Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Fifty-six

Day 256 - Interviews
I have had a few interviews this week, including a phone screen today, and I have another scheduled for tomorrow morning.  It strikes me how important these conversations are to those of us dealing with long term unemployment.  I think we all would agree that even when the job is less than appealing, or not quite a good fit, or maybe even totally off the mark, the simple fact that someone might want us ends up being a shot in the arm.
I had a nice, brief conversation with a recruiter for Paychex, a national payroll and HR firm who is looking to fill a local position.  Andre only had 30 minutes to speak with me to determine whether I might be interested in, and qualify for, an account manager of sorts who works with new and prospective customers (not a “sales” position).  By the end of the quick chat, I didn’t really feel that he had a full idea of what I could bring to the organization, nor did I have a chance to go into any depth with my questions.  I had little expectation that the process would move forward, despite his comment that he was going to forward my resume to the hiring manager.  I was also left unconvinced that this would be a company into whose culture I would find a natural fit.
Still, knowing that even a passing interest in my abilities helped to lift my spirits for the moment, I have a modicum of hope for tomorrow, too.  

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Fifty-five

Day 255 - Nice People
I had a very pleasant conversation over coffee with one of my Breakfast Club participants.  Manuel is an attractive, articulate man with a positive attitude and an easy smile.  He asked me for my opinions on his resume and “sizzle sheet,” the former having been done by a paid professional (which I thought looked pretty good except the 10pt font).  We talked about more than our respective job searches, too.  It was a good meeting.
I came away from the cafe thinking how fortunate we are that one can find so many genuinely nice people here in Portland.  Obviously, we can find nice people everywhere, but there is something unique about Portland’s culture that seems to bring out the nice people a little more.  Maybe it’s the gloomy weather, and people compensate; I don’t know.  But I’m glad for it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Fifty-four

Day 254 - Happy Conversations
I had lunch today with Paul, one of my best friends.  Though we don’t get together often, we always pick up where we left off.  Lately, he has been very attentive to my frustrations, and has been such a good listener.  He lets me talk - and I do plenty of that (I very often wish it were harder for me to let loose).  He’s good to me.  He bought me lunch at a fantastic little Lebanese cafe, and was incredibly supportive.  I value his friendship enormously.
Then I went to Vancouver for what I thought was to be in informational interview with the  Sr. Employment Specialist at Goodwill Job Connection in Vancouver.  I have not been officially interviewing for a job with the organization, though I’ve been talking with them as if the process had been formally started.  (My first formal interview is next week with the leadership team - a good sign!)  
When I sat down with Randy, he asked me if I had my resume.  I was surprised, actually, and felt unprepared.  Thank heavens for smart phones - I accessed my email via my phone, and forwarded the email I had sent to his boss that included my resume as an attachment.  I explained that I didn’t expect this to be an official interview - just a conversation to gather information.  Within a minute or two, Randy had my resume in hand.
I expected our conversation to last maybe an hour.  90 minutes, tops.  It lasted three hours (in large part because he’s more of a talker than I).  Not only did I get quite a bit of information about the organization, but Randy gave me a lot of advice on what to talk to the leaders about and how to present it.  He gave me explicit instructions.  How often do you get that kind of coaching for an interview?
While the job pays an unbelievably low wage, I’m excited about the prospects.  I think I could enjoy this.  I’m grateful for happy conversations.  They simply don’t happen often enough.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Fifty-three

Day 253 - The Ability to Persist
I’m glad I have enough energy at this point to persist.  
I wrote a few days ago about my experience speaking with Gary at the Goodwill Job Connection (see Day 247), and the next day, drove out to Gresham to speak with Debra, an Employment Specialist in the outlying office there.  Today, I drove out to Oregon City today to meet with Marnell, the “ES” in that location.  And I’ve made arrangements to visit with Randy in Vancouver tomorrow.  I am feeling good about what I can bring the organization, and I’m trying my best to get my abilities noticed by the right people.
I don’t know where this energy is coming from, I’m just glad it showed up to the party.  I often feel weary of this process, and I just can’t take another step.  Then I meet someone like Marnell - unassuming, caring, driven - and it recharges me a little.  My conversations with Gary and Debra last week had a similar effect.  I’m glad I made the effort to drive out there.
I later had dinner with another HR friend who is also looking for work.  Larry is a great guy, and it was nice to catch up with him.  We wished we had better news to share, but it was OK.  At least he suggested an inexpensive place for Happy Hour, and while the food was inexpensive, it was quite good.  Score!

