I'm Baaaaaaack......

Oh my friends.  It has been too long.  Once again, I've been absent from blogland for an extended period, and once again I come back to you ready to take on the virtual world!  I will refrain from making any promises about writing more regularly, since we all know that's very rarely the case, at least not for very long.  I will say, though, that this most recent absence was due solely to the fact of my unemployment for the past nine months.

Curious, you say, since you haven't written for 18 months.

Fine.  For a while I was just slacking.  And by slacking I mean gardening the shit out of it.  And painting.  So really not so much slacking as focusing my creative energies elsewhere.  While recovering from a traumatic surgery.  And then I enrolled in what has turned out to be an incredibly rigorous stenography program, while working full time and raising a teenager and still gardening and cooking my bounty and - not to be outdone by my former self - moving.  You know, it was summer after all - time for my gypsy caravan to roll out, as usual.  Actually, I loved my former house.  It had a gigantic garden, plenty of space, super rad neighbors, and a rooftop deck with a 360-degree view of the mountains and valley.  I would never have moved except that the landlord decided to sell it and I had to.  This ended up working out in my favor though, because the cherry on the sundae of my blissful life came when I lost my job a month before having to move.

Bummer, you are thinking, quite empathetically.

Thanks.  It was, for about an hour.  And then I realized that I would be fine financially on the 60% of my salary I would receive from unemployment (especially since I was moving to a house with lower rent and utilities).  To say nothing of the absolute fact that it would be better for me, for the well-being of my body and soul, to forge down this new and, admittedly, daunting path than to draw another breath of the stuffy, toxic, forced-air in that Old Boys Club ever again.  And in fact, I mean no sarcasm in the bit about the sundae.  Being unemployed was one of the best times of my adult life.  I was able to pack up and negotiate my move without much stress, I focused a ton of time and energy on school, on growing my garden and canning food, and preparing most all of the rest of our food from scratch for the next nine months.  I was for the first time able to greet my daughter when she came home from school, attend events at her school which are always, unfathomably, scheduled in the middle of a weekday.  I did my grocery shopping during the week, when there is no one at the store.  I walked my dog all over Sugarhouse and took him for hikes throughout the summer.  I went to coffee with my friend Nora once a week and chatted and laughed and cried about life.  I flew home and spent a week visiting my family and lounging with my best girlfriends at Ariel's farm this summer, spent another week with my fam at Christmas, and then spent the rest of this tragically short winter skiing my little heart out.  And if all of that weren't idyllic enough, out of the ether (ok, the internet), came the man of my dreams -- or rather, a man I couldn't have dreamt up if I tried -- with whom I have fallen completely and totally in love.

Hang on, you say.  That's awesome and all, but if you didn't have a job, and had so many cool and interesting things happening, why weren't you finally writing more?

You make a valid point.

However, shortly after losing my job and getting a realistic feel for the present job market (read: expansive vacuum where job opportunities used to be), I figured that for the sake of obtaining future employment, I might be better off hiding salty chelle (rambles on) from the prying eyes of prospective employers.  We do get a bit raunchy around here after all.

My mother was ecstatic.

Oh Michelle, she sighed.  Good!  I can't tell you how happy I am to hear you say that.  The last thing you need is for some employer to decide they want to hire you, and then do an internet search for your name -- they do that now, you know.  They really do, I read an article about it, and then they were talking all about it on the Today's Show the other day.

I know, Mom.

No -- now listen.  They do that kind of thing all the time.  You should have heard all of what they were saying on the Today's Show.  And, you know, I can just see an employer searching you and finding your disgusting blog with all of its foul language and stories about vaginas and god-knows-what.  It's just terrible.  You'll never get a job!

Ahhh, Mom.  Ever the optimist.  This is my mother though, and I'm quite used to it.  I'm sure at this point in the conversation she became inordinately exasperated with me because I was laughing, which is generally how these conversations go.  My mother is the original rambler-on; I suppose the apple didn't fall terribly far.  The difference between us though is that she rambles herself up into a fit of high-pitched tones and worry-bordering-on-anxiety until she's just beside herself, and I am not much of a worrier at all.  This also worries her.

But, as is sometimes the case, my mom was right.  Or, well, she was correct in that the possibility did exist for my blog to become a problematic factor in my search for work, especially in this weirdo religious town.  The rest is just a lot of wasted energy from my perspective.  So to my mother's great relief, I put the thing on lockdown for a while, vowing to open 'er back up just as soon as I obtained secure employment.  In other words: now.  (Hi, Mom!)

Well why didn't you just do more writing while you were unemployed and had the time?  Even if your blog wasn't public, you could post stories and people would eventually see them once you went back online.

