Every fiber in my being is telling me to go home. To send resumes. Work on my manuscript.
That I’ve been downtown too long already. Eating lunch. Shopping for sunglasses. Having fun.
That I don’t “deserve” it. That I better get back home and get cracking. Find a job and start making money. And until I do, I have no right “playing” like this.
It’s an old message.
The first time I heard it I was in my late 20s, when my event-fundraising contract was not renewed.
“Enjoy this time,” my therapist said. “Go to matinees. Museums. Walks in Golden Gate Park.
“Soon enough you’ll be working again and you’ll regret not taking advantage of this time … Trust me, I know.”
And she did. It had happened to her.
But I didn’t much enjoy that time off. Or all the other times I’ve been unemployed or underemployed since.
Not until a couple of years ago, when I took on the challenge of the Artist Date — the weekly, solo flight of fancy as prescribed by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way.
Until then, time not working meant time I scrambled. Wrung my hands. Ran the numbers. Sat in front of the computer. Somehow equating worry with work.
It didn’t work. And it didn’t bring me work. Just suffering. Which I seemed to somehow think I deserved.
When I took on The Artist’s Way as if it were my job, I saw the folly of my constant motion. And I learned, albeit slowly, to enjoy my underemployed status.
Friends marveled at my charmed life. Museum lectures. Book stores. Dance classes. Opera. I did too.
But deep down, a part of me didn’t believe I deserved it.
Perhaps it still doesn’t.
It is the voice that shames me for returning to Chicago after a year abroad and finding myself, once again, underemployed. And reminds me that unlike the years of 2012-2015, I am no longer receiving alimony. It says, “Be afraid.”
Even though I am doing all the right things. Sending resumes. Writing cover letters. Incorporating edits and feedback.
Registering with temp agencies. Seeing massage clients. Applying for non-career jobs.
It insists it’s not enough. That I should go home and do more. As if the one hour I have set aside for my Artist Date – number 3.2 (119) – will somehow make a difference in my ability to secure full-time work.
Even though I have enough money for today. And even tomorrow.
I tell this voice to “fuck off!” and walk down Washington and into the Chicago Cultural Center. “Which, by the way,” I tell it, “is free.”
The effect is immediate. What I used to get from that first gulp of booze. What I used to think was magic in a bottle. Relief.
My chest feels flushed, my heart full. The voice is quiet. I am smiling.
I’ve been here dozens of times but today I am particularly struck by the beauty of the former public library. So much so I never make it to the exhibit on the fourth floor.
Glittering tile work. Quotes carved in marble. In English. Hebrew. Arabic. Chinese.
Light shining through the recently cleaned stained-glass cupola.
A poster that reads, “There are no degrees of human freedom or human dignity. Either a man respects another as a person or he does not.” James Cone.
I’d add, “…respects himself, or herself, or does not … enough to say ‘fuck off.’ ”