Friday, December 31, 2010

The Real G

“I can wear this to get my new Boo”, Grandma said looking at the picture of the model on the leggings package. The leggings were the Christmas gift I bought along with a sweater. It was as inappropriate as the slang term she used to describe her future mate. It’s in style, but not exactly what you expect an 83 year old to wear or say. I take responsibility for both the phrase and the attire. Each year buying grandma her hoochie clothes and telling her of my dating adventures. Last year I took to calling everyone Boo.

“I am going to bend over just like that!” she said leaning forward over mimicking the model on the package. “I am going to get my husband.” She sat there looking festive with her red sweater and Santa hat on, and she was serious. Sweet Lou, her last husband passed away shortly after Pop. She completed the respectable grieving period and it was on!

Grandma was married five times. There were her early husbands; Watson was her first and my biological grand father, Binns and Jenkins. Then Grandma married Knight, Who I considered my Grandfather. They were together for over 30 years until his death in the 90’s. We thought he would be grandma’s last husband, but at 70 years old she married Louis Williams.

I thought it was ridiculous at the time, a 70 year old woman getting married. It was the first wedding party I was a part of as an adult. I laughed with my brothers all the way down the aisle. The same way we laughed today.

“Oh I can get a husband tomorrow! If I want!” She corrected us.

Sometimes I find it hard to believe I am one of Grandma’s offspring. I am 50 years her junior and I am not as self-assured. I got consumed by the news specials on the single black women and the is a shortage of men; black men in particular are an endangered species according the media. It’s the rhetoric best selling books are written on, but not what a woman needs to hear to feel empowered. What about Grandma’s dating pool? She is in her 80’s, how many 80 year old men are still alive. Even if she dates younger, she’s looking at a man in his 70’s. If she’s really a cougar, 60’s. That doesn’t inhibit her confidence.

I have to channel the Grandma spirit. The tenacity of a woman who at my age left a husband and everything she knew in Louisiana to build a better life for her children in New York City. The seductive ways she used to attract five husbands. The spunk that corrected her grand children when they laughed at her declaration of her abilities to get another. Most importantly her confidence. I have to be more like Grandma!

I have to remember Grandma next time I doubt myself. I know that she will walk down the aisle once more to meet some blushing groom. I better not let Grandma beat me there!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Gift

My brother buys the best worst Christmas gifts. What began as a frantic last minute trip to Duane Reade, is now a family tradition.

“Richie, where are the gifts?”

“Oh boy, Richie got gifts?”

We all gathered together watching as he pulled out three boxes wrapped recklessly in disheveled red gift tissue paper.

“Awe, he wrapped it too”. I said sarcastically. Richie had one on me. I hadn’t bothered to wrap the Uggs I bought for my mom and aunt. Mom still pretended to be surprised even though she picked them out and was their when I made the purchase.

“I got the one for you Grandma.” he said handing her the box surrounded by tissue. Grandma carefully pulled back the paper trying not to rip it. Grandma doesn’t throw anything out not even wrapping paper. She tries to reuse everything. That use to be called being crazy, now it’s being green!

Grandma’s gift was bird house with a toy bird.

“Oh a bird and it sings!” Mom exclaimed.

“Turn it on Grandma.” Everyone wanted to hear. A few years back Richie bought her a rapping Santa. Maybe this one sang Mary J. Blige. Grandma flipped the switch. My Uncle John took the cage from Grandma who was puzzled. He opened the bottom.

“You didn’t buy batteries?”, Uncle John asked. We were all disappointed, but moved on to the next gift.

“This one is for you Aunt Twiggy.”

We waited for the punch line on the edge of our seats. She reveled a box with the words solar power and a picture of a cat.

“Oh, is it a calculator?” She pulled the cat out searching for the buttons.
“It’s not a calculator. What is it? It just a cat. Why is it solar powered?” she asked confused.

“Hey Aunt, push the arm.” I noticed one of the arms was adjustable.

“Oh”. She lifted the cat up to the light coming from the window. The arm started to move up and down. At this point I was in tears.

“Princess, I was going to get Aunt Twiggy something really off the wall, but I decided to hold back.”

