I’m feeling, there are no wrong feelings. Until then I’ll embrace my family, thankful for the relationships I have with my teenagers and with my husband. 

For now I will say to my husband, “That sucks and I’m sorry. I would have hired you.” He knows that’s true. We will have been together 20 years this coming October and there’s no one else I want by my side on the hard days. 


  1. As a husband who has been out of work on three occasions - 10 months, 9 months & 24 months - I found your transparency remarkable. You are a gifted writer and this column will live long after he is employed again as a symbol of your love and devotion to him. It does suck - and there are no easy answers - except that both you and he have to get up in the morning and do it all over again. Bummer...

  2. Reading that totally did not suck! It was a great read, full of the realness of hard days and hard years, and yet still encouraging and heartwarming. A tough mix to create. Nice writing, Jenna! And it totally sucks that Jess didn't get that latest job he applied for!