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Fifty-two

Day 252 - Celebrations
I went to a couple of birthday celebrations - a brunch and then a party - for my friend Arnie.  He turned 50 today (a milestone I’m about to reach myself), and it was a happy, festive time.  I was glad to have been invited, and to share in his day.  

Arnie’s partner, Blair, plays the piano, and we all benefited from their recent purchase of a Roland digital “grand” during the evening.  Arnie had given Blair a “play list” for the party, which he managed to get to at various points through the evening (though I’m not sure if he finished any of the songs - so many people were interrupting and distracting him), and a couple of us had a chance to sit with Blair on the bench and sing along.  (Fortunately, it wasn’t a performance - no one heard me except Blair, thankfully, as I was not in good voice at all; but it was fun all the same.)
I met a few really nice people there, and I thought how fortunate I am to have such great friends who know other good people.  I enjoyed my day.  The fact that a happy celebration was the reason for it was the icing on the cake (so to speak).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Fifty-one

Day 251 - A Day Off
I had nothing on my agenda today, and it ended up being a great day.  I "took the day off," and it was nice to relax.  I read a lot.  I played with glass.  I did a little cleaning, too.  I was calm.
I needed this.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Fifty

Day 250 - “Forced” relaxation
I didn’t have a car today, so there was little to do.  I applied to jobs (there weren’t many to do) and read my emails three or four times.  Fortunately the auto shop was able to work on my car today (it was ready later in the afternoon), but I had to postpone one meeting and skip the other.  Not exactly my plan.
I ended up reading a lot today, which was nice.  There is something pleasant about holding a book (yes, a real, hardbound book, not an electronic device) and being “transported” to another time and place for awhile.  I was home alone through much of the day, and it was peaceful.  
While I did not intend to “take the day off,” it was nice to have this time just to relax.  (...If only it were sunny and warm, and I could have been sitting by the river enjoying the book in the comfort of nature....  Summer is only six months away....)

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Forty-nine

Day 249 - AAA
Today was an “OK” day - not spectacular, but not unpleasant.  Until the evening, that is.
I was on my way to the first of two events I had on my calendar.  The first was a professional mixer where I was to meet a recent acquaintance and his partner, who are relatively new to town, and introduce them to others in the group.  The second event was a Happy Hour kick-off to another friend’s “birthday weekend” (he turns 50 on Sunday, and he and his partner are pulling out the stops, celebrating all weekend long).
Unfortunately, my car had other plans.  As I left Aquila Glass School in North Portland, I noticed the battery light was lit on the dashboard.  My mechanic had warned me that I would need to replace it soon - it wasn’t holding a charge well, and given its 10 years of daily service, it was time.  I decided to take surface streets to the evening’s events in case I had further troubles, and as I headed southbound on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, I was certain I would pass an auto parts store.
Sure enough, I saw the O’Reilly’s just south of Killingsworth, and pulled into their small parking lot.  I parked the car, and as I turned it off, I thought to wonder if it would start again.  I turned the ignition, and got nothing.  OK, this is serious.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have my battery in stock, so they jumped the car for me (they brought a new battery out to do a “field test”).  I backed out of the parking spot, and as I put it in gear, I turned the headlights back on.  The car died instantly.  I instinctively put it in park and turned the lights off.
Who knew that the gear shift would lock in park and stay locked without electricity?  Here I am sitting in the middle of their lot, blocking anyone who would want to enter.  I ran back into the store, and Christian, one of the employees, re-jumped my car, and I pulled back into the parking spot; Christian suggested I could wait inside the store and offered further help if I needed anything.
I called AAA.  I had just sent my renewal payment in, but I knew my account was current until next month.  The first tow truck arrived about 20 minutes later, but wasn’t able to take it - the Miata’s front end is too low to allow the back end to be lifted high enough to manage, so he had to call a flatbed service in.  It took another 20 minutes, and temperatures had dropped to levels I wasn’t dressed for, so I had to step into the store from time to time to warm up.  When it rains, in pours.  Oh, and it was raining, too.
The flatbed truck arrived, and we eventually got my car to my mechanic’s in Tigard.  (The lot was full there, too, so I hope they're able to work on it tomorrow.)  Everyone involved was helpful and nice.  If it weren’t for AAA, I would have spent an uncomfortable night leaving my car on a commercial street in NE Portland, practically advertising a vulnerable vehicle.  I have only used AAA’s roadside assistance twice, but the peace of mind is worth the money.  This is a service I will continue to pay for as long as I own a car.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Forty-eight