The irony was this began as a thoughtless run to the nearest convenient store on Christmas eve, now required more thought than any of the other gifts doweled out that day. We lost Pop five days into 2009. He was bed ridden that entire holiday season. My family would be reminded of those last days, while the world put up their trees and sang carols. Richie’s gifts gave us some temporary relief. We craved it. We needed it.

“Richie, you can’t hold back. Next time bring it!”

“And you Mom.”

Mom pulled a wind chime out of her box.

“Oh Richie, I could use this.”

“Hey, That’s a good gift old boy.” Danny, the oldest brother patted him on the back.

“Yeah not bad.” I sank into the chair next to grandma who was still admiring her birds. The tears continued to flow.

“Princess. What did you get.” Danny pointed his iPhone in my direction. He was recording.

“Richie didn’t get Princess one.”, Mom said.

She was wrong. He did give me a gift. I could not remember the last time I laughed that hard. I felt relief. I felt peace. I felt love surrounded by my family. That gift was worth more than any novelty, I would certainly bury in back of my closet.

“Sorry Princess, I got you for your birthday.”

My birthday was coming soon and I had one more thing to look forward to besides getting older.

“Richie, I cant wait!”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Party On!

It’s the holiday season so you know what that means party, party, party! I had my university alumni party, my sorority holiday party, my condominium association party, a political activists party, a friends birthday party all scheduled for one week. My party was schedule was full for the entire week, then the Super Sistah invited me to what promised to be the party with the most dating potential, the Council's holiday party. I heard about this organization. The Politician told me to join months earlier for my future career in public service. The Politician is a friend of mine who holds a local office and he is hot. He is well dressed, in good shape, smart with a career and ambition and he was a member of the Council. In my world this is a combination that is hard to find. Perhaps at the party there would be others. I had one problem. My sorority party planned for the same day, but that would be mostly women. I couldn’t miss the Council

“What time does the Council party end?”

“Midnight”

The sorority event ended at 9pm.

“Super, I am there!”

I am infamous for going to parties and not speaking to anyone (correction to any men). I have no problem talking to women. If I was a lesbian, I would be hot stuff, plus I am a great date. Men... that’s the problem (correction attractive men that’s the problem). In general I usually don’t have a problem talking to anyone I don’t find attractive. When I am at a party, I usually wait to see who is going to approach. My game has always been dress nice, look cute, do a two step, drink wine and they will come. They do come. The trouble is when they come they are usually not the ones I want to talk to or date.

The Wife (formerly the Bride you remember her for the wedding day post) as usual lectured me on my problem. “They don’t come to you anymore. The good looking men are use to women approaching them and they are afraid.”

“Afraid? How could they be afraid? They are hot and they are men. It’s their role to hunt. It’s their job to seek out what they want. What happened to the natural order of things?”, I usually quip back.

Before she got married the Bride was a professional dater. She went on many dates usually with decent men. Maybe she was right.

Either way it didn’t matter this was the Council's holiday party. It only happened once a year. I couldn’t let this pass me by without taking full advantage. I couldn’t go empty handed I needed something to break the ice. I needed a line. Not a corny line. Something simple something sophisticated; one that didn‘t make me seem like I was trying too hard. I knew just who to ask, Celeste the Thespian Lesbian. You probably think its odd for me to ask a lesbian how to pick up men, but I have seen this girl in action.

“I got gay bashed when I was in the 5th grade.” Celeste said. “After that, I always made sure I had a boy around, a cute one, because I had to have a boy toy.” She has since embraced her sexual preference and feels no need to date men, but retained her skills nevertheless.

“Men like to feel needed. Just ask them questions. Didn’t you say you wanted to join the Council? ”

I was considering joining the Council. I had it. I could start off with “Are you a member of this organization?”

“If they are then you can ask questions about how membership has benefited him. Get him talking about himself.”

It was perfect. On that bitter cold night. I met The Super Sistah at the chic lounge in the meatpacking district dressed perfectly in my form fitting a gray dress that was just too short to actually wear to work. The Super was the epitome of elegance in her purple sleek dress. Corporate sexy we were, pulling it off like pros and don't forget, I had my killer line “Are member of this organization”. Now it was time.

