50 and unemployed. Day 7 – Sleep disfunction.

I slept until 10 a.m. today after staying up until 3:30 a.m. watching a Harold and Kumar marathon.

I do love some parts of unemployment. Except for the lack of cash.

What impressed me most about all of this is that I finally slept, really slept, past 7:50 a.m. and I hadn’t been tossing nor turning. Normally I have zero problems sleeping. I can fall asleep at my desk, behind the wheel, while pushing a cart in Costco or sitting at the kitchen table. That’s because as a grown adult, sleep is one of those precious commodities that there’s never enough time for.

I feel bad for the countless women I know who take a pill to fall asleep or who wake up in the middle of the night thinking about work. I can think of little worse than work or reality interfering with such a precious and glorious commodity.

But lately, I’ve been in the same boat. Now that I have all the time in the world, I can’t sleep. Shit.

For the first time ever, stress is keeping me awake. I can fall asleep with no problem but then I wake up. Early. Toss. Turn. Think until I finally give up and get out of bed.

It sucks. It’s like I’m one of those 4-hours-per-night people minus the productivity.

Truthfully, I hate those people who are proud that they don’t sleep. I know there aren’t many of them – the people who biologically  don’t require more than 4 or 5 hours per night. Yes, they’re heads of companies and hack president-elects (seriously?) but their inability to sleep is nothing to be proud of.

I may not have ever cared that there are sleepless freaks in this world had I not worked for one in the past. But at the job I held BEFORE the one I just got canned from, my boss was a 4-hourer.

Yes, he was someone in the top echelon of the company, had started other businesses, held big important jobs at national tech giants and was wildly successful. But he was still an ass and told us repeatedly that he only needed 4 hours of sleep.

Here’s the deal: it’s one thing to not need sleep. But keep that shit to yourself. And definitely don’t bother me or anyone else when you’re awake and shouldn’t be.

But that wasn’t how he worked. The 4-hourer would send long, painful emails that he dictated into his iphone starting at 4:30 a.m. (Know how Siri never quite gets what you say right? Imagine that in email form – an 800-word email. Then imagine you’re the recipient of the email and are supposed to understand what “I biscuit another vendor butts” means and how you’re supposed to respond.) Texts would follow shortly thereafter, before any normal human was willingly out of bed, not even the ones who woke up early to exercise.

By 8 a.m., the 4-hourer would get antsy because people hadn’t answered him yet and he’d start taking matters into his own hands by working on his staff’s projects. If you were the lucky one whose project he commandeered, that meant you’d be greeted with a directive to change everything upon arrival at work that day. You’d throw all other responsibilities aside – deadlines and commitments be damned! – and dive into what he said he needed because it had to be done ASAP.

About the time you’d finish redoing everything, he’d show up at your desk with the project in hand telling you he already took care of it. Throw yours away. It was all unnecessary now.

“Why do I have this job?” you’d think to yourself.

The 4-hourer, incidentally, was also a hypocrite, a jesus freak, and a micromanager. And he did this weird thing with his mouth whenever he met with you one on one. It made him look like a camel chewing on an extra tough blade of grass. It was oddly uncomfortable to be around.

“Do you have something in your teeth? Need a glass of water?” I asked once. “A Kleenex?”

“No,” was his answer.

I broke all of my rules about looking for jobs before passing the 18-month mark, dropping it pretty quickly down to 6 months, mostly because the 4-hourer had created a toxic environment where only yes-men and yes-women (there were few of those BTW) could survive. Eight people in our 12-person team self reported they were taking anti-anxiety meds, which seemed like a really high number, but it was the healthcare industry so maybe not. I was one of the 4 who didn’t, although I had an editor who took enough for me and the horse that lives behind my fence, too.

The 4-hourer’s sleep disfunction reached a head the day his most loyal senior staffer begged him in a meeting not to send work-related emails on Christmas day. The staffer couched it as “you need a day to relax with your family” but really that staffer was at the end of his own rope, his marriage was falling apart, and he hadn’t himself slept more than 5 hours on any night in the past 3 month because he made the mistake of leaving his phone on the night stand (“It’s always important. I have to be available.”).

The 4-hourer promised he’d try.

That Christmas, I received only 4 emails, none of which were spreading good cheer. The senior staffer? He got 10. Apparently that was cutting back for the 4-hourer, which pleased the senior staffer to no end.

I left the job a month later.

Here’s a little advice: if you have sleep lasting less than 4 hours, see a doctor. If it’s because of a biological condition, maybe drinking heavily or even moderately would help.

Still can’t sleep? Become an internet troll (it works for The Donald). Paint your house. Read a book. Bake stuff that your family will want to eat when they wake up. But whatever you do, don’t bother the sleepers. You may not think there’s a problem when you sleep that little but the rest of us will readily admit we’re complete assholes when we don’t get enough sleep. And we’ll probably admit you are, too.

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50 and unemployed. Day 2 – reality bites.

