I have a draft I haven't published from every day this week. An excerpt from Saturday's:
Last night was a late night. It wasn't supposed to be. We got in bed at 10:30, after 2 more episodes of the West Wing (Netflix streaming has all 156 of them, so I'm re-addicted and JP is re-enduring) and turned out the lights. JP was quieter than normal, which means something is bothering him.
I've learned, over our 11.5 years together, that we handle botherations differently. I, probably not surprisingly, want to talk about it. Generally at least 11 times, reaching different conclusions each time, and then, when I have it all nearly settled, I need talk about it at least once more. JP is to contribute supportive sounds, but no solutions. Solutions imply that I can't solve it myself and/or that there even is a solution, two things that are rarely true regarding issues that are bothering me enough to lend themselves to the 11 + 1 number of discussions. JP, on the other hand, withdraws. He is always quieter than me, but when something is bothering him, it is deeper and it makes my heart hurt and it does no good to ask what is wrong. I can hug him more and hold his hand while he falls asleep, but the best way to help is to just be quiet with him until he resolves it or decides to talk about it. And so, lately, in the evening after the kids are in bed, we spend a lot of time being quiet together.
The lights were off and I assumed JP was asleep (those two events generally occurring simultaneously) when suddenly he said, "can you believe it's been nearly 10 years since I graduated college?" He graduated in May of 2004, so it's been 8.5, not 10.0, and in that time he's worked for an international oil company, gotten married, moved to Chicago, left the bigoil job to be an investment banker, had a child, gotten an MBA, started a company, had another child, and worked for another Fortune 100 company, so, yeah, I could believe it had been
But I knew what he meant. And it's so hard for me to respond to statements like that (and others like the quiet, "what if I never find anything?" and, "what if no one ever hires me?" from a few days ago). Saturday's was just that this is not where he thought he would be right now. I can't imagine any unwillingly unemployed person feels that they are where they thought they'd be, and it's so hard to figure out what to say next because I graduated college with him, full of dreams of myself in 10 years and I know what he means. And I know exactly how I would brush away all the positive, optimistic things he would be saying if the situation was reversed. I said them anyway, of course, because they're real and I believe them and so should he, but it was fear of moments like that sent me reeling so hard when we found out he'd been part of the latest "workforce reduction" at his company. It wasn't money, though that simmers below, and it wasn't any sort of disappointment or long-term fear for the future, it was knowing that moments like last night were coming and that I couldn't head them off or make them better.
And then there are the nights, in the midst of an insomnia spiral at 2 a.m., that I let myself wonder, what if he doesn't find anything in the next 3 months? the next 6? How can we handle that on a practical level? How the hell can I handle it on an emotional level? How can he? And I want to shake him awake so he can make my bad thoughts go away like he always does, but I don't because I don't want to tell him those thoughts are why I'm bleary-eyed with a piercing headache 4.5 hours later while I'm getting ready for work.
When I write something after 10 p.m. I try to wait until the next day to publish it. Mostly to clear up spelling issues or random fragments of sentences I'd feverishly half-changed when, paragraphs later, I was struck with the perfect word for a thought written way up above, but also to make sure I'm still okay with making it public (and that anyone whose name pops up in the torrent would be okay with it as well). For the above excerpted draft, holding it back was as simple as having a good Sunday. We went to the zoo, the water gardens, two of our favorite parks- all free, all fun. The kids were absolutely delightful, the weather was cold and beautiful, we practically had the city to ourselves. I covered myself in the delight of the kids' squeals when the white tiger walked right up to their viewing window and laughter as they played a spontaneous game of "house" in a grassy nook of the water gardens. I was filled with gratitude for my healthy, vibrantly happy children, my loving, also healthy husband, my job, our home, our pudgy but steadfast dog who didn't run out to the street even when we left the driveway gate open for 3 hours while he was in the backyard after our walk. As I worked on a complicated 15-step, 5-pan lemon rosemary braised chicken with whipped potatoes recipe on Sunday night, I reminded myself that even though we can't eat out, I can still fill my cart with delicious, healthy ingredients and I have time every night to cook with them. Perspective was within my grasp, and I vowed again to put new words and energy behind my support for JP.
But then the middle of the night comes again. And the week starts and there's no news, so few jobs, every one he can find already applied for, and it hurts. He just found out another possible position is no longer being filled and yet another has pushed hiring back to an undefined future date and all evening I look over at him on the couch we're sharing and he's a million miles away in a world of self-doubt and loathing I can't seem to pierce. I try, and he pats my hand and smiles, and goes under again. And I know four months isn't that long, particularly when it falls over the holidays and year-end, and there's genuine reason to believe things will pick up early in the New Year- I know that and I truly believe it when I remind him of the same, and yet, it is has been 125 days of no news and no change and it is hard when it seems like nothing is even on the horizon. It is so hard and he is sad and that makes me sad too and I find that lately I can either write about this or write nothing at all. And when I write nothing I stay up late turning over phrases in my head until I get out of bed and write them down anyway. Write them down and save them and go back to bed and put his hand in mine some more.
It is hard.