We looked out over the balcony and there was a sea of men all in suits. A beautiful well tailored suit is my weakness. I personally believe a suit makes everything look good.

“Hey Super. Do your people dance?”

No one was dancing. Everyone was just standing around talking, but the music was to loud for anyone to really have a conversation.

“Why do they have to be my people?” She always says that. The Super is Canadian and very proper. I get a kick out of calling her bougie.

We step out into the party and all around us people were kissing one another on the cheeks. The Super Sistah and I are both writers, bloggers and wall flowers. This is an awful combination if you intend on networking, but I had a mission. I had to speak to someone. I knew exactly what would take the edge off.

“Lets get the wine!” That was the best idea I had all night. Then I saw someone I knew.

“You look really familiar.”

“Poetry reading a few weeks back in Harlem.” She said. (I know, I know a She.)

I remembered the sister well. She did the poem about going to grad school. It was her. She had the same short afro but the blue cocktail dress was quite different from the leggings she wore to the poetry show.

“Are you member?” I asked (I know I wasn’t supposed to use the line on a woman, but if she was maybe she could introduce us to some men. Then the Super and I could get some cheek kissing action going.)

“No, I'm here to see if I could find a date.”

“You too.” I laughed hysterically.

“Good luck, I made eye contact with five guys and none of them spoke.”

She made eye contact. I never do that. There is was no hope for me. I aborted the mission and opted to instead to indulge in a glass of pinot noir and enjoy the rest of the evening as much as you can enjoy a party where no one dances or speaks.

As the party wound down, the Super Sistah and I retired to the balcony to beat the crowed to coat check. We looked down swaying to the latest R& B song and sipping the last of our wine.

“One day. We are going to be at a party like this and everyone is going to be there to see us”, I said.

“I already visualized it”

At tap of glass between two friends who bonded over a lousy job, broken hearts and love for writing. I looked over and imagined. We were two queens observing our admires.

“Hello.” It was the end of the night and someone was speaking to me and it was a man! He was dressed well, spoke well, but he was a little to old. He wasn’t dating material but a little conversation never hurt anyone.

“Are you a member of the organization?” He asked.

Wait a minute! That was my line. The one I was supposed to use to meet men, but only spoke to girl from the poetry reading. Here this guy was using it get my attention. Guess what? It works! He probably used it all night.

It was too late now. The party was almost over and people were making their way to coat check.

I responded the way any lady in my position would, “No, but I am thinking about joining”.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What’s in a Name?

“You should have seen how fat you were.” Pop said, recalling the day of my birth to explain why at times he called me, a thin a little girl who grew up to become a slender woman, fat. I listened, sitting next to him on my couch during a commercial break for America’s top rated reality show. Soon the parade of bad singers would return and I would lose interest in this story I heard many times before. I, the daughter of Daniel, was named Ebony Danielle Washington. As my middle name suggests I am a daddy’s girl. Daniel was already a father of two boys when he laid eyes on his baby girl. All he could say was baby girl and Baby Girl would become the name he called me most often.

To the rest of the family I was Princess. It was more of an identity then a name. That is exactly who I was a small coffee colored child with a big smile in a bigger ruffled dress with bows adorning my hair. I completed my Bronx royal family. “A princess that’s what we need”, mother must have said. Princess, the name that defined my early childhood and the weekdays I spent at my Grandma’s house in Queens indulging in as much sweet decadence as possible. It was easier for me to stay there while my brothers were in school; my mother went back to school for her bachelor’s degree and Pop worked long hours. I was with Grandma and I accepted a call each day from my mother, but hearing Pop’s voice was always special.

“Every time my Pop calls me, my heart flutters,” I told my grandma at four years old.
On Friday nights, I would wait for his Buick to approach Grandma’s house. Pop had an affinity for American cars and candy. I would get a hand full in the back seat snuggled between my brothers and ride off for another weekend home and would fall asleep before reaching our destination. Pop would carefully pull me out of the car and carry me to our door. I later admitted I was only pretending to be sleep. He told me he knew. “Baby girl, you talked the whole ride home and fell asleep right before I parked.” I had not yet developed my acting abilities, but I knew Pop would make sure I got to my destination.

