Monday, October 17, 2011

The Unemployment Diaries- Safety Net

It’s often hard to know how honest or serious to be when writing this. I don’t want people to think ‘ugh, not this bitching again’ and click away but neither am I good at pretending all is lollipops and roses. So for today, the beginning of the work week for many, bear with me.

Back in April I filed for unemployment benefits so for the last six months I’ve been getting weekly checks. They’re equivalent to about 40% of my salary but they help me pay the bills and, more importantly, mean I don’t have to dip into my 401K to stay solvent. In short it’s been my safety net. I’m not proud of it but neither am I ashamed as for 30 years I paid into the system and now, unfortunately, I need that money. It’s simply a fact.

Thursday I got the letter saying that my benefits had run out. I guess I’ve been the queen of denial because for some reason I thought they lasted a year. Yes, I know, it’s embarrassingly stupid- expecially for someone whose profession is research. When I finished reading I had to put my head between my knees because I thought I would pass out. Fear lodged itself like a lump of coal in my throat- hot, hard, choking. The physical sensations were as painful as the howling in my head and yet I couldn’t move. Some primal function in my brain stem felt that if I stayed very still this would go away. This, of course, means I have as much chance at survival as the bunny who freezes in the grass when the hawk flies over.

All my thoughts of the new adventure of turning 50 and perhaps changing directions flew out of my head in an instant. Whimsical, new agey paradigms are hard to hold onto when you’re afraid you can’t pay the mortgage. Or, you can but only by dipping into your retirement funds. Since I’m on a full emotional luge run to disaster I’ll remind you that my fears about retirement run deep thanks to my MS. There is absolutely no way to predict when my ability to support myself will be gone and when it is, it’s likely to go in a big way. Enough said.

Thankfully, after 45 minutes on hold the next morning I was told that I qualified for extended benefits so I have another 5 months but at a reduced rate. As I paced the house for those 45 minutes waiting to talk to a human I thought what it must be like for those who are about to be evicted, foreclosed upon, have small children to feed…so many people who have moved beyond fear to desperation. I’m not there and for that I’m grateful but saddened for all those who are.

My only (belabored) point here is how close to the precipice I feel.  Getting that letter was like the ground giving way beneath my feet and knowing that once I start falling there’s no way to stop. Keeping fear at bay and staying open to life gets harder as the safety net gets smaller.

Source: via Catherine on Pinterest


Sarah Mac said...

Oh Catherine, I do feel for you. I can empathise being in a similar position although without the added worry of ill health hanging over me.

I too paid into the system for many years and so I don't feel any guilt over claiming something back but it's not where I want to be. I want to make a better life for myself and my family and make provision for the future too.

I hope when you get your head around this that you will find a way to safeguard your future and make the present a happier place. xx

Britta said...

Dear Catherine,
you have my deep sympathy for the shock you felt - and the feeling that someone has torn away the earth under you. I don't know how to offer comfort - I can only say that I send you my compassion and wishes that it will turn to good - as I believe it will.

Nicole said...

Three months in, and I am dreading the next chapter. :-(

Catherine said...

Thank you, dear ladies, I'm always grateful for good wishes and positive thinking! Every day is different and I am doing my best to stay in positive place and be appreciative for all I do have. Sometimes, I just need to release and writing does that.

Nicole- I so hope you find something soon. You have a great attitude and I think of you often because I know you're dealing with the same thing.

Abby said...

You know my thoughts on the issue, but I just wanted to add that I think it's healthy to "emotionally spew" through your writing. No one thinks you whine, as even in a difficult situation, you present yourself with grace and maturity. Just as you can look back on the posts when you were feeling more Zen, so can you look back on times like these.

You might be at the edge, but you can always pull back, inhale and go hour to hour. We all can ;)

tweedlibrarian said...

Catherine, I'm so sorry about this. You've worked so hard for years, and 6 months of 40% of your salary is not enough these days. And then to get that amount cut is astounding...

Take good care of yourself - I can't imagine how scared I'd be, but as Abby said, you handle things with grace and maturity. Vent away! And no, you're not a whiner.

asampler said...

Oh, Catherine, I didn't for a moment think you were whining and it was too elegantly written to click away from.
All the best,
J x

Kathy G said...

I've got to agree with those who said you're not a whiner. You write about difficult topics with thoughtfulness and courage.

i am pisspot said...

Catherine, your writing in this post is so captivating and dignified - thank you for sharing.

It's really ok to channel your worries and fears through your writing, we all do, it helps.

Keep going, you'll pull through this.

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