Day 248 - Commissions
It is a good day when friends ask me to work on a new project; it gives me a sense of purpose, and I get to learn new lessons when I am doing something I haven’t done before.  Today included such a project.
A friend of mine recently bought some metal shelves to use as bedside tables.  He has added some decorative boxes to use rather like drawers to keep things in place and out of sight.  However, the shelves are made of chrome-plated wire, and little things not kept in a box fall through.  Larger items placed on top can tip over.  So he needs something to put on top of the shelf to make it a solid surface.
There is a project I have been wanting to try using Bullseye glass, and their recipe for “river rock.”  Employing a chemical reaction in the kiln between two colors of glass frits and powder, the end result looks like a stream bed full of gray rocks.  It is quite remarkable, and the recipe is fairly straight forward. 
My friend and I agreed on this as the tops for his shelves, and I got to work on it today.  It took a little more time than I expected; the glass didn’t cut as cleanly as I expected, and the sheet of colored glass also wasn’t quite big enough, so I had to make some adjustments.  

I hope these turn out to be both beautiful and useful.  As an experiment, it’s hard to know, and it will take days to find out - each of the two pieces is large enough that they will have to be fused in the kiln individually, doubling the amount of time it will take to be ready to install.
I am so glad to have friends who are interested in owning my glass work, and excited about how these will turn out; I am equally pleased at the opportunity to participate in the creative process.  My project will look different from the original design shown in the Bullseye Glass example, and I think will suit my friend’s bedroom in several ways.  I can’t wait to see the results (and hope they fit well on the shelves).

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Forty-seven

Day 247 - Feeling Wanted
I had a lot on my calendar today, and fortunately it was all good.  Most of it was meeting with individuals who wanted my input on various questions, mostly surrounding the search for work.  All of them were interested in reciprocating, and that felt good, too.  Most of us in this boat seem to understand that working together is as important as finding our individual path.
One meeting felt particularly good.  Last week, I met with Dave, a Goodwill Industries employee embedded at the SE Works office (an outlet for Worksource Oregon), and he put me in touch with his boss, Gary, with whom I met today.  Gary was enthusiastic about our conversation, and we discussed a couple of opportunities Goodwill has in their Job Connection division that he runs; he had me register in their system, and suggested I visit their Gresham location and talk with Debra there.  He told me about a training position that would more closely match my background and interests, and promised to forward my resume to the hiring manager.
Ultimately, it was the momentary feeling of being wanted that made this a pleasant day.  The job seekers I met with seemed to value my input, and Gary appeared to be pleased with our meeting.  This is such a change from what I’ve been facing lately, and a change I really needed for my own sanity.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Forty-six