“Princess” I told my kindergarten teacher Ms. Angram when she asked me my name on the first day. She was confused as she looked through her rolls. She asked my mother’s name and I pointed across the room to her. She says, “Oh your name is Ebony.” That was the first time I remembered being called by my actual name.

“Fool you knew your name.” My mother said as I recounted the story as an adult.
Perhaps I did. Ebony seemed so natural even as Ms. Angram inserted it into the princess story she read that afternoon. I would get used to hearing my real name outdoors even though I would not appreciate it until I began to perform. Ebony, a black revolutionary first name coupled with Washington a colonial last name. It is a much of a contradiction as I am. I was once confronted by a poet who wanted to know why I chose to use my sir name with its oppressive implications. I told him I got it from Pop.

“Baby girl, I am coming to see American Idol.” I was an adult now, finally on my own. I had my heart broken once was in a relationship, but Pop was the one man which I could depend. Just like he carried me through the streets, Pop continued to carry me though out life and he would always be there, I thought. I was living in my first apartment Pop had moved me into a year earlier. Then Pop called me on a random Wednesday night to watch American Idol. It was odd. Pop hated American Idol along with all the other reality television shows I forced him to watch when I was home. It was our tradition, me wanting to watch some absurd show, Pop complaining but turning the channel to it anyway. It began with Punky Brewster in kindergarten. We had one television back then. Pop missed 60 Minutes for a year before Punky Brewster was finally cancelled.

When Pop came that night and everything seemed normal except for a consistent cough and the fact he wanted to watch American Idol. “Next week you have you have to come to the house and watch. I didn’t know it, but he began Chemotherapy that winter. David Cook won Idol and that was the last season I watched.

Pop would call me Baby Girl until he his voice became a whisper. I would no longer be Baby Girl. Now I listen to for those words in the wind and I wait for the patter in my heart that a four year old girl once felt.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

She Walks

“Get up! It’s time to walk!” Her voice was clear through the receiver.

“Mom, It’s 8AM” I said rolling over. For the first time in four years I had no job to return to, no rush hour traffic to push through, no clients to meet, no where to go. I lost part of my identity!

“You said you were going to get up everyday like you were going to work.”

She was right. I did say that. Didn‘t I? This was what I wanted, time to write that novel, produce the play, get my masters degree. Today I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t want to acknowledge the dawn. I covered my face with the sheet, shielding the rising the sun from my eyes.

“Get up!” She said. “Its time to walk!”
It was four years since she first felt weak, had soreness in her joints and paleness covering her face. First they told her it was stress, then it was Lupus. And when Pop got sick, she put her own pain aside to care for him. When he was gone, she mourned like the rest of us.

When everyone thought she would sink into depression, she said “I think I am going to walk today“. When everyone told her to stop, sit down you are sick, she said I am not, and she walked on.

She began her day with a prayer. She knew she was asking for a miracle from God. Then a juice made of greens to nourish her body and mind. She crossed the street into a park she had not visited in years. At first her stride was slow, her joints weak, but as the flowers blossomed, so did she. When she returned six months later for her regular appointment, the Lupus was gone.

She walked through loneliness, through sorrow, through illness, through doubt to wellness.

She taught me how to walk once, and now she would teach me again.

“Get up!” She said. “It’s time to walk!”

And I did.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Severance

If you find yourself in my position, where a company tells you to return to the office a few days after terminating you to pick up your severance, you have to look good. We were let go on a Wednesday. By Monday rumors were circulating. It’s expected. Everyone wants to know if you took it well or if there were some fireworks. The last thing you want is for your former coworkers to think you are down and out. That was going to be easy. After the wedding, I felt great and made sure my attire matched my mood.

You don’t want to look to professional. You don’t work for them and you don’t need to impress anyone. What says, “I don’t give a darn”? Denim! That’s right. Now not just any jeans would work. I slipped on those skinny jeans I purchased on a rainy day in Paris last year. You have to let them know you are still a professional; my Benetton blazer please. (I am far from a label whore, but this was a special occasion). You want to show just a little bit of sexy. Something you would never wear to work. I stepped into my leopard stilettos.