Right before my head hit the pillow last night, it dawned on me – I still don’t have a job. Fortunately I’m not one to let a little stress bother my sleep.

But that same thought was there when I woke up today. I still don’t have a job. Fuck. I thought it’d be faster.

I did the most productive thing I could think of then: I went to the kitchen and made pumpkin bread. Then I scooped a couple of litter boxes, started a load of laundry, check my Twitter feed to see if any of the conspiracy theorists I trolled last night responded. Just one comment and it was from a conspiracy theorist follower. I’ll try harder.

A few weeks ago, @breitbart posted hate mail on my Facebook timeline. I may put that on my resume.

In all honesty, I didn’t try too hard to find a job yesterday. It was 5 days before Christmas – no one was hiring. Since it’s only 4 days before Christmas today, they probably still have better things on their minds. Like grog or wassail, or, as autocorrect wants to say, weasel. Maybe that’s on their minds, too.

Eventually I made it back to my computer and I spent the rest of the day working.

I’m in kind of a weird situation. Depending on who you ask, I’m either a writer or an editor or a marketer. If it’s me you’re asking, I’ll say “writer” because it’s the best conversation starter of the three. That’s because no one really knows what editors do and no one gives a shit if you convince people to buy stuff.

But the funny thing is, I haven’t been employed as a writer for more than a decade. It’s been at least 7 years since I held an “editor” title. Since then, I’ve just been directing stuff from my corner cubicle since no one does offices any more. Most recently, that corner cube is at my home. We were a really small company using freebie office space that was more than an hour away from my home. I stopped by once a week. Mondays.

As a writer, editor or marketer, you might be able to swing some contract or freelance gigs. They’re great for the promise of extra money when you hold a real job … until you have to produce the work you promised you could do and stay up until 2:30 a.m. three nights in a row editing a white paper for a doctor who now runs a tech team and thinks his words are solid fucking gold.

Cool thing, tho, when you get canned from your job, you might be able to pick up a few freelance gigs to hold you over. Get enough of them and you can sit around, unshowered and in pajamas all day, and earn a living. You’ll get to write or edit or run campaigns for all of the stuff that no one who works for your client full time wants to touch. You get to be judged by a much higher standard than anyone else because you get paid more (most freelancers do charge a premium because it’s hard to bill yourself out 40 hours per week – and you have to provide your own health insurance, pay outrageous taxes, etc.). You get to make changes that are stupid, annoying and dumb because the client really cares doesn’t care anymore and is doing this to shut up his boss. And you get tossed aside because the president of the company has a niece who just graduated from college and she’s overseeing your project and she really wants her boyfriend to do it instead cuz he’s brilliant and they’re, like, going to get married.

And you do it all over again because someone is paying. And it may be the route I decide to go if I can’t find a job quickly, especially since I’ve been bequeathed a pair of clients. Sort of.

When I was canned (with socks) on this most recent Monday, I was given the consolation prize of the remaining two clients. They were mine to keep – you know, seed for that freelance business that would blossom by January 2. I could bill them directly. Even better, my dick boss would let them know.

“Oh, um, great.”

Why wasn’t I giddy to have a freelance clients handed to me? With one of the clients, I was, but they’ll probably amount to about $750/month in cash for me, which will pay less than 1/3 of the house payment. The other client? They hate us. They’ve been biding time until their contract ends. That happens January 1.

In our glory days, when we employed a total of 5 people, we had some ass nozzle helping the bitter client with a small but important tech project. Ass nozzle knew exactly what they needed. During status reports, we’d get these amazing tales of how the client was exceeding all expectations with this tech. We were blown away.

Two months later, it was evident that this guy had no clue as to what he was doing. So we fired him and I learned two lessons:

    1. Never hire the cheapest person you can find (okay, I already knew this and hadn’t voted to hire this tool anyway)
    2. Never be so busy that you can’t take a peak and see what everyone is doing

I’ll take the blame for his screw up, partly because I was, partly because no one else at the company was ever willing to own up to anything bad. But I was immersed in this world of trying to keep the clients we had happy and trying to convince new prospects to sign and launching another division of our flailing business that I took him for his word. If I had looked instead of listening, I would have realized early on what was going on. I’ve been trying to clean up the mess ever since.

Today was no different. I tried to do whatever I could to make this bitter client – now my bitter client – happy because I needed them to continue as a client of mine past January 1. I also started the meter, which will eventually turn into a bill, for some wrap up work associated with that other division I launched. Turns out, I put in most of an 8-hour day.

Wait, if I still have to put in 8 hour days, does that mean client billings weren’t the problem? Could it have been … a shitty business plan? I’m getting ahead of myself.

Toward the end of the day, the good, small client informed me that they had a really meaty project for me. The best news I had all week, so I went for a run. By the time I returned – mind you, I’m a slow runner, but I don’t go far – the project had been cancelled. That’s the bad part of the good client: they’re amazingly flaky.

