From the “unsubstantiated evidence” files, I wanted to share with you a quick light that popped on in my head while reading a much-discussed article from last weekend’s New York Times magazine.
In it, former House & Garden magazine editor Dominique Browning vividly shares her experiences following the folding of the magazine in 2007. This long-form essay is adapted from her upcoming book, Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas, and Found Happiness.
Much can be discussed about her experiences but I was particularly struck by the account of her response to her newfound “freedom.”
In this way, being unemployed is a lot like being depressed. You know how there are millions (O.K., a handful) of things you swear you would do if you only had the time? Now that I had all the time in the world — except for the hours during which I was looking for work — to read, write, watch birds, travel, play minor-key nocturnes, have lunch with friends, train a dog, get a dog, learn to cook, knit a sweater, iron the napkins and even the sheets, I had absolutely no energy for any of it. It made no difference that music and books and nature had long been the mainstays of my spirit. Just thinking about them exhausted me. I had absolutely zero experience in filling weeks — what if it became years? — with activity of my own choosing. Being unemployed meant being unoccupied, literally. I felt hollow.
This passage reads in many ways like my own less-polished account upon learning that my pneumonia diagnosis in late January would confine me to my home, away from work, for four weeks (which ended up being about seven weeks and continues on and off today):
When told I’d be confined to bed for a month, I thought that it would be great – that I’d get two papers and a grant renewal done and still have plenty of time for blog posts I’ve been wanting to get to, finish writing a couple of songs to take to the studio, get all the tax documents together, maybe learn a little CSS and webpage design and get around to a hosted personal website for the domain I’ve had for a year, etc.
After 10 days now, I’ve really done nothing more than read for short periods and sleep for long periods, with energy only for one blog post, a paragraph or two on a paper, and arranging for my classes to be taught. Twitter works, though, as 140 characters is about the limit. To be really sick – to the point of not being able to concentrate for more than 10 min – is a foreign concept. And I’m not actually *really* sick like other folks with chronic illnesses, cancer, etc.
To be unable to make your body do what you want it to is frustrating enough, especially when your little girl wants to go play in an infrequent snowfall of significance.
I’m slowly getting my energy back, some days better than others, and Dominique describe further a very similar pattern. Just a few thoughts today – and I’ll definitely pre-order the book. Her writing is glorious.
You can learn more about Dominique Browning at her blog, Slow Love Life.