Of course I needed my war paint. I pulled out my arsenal of cosmetics. This event required my favorite lip color Cranberry Kiss. I was glad I bought four tubes when Carol’s Daughter discontinued the line this summer. My hair was still freshly done in an up do from the wedding. I was ready.

Almost any way! I needed my business cards. The ones I printed years a few years ago with my company and title, but rarely gave out. That’s right I still had a company. Before I started working for the Organization I made money on my own. I would do that again only better this time.
***
The elevator door opened. I was greeted by the cold air that always filled the office. It matched the cold blue institutional walls that made it hard to work some days. I kept a small heater by my leg to keep me warm, but there was a slight side effect. I got a tan on the right side of my leg. It took me a week to figure out why I had a dark spotted patch on my brown leg. That’s another reason to be grateful. I don’t have to cook myself! The heater was passed down from a former colleague after her position was eliminated a year ago. She was a ghost of the organization's past, as I called them, and now so was I.

I was disappointed to see the receptionist desk empty, though I was not surprised. This was Cynthia’s lunch time. I was fashionably late for my noon appointment. My comrades and I were scheduled for separate severance appointments 10, 12 and 2. The Organization hoped we didn’t meet talk, or discuss our separate packages. We planned otherwise. I wanted to pass my coveted heater down to Cynthia. She was one of the few people I cared about in left at the Organization. Seeing her warm smile each day was comforting during the most difficult days.

“I’ll be down stairs.” A voice cried out. It was Jonathan. I looked at him and nodded. He disappeared as soon as I acknowledged him. Like everyone working on the executive side, He was on pins and needles. He worked closely with the executives and could not be seen away from his desk chatting away with a former coworker. I would meet him down stairs away from the prying eyes.

The doors to the executive suit opened. Kareem the new program director walked into the lobby.

“Hello”, that was one of three words he said to me since he took over a month earlier. His lack of interest in his staff should have been the first indication something wrong. At the Organization, it is typical for a new director to terminate staff and build a new team.

“How are you? I am here to see HR.” I shook his hand diffusing any fear.
“I’ll get her.” He said. As his short round physique disappeared behind the double doors, another appeared in low hanging jeans with slightly matted lock.

“Miss I heard what happened” It was a former client. The one I would see on 125th Street selling water and other items on the weekends.
“Why? What?“ He asked. Others joined him. There was outrage. There were more questions.

“All three of you?”

“Miss you want me to do something to them. Because I‘ll…”

“No! No! That is not necessary!” I said. It sounded like a joke, but I wouldn’t put anything past some of my clients. I smiled and in my most comforting voice. “It happens. It’s ok.”

“Come on Miss. There are some people who want to see you.” He said practically dragging me to the doors.

“I can’t.” I started explaining to him.

“She’s ready to see you.” Kareem said breaking up the commotion.
I walked back. My escorts didn’t leave my side.
“I’ll be right back. I told them.”

This was it. They told us our severance would be based on years of service. It was time to find out what the long hours, the money I brought into the Organization when I lead the company in placements. However, for some reason I wasn’t expecting much.

I looked into the remorseful eyes of the human resources director.
“Here we are again a year later.” It was an inside joke referencing the last time my position was eliminated. I took a pay cut. I had to. I just bought my condominium and I returned after traveling Europe. I was broke.

“Yeah!” She remembered the incident. I didn’t budge when she told me “you will receive two weeks pay.” I predicted it. It was standard.

I cleared my desk and said my goodbyes sliding my business card into the hands of a select few. “Did you find a new gig already?” My former manager asked looking down at my glossy card. I was going for that effect.
“It’s for my business. I always had a business.” He just lent me his copy of What color is your Parachute. (I know that was a sign.) He’s not getting it back now. I need it more. He still has a job.

As I took my final walk through the lobby I heard. “Miss, Miss!”
I turned to see the same client. “What about my resume?” he said with panic in his voice. “You have to ask management. I can’t do it now.”
“Miss! You were the best” I gave him a thumbs up. It was a small gesture in exchange for what he gave me, confirmation of a job well done. With a little more pep in my step. I exited and walked into my new life.

