I spent time two weeks ago with some friends of mine, women of an older generation and with whom I have a lot of shared values. I told them about my family’s reversal of fortune, and one of them replied with a lengthy anecdote about her early years with her husband, who died several years ago.
He had been working for a company and doing well but not breaking through to the level of his ambition. He found out through some initiative of his own that he would never be promoted because the owner of the company had sons and was saving the company for them. My friend’s husband quit his job that day, despite the fact he had three small children and had just bought a house. For a period of a year, my friend bought nothing for herself, nothing inessential, nothing she couldn’t find elsewhere for less. She continued to entertain with style, by dint of her ingenuity and panache, in order to help her husband network and rebuild his career. At the end of that year, her husband launched a new company, one that made them fabulously wealthy over the course of their adult lives. This is a lady who travels all over the world, attends the Telluride Film Festival every year, dresses beautifully, gives enormous amounts to charity, and continues to entertain with style. She lives in luxury, and she’s earned it.
Her implication, of course, was that I should suck it up, be supportive, back off and let Bill do his thing. I don’t know that I’m really cut out for that. Nor am I so sure that Bill is cut out for making things happen without some judicious kicks in the pants. He’s not a guy of great ambition. Part of the ongoing paralysis is that he doesn’t really know what he wants to do when he grows up. He’s waiting for the bolt of lightning.
He plunked down a few hundred dollars to have four sessions with a career counselor at Jewish Vocational Services. He’s taking a bunch of aptitude tests to try to clarify his intentions, looking for the lightning bolt. The Thursday before Thanksgiving, he had his third session, during which he took one of the aptitude tests. The test finished early, and so he came home early. It didn’t occur to him to use the time that he already paid for to work on his resume or talk over his progress so far or brainstorm about how he can approach some of the potential ideas he’s already got.
This morning I noticed he had a clipping from one of the local newspapers on his side of the table. I asked what it was, and he said it was a want ad and told me about the job it advertised. I said it sounded cool. He said he was going to put it in his pile. I asked what he was going to do with the pile.
It’s been eight weeks since our crisis began. Some days I ask him what his job search goals for the week are. Some days I tell him what it looks like from my perspective: Our economy is in recession, my husband is out of work, and we’re spending money much faster than we’re earning it. Some days I sit quietly and seethe. The most pleasant days are the ones when I pretend everything will work out by magic. But I rarely sleep well those nights.