Day 246 - Letting Go of the Fantasies
I gave my lawn mower to Goodwill today.
I haven’t had a lawn of my own to mow in years.  I used it a couple times at my brother’s when his mower was out of commission, but being an electric mower, it wasn’t quite as easy to use given the length of cord necessary to reach the distant corners of the yard (nor could it cut the lawn as well when the grass was allowed to grow too high).  
I didn’t want to get rid of it for a couple of reasons: 1.) if I owned one, I wouldn’t have to buy a new one when I finally had a yard to care for again; 2.) it was a really good quality mower I had bought from my friends Mark & Marc when they moved to the mid-west, and I doubt I’ll be able to afford to replace it with a similar quality machine.
After moving it from place to place - finally to my storage unit last year when my brother and sister-in-law explained in uncomfortable detail how they could no longer accommodate me - and having it take up space among the furniture and boxes, I realized recently that it is unlikely that I will ever have a yard again.  Keeping the mower makes no sense whatsoever.  It dawned on me that the Goodwill Donation Center is two blocks away from the storage business.  
I was surprised most by the feeling of freedom and empowerment I felt as I left the mower with the Goodwill employee.  I felt 40 pounds lighter.  I was happy that it was so easy.  I realize that, as I continue to give away my belongings and get to those things that have specific meaning to me - sentimental value - it will become more difficult.  But as my friend Joel helped me understand, it is easier to give my things away than have them taken from me and auctioned off.  It is better to give than fall into receivership.
I have always been a dreamer - a romantic in every sense of the word.  There have been moments when I have been told how talented I am, and been given all sorts of praise, and it has assisted me in continuing to live in a fantasy world.  The fantasy has ended and I’m finally seeing the world as it really is.  I realize that my dreams were unrealistic and, in the end, meaningless; my choices have all been well-intended but fatally flawed.  I’m grateful to be young enough to let go of the fantasies while I still have the physical and mental capacities to make changes.  I can’t imagine what state I would be in if this were to happen 30 years from now. 
So today it was a lawn mower.  Tomorrow, I’ll take a few more things over that I can carry.  I have until June, and then everything I have left has to fit into my car.  Now THAT’s going to be a challenge....

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Forty-five

Day 245 - Transience 
I’ve already written about being numb, and today was one of those days.  
I am grateful today that these feelings of despair are transient in nature, and at least I can graduate to numbness.
People talk about the long term unemployed “giving up” looking for work.  Those who describe it thus have no idea what they are talking about.
It isn’t a matter of “giving up” as much as losing hope.  When there is no hope of being hired for anything - even at a grocery store - there is little one can do to change it.  Sure, you can talk a good story about “allowing” good things into your life (which I continually try to do) and to redirect your thoughts to things more positive.  "It's all about attitude!"  


It is rather like working out: I may have developed my musculature as far as my genetics will allow, and to continue working out is simply a habit; it does not get me any closer to my goal because there are forces outside my control that make my goal unrealistic.  The difference, though, is that you don't necessarily judge me poorly because I don't bulk up.  My appearance at the gym allows you the comfort of giving me the benefit of the doubt.
This blog entry is not about those who face adversity with a new idea.  Thank heavens for people who can do that.  I’m not talking about the dreamers who, in spite of their hardships, can continue to dream.  I’m talking about the dreamers, the visionaries, and the regular guys, who continue to try and eventually, through years of effort and toil, reach a point where their dreams die a natural death but do not take their host with them.
When someone who has actively pursued employment every day for multiple years “gives up,” it is less likely because he is lazy or lacks initiative, or is supporting an addiction.  He is not “wallowing in self pity,” as some will accuse.  It is more likely that he has no place in our society.  American men, in particular, feel this most acutely.  The disillusionment that comes from finding out after the fact that your skills and abilities are no longer valued by society at large brings with it a feeling of defeat so overwhelming it is impossible to verbalize.  Unless you've been there, you don't know what it is like.
When you see the filthy old man on the street corner or at the end of the freeway exit with his cardboard sign and sad face, please consider giving to him; suspend your many judgments about how he might spend your dollar.  Why would you care how he spends it, except that perhaps he might someday feel better about himself, his life, his world.  Why should you care at all, when you have so many other dollars in your purse or bank account?  Is his smile not enough for you to give to him?  For once, give because he is human.  Show a little mercy.  

After all, it might be me.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Forty-four

Day 244 - Turnouts
I am so glad I didn’t have to meet with anyone today.  It was my worst day emotionally since I was laid off three years ago.  I was totally useless.
I finally got in the car and drove around just to be doing something other than sitting at my computer pathetically looking at familiar websites looking for hope - and finding none.  I happened upon a road with turnouts for those wanting a view of the city (or, more accurately, of the freeway) through the overgrown trees, and of Mt. Hood in the distance, at least on a clear day (which wasn’t today).  I finally had some privacy, as I sat there and cried.
None of the passersby noticed, and I’m grateful for that.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Forty-three

