I am one of 760,000 Americans who lost their jobs this year – UPDATED

And it is awful and terrible at a level that is hard to comprehend unless you are living it.  I (usually) don’t write about it because, really, what does it help?

Over the past 10 months of unemployment I have used up all my financial and emotional resources.  In the beginning, thinking this would be a temporary situation, I accepted offers of help from friends for groceries, a haircut (before job interviews) or a tank of gas. But no more.

Why do I have regret?

Once you have accepted help from friends and you are unable to pay it back, and your situation worsens, if they stop calling you begin to wonder whether the reason they don’t call is that they are afraid you will ask for or expect help.  The calls stop coming, the emails slow down and the isolation deepens.

My situation as a single woman who receives minimal child support means I don’t qualify for any public assistance (even if I could bring myself to take it.)  I have a heart condition, no health insurance and can’t afford doctor visits or heart medication.  My stomach churns all the time from stress and my jaw aches from gritting my teeth. I think about dying every day. I cannot imagine ever being happy again.

I am educated, competent and middle aged.  At least I used to be competent.  I obtained an excellent result for a client in December, raised a lot of money for various causes over the past few years, but my previous successes don’t seem to count for much of anything. I have applied for jobs I am well qualified for without success.  I have applied for jobs I am over qualified for without success.  I have applied for jobs I am ridiculously overqualified for with no success.

Potential employers, if they communicate at all, tell me that so many people apply that they can get exactly the skill set/person they want even without consider everyone’s application, including mine. I would hang out a shingle except that people in my field who have worked for years to build practices can’t pay their office rent – business is tough, very tough.

Job loss makes life more challenging. Family stress rises when there is not money enough to cover basic needs. My family is no different. Things that are hard to deal with become unbearable when poverty is added to the mix.

My mother is slipping into dementia. She lives 65 miles away. I can’t afford to visit her very often.  I do call frequently and every time I talk to her she asks me the same question over and over again, “have you found a job yet?”  When I answer no, she repeats, over and over again, as if she cannot believe me, “nothing, nothing at all.”On days like today when I am beyond sad I don’t call her because I can’t stop crying. She shouldn’t have to share this burden; she deserves her last days to be happy.

My ex will not pay more child support – that is why my older son lives here.  It is my ex’s way of “helping.” In my ex’s defense, he is a good father, but no one disputes that he is the cheapest human being on the planet. For years I let this go because I wanted to spare my child’s feelings.  He loves us both and he cannot bear for us to fight.

But something was lost in the process – my child’s respect for me.

My choice to put him first, over career, was important. I was a good mother, and a good mother puts her  children first, especially when they need love and devotion through serious childhood struggles.  I put him first, I wouldn’t change that, it was my responsibility and what I wanted to do.  Always and no matter what I had to do, or do without, I did what I could for him.

But now his first words to me when he walks in the door from school is “have you found a job yet?”  His father, lives comfortably (he deserves it – he works hard) has taken him on his college tours, vacations, out to dinner and football games. I am selling the few things I have so I can buy him an 18th birthday present. He tells me I am no fun, I am always depressed, that he is unhappy with the living situation.  One home has money, plenty of it, with the security, comfort and luxury it brings.  The other has none of this anymore.  I understand his anger and frustration.

I was forced to let my older son move in with his family/children/pets to keep the lights on.  It is stressful beyond belief.  I feel like an intruder in my own home. Last week in a fit of anger he told me in no uncertain terms how pathetic I am.  Yesterday he informed that it would be “disrespectful” to him for me to put an Obama sign in my yard.

You can bet I walk on eggshells.

My friends are largely absent.  My phone never rings and, even if it did, when you really really have no money, you can’t go for coffee or lunch.  And accompanying friends while they buy for parties or fret about, what is now to me, luxury worries, it is a toss up whether being alone is less painful than being a third (loser) wheel.

One friend, in a moment of poignant clarity, told me (in reference to another friend’s troubles) that she cannot bear to hear anyone’s sad news.  She doesn’t want to hear it.  She herself is depressed.

She asks me “does that make me a bad friend?” I don’t know, but I certainly understand her need for self preservation.

The longer the unemployment, the more challenging it becomes. I send out resume after resume after resume – if you ask people in my situation how it works they will tell you it is like throwing a resume into a black hole. The months wear on. My clothes get shabbier and shabbier.  I can’t afford a hair cut or good shampoo.  I am looking older and more worn out.  After years of not looking my age, I fear that I look even older. Small things that would give me comfort, make me feel younger, cheered up, more well groomed are out of reach. I wonder for the next interview, if there is a next interview, how I will brighten myself up to the point where I feel I can sell what I have to offer.

I started this blog as a writing exercise. Through the first 4 or 5 months of unemployment it energized me.  Now I don’t know.  Although my real identity is not front and center it isn’t exactly a secret, and let’s face it, what I am writing here is hardly flattering.  I guess it is a mark of my pessimism (or stupidity) that I just don’t care.

Maybe it is my optimism; my calling, my dream job is advocacy for the less fortunate, and if my writing here moves one bureaucrat to vote with compassion, or one republican to vote for Obama,  it is worth it.

I wonder, with the state of the economy, how many women like me are out there?  Over educated elitists who gave freely when they had it, sacrificed job advancement for more time with their children, volunteered and served their communities, who chose unwisely in the “happily ever after” department and who find themselves middle aged, bitter, isolated and broke.

I am sure I am not alone.

You should not be surprised that John McCain, Sarah Palin and their ilk make me want to vomit.  I fear for this country where so many clamor “right to life” while so many, once born, suffer their ridicule and abandonment. Think Sarah Palin campaigning in Canton, Ohio with the head of Timken who was responsible for so much job loss. Think John McCain who canceled couldn’t be bothered to send a representative attendance at March’s Foreclosure Forum in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.  If it were held today you bet your your unemployed ass he would be here, kissing yours.

Can Obama help?  Can he win the election?

With Catholics and the neocons focused on morality issues I don’t know.  With Jews focused on G-d knows what, Israel or racism, I don’t know. With the degree of racism that pervades every level of our society, I don’t know.

I only know that I am one of 600,000 760,000* and the past 8 years have been economic hell for me as a single working mother.

And I am tired – damn tired. And fed up, but way too depressed to be angry.

If you are supporting McCain please read my words and consider them seriously.  This country faces challenges that are beyond the capabilities of John McCain and Sarah Palin and the folks they surround themselves with.  And for you working class republicans – are you really truly better off than you were 8 years ago?  Are you safer?  Are you richer? Do you have better health care?

I think not.

If you felt safer you wouldn’t be so afraid of Muslims.  If you felt richer you wouldn’t fear tax cuts for the middle class or more accountability for corporations. If you believed all that McCain and Palin are selling you would be more compassionate.

I hope Obama wins; I hope, if and when he does, that he has the support of this entire nation, because it will take all of us, taking care of each other, to survive.

* Updated to reflect September job loss figures

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