I have been a spotty contributor to Holidailies for years. Â And by spotty, I mean damn inconsistent. Â I wasn’t going to participate at all this year, because I felt that I really had nothing to contribute. Â And tonight, I said as much to the aforementioned as a neat way of backing out of a regular writing commitment for the month of December (NaNoWriMo once again having eluded me in November.)
Ostensibly, my excuse for not participating was that nine months of unemployment was boring. Â And truly, it is. Â I’m sure that there are plenty of people out there who manage to keep a full schedule and do all kinds of great things while not working. Â Who keep up routines, Â are constantly productive, and enjoying the hell out of all of their free time. Â I am not one of those people.
Here’s the ugly truth: I’m bad with unstructured time. Â And I’m not much better at artificially creating structure that I can sustain. Â Besides the cash (which is much needed right now), the rigors of a job are good for me. Â They keep me honest. Â They keep me well scheduled and on my toes. Â Because I have less free time, I use it much better. Â I manage to get stuff done. Â Unemployment has made me soft (and I don’t just mean physically, though that’s been a problem too).
I keep thinking about how small my life has become in the last nine months. Â How I live in this great city, full of amazing stuff to do, wonderful people in my life, and the fact that I’ve disappeared from most of them, most of the time. Â And certainly, the lack of income has had an effect on my ability to go out and do the things I’m fond of doing, but that’s only part of it. Â Because, I’ll be the first one to tell you that there are a million things to take advantage of here that are free or cheap. Â I live across the street from Central Park. Â And down the block from Lincoln Center. Â And walking distance from a bunch of museums (a couple where I still hold memberships). Â And I can look out my window at the YMCA, which houses both my gym and the pottery studio. Â Somehow, though, without the external pressure of structure, it’s become very easy to not participate.
Sustaining a schedule of activity has become agonizing. Â I have folded into myself and become a shut in. Â And it’s surprised no one as much as me. Â It’s truly against my nature. Â I’m an extrovert. Â I love people, I love being around them and talking to them and interacting with them. Â And I love this city more than I could begin to express. Â More than it’s even cool to admit. Â But, Â I do. Â And right now, I could be living almost anywhere and it wouldn’t really matter. Â Because I feel like the world is passing me by.
Sure, I have been trying to maintain my creative impulses, with, again, somewhat spotty success (latest results can be sampled at Girl vs. Inertia). Â But, my jewelry, that side business I’ve been so keen to build up? Â Pretty well stalled. Â I have endless days to fill where I could be producing and promoting. Â Selling and making money and finding fulfillment from something that I know makes me happy. Â And yet, mostly, not so much. Â Sure I’ve been looking for a job, but no matter how intense that job search, it doesn’t fill up all my days. Â So, what have I been doing?
I’ve watched a lot of TV. Â A lot of movies on Netflix. Â Lots of documentaries. Â I’ve read a lot of books. Â The New York Public Library and I have renewed our friendship, which is not a bad thing. Â I’ve begun to teach myself the ukulele, having learned about six chords so far, though, quite predictably, I’ve not maintained a regular practice schedule and still have delicate, callous free fingers. Â My political geekiness has been on great display over the course of the election and I’ve voraciously consumed (and commented on) the ridiculous circus that our democracy has become. Â I’ve spent ever more time reading about topics that I find fascinating (like the train wreck that is Scientology).
I’m an omnipresent fixture on Facebook, which I sometimes kick myself for, but truthfully, it’s kept me sane. Â When I just can’t manage to interact with the real world, I still manage to participate virtually. Â It’s kept my mind sharp at least. Â It’s kept my reading varied and my banter witty and my laughter loud (my neighbor can attest to that). Â But, it’s not the same in so many important ways. Â And so tonight, when Selila said to me “unemployment can’t define you,” it hit a nerve.
I realized that I’ve let this temporary state (and I have to believe it’s temporary…oh please oh please oh please) define everything. Â And I’ve been punishing myself for not having a job and taken it out on myself for not doing more, being more, having more. Â Rather than seeing the time as a blessing, I’ve seen it as a burden. Â Rather than using it wisely, I’ve been throwing it away. Â And beating myself up for all of it. Â Rather than living, I’ve been waiting.
So, December is a new start. Â And Holidailies is where I’m planting my flag. Â I don’t have much right now, but I have the gift of time, and I need to start looking at it that way. Â And I’m using this space to create that structure and keep me honest, to spur me on, to keep up forward momentum, and not just sit waiting for something (anything) to happen.
It might not be pretty, it might not even be interesting to any one but (or including) me, but it will be active.