On this day last year, something happened which pulled the rug right out from under my feet. Some people may have been able to shrug a shoulder, taken it on the chin and sighed an ‘Oh well, no biggie’.
But to me it was a biggie. A great whopping fat pulsating corker of a biggie. And the reason I’m writing about it here is because it is a cornerstone of The Lockwood Echo.
I was cashing up after a busy Saturday in the city centre shop where I’d worked for 5 years, (3 of those years as manager). In walks my boss. I was not expecting to see him; he had something to say. I joked ‘Is it good news or bad news?’ His pause said enough.
It was exactly one week before Christmas Eve and my boss was here to tell me that he was closing the business. Not only was I and 3 other staff being made redundant, it was all going to happen in 13 days’ time, between Christmas and New Year. I honestly think I can imagine what it feels like to be struck by lightning. Worse things happen to better people, but I’d just turned 50, had never been out of work and can only tell you how I felt at that moment.
What took a couple of minutes to register added another dimension to this bombshell. Only 2 days before, we’d signed the contract for a home of our own. Something that had been a very, very long time coming. What should have been one of the most exciting times in our lives started to unravel. And all this just one week before Christmas. No time is a good time to lose a job, for whatever reason, but the gamut of emotions I went through swung violently down to despair and up to full-on fucked-off rage as each layer of reality unpeeled and presented itself. Legally, we could’ve pulled out of our house purchase, but so much in the way of money, time, blood, sweat, tears and dreams had already been invested. So we soldiered on, prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. There was also the very real risk of eviction from our rented home if our landlady knew I was out of work. We didn’t want to set off any alarm bells and we didn’t want to worry family or friends at Christmas. So we kept quiet. Very very quiet.
It was a heavy secret to carry, not least because the logistics of shutting down the shop meant it was also kept quiet from the wider world. So we all had to turn up for work during Christmas week with smiles on our faces, Merry Christmas greetings, swallowing back the tears as we served our regular customers whilst carrying the hidden weight of what was really going on.
Now, a couple of things I will share about myself. I am The Devil’s Advocate. It’s not just an expression; I am THE ACTUAL Devil’s Advocate. It’s kind of like being a conscientious objector. I can’t help but see all the angles and step into a different pair of shoes. Principles rate highly with me and I have often cut off my nose to spite my face. But the perks of being The Devil’s Advocate are you never take anything at face value and there’s always a cosy fire to go home to after a day on your soapbox. Because I’m The Devil’s Advocate, I will stop short of descending down a slope of one sided opinion and leave further personal perspectives out of the above event. There is always another side to hear but none of it is really relevant now. The deed was done, the reasons reasoned, a line was drawn. So no, I’m not going down that particular slope. It’s very easy to blame other people for a situation, but it doesn’t change the situation. Besides, there were other slopes for me to descend down, still to come.
The other thing I’d like to share is that I’m a procrastinator. If something will take 2 minutes, you betcha bottom dollar I will find a way to make it take 2 months. And when I’m not wasting time thinking and regurgitating thoughts, I bury my head in the sand. And all through Christmas itself, then my last shift at work and right up to New Year, that’s exactly what I did. I buried my head in the sand. A complete physical and mental shutdown.
We’re of the view in our house that some things are so awful, you have to laugh at them. It may sound mean. It’s really a way of finding the humanity in an inhumane situation. Think of your favourite funniest moments, experienced, watched, heard. However surreal the humour, there will be an element of real life. The classic tragicomedy masks, a symbol of theatre and performing arts, are testament to it. I assume by now you can see where this is going.
I used my personal Facebook page to offload some of the overwhelming emotion. I started a Redundancy Diary. A light-hearted, sarcastic, sometimes venomous account of how I was coping and the experiences it led me to. A bit of a joke for those reading, but a very real and necessary tool for my sanity. It gave me a focus, something to look forward to when just the thought of getting washed and dressed swamped my inertia. Many separate threads started to weave a picture, some I pulled through from years back and they came together and created a new rug for me to stand on.
I’m still operating under a degree of anonymity. My space here is not usually used for sharing my personal life. I’m not on that kind of blogging ‘journey’, I don’t have profound insights to share, but hell yeah, this has been a journey! I can trace elements of what I’m doing here back to childhood. Influences, inspiration, ideas. I have a good flow of creative juices, I just never had the confidence, the voice or a direction to pour them in. I’ve dabbled over the years with different outlets and I have no big goal or plan, I just needed a platform.
When I launched this site back in the summer, I had already planned that I would publish my Christmas Redundancy Diary during its first anniversary. I hope you stop by and have a chuckle. It’s just half a dozen short pieces (I’ll add the links to the bottom of this post as they are published). But from stepping stones, they’ve become a bedrock. Enough now with the metaphors.
So, long story short. I lost my job (my work situation is still ‘vague’ at best). The Lockwood Echo was born. And we got the house.
If you are employed or otherwise content and stable with your work/life/domestic situation, please pop over to WANTED. NOT WANTED. where you can have a smug, self-righteous, cosy giggle at my crumbling self-esteem. You’ll find my self-initiated Job Club, my ridiculous misguided applications for ANY kind of work and my redundancy diary, a revealing look into the day to day life of
the lowlife worthless pits of humanity the unemployed. If you are not content and stable with your work/life/domestic situation, then let’s hold hands and stick our tongues out at the rest of the world. But you still have to go read all the stuff.
Decide for yourself where artistic licence has been used, alas much there reflects actual experience and events.