I knocked off around 6 with a list of things I still have to do for wrap up, which I’ll tackle tomorrow. Then I spent time looking for available website names because that’s what unemployed people like me should do. “Ecto” was taken (and I’m not sure why I would want it), “sasquatch” was gone, too (I wanted a hairier version of Amazon), my own name seemed pathetic and no one can spell it anyway, “chaos” was neither available or smart because maybe it gives the wrong “hire me” impression. So do droll, dribble, simpleton and everything else I looked up. Misspellings are available, but even some of them are even pricey. Not sure what that says about society – we value bad spelling?

Eventually I got to the heart of my website-name search: because if I DO decide to just work for myself, it might help to have a good site name. But did I want to tell people I’m a “writer,” an “editor” or a “marketer”? Can’t I just be all of them?

Unfortunately, “indecisive,” and “flighty” are already taken. “Wishy-washy” is available though and spelled properly – but I can’t afford it.

And I’m still not sure I want to.

50 and unemployed. Day 1 – the 8 stages of grief.

My dick boss fired me yesterday. Maybe it wasn’t as glamorous as that. No shouting match. No accusations. Just a simple “we can’t pay you any more.” By “we” he meant “he” because I was the last to go. Six – count ’em 6 – full days before Christmas.

So here I sit, 50 and unemployed, with a giant, light up, plastic Christmas tree in the living room, a closet full of presents for my kids and a promise from Amazon that more were on their way. Ca-ching! Five cats are watching me hungrily and all are surely on the verge of another medical emergency. And my best cash fallback? My husband’s schoolteacher salary.

Looks like a new bottle of whisky is out of the question.

Truthfully I knew this day was inevitable almost a year ago, but what I didn’t bank on was the shitty timing of it all. Aside from the day after you return from a vacation, is there ever a more broke time of year than Christmas? The calendar-driven pain in the ass hits extra hard when you realize that over the next two weeks, I would have had two paid holidays. TWO DAYS OFF ALL ON SOMEONE ELSE’S DIME (thank YOU baby Jesus!). And I had been saving up my PTO so I could completely forget that I even held this stupid job for a full 7 days during the week of Christmas and New Years. I was going to sleep late, eat heartily and maybe shower, like once. No, that ain’t just the booze (that I now can’t afford) talking – it was my dream week.

Now I get those days off and a whole lot more. So maybe this is a dream come true, except for the impending financial ruin and all.

On the drive home last night, I realized there were loads of things I should have said. Probably should be an 8th stage of grief – the retort stage.

  • “Wow, who wouldn’t want an unpaid Christmas vacation that starts early and runs late? Thank YOU, Ebeneezer … or can I call you ‘Eb?'”
  • “FYI, I’ll be out most of the day returning my kids’ Christmas gifts tomorrow, so if you need something, text. Just do it early, before I hawk my phone.”
  • “Nah, I’m good on lunch. Just going to grab something quickly at the soup kitchen. Need to do a little networking there, you know?”

    I think I went through most of the other stages of grief, too, like:
    Shock (Of course I’ll go to this stupid client meeting and spend all day plus some at work today even though I won’t be getting extra cash or kudos because of it)
    Denial (My preteen kids could work, right?)
    Anger (Damn Lewis Hine and his stupid, persuasive photos – now my kids CAN’T work)
    Bargaining (Hello plasma center? If I gain weight, will you pay me more? What if I just promise to pack on the pounds?)
    Depression (Oh why isn’t whisky in the budget? It would go so much further in my career as a plasma donor.)
    Testing (How would you kids feel about learning to sew? You would look soooo good in this potato sacks color…)
    Acceptance (Mommy is on permanent vacation!).

    But I’m probably going to cycle through the stages a few more times, especially as the bank balance gets even lower. Talk to me around January 19.

    You know, it’s been 15 or so years since I’ve been in this state – unemployed that is; 50 is a new state this year. Turns out I’m kind of rusty at it. I used to know all of the tricks, like how much I could earn and still collect an unemployment check, how to schedule freelance projects so everything could be completed/billed in the same week, where to find jobs. You know, stuff like that. I have to relearn everything. Hopefully there’s a YouTube video on it cuz I envision spending lots of time staring mindlessly at screens in the near future. I’ll get pointers from my kids.

    Oh, my dick boss did give me a parting gift yesterday: a pair of socks.

    Huh? That was my reaction, too.

    I guess he confused my dig-a-little-deeper-douchbag face with a how-do-you-afford-such-lavish-gifts look. Dick boss was happy to elaborate. “I have a friend in the business,” he said, “so I get them at half off.”

    Wow. That’s so cool. You’re saving, hmm, thousands each week by not having me or any of my once-former-now-canned coworkers on the payroll and you put that money into half-price socks. Any chance THAT’S why the biz went under?

    “Oh, thanks,” I said. I’m positive it sounded genuine, which is good cuz thank-you cards are no longer in the budget.