Four weeks, still sane…so far

It does not seem that long, but it has been four weeks without a job.

I’m still OK, and busy. Sending out applications and resumes every day, working out more often, and spending less and when I do spend, it’s cash and it’s done with care.

I’m not cutting back much on competitions at this point. Three swim meets, a triathlon and a 10K are on the schedule in the next six weeks. I’d like to add a half-marathon to that, if a job offer comes through. Or a 5K, if it doesn’t. It’s all about price at this point.

I’m taking the opportunity to search outside my employment comfort level, and doing more freelance work. The house has never been cleaner (you can walk into our master bedroom closet now and not fear breaking a toe by tripping on wayward shoes, dropped hangars or misplaced backpacks).

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The time off has afforded the opportunity to photograph local art.

The Husband would probably like the home office to himself more often, but he has exhibited patience and good humor about it (I bribed him with homemade oatmeal raisin cookies).

In spite of advice to the contrary, I have not changed my habits. I still wake up and go to bed at basically the same time I did when working. I still maintain discipline by dressing as if I am working, and having a to-do list each day, with specific tasks to complete. The temptation to curl up on the couch and watch idiot TV programming is getting stronger, I admit, as is the sense of occasional depressive thoughts, such as the notion that not one single employer is ever going to find me or my talents worthy of money. But in the end, as I said at the beginning, I’m still doing OK and working on getting back to work.

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Filed under athletic competition, budget, employment, Exercise, freelancing, inspirations, mental health, unemployment

How To Be Normal When Life Isn’t

job-hunting

Sixteen days; still looking.

Two weeks and two days without a job so far. That’s two weeks longer than my previous longest layoff. That’s two days longer than my longest vacation.

I don’t hate myself yet, but I am bored with myself at times. I alternate between feeling optimistic and hopeful and feeling like an old useless hack of a human being.

I’ve learned a few things about keeping as sane and close to normal when life isn’t what I planned:

  • I still get up at my normal time. Why not sleep in? At some point, I plan to have a job. Getting up as per usual now will make it easier to keep doing it. And I sit down at my home office desk at the same time I would have done so while working.
  • I still work out every day. It keeps my brain engaged and my body functioning well. It also keeps me from the pity-party junk food binges.
  • I put on makeup and get office-dressed Monday through Friday. Just because I am sitting alone in front of my  computer, doesn’t mean I should look like a slob doing it.
  • I eat well, and stick to a good diet as much as possible. It’s the same as maintaining sleep and workout patterns. Breaking good habits now, even for a short time, will make it harder to resume them later.
  • I still maintain contact with the outside world – friends, family and neighbors. I’m not proud of being unemployed, but you never know when one of these folks might have a job lead. And they are not at fault for my not having a job.
  • I do other stuff throughout the day besides job hunt. I clean bathrooms, run a few miles, sweep floors, fix lunch, make a cup of tea, write this blog, or whatever I need to do in order to divert the brain cells for a bit.
  • I force myself to branch out in the job hunt, and consider other lines of work, alternate hours/days of work and other locations than what I consider ideal.
  • I get my financial life in order. I’ve done a pretty good job putting money aside, so I have something to use besides unemployment, if and when that time comes. I’ve rescheduled doctor visits (to be covered while I still have my current insurance), signed up for ACA coverage and paid off bills.
  • I budget using cash. I use an envelope system labeled with different spending categories. Nothing extra, nothing in the “wants” category for right now.
  • I maintain a daily written schedule. Just a list next to my computer, where I can see what’s coming up each day. At the top of the list each day is “Job Search” and everything else comes after that.

These are the rituals that are keeping me going at the moment. If you have any more suggestions from your own personal unemployment trenches, let me know.

 

 

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What first place feels like

This was the wettest race I’ve ever done, other than a race in a pool. And I’ve seen rainstorms before. This was epic, however. Short in duration (about a half-hour), but epic. Blinding sideways rain that left you wondering if your next step was a safe one, and howling wind that brought down tree limbs. The kind of weather that makes people not show up, or quit after a mile.

And I have to admit, that’s how I got my first place division win at a 10K this morning. My competition showed up, and was ahead of me, but the rain annoyed them enough to DNF.

On the one hand, a win is a win, right? On the other hand, I would have preferred to get this the right way, by beating my opponents outright. But there was no give up and go home for me. It was a long drive there and a long drive back. Too many miles to live with disappointment.

And compared to being laid off (which occurred two weeks ago, for the first time in my forty-plus years of working), running in a driving rain and howling wind isn’t that bad. It pushes you mentally and physically, especially when there are what we call “hills” down here (AKA the causeway drawbridges) to climb.

I’m still looking for work, but not panicking at this point. I have options and the word is out that I am available. Meanwhile, I have this accomplishment done and the medal is on the rack, not hanging with any others at the moment. It’s just on a hook by itself. I’d like to tell you that I plan to rest and enjoy this one, but there are more runs on the schedule. And training resumes as soon as my shoes dry out.

rainyfeet

We saw a bit of blue sky, but not enough to call it a nice day today.

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The Lure of the Garage

I walk around my neighborhood most evenings, and I have become fascinated by garages. I’m not the Peeping Tammy type, but when the doors are open, your gaze is drawn that way, after all.

You can tell a lot about a family, a life and a history by what theirgargages garage looks like. No, none of them look this bad. But many are interesting.

For one thing, garages tend to be pretty full around here. There are a lot of kids, so you have the requisite bikes, scooters, toys, games, stick-and-ball gear. There are swimming pools, so add floating objects, pool chemicals and cleaners. We don’t have snow, but we still need shovels, brooms, rakes and lawnmowers. The do-it-yourself types cannot have enough electrical cords, tools, paints and tables loaded with projects partly done. Washers and dryers tend to mate in the garage.