Day 243 - Somewhere to Rest
The days are getting progressively worse.  I suppose today started OK - I got the oil changed without too much trouble; it took a little longer than I had expected, but the bill was a few dollars less than I expected - I’d say a good trade off.  
Then it was time to go to the Job Finders Support Group.  I was questioning whether to go, since my mood was quite dark.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to take your anger and/or depression into a group setting (especially when all of the other participants are dealing with their own stuff), and I was definitely feeling off.  
I decided to go anyway, and would mail a Thank You note to a colleague who gave me 90 minutes of her time and a free lunch.  When I pulled into the post office lot, I realized I had left the note at home.  My choices were to go ahead and go to the meeting, mailing the note later (probably being postmarked tomorrow), or go back to get the note, mail it, and be late to the meeting.  I decided to mail the note and skip the meeting.  My mood was shot.
I passed a little time, and then decided to go to Aquila - maybe I could accomplish something there.  I was there about 20 minutes, unable to concentrate.  I came back home.
I then slept for two hours.  It’s amazing how tired I can get when I do absolutely nothing.
The best I can come up with to be grateful for today is someplace to rest.  I had the daybed on which to sleep.  It’s something.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Forty-two

Day 242 - Shot In the Arm
Today wasn’t bad.  I gave another pro-bono coaching session (at a Starbucks), which went well enough that he implemented my suggestions before the end of the day - that felt pretty good.  I also had dinner with a dear friend and colleague.  
Joel is a great businessman and friend.  One of his goals in any interaction is to leave the other person better than when they started.  This was certainly the case tonight.  I felt just a little less insane, a little more grounded.  It was the “shot in the arm” I needed to get me through one more day.  And he introduced me to a fantastic, inexpensive vegan restaurant not far from home (no, I’m not vegan, but this food was wonderful!).  Would that more people were like this....
Thanks, Joel.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Forty-one

Day 241 - Coffee Shops
In reading a brief history of (primarily) US coffee shops, I’m interested to see how they have adapted over time.  I won’t bore you with what I’ve read about them, but Starbucks is generally credited with accelerating their resurgent popularity by offering more than just coffee and some snacks; they made it an experience that resonated with a modern audience.  You can love them or hate them - it’s easy to find lots of people on both sides - but they do more than provide a strong cup o’ Joe.  They offer a place to connect.
I had a couple of good one-on-one networking meetings today, the second one at a Starbucks in SE Portland.  While the location wasn’t important, the meeting was.  I had a nice conversation with a colleague I met recently who offered some names of people I could contact with a view toward perhaps finding work.  Although the tunnel in which this new light came on is long and arduous, at least the light was lit.  One can only hope it’s the right kind of light.
Since I don’t have an office to use as home base, coffee shops have become my office.  I wish I didn’t have to spend so much money on gasoline, but at least I can meet people somewhere other than a park bench or mall food court.  Yes, Starbucks (and most other coffee shops) are always loud and most of the seats are hardwood and uncomfortable after about 20 minutes, but it’s a pleasant and familiar environment.  It is great neutral territory for the transient business person.  
To all the owners of coffee shops - chains and independents - thank you for offering me some office space.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Forty

Day 240 - Cancellations
I had only one meeting scheduled for today, which the other person canceled.  I’m glad.  There are times when I can’t keep the mask of happiness on, and today was one of those days.  I did some glass work at the torch - this has been my therapy lately - and didn’t have much to look at on the job boards.  It was a quiet day.
Sometimes I think I’m losing my sanity, so days like today are welcome relief.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Thirty-nine

Day 239 - Time Alone
Today was not a good day.  And everything that was going to happen did so before 11:30 AM.  Not a good day at all.
My interview at the Seattle hotel did not happen the way it was supposed to; I was casually blown off, and I felt disrespected.  The GM wouldn't be there at all, and the VP of Operations wanted me to drive the 45 minutes to meet him at his office in Bellevue instead.  In the end, it became very clear they had me drive up from Portland (at my expense) for a courtesy interview.  They had no intention of taking me seriously.  
Then, as I got on the road back to Portland, I had a phone conversation with a recruiter that did not go well.  It appears the recruiter is not very good at what she does, and I'm the one who paid the price.
Then I got a text message from my son.  
It is his 24th birthday, and I tried calling him before I left for Bellevue to wish him well.  He didn’t answer, so I left a message. When he didn't call me back, I sent a text message to follow up.  It was his response to my text that I received as I was southbound on Interstate 5 approaching downtown Tacoma.  
He thanked me for the birthday wishes.  I asked him if he had received my voicemail message.  “I saw it, but I haven’t listened to it.”  I haven't heard back from him since.
I give up.
So what am I grateful for today?  When I got home in the late afternoon, I went to “my room” (which is Mom’s office), and shut the door.  I couldn’t bear to deal with anyone - I was as much as I could handle.  
I am grateful for my time alone.  

