Surviving Unemployment… or the “Pink Slip Blues”

Help WantedIt comes out of nowhere, or maybe it’s been looming for months.  You’re going along, following your routines, and meeting your deadlines, and  *whoosh! * the rug is pulled out from under you.  You’ve been laid off.

We all know someone who’s lost their job, but it seems like something that happens to other people – until it happens to you.  If you’ve ever seen “Up in the Air” with George Clooney, then you’ve seen very realistic firings and the varied responses that people have to them.  Well, when my husband lost his job in January 2009 his reaction was one  of positive thinking – we would ‘tighten our belts’ and ‘tough it out’ until he could find another job.

Wouldn’t you know that month would be the month that our dishwasher would bite the dust.  With his new found free time, my husband tried like mad to fix it.  He got out his soldering gun and looked up the broken part online, but to no avail.  He broke the news gently, “Honey, we are going to have to wash the dishes by hand until I get a job.”  And so we did.  I pulled out a ‘stepper’ I had purchased from Get Toned at Home, and stepped while washing.  I did have much nicer abs that year.  I saw it as a “make lemonade moment”.  Little did I know there would be so many of those moments that year.WHEN LIFE HANDS YOU LEMONS, MAKE LEMONADE

One of the most wonderful outcomes of this challenging time was learning just how great our community is.  We felt no shame in our situation.  My husband was a top producer at his prior job, but the corporation was tanking on Wall Street, and few were spared.  So, we told everyone our unfortunate news, and what a good idea that was!  We learned quickly how many programs exist to help those in need.  From the children’s school lunches to their sports fees, to extracurricular classes, we were able to find lots of financial assistance.  I learned that food stamps are now dispensed by a gold card called EBT  that you can swipe easily and discreetly at the machine you use for your ATM/credit card at check out.  What a help that was for our family of 6!

The first area to be cut– sitters and socializing.  I still had my Book Club and playgroups for the kids to keep me connected, but what I found was that I had the best kind of friends, too – the kind that are there in need.  When my dear friend Elizabeth (a contributor here) had a home party for CAbi clothes that winter with the new girl from Dallas as presenter (Carrie Humphreys – also a contributor here), I went to the party knowing full well that I wouldn’t (couldn’t) buy anything.  I started helping the others try on clothes after Carrie’s presentation, and Carrie asked me if I might consider being her assistant.  I said yes and have been with her ever since.  That day a few friends secretly picked out two pieces from the line for me which they casually bestowed on me at one of our kid’s sports games.  I was bowled over!

That was only the tip of the iceberg, though.  These amazing women never left me out of a lunch celebration or group outing.  For a year they kept me close and cheered us on.  We learned that the beauty of loss is when you see what you still have.   My husband and I grew closer to each other and our community in our hour year of need, and what seemed to be disaster was really a blessing in disguise.  Learning to live lean is a great lesson in these uncertain times, and I know the experience opened our children’s eyes to a new reality – one that much of the world faces daily.  Is it possible that we are better, more empathetic people now?  I sure hope so.  What I do know is that it really does “take a village” to get through the tough moments.

By the way, we replaced that dishwasher and I smile every time I turn it on.  Do you have a layoff story or a tip to share?

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