Sunday, November 15, 2009

naming your fears

A few days ago, as I was helping the kids clean their rooms, I saw one of Ainsleigh's many notebooks lying open on the floor to the page at the right. I picked it up and let my eyes skim over the list and then asked Ainsleigh what it was for. "Dono and I were talking about scary things so I wrote down everything that is scary to us." I kind of laughed to myself as I read down the columns, "Bones, witches, Darth Vader, bats, ninjas, evil dog, devils, T-Rex, knights, King John, ghosts, ... what's this one?" Ursula, she informed me. "Ah yes, of course. Ursula, Mean Pablo, red eyes?" Yes, she informed me, whenever you see red eyes you know it's scary. A ghost with red eyes is twice as scary as just a ghost.

It has been several days since then and I haven't stopped thinking about the list, or what motivated them to write it down, though they probably don't even remember that they did. Maybe it's because I feel like I'm facing my own fears right now.

Here's the thing: since May/June, we've known that November was going to be a make or break month. The advertising agency Joel works for has a major account that is up for review, meaning Joel's agency, along with several others, present their ideas of how they would do things for the next several years. It's a very unpredictable situation since this client could easily (and, in this case, often do) go with a new agency. If that is the case, Joel will assuredly lose his job. That's the summary in a nutshell. A nutshell with red eyes.

For the past couple months I've put it out of my head - not something I can really alter and certainly not something enjoyable to dwell on. The past couple weeks Joel has worked at least 16 hours a day, often getting home after I go to sleep. The kids saw him more this morning than the previous entire week because we got a dump of snow and church was canceled. (sidenote: whoever heard of a CHURCH snow day? I'm not complaining, mind you. More amused than anything. Within an hour of finding out, I had pulled out eggs, flour, sugar, etc., and Joel laughed, "Baking already?" You betcha. First some delicious pumpkin apple streusel muffins, and now I've got some short ribs braising. It's a good day for the olfactory nerves. There should be some kind of widget so I can share the smell with you.)

Gah! See what I'm doing there? A lot easier to talk about everything (and anything - olfactory nerves!) other than what I meant. Fears. Naming them, specifically. I would say that for the past week or so, I've been a giant ball of stress, wound as tight as I can be because if anyone gets a hold of any tendril, they will have the power to completely unravel me. And I'm afraid of what might be left. I've been on edge and short (with people, not vertically) and have tried to avoid answering questions having to do with Joel's presentation or work or how I'm doing.

It's the unknown, really, that scares me. The wondering what, exactly, is going to happen. When, specifically, we'll find out. How, most importantly, we will handle the situation. The job market really blows right now, in case you're just coming out of a coma. And options in advertising aren't abundant here even in a good economy.

A friend asked me what the worst case scenario was, in my head. She doesn't know that I had to take a slow, deep breath to keep from hyperventilating. The worst case? "That Joel loses his job and we can't find another one and we end up losing our house and having to leave Denver and one of the kids gets cancer. That would be my worst case scenario." She laughed while saying, "Wellllll okaaaaaaaay, you had to throw in a kid with cancer?"

So the kids' health isn't tied to Joel's employment, but it's always a small fear in the back of my mind that something tragic will happen to my children. Or Joel. I don't know how I'd be able to cope with that. And I suppose, in that light, dealing with a job loss would be better, if you gotta pick your poison.

My primary fear? That's what I told myself to think about. Because once you write it down and step back, it doesn't look so horrible. My primary fear is that Joel will lose his job and we will have to figure out how to pretend like Santa didn't ignore our kids, and Joel will have to completely start over in a different industry. I worry that all of Joel's hard work and talent will be wasted because people don't recognize and reward him for his work ethic. And, most selfishly, I worry that we will have to sell this house that I love so much and leave this neighborhood and these friends.

That's it. Those are my fears. The upside is, even if those are the exact things we have to face, that at least Joel will be home and we'll do it together. And if ever there was a sure thing in my life, it would be Joel. He is why my fears can start to shrink from a dark nebulous presence to a bunch of words, typed through a few tears. I can always count on Joel. And that he never has red eyes.


Angie said...

What can I did just make me cry!

Melin said...

OH YUCK!!!! It will all work out for're doing the right thing by not trying to dwell on it. It is funny how even trying not to dwell on it brings on stress.
It is painful to be at the mercy of things you cannot control. Painful. Try just eating your way through this stress--thats why you're such a good cook and love it some much...just eat and eat--there will be solace there. You'll be in my prayers.

NancyO said...

You're channeling Grandma - she could always maximize the worries. I'm sorry you guys have this stress right now. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the best, but, whatever happens, you will be able to handle it.

Becca said...

And one of my greatest fears if never finding my own "Joel"...

janine said...

this is a fear that we have had to face this past year. and i won't lie....while everyone told me it will all work out for the better, sometimes, it was hard to believe them. but i can tell you that while it wasn't a piece of cake and there were many tears shed, we have been abundantly blessed and were through the whole ordeal. i cannot tell you how much love and support we felt from our family and friends who fasted and prayed and loved and supported us. we will pray that it does not happen!!! and if it does, we will be there and so will your amazing family and it will be okay.

ginarsc said...

oh honey. :( i sense a venture to cold stone is needed in our near future (maybe more than one?) ~ and we will either celebrate or strategize. come what may, i trust you know i am here for you.

Nataluscious said...

I feel so much of your pain (B is actually out of a job *again* but that's a story for another day). Mostly I feel your fears in connection with growing up and the job losses my dad struggled through and how - at times - it got very dire for our family. Money stress is a difficult one - on the one hand its way better than health problems or death or divorce or the myriad of other struggles we can have, but on the other hand its ever-present and can just eat you alive.

Here's what I can say: your kids will not feel the pinch nearly like you and Joel will (if the fears ever do come true). I can promise you that. So just take that stress off your mind. Aside from so many of the other struggles, money really is one of the most fixable. Sure, the fixes can be tough to struggle through, but they can be fixed. You'll find resources and blessings you didn't know existed. I am confident that whatever happens you'll be amazed at how you manage better than you thought possible. And you have done SO many things right along the way (spiritually, temporally, etc) that I guarantee that will be a buffer even if the job market is sketchy. And if this counts for anything, I consider you -above and beyond pretty much anyone I know - capable of handling this kind of trial because of your inner strength and your amazing skills and your ability to run a home better than any Fortune 500 CEO on the planet.

Just remember you have lots of friends and family and support systems who won't let you struggle too much. I hope there's some measure of comfort in that. And one final note - I take immense comfort (as a world-class worrier myself) in knowing I can share struggles with B and know that whatever happens we'll figure it out together. And that makes your marriage 10x better than it ever could be, so there's another blessing ;). See - they're falling out of the sky now!
Love you!

c said...

others have already commented with beautiful and inspiring words o' comfort & wisdom, so i will just say this:

i'm thinking of you, friend. lots.

and Rsula + red eyes really ARE scary.


loewymartin said...

I can't banish your fears, but I can give you my support and love, and hugs, I've always got tons of those to give you too (((hugs)))

I'm thrilled you have Joel, but I'm just as happy he has you. You are an amazing woman and together the two of you will get through this.