Thursday, February 23, 2006


After a question from my mother about whether I was still 'gainfully' unemployed I got to thinking about the fine line between 'gainful unemployment' and 'painful unemployment'. It's a fine line, you know. When I moan about my new state in life I find that I'm plied with helpful advice from friends like, 'stop whining, I can see you've been too molly-coddled,' or, (and my personal favorite) 'why don't you get a job?' A job? Now there's an idea! Why didn't I think of that one!

So, I turn to the blog which is the only thing that makes me feel as though I am a successful human being these days. Ok, while not exactly successful then at least participating in the great human drama we fondly refer to as, life.

Unemployment definitely has it's upsides…namely that you can sleep in as long as you like and spend an inordinate amount of time watching bad movies and reading bad fiction and generally loafing about in the manner that we all think we want until it's actually upon us. Living, I find, takes up a lot of time. Getting out of bed, for instance, can take up to three hours. Bad fiction, again, three hours. Thinking about dinner and then actually making it can also take up an hour or two. How on earth did I have time for all this living when I had a job?

However, unemployment has its downsides…namely that you no longer feel as though you are contributing in any meaningful way to…well, anything meaningful. It's mostly like being bored on summer vacation when you were a kid. Painful. And that downside tends to get under your skin and inside your head and you start to think that maybe a job at Starbucks isn't all that bad of an idea. Or, that Starbucks wouldn't want you if you applied anyway. That's the real clincher. Unemployment leaves all this open space and free time for all your demons to come out and play. Demons previously kept under raps by the fact that you have to get up and shower and go to work in the morning where you interacted with other human beings. There are no 'other human beings' in unemployment. There's just you and you're stuck with it.

I'm sure that I will look back on this time with something resembling envy. I'll want to have no responsibilities and sleep until noon and spend the afternoon watching movies. However, at the moment it's something akin to drudgery. Poor me.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Walking away...

Alexander Solzhenitysn said that we should own only what we can carry with us. We should know language, know countries, know people and let memory be our travel bag. Living as an exile from Russia he knew what it was to continually leave things behind and as I pack up my apartment in expectation of leaving I wish that could say that I too own only what I can carry with me. But life, I've found, is the continual accumulation of stuff and clutter. Having lived as a nomad for the past ten years it's amazing the sheer volume of things that I have slowly acquired. Things that I don't need but like to have around. The sieve from Zambia, my grandmother's table cloth, the marble carving of a Chinese junk, the matrooshka stacking dolls. It's also amazing how quickly it can be packed away into boxes and shipped off to storage. (I may not be good at many things but packing I can do.) Looking at the corner where all the packed boxes are stacked I try to think if there were a fire right now and I could only take one or two boxes which would they be. And the answer is none of them. I would miss all of the accumulated trinkets and pictures but I need absolutely none of them. This, I realize, is a grace to have things but not own them, to possess things but not need them. There is very little any of us actually need and it is good, from time to time, to be forced to think of what those things are.