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Thirty-eight

Day 238 - Good Weather
Today was a good day to be driving: the sun was shining, the roads were dry and in good shape, and while I was a bit disappointed to see so many people on the road on Superbowl Sunday, I didn’t come up on a great amount of traffic along the way.
I drove up to Seattle again for an interview at a hotel in the South Lake Union area.  The director who didn’t hire me in Bellevue put me in touch with the GM of this property, who in turn asked for my resume; we had a couple of brief, but positive conversations.  He asked me to drive up on Sunday so that I could interview with him and his boss, the VP of Operations, first thing Monday morning.  Of course I told him I’d be delighted.
I left Portland right after lunch, and had an easy drive up.  I found the hotel easily - it’s right next to the Seattle Center, and that happens to be a neighborhood I know well enough to get around.  Ryan at the front desk put me into a nicer room than I had originally been assigned - “with a view of the Space Needle” - and it all felt good so far.  (The view wasn’t a direct one of the Space Needle, but I could see it if I stood just so....)
The GM told me their renovation had been completed several months ago, and it all looked fresh and very new.  I was impressed.  I opted not to order food from their menu, though (I thought it was a little pricey for my budget), so I walked a block to the QVC and got some deli salads that ended up being delicious and cost less than $6.  Score!
It was a pleasant day, albeit rather boring.  I am excited for the morning.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Thirty-seven

Day 237 - Artistic Progress
A couple years ago, I told someone I thought was a good friend that I wanted to be a glass artist.  It seemed something of a stretch at the time - I had no experience with glass to speak of, and I am not nearly as creative as some of the people whose work I have seen, but I meant it.  Later, when we had a falling out and he called me a coward, I had little confidence in my abilities.  As I learned how much coordination, skill, and originality goes into glass work, I decided to make this my hobby, not my career.
After a time at the torch today, I felt perhaps, if we were still in touch, I might surprise him with my glass work.  Sure, I’m no where near what I would consider “skilled.”  I am, for the moment, a one trick pony when it comes to lampwork and implosions.  Still, I think he would be surprised.
I left the studio feeling as if I had accomplished something good.  I like that feeling.  It lasted most of the evening.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Thirty-six

Day 236 - It Isn’t Personal
I got stood up tonight.
I have been playing message tag with a friend for some time now.  We have tried to schedule something - getting together and catching up - but always seem to catch the other’s voicemail.  Fortunately we were able to get something on the calendar, and I had been looking forward to it.
I got to the restaurant about five minutes early.  I went inside and got us a booth about five minutes after the hour.  Over the next ten minutes, I thought perhaps I had made a mistake; I got all worked up over the idea that maybe we were supposed to get together the night before, and I had stood him up.  Finally, I listened to the last voicemail message where he was confirming Friday night.  But he was now 30 minutes late, and that’s unusual for him.  He’s a realtor, and is never late.
At 45 minutes past the time we were supposed to meet, I left the restaurant.  The server had been very gracious, allowing me a minimum of embarrassment.  The restaurant wasn’t busy, so I was only observed by a few seemingly empathetic customers.
I later got a message from him that he had worked late and didn’t have his phone with him.  I told him I figured something like that had happened, and that we could get together another time.  I wasn’t bitter or angry, and apart from the momentary embarrassment of sitting alone at the table for 40 minutes, I wasn’t bothered at all (though I was really hungry when I got home).  I was surprised that I didn’t take it personally.  I almost didn’t even care.
Odd how things change as you grow up....

