In the cold dark before dawn I pull on a and reach into the small dish by the door for my car keys. There’s a heart-shaped stone in the dish that my wife found at the beach, a delicate strand of beads, and several inscribed with . I pick up one with a “V” and rub it. On one side of the coin is inscribed, “To thine own self be true.” On the other, the Serenity Prayer.
I grab aand head for a 6:30 a.m. meeting. Without these meetings it would be difficult to stay in the day, to release my grip on life. But even here, in a room full of people who have experienced so much loss it seems like everyone has a job. Of course that’s not true. I’m hyper-aware of the employed. Perhaps the others, like me, are subdued, choosing instead to listen, to quiet their hearts.
Being unemployed is the most difficult job I’ve ever had. I’m never off the clock. My projects are hundreds of resumes and cover letters. My reward in the past year has been polite rejection or worse no response at all. I have a. I have directed the fund-raising operations of two and edited a newspaper. Like so many other people I never saw this coming and in dark moments I wonder if it will ever end. At 3 a.m.I stare at the ceiling but I don’t see it. Untethered by fear, my mind travels in time. Could I have prepared more for the failed ? Was I really ”overqualified” for the job? At 45 with high school coaching experience, I’m too “mature” to work at a summer basketball camp.
My beautiful wife works overtime to support us. Though she does so without resentment, I can pile up guilt with her hours. I look forward to weekends to see her rest, and dread Mondays when I helplessly watch her begin another 60-hour week.
I notice that the receptionist at the doctor’s office is bilingual, how adept the baristas are where my wife buys coffee. I’m aware of the skill needed to repair my car. I have a new-found respect, and envy, for every vocation in life, as I become acutely aware of my own shortcomings. I never imagined the relief I would find in a temporary job: painting an apartment, or mowing a yard, or selling hot dogs.
It’s late afternoon, and I’m resisting the overwhelming urge to fall asleep. Am I ready to start another year of this? I touch the coin, exhale, and remember that I only have to do it today. That’s how I got a coin with a “V” on it.
I hear a racket out by the street. The garbage collectors are finishing up a good day’s work.
My wife will be home soon.