Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The meaning of Christmas, from the Unemployed

I beg your pardon that this isn't about sports, but all that's going on right now are meaning-deficient college basketball games, lesser bowl games garnering interest only from followers of the participants, and the flurry of activity in the NFL as teams try to secure playoff spots -- and you hear enough from the talking heads over at ESPN and NFL Network about that.

The rest of the world is in full Christmas mode, and the blogosphere is full of long and bloated posts about love and family and so forth. I'm taking a different angle on it this year.

About two months ago I got laid off from a job I enjoyed doing. Intra-office crap was making the brew a little bitter, but what I felt like I was doing for the high-school athletes of Osceola County made it worthwhile. It came without warning, and while I was told the move was based on the lack of revenue and not my job performance, it's like saying I was shot by a cop who was aiming at a fleeing bad guy.

I've spent nine weeks or so applying for jobs I'd like (and some that I wouldn't) and wondering when the hell unemployment benefits will kick in. The whole experience has been equal parts disappointing and humiliating. I feel like I let people down, especially my daughter, who luckily has been shielded from it in her own little world and has no idea why Daddy's dropping her off or picking her up at day care more often. Outside of the freelance work graciously offered by my former employer and hopefully my new one, I'm quite often floating through the day without purpose.

Lately I feel like this shouldn't happen during Christmas. What's better then Christmas? Music, food, family, happy children, vacation time. It's all right there but year's version had just been ruined by a bunch of corporate scrooges. I wanted nothing to do with the holiday ... the official amputation of the Christmas spirit.

Then I thought of what another friend had told me when this happened to him, when he watched the holiday classic "White Christmas" and heard Bing Crosby croon some heavy lyrics ...

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I remember when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

Amen, brother. I have one helluva resourceful (and hot) wife, the cutest kid on the planet, a roof over my head and the smarts to pull out of this. And the response from friends and some family these last two months has been uplifiting. From offering to do lunch to sending along job leads, it's all meant something and I'll never forget it. In another classic you can't avoid this month, "It's A Wonderful Life", Clarence tells George Bailey, "No man is a failure, who has friends."

This Christmas, there will be presents, and cookies, and music, and laughter, and it will be among people who are special in my life, who will inspire me to pick myself up, shake off the cobwebs, get another job and pick my chin up off the ground. I'll be surrounded by happy children pleased to unwrap what they wanted from Santa, who is still stopping by at some point Saturday night, and between my wife, mother and mother-in-law, they will fill me up with enough fattening and sugary foods to put me in a diabetic coma until, oh, St. Patrick's Day.

So I'm doing everything this Christmas that I do every Christmas. This time around, however, it's going to mean just a bit more. I hope all of you appreciate what you have as much as I do, and that you have as merry a Christmas as me.

Statement of full disclosure: A good friend of mine expressed a lot of these same emotions in a missive he wrote when going through this same experience about three years ago. Reading it really hit me and I thought, "I hope I'm not like that if I lose my job." Well, um, I am. This feeling is apparently universal.

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