And then there’s garage furniture: the extra fridge (one neighbor has two full-size refrigerators in his garage). One neighbor has a small home brewery (he makes outstanding beer, by the way). One runs an entire landscaping business out of his garage. It’s amazing what will fit in a two-car structure, when you forgo putting two cars in it.

And plenty of old, unused things wind up in the garages. I’ve seen a small, dingy fishing boat undergoing restoration; a family of bikes, rusty and unused, yet occupying the space that memories are made of; woodworking tools, displays of fishing rods and bags of soil, mulch and plant food for that oft-promised but yet to be planted garden.

Around here, we even manage to get our cars into the garage sometimes. Mostly though, we get our hopes and plans stored in there. We take them out and enjoy them when we can, but mostly keep them safe and dry for someday.

 

 

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Doing It When You Don’t Want To

IRoads I was not exactly raring to go this morning. It was cold and drizzly, and it’s Day 1 being laid off from a job. I’ve never been laid off from a job. Not in over forty years of working. It is an odd feeling, to say the least.

The pool is closed today, so my schedule said I was running instead. My brain sort of said my schedule really should not matter. My heart dictated differently. So I got up at my normal time, layered up and headed to the track for sprints and bleacher work. After all, my first 10K of the new year is a week and a half away.

I got to the track and ran my laps. The bleachers were wet and slick and not looking all that safe. But something propels me to get up there and run them anyway. I am pushed on, not so much by my lack of a place to go today (though I do have work to do and resumes to send out and interviews to set up) as I am by a book I am reading, Find A Way, the autobiography of marathon swimmer Diana Nyad. It was not until she was 64 years old and on her fifth try that she achieved her dream of the Cuba-to-Florida swim. That means there were four failures before that. Failures that took a toll on her family, her friends, her health and her finances. And that’s on top of a childhood filled with sexual and physical abuse at the hands of both her father and swimming coach. The loss of her brother to schizophrenia and her mother to Alzheimer’s. How does anyone climb out of a place so dark  and not only survive, but keep focused and training and moving forward until they achieve exactly what they know they can do?

She did, and compared to her, my dark place is a just little ditch. The book was a Hanukkah gift, but the timing of its arrival was perfect. I’ll be fine.

 

 

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January 7, 2016 · 1:51 am

Big calendar, big plans

One year, three triathlons. I never thought I’d do one, let alone three.

The first, the super-sprint, was the test. The second and third were sprints, and in fact, I finished second in one and third in the other. You’re damned right I got the medals. They are hanging next to my bed, so they are the last thing I see at night and the first thing I see in the morning.

I’ve got one of those big paper flip calendars in front of me, with enough room to write in my races and my training schedule. Yes, I have a smartphone, Excel spreadsheet and all the other digital doo-dads. I’d use them, but I like the paper version better.

This calendar has a hook, and that means it can hang on the wall. And that means I can see it. It confronts me every time I walk into my home office. A paper calendar says “I’m here, and you cannot ignore me. You put your plans here, ink on paper. So shut up and get it done.”

I know the digital way is more modern and has a better “cool” factor. I’ve seen my fellow competitors whip out their iPhones and compare the info they’ve downloaded from their FitBits, cycling computers and heart monitors. And those are all good tools, if you can spend the money on the purchase and maintenance. A paper calendar is zero maintenance, other than filling it in and checking off your accomplishments.

I’m off from work this week, so I’m doing a lot of quality training time and picking from the lists of what’s next. I’m looking at a possible six triathlons in 2016, including my first international. That’s on top of 10 swim meets, 12-14 road races and maybe my first ever bike event.

Here’s to a racy and injury-free new year for all of us.
Share your thoughts and stories, my fellow Athena,
Clydesdale and other competitors. We may all look and play
differently, but we’re still one big, happy, mostly functional
family.

calendar

A path to somewhere, and a plan to get me there.

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Filed under athletic competition, Cycling, Exercise, Ocean swimming, Running, Swimming, thought

Tri #2 done – and what’s next for this Athena?

It’s not all about the skinny, elite athletes at a triathlon. Regardless of your size, you can do this. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

My second triathlon is done. I finished second in the Athena class.

That’s right, I’m an Athena. Over forty years of age and over 165 pounds. Yes, I did admit to both of those numbers in the same sentence. Let the fat-flaming and body-shaming begin. Nicole Arbour, the Canadian comic who posted the much-reviled Dear Fat People video, would have a field day with me. Not that she would be the only one.

But it turns out there are a lot of folks out there like me (the men’s equivalent class is called Clydesdale). And while there isn’t a lot to choose from in terms of trisuits, tops and bottoms, there is a very active support network of bigger athletes who like the sport, are very active in it and are quite willing to share what they’ve learned. And we can easily find each other at events because let’s face it – we’re not the skinniest people in the tightest compression gear. And we’re not usually finishing in the top three in our regular age group, either. The Athena-Clydesdale classification gives us the chance to compete against people we look like, on the same, yet more level playing field than if we were up against the elite athletes. Call it unfair, call it over-specialization, call it coddling – I like the idea of doing the same event, but not looking like an idiot over and over again for finishing last in my age group.

What’s next? At least one more spring triathlon this year, then an early season sprint triathlon in 2016, and just maybe – move up a level, from sprint to international length. Six months ago, I said I’d never do a triathlon, never swim open water, never do an ocean swim. I did all three of those this year. As each “never do” is turning into a “done that,” I think about what the next challenge will look like. But I don’t fear it. And I look forward to meeting my bigger and beautiful athletic brethren.

Oh, and in case you are wondering what I did with my second-place medal; it’s hanging from my dining room chandelier. Not my idea, though. The Husband thought I should show it off.

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