In the days that followed, I received calls from my former coworkers. Each called with concerns about my general well being. I assured them I would be fine. Then the most interesting call came from Carol a fellow ghost of the Organization’s past. She was experiencing a particularly difficult time, having been terminated. The organization said she was unprofessional. She never received a warning or a write up. Her unemployment issuance was denied. It was another example of an employee being discarded. It was always our fault when there was a problem at the organization and the solution was always to get rid of them.

“Did you hear?” She asked.
“Who?” It was early in the quarter. I assumed there were more layoffs or terminations. “The organization lost the Center.
“What?” There are times when reality is better than fiction. This was one of them. The Center was the Organization’s biggest contract.

In December, 30 employees of the Organization would join me on the same unemployment lines we once ran. I will pray for each one of them. I know they will all find better opportunities, but as for the Organization, I have to say, had it coming.

“God don’t like ugly” Carol said. I agreed.

We lost a job and now they would lose something that would jeopardize the well being of the entire organization. I considered how the conditions would worsen in the months that would follow. The Organization would have to make up for the loss in revenue. There would be salary cuts, less staff, longer hours. I couldn't help but think some how I was spared.

Was it God protecting me and pushing me forward? Was it Karma coming back to the Organization? I believe it’s both, but for our purposes let’s call it… severance!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wedding Day

The wedding was beautiful and so was the bride. Despite my anxiety, I enjoyed every moment. The last thing I wanted to do days after losing my job was attend a social event. I knew inevitably someone would ask about my profession. It is one of the most common questions asked at gatherings, and I had no clue of how I would answer.

Though I am hopeful (no, certain), I will find love eventually. I do have another 60 (no 70 years on this planet), I have to accept the fact that I will never walk down the aisle with Pop. I will never have a father daughter dance. It was all I wanted when I proposed to The K-Man after Pop was diagnosed with cancer. It wasn't much of a proposal. There was no ring or romance, just a question. After 7 years who needed the formality. Desperate to create a memory and to bring some happiness in a time of pain and uncertainty, I asked him certain he would accept. He told me no. Not in those words exactly more like not yet, we have a lot to work out or some thing like that. I told him I would not forgive him if Pop died. He did. That's how The K- Man became the ex (the abridged version). I promise to give you all of the excruciating details later, but this is not about my day that never happened. This is about my best friend's special day. I was grateful and honored she asked me to be her maid of honor. I know now just how much she loves me and that is a blessing.

I was trying to process my emotions and then I got laid off two days before the big day. What else was I to do? I packed up my bags and baggage hopped on a metro north train bound for Connecticut. I rode off preparing for the question I was certain would come. What do you? What line of work are you in? It's my favorite question to ask? Now it is haunting me. These days its common for someone to answer "I am between jobs right now". I never thought about how that person on the receiving end of my question felt. I have to think of new conversation starters. (If you have any out there let me know.) God is testing me. There is no other explanation for this torture.

***
I was slouched down in the hair stylist's seat, still exhausted from the rehearsal dinner the night before. I am accompanied by the bride, her mom, Tia another college friend. The Bride had us up at 6AM for a 7AM hair appointment. It was going to be a long day, I made it through the previous nights festivities without having to answer the question. Maybe I could get through the weekend, I thought as she finished washing my hair and escorted me to her chair. It was time to twist my locks. This is usually the time for small talk. "How do you like dresses?" the petite brown woman asked . "Oh they are beautiful, they look great on everyone", the only respectable answer even though it was true. "How long have you known the bride?" "About..." I had to think about it. You never count until. Someone asks. "12 years, we met in college." (I have been out of school for 10 that make sense.) I can't believe it was that long.

"What kind of work do you do?" the dreaded question. I knew it would come sooner or later. I thought about it should I answer, "I am social worker/career advisor". I always loved talking about my job. People found me interesting and caring. "Oh that's wonderful" they would all respond. "Wow it must be so rewarding helping people. I hate my job", a bit of envy in their voice. The truth is it was rewarding. I love working with people and then the hidden benefit of always being the most interesting person at the party.

If I changed the tense to was and said, "I was a social worker", I would probably hear I am sorry from another well meaning person. A discussion on the recession and how everyone is affected would follow. Normally I enjoy discussing the current economic crisis and debating solutions, but not when it revolves around my personal livelihood. That was not going to work.

