The Upside of Unemployment

... when can I stop panicking?

When I used to write a weekly blog, the process consumed my monkey brain and helped me impose a sense of order and meaning on the chaos of my week. The real gratification of it, however, was the warm response from my friends who would read it and tell me how much they loved the blog and couldn’t wait to read my next one. All in all, the blog was a good thing. But then I got a job that paid money and I didn’t have time, so I stopped blogging.

Well, the good news is I’m jobless, so time to blog!

This time instead of that clever-but-unsustainable 7-interwoven-things construct I used, my new parameter is to keep this under 1,000 words. Every issue will include at least one book recommendation too. That’s it. That’s my format. Let’s go.

When Can I Stop Panicking?

I feel like at the ripe old age of 50 everything in my life is unsettled. Granted, this is the last week of school, when it’s easy to get emotional. And I know “change is the only constant.” But life seems to have entered a particularly hairy phase for me. The joblessness is stressful, of course, and my husband is starting a new business, plus we need to move by the end of the year. I’m trying to be cool with it all—I keep silently chanting “everything will turn out ok”—but at some point nearly every day I am overtaken by a sickening wash of panic.

I don’t think I’m alone in this—the things that induce my panics are unique to me, sure, but I imagine most of my friends have a daily panic too: there’s the one waiting to hear if she has cancer, the one navigating life after divorce, the one struggling to endure a marriage that should end but can’t for complicated reasons, the one who just conquered her first Father’s Day since her husband died, the one grappling with the vulnerability of starting her own business. It’s all scary and sickening isn’t it? And these are all just the pickles and chips beside the shit sandwich that is Trump and the climate crisis.

So I rely on various hobbies to keep me distracted. I could write about meditation and yoga but I like you all too much. So let’s talk about what I’ve read.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

I listened to this on Audible, and this is one of those books particularly well-suited for the medium. Rooney’s writing is so interior that as I listened, I felt like I was inhabiting the main character’s mind as she made her way through the story. The story itself is delicious in a literary way—two young women make friends with an attractive couple and interesting flirtations ensue and develop. All the relationships, especially the friendship of Frances and Bobbi (who started their relationship as lovers) are written with such a candid precision. Rooney doesn’t show off with her writing; it’s almost spare, but the pinpoint word choice is thrilling and crystalline. Plus, she moves between texts, emails, phone calls, and live conversation just like we all do IRL, which I liked. Some books are sly and subtle, and enter my memory as if the characters were friends of mine or the story was something I myself experienced somehow. This book was like that for me.

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

I read this book the old-fashioned way, using my eyeballs to read words (although you could argue listening to a story is the real old-fashioned way—the pre-literate answer to a post-literate world). When I’m reading prestigious books like this I like to read the actual book so I can flaunt it on the train and the coffee shop and look really smart and literary. I’ve often claimed how Márquez is my favorite writer but I never made it through this book. Everyone has the same name and nearly the entire thing is told with very little live action. But late this winter I decided I would conquer it. I know this makes me a giant nerd, but I believe in this age of tweets and TLDR, there is something kind of radical about digging in to a long difficult book. This is not that difficult, mind you, but it is long and since everyone is named José Arcadio or Aureliano José, you do have to pay close attention. It was worth the effort. It’s epic and beautiful. Here I am panicking about what the next few months will bring me, and a novel like this reminds me that everything will change and nothing will change. It’s a one-of-a-kind book, but I liked Love in the Time of Cholera more.

Alright, I am not trying to set the world on fire with this blog. Just trying to get it going.  See you next week? Love, Alix