Ok.  You got me.  To this line of reasoning I have no good excuse except that writing on the blog isn't nearly as fun when I know I don't have an audience.  I say that in all honesty, while at the same time feeling like mostly I only do this for myself.  Writing stories, rambling on -- it's an outlet.  My brain spins and spins and it helps to get some of it out.  And frankly, I'm now on paragraph way-too-fucking-many of what was initially supposed to just be a short "hello" to you readers out there, and I can't imagine that anyone other than maybe a few very close friends, and my mom, would actually want to read so much useless drivel about my small little life.  But I suppose that's one of the fundamental questions for artists.  Do we create to share something with the world, or do we create because we need to, because it helps us to process, to think, to feel, to calm down, to get it out, to heal?  I think it's probably a bit of both.  For me, although I had the time to write more on my blog, I just didn't.  Maybe I was calm enough in my newly low-stress life of copious amounts of TIME that my brain stopped spinning and spinning for a little while.  All I know is that the drive wasn't there, so I didn't do it.

And now the drive is back, just about the time when my free time has run out.  Although making myriad promises to myself about never going back to work for a law firm, and creating a life in which I make a living doing something that truly makes me happy, and pouring myself headlong into school so that I could finish my program before running out of money, amongst others, I am once again working as a legal secretary at a law firm.  And though I certainly don't love spending 40 precious hours of my week engaged in activities that have almost nothing to do with my actual life aside from funding it, I most assuredly do love my new job.  By some mysterious alignment of the fates, I have found myself employed by a small firm that shares my values.  It is a diverse mix of people, mostly non-Utahns from what I can gather, and mostly of a decidedly left-leaning socio-political bent.  The firm won't buy any supplies from Wal-Mart or its affiliates.  They give considerable time and money to support public radio and various other community partners.  They don't have a lot of HR policies, but seem to rather favor the approach of providing everyone with a really great place to work, with ample time for their own lives and families, so that they are more productive when they are at work and choose to do the right thing.  They are flexible and friendly and everyone from the president of the firm to the receptionist intermingles in the kitchen at lunch and talks about the news and does crosswords and laughs a lot.  And they take this up another notch every Friday afternoon at the "wine and scotch party," which is basically just anyone who wants to join hanging out in the kitchen from about 5:00 p.m. onward, drinking wine and scotch.  I don't know how fun this gets or how late it goes as I haven't had the opportunity to stay yet, despite much prodding from the other partygoers.

My particular position is just busy enough to keep the days full and interesting, but not so much that I feel stressed out.  I work with a team of tight-knit, intelligent, funny and super nice people.  Today was an asskicker of a day, the kind of day where I did not use the restroom even once, despite having to pee from lunchtime until I made it home at 6:00.  My eyes were tired and my brain was full after 8 hours editing two separate 50-page memos that were both due today.  I was busy, to say the least.  But I was not harried or stressed, I was never once yelled at, and I was genuinely thanked for my assistance throughout the course of the day.  It doesn't really sound like rocket science, but you might be surprised how rare this kind of environment is in the legal world.

I'm happy there.  And yet, still, every evening without fail, while driving or biking myself home from work, I have the conversation with myself that goes pretty much like this:  What the hell am I doing?  To which I very rarely have an answer.  A bit of a one-sided conversation, really.  But it is hard trying to work and do school and raise my kid and run a household.  Usually during these "conversations" it's 6:00 and I have class in an hour and dinner to make and the dog needs a walk and I'm pretty sure I need to rewash those towels in the washer and we're out of something vital like milk or tampons and I'm still not even home.  For the first week of these homeward bound discussions with myself, I cried.  After three and a half weeks, the crying has subsided into a sigh and a resolve to just keep going.

I saw a quote the other day that read, "Don't cry because it's over.  Smile because it happened."  And I hesitate to even write it here because it is admittedly corny and kind of lame, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.   The last nine months of unemployment have been incredibly enjoyable, and now that I'm working, I miss my unemployed life.  I miss drinking my tea on the patio, doing homework in the mornings, making myself breakfast, doing whatever I wanted to do with myself each day, feeling very present with my thoughts and emotions and intentions, and, mostly, just having a break from the last 14 years of my crazy busy life of kid/work/school every single day.  It was like a giant vacation from the reality I've known all of my adult years.  The transition back to a completely full plate has been huge and hard.  Less difficult, however, than I was imagining it would be, which I attribute mostly to the fact that I don't wake up and dread going to work.  In fact, I enjoy the work and the people I work with to the point of actually looking forward to the day.  Not necessarily at 6:47 a.m. when the alarm goes off, which is by far the most trying part of this whole transition, the getting up early.  But by the time I'm out of the shower, I'm surprisingly fine with going in for another day of work.

For now, I'm smiling that the last nine months happened.  I had a break from my real life, I became legions healthier, I fell in love.  It was a gift, and I treasured it while I was lucky enough to live it.  Being grateful for something you no longer possess is not the easiest thing in the world, but I'm finding it's a good exercise for my emotional health.  This, combined with gratitude for my good fortune in finding such a fantastic job, helps me in those moments when I long for a day at home alone making pickles and listening to music.

Not to mention friends, a new job means (1) the blog is back online, and (2) I am now actually venturing out into the world of people much more regularly, which only serves to stoke the creative fire that lights up the pages here at salty chelle.  Oh yeah, and we're not poor anymore.

Welcome back everyone.