A Story I Can’t Tell. And One I Can.

I have a great story to tell.  It’s full of the stuff that makes for a great story: good guys and bad guys, love and hate, good and evil. And a happy ending. I want to tell this story… I ache to tell it. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you this story because I am not allowed to.

But here’s the coolest part of that story: it’s not the real story. And the real story is one I can tell.

Last fall, my husband was unexpectedly forced out of a job he’s had for nine years in a company he helped start (read: fired). Left no other choice, Rick packed his office, hired a lawyer and began looking for another job. Why did this happen, you ask? That is the part of the story I can’t tell (read: pending litigation). But if this story were being told as a TV game show, it would be right about now that you’d hear me say, ‘I’ll take Corrupt, Malicious, Lying Swine Who Have No Moral Compass for a thousand, Alex.’ Yes… I do believe that is exactly what I would say.

At the end of his first official day of unemployment ever in his adult life, Rick enthusiastically shared how he spent the day getting in touch with former colleagues to seek out job possibilities. We talked about how the slow economy and high unemployment rate would not be conducive to finding a job. We reviewed the status of our bank accounts and pending bills. I laid out my current work projects and upcoming prospects, then estimated my income over the coming months. We agreed that while things would be tight, we’d be fine on my salary and (hopefully) his unemployment benefits for however long it would take.

And after all that, Rick looked at me with far more optimism than he should have been capable of even faking and announced, ‘don’t worry, I’ll have another job in a few months.’ It would have served no benefit to argue: in moments like this, optimism is far more imperative than realism.  There would be plenty of time later for that.  In the meantime, Rick needed to get through process of mourning his former job and lifting himself out from under the powerful, understandable sense of betrayal weighing heavily upon him.

Last October, that was the story – as much of it as I could tell, at least.  Today, it’s only the beginning of the real story.

It’s since been about seven months. Status: about two dozen job applications, countless numbers of resumes sent out into the universe, a few interviews, no job, two unemployment benefits appeals, three court appearances, about 15 pounds of legal paperwork, writer’s cramp from preparing the necessary documents and tens of thousands of minutes on the phone to State personnel and both our attorneys.  Oh, and a surprise visit from the IRS, just because things were apparently not fun enough.

Stay with me… the good stuff is coming.

During this period of time, I really tried to focus on the gratitude and not the crap that seemed to be engulfing us. How we’re not hungry, the bills can be paid, our silly, happy bassets and so much more for which we needed to feel truly blessed. But I admit that I have had very strong (read: loud) bouts of panic, discouragement and anger. I’ve frequently grumbled about how hard it is for me to write with someone else in the house. I have incessantly whined about leaving my beloved New Hampshire if it came to relocating. And in my worst moments, I’ve been mean-spirited and hurtful.

But not Rick.

He’s been swimming though all the shit that everyone’s been hurling at him (including me) and has thus far come through it with nary a stain, his optimism barely scathed. Surely he has felt moments of despair and upset… but never for long. A man ruled by consistency (are there men who aren’t?), he quickly settled into a routine of mornings spent job hunting and afternoons spent running errands and tackling the to-do list. Knowing I’m busy with work, he’s taken over many of the household tasks: in the past seven months, I have barely swept a floor, entered a grocery store or washed a dish. And before he so much as turns on a water tap, he quietly listens for when I am not typing or on the phone.

He has been patient, supportive, kind and confident. And I have been a self-centered schmuck.

He is such a better person than I am, or ever thought he was.

I am deeply ashamed, and deeply proud.

Even better, I have lately realized that Rick’s not having found a job in those first two months was not a problem: it was a gift. He needed this time to deal with what had happened so that he could move beyond it… otherwise, he’d still be carrying it around with him.  It would have grown to bitterness, then anger and hate. This gift of time has allowed him to process it, put it down and walk away.

We’re still dealing with the yuckiness of what’s happened on a near-daily basis – and will be, I suspect, for several more months. But it’s not ruling our moods or controlling our lives. Allowing that would be our crime, not theirs.

I’m one of those people who try to find the lessons in these situations.  And I’ve discovered many:

  • Evil people are different from ordinary assholes: they take pleasure in your pain.
  • Living without health insurance makes you drive more carefully.
  • In a sea of blatant falsehoods and empty accusations, truth floats. Grab onto it and don’t let go.
  • In this kind of situation, no one ever really wins. No one.
  • Quite often, a failure by outward appearances eventually reveals itself as a personal triumph.
  • Filling yourself with gratitude and love leaves little room in which to invite negativity and hate.

Mostly, I have learned that I have the best husband (and friend) in all the world.

So that’s the story I can tell. A far better story than the one I can’t.

Which, someday, I will. When I can.