If You Start to Die – Don’t

I read that quote in Gail Collins’ New York Times column today. It was 108 year-old Frank Buckle’s secret to a long life. Frank is the last surviving veteran of World War I.

I read it this morning after spending a fitful night of maybe-sleep worrying about how I will pay my bills. Not an unusual concern these days. Nor is it the first time in my life that I have worried about this.

I have been a freelance technical writer for 24 years; and never have I had so much trouble finding work. Some of the problem is that I was distracted for a good five years with taking care of my mother’s and father-in-law’s descent into declining health and eventual death. My mentor also died over this time period. As did the wife of a friend of ours. And my cat.

I say I was distracted by this. Actually, work would have been a distraction from that. As Willie Loman’s wife says in Death of a Salesman, “Attention must be paid.”

But those four or five years took me out of the loop. My Linkedin profile is practically anorexic. I don’t really know how to take advantage of the maybe-there’s-a-three degree-of-separation between me and someone who is hiring.

I have begun to think I am unemployable.

But, when you start to think something like that – don’t.

I think in part, the workplace has changed. Companies want to hire temporary employees, but ask that the temporary employee commit as if it (the company) was offering a marriage proposal without a prenup.

I remember from my dating years that what they are really offering is a one-night stand.

So I can rant about this change (which I am quite capable of doing), or try and retool myself. Much as I did when I finally decided that if I was looking for a committed relationship, I shouldn’t settle for one-night stands with the hope it might be more.

I still have no idea what the answer is or where to go. I just know that taking a job that requires twelve-hour days, four of which are taken up in a commute, is like death to me.

Someone said to me, “Anyone can put up with anything for six months.” She said this right after I visited a friend of mine whose life is waning. He will probably not be here in six months.

So my choice was, “When you start to die, don’t.”

And my challenge is, how do I pay the bills?

Don’t know the answer yet.

But, I think it’s important for all of us in these weird, rocky economic times to put our lives first, and don’t put up with one-night stands – unless you both agree that’s what you want.

Comments and suggestions are welcome. If you know anyone who needs a writer (technical, business, etc.) let me know.

Oh, and I love Gail Collins. In a recent column she said that the Republicans were afraid that if Sotomayor was appointed to the Supreme Court that she might become untethered and commit empathy. Her writing takes some of the sting out of losing Molly Ivins.

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