I have been unemployed — and actively seeking employment — for about 17 months. I took some time for retraining in the middle of this work drought, and the certification I earned has increased my job prospects.
I’ve had a few interviews and a couple of good leads since I was upgraded. But nothing has materialized.
I remember hearing Jimmy Stewart telling Johnny Carson something about himself that I found incredible, given Mr. Stewart’s long and illustrious film career. He told Carson that in between movies, he would panic and loose heart, fearing that he would never work again. That the last film he had completed would be indeed that, his last film. Of course, the call from the agent would come in and the feeling would dissipate. Until the current project was done. Then the cycle would begin anew.
I fall into the Jimmy Stewart Syndrome at least once a day. When I realize what’s going on in my head, I take a deep breadth and try to return to the present moment, looking for peace and safety. I then look at my To-Do List and I take the next right action towards improving my financial situation.
This prescription, or course of action, sounds a lot easier to carry out than I’ve found in actual practice. Fear and stress are a powerful, even deadly, combination. Bills that keep piling up and calls from creditors that continue to come in at the most inopportune times and resources that are less than the obligations to be met can darken the sunniest of days. There’s always the temptation to give into the fear. And despair waits on the other side of every unanswered resume or promising lead gone bust.
I found one thing works better than anything else in sustaining me through these difficult times: maintaining a deep sense of gratitude for what is working and for the blessings received. Many years ago, when I was going through a similarly difficult stretch, a friend suggested that I write a gratitude list. I didn’t have a better idea so I tried it. I also respected my friend and admired the way he carried on with his life.
That simple practice proved helpful. Not magical, but helpful. It’s saved my equanimity in many difficult moments since by giving me a balanced, realistic assessment of the situation I’m facing. It reminds me that the situation is difficult but not hopeless. Besides, I find inspiration in my fellow citizens, some of whom are dealing with much more severe issues than me and they do it with grace and courage and patience.
Which brings me to the story of Job.
“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job,” begins the book in the Old Testament.
The story details the many calamities that befell Job, a man that “was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” . No matter how bad it got, Job refused to curse God. He wasn’t going to play the blame game. Job complained and he questioned, but mostly he waited patiently for his fortune to change and the situation to improve.
My situation — and the situation of all those affected by the current financial meltdown — will change. Some for the better and in some case, it will change for the worse. As Bob Dylan sings: “When you think that you’ve lost everything, you find out you can always lose a little more…”
The challenge continues to be remaining calm and optimistic, regardless of whatever obstacles fate throws my way. To face life with positive expectations and not let fear of the future steal the precious now. I when I’m willing to look at the present, it isn’t too difficult to see how fortunate I am.
And as Dylan say in another, less dark, line from one of his songs: “I know that fortune is waiting to be kind.”