Monday morning I found a twenty dollar bill in my jacket pocket that I thought I’d lost. I was happy I found it. I gave my money toward an office Christmas present for our office housekeeper, and I bought a Coke Zero for the outrageous price of $1.60. If I hadn’t found it, I would have gone to the ATM for the gift money, and it would have been okay. I might not have bought the Coke. Not because I couldn’t but because I would have been annoyed just at the idea of losing money.
There have been times in my life when losing a twenty would have meant I couldn’t do laundry or go to the grocery store. There have been times when twenty was enough to make my life different for a few days or even a week.
You can buy enough to eat for a week for $5 if you need to. Rice, beans, macaroni…those things still come cheap. You can make them in a crock pot that barely uses any electricity and eat from them for days. It’s good for you to try.
We’re getting pay cuts next semester we were told on Monday. Me and all of my school. The amount is more than twenty dollars and less than everything I had to spend on groceries.
In the South, when we don’t know what else to do we eat, and we tell stories. Sometimes when you tell a story, you don’t even know if it’s true until the person you are telling it about owns up to it, and then you still have to wonder if you both just believed it because it sounded good at the time.
And so we sit, we eat the cake bought to cheer us up, and we tell our stories of how we’ll handle this. We’ll eat Ramen noodles. We’ll go Christmas shopping at the Dollar General. Certainly, we’ll cut out trips. We’ll cut out the extra work we were doing for the job that is cutting our pay. We’ll take on extra paying jobs if we can get them. We’ll take the cat off the Science Diet. We’ll quit going out to eat so much. We’ll email our Christmas cards. We’ll buy the crayons with which to draw our sorrows at the Salvation Army. We’ll put the contents of our garages on Ebay. We’ll grocery shop out of the laundry change jar. We go on and on just talking sense and nonsense.
We are perturbed, disturbed, disheartened. We pretend not to be when we look ourselves in the mirror with accusatory tones and say, “Don’t think so much of yourself. It’s okay. You have a job. You’re being selfish to care so much about a few hundred dollars a month.”
It doesn’t help to lecture ourselves. Like it doesn’t help at a funeral home to say things like everything works out for the best. The hit might be financial, but the blow is emotional.
We have lives outside the job. We flirt with other interests. We know who we are when we aren’t there. And still the job is who we are when we are there. We take it with us most everywhere we go. The job is us, and the job has hurt our feelings. It doesn’t matter if it can’t help it. The job that has hurt our feelings is still a bad emotional investment right now. If it were a person, and we could afford separate houses, we’d be spending some time apart right now. We don’t trust each other. We walk carefully around each other. We could see a therapist about this together, but the job doesn’t want to hear what we have to say.
And so we go our separate ways for Christmas–sullen, nervous, counting every penny whether we really need to or not. Parts of us are grateful to have everything we do have, but it doesn’t help right now to say that to the parts of us that just aren’t speaking to each other yet.