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Thirty-five

Day 235 - Invitations
Today was a pretty good day.  I facilitated an employee relations meeting in the afternoon - my client asked me to mediate an issue happening in their office, and I was able to give all of the participants feedback that will (hopefully) help them to get along better, and more to the point, communicate effectively.  I was pleased that it went well.
In the evening, dear friends Scott and Harold invited me to dinner and a movie.  I can’t tell you how much this simple act of generosity touched me.  Not only was I treated to a wonderful meal at Pastini Pastaria (during which I talked way too much) and a phenomenal movie at the Century 16 theaters (“The Iron Lady”), I was made to feel... well... I don’t like this word for personal reasons, but it’s the only one I can think of that adequately describes what I felt:
Something only the long-term unemployed can understand is what happens to you when you cannot find suitable work despite being willing and able.  (I’m going to set aside for now the different conversation about “survival” and “bridge” jobs.)  I don’t feel as if dinner and a movie is a wise way to spend my money right now, and I loathe asking my friends how much things cost or to tell them I can’t come to an event because I can’t afford the price of admission.  I feel cheap doing so.
It has been too long since I’ve felt the freedom of choice that comes from making my own living.  It’s humiliating to be unsuccessful for three years at finding work.  It’s dehumanizing.  The judgment you feel from everyone around you eventually becomes oppressive.  (Sometimes they tell you everything is fine, but will later say something else that betrays the platitudes; sometimes you find out what they have said behind your back from others just trying to help.)  I can tell myself they aren’t really judging me - it is only my own projection based on my feelings of frustration.  I wish that were true.
Tonight, on the other hand, I didn’t feel judged.  I felt accepted - just as I am, with all my faults - that it was OK to talk too much - and that I was among true friends.  Another few hours of feeling normal.  
It is interesting what you appreciate once you lose it.
Thank you, Scott and Harold.  You mean the world to me.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Thirty-four

Day 234 - Good People
I had an “informational interview” today over coffee.  I would normally have called it a “networking coffee meeting,” but this young woman gave me more information than I could have expected.
Lisa is a Epic trainer at Kaiser - a company (and system) into whose training department I have tried to network for years.  Via my networking friend Marsha, Lisa agreed to meet me at Dragonfly Coffee House in NW Portland - a cafe so popular we had to sit outside because there wasn’t a single available table, or even two seats together.  I was grateful for the sunshine on my back.
Lisa is strikingly pretty - she has the most beautiful hazel eyes I have ever seen.  She is smart, articulate, and has a quick smile - I imagine she has fun in the classroom despite complex training issues.  There was little doubt in my mind why she has succeeded in her career.  She gave me a lot of useful information, including the counsel that if I am told I didn’t get the job because I lack healthcare experience, I shouldn’t believe it.  It is an excuse.  Half of the training department did not come from the healthcare field.  
At the end of our conversation, she agreed to help me get my resume noticed if I ever apply for an open position.  Kaiser just announced a hiring freeze, so it may be awhile, but she was gracious and generous in her offer.
While I don’t expect this meeting to lead me anywhere in the short term, it is gratifying to know there are still good people out there willing and ready to help people like me.  It brightened my week.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Thirty-three

Day 233 - Commitments
It’s a good thing I’ve committed to things that get me out of the house - moderating the Breakfast Club, attending networking meetings - or sometimes I am afraid I would close my bedroom door and never venture out.  I enjoy these meetings.  They add a sense of purpose to life (albeit in limited ways).  I think I’d go crazy without them.
On the other hand, I am glad to have the time to close my door and just be by myself.  I suppose my present circumstances are better than if I were in a homeless shelter - I would never be able to close any door.  I am grateful for what I have.

A Year of Gratitude - Day Two Hundred Thirty-two

Day 232 - New Positives
I had a positive experience today (I certainly needed one).  I had the chance to present an interviewing skills topic at the Worksource Oregon Job Club this morning, and it went really well.  It is moments like this that remind me, once again, why I do what I do.  I love this work.  I just wish I could make a living at it.
And my afternoon networking meeting was good, too - I got a couple of networking referrals, for which I was grateful.  I heard back from one of them this evening - nothing definite yet, but at least we’ve connected on LinkedIn.
Even though I don’t feel as if my career has benefited immediately, I felt as if today’s small positive moments have helped me (emotionally).  I keep on keeping on.