Then there was... I didn't know could it possibly work. I hadn't said that in such a long time. "I am a writer. I am a performer." I said it and it felt so so good. "Really my daughter is an artist.", she said. " Is she?. I have been doing spoken word for 10 years, and I earn my living performing on college campuses". "Really", she answered. "My daughter is the president of the Black Student Union. She loves spoken word. She would love to see you perform. I am going to tell her to check out your website.

At that moment, it occurred to me all this time I had been claiming the wrong profession. I never intended to to be a social worker. That was just a job I got to pay some bills. No different than waiting a table. I got lost because I loved the work. I am and always will be an artist. Never again will I claim another profession. I don't care if I get elected president of the United States I am going to tell everyone "I am an artist and in my spare time I run the country".

Suddenly I was liberated. I was free. I am not unemployed. I can't be unemployed. It's impossible. Art is my life's work.

At the wedding, I danced. I celebrated. I read my poem. Most importantly, I honored a woman who supported me through all my grief, joys and scatter brained ideas (Including this blog. Actually one of the reasons I am finally writing this is because I can't yap to her while she is on her honeymoon, and I have to tell someone.) I know she will continue to support me. The only thing that has changed is her name. I helped her to live out one of her dreams and now it is time to live mine.

The party continued well into the morning. I danced the night away confident that Entrepreneur/ Artist E is even cooler than Social Worker E.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Laid Off

Yesterday, I was shown the door. "We would appreciate it if you would leave", were the exact words of the two cold pale men across the table from myself and two of my colleagues. Funny this is a social service organization and that's as much compassion they could find for three long term employees. I worked there for three years which is a record for an organization with such a high turnover rate. My colleagues Mr. W put in two years of hard labor and Mr. L was released after 13 years.

"Your position has been eliminated.", the usual refrain for those who get laid off. Someone is guaranteed to hear those words every quarter. "Your position has been eliminated" means the organization has changed the job title for the same duties. Four times a year, employees scoured through the online job postings postings to see if their job description appears. Its a life on edge I gave up a year earlier. I knew my day was coming, but admittedly I was shocked as the new Chief Operating Officer called the group in for the 4 o'clock meeting.

" You can apply for the new positions, but we reviewed your resumes and you just aren't qualified." He said sliding a three year old resume in my direction. The one I submitted when I applied for the job. Ok up until this point I was calm but this was ridiculous. No. This was an insult. He really told us to apply for our own jobs and then told us we were unqualified to do the work we were doing for years. Surely the file he retrieved the three year old resume from contained my last three job descriptions at the organization. I wanted to scream "spare me the theatrics." We are going in a different direction would have been sufficient.

They escorted us to our cubicles. I noticed the pile of files I was working on just before the meeting. I stopped short of putting them away. I don't work here anymore. "You can collect your personal items on Monday when you receive your severance package."They watched through the glass windows of the door as we walked into the lobby. I looked up at the photographs on the wall. It was a wall of fame of sorts. Each of the photos belonged to my former clients. I recalled their stories as I passed. The 19 year old the bad attitude. I got her her first job at a major tourist attraction. She told everyone I was her aunt afterwards. My clown of a client who got that job as a porter in a restaurant. Then there was my favorite the one who got a cooking job after spending years in prison. He looked beautiful smiling in front of the restaurant wearing a white chef's jacket. I loved them all. I was going to miss seeing their faces in print.

I remembered our current clients. We did not have a chance to say goodbye. We each developed relationships and we were making progress. There was no closure for any of us.

So much had changed since I lost Pop, and It was about to change again. I was once the star of the organization, now I would have to be my own star. I would have to trust my faith.

Two happy hour drinks later, I arrived at home soaked from the rain and began to pack for my trip to Connecticut. My friends wedding was this weekend. I got laid off, and I am on my way to a social gathering when all I want to do is mope. What kind of timing is this? I guess God doesn't want me to descend into a state of depression. How can I? I am the maid of honor. I am reading a poem. My friend is depending on me. I am going to celebrate. I am going to move forward.