If you grew up as churched as I did, which, well, you didn’t, unless you’re a Hasid or something (in which case you only had to learn the Old Testament, so I might still have you beat) – but anyways, if you grew up anywhere near as churched as I did, you know who Job is. If you don’t know it, his story goes something like this: Job is an upstanding guy who’s got everything going for him. Satan dares God to take everything away from Job to see if Job will stay faithful to God. God takes the challenge. He takes away all Job’s belongings. Job stays faithful. He takes away Job’s health. Job stays faithful. He takes away Job’s children. Job, astoundingly, stays faithful. In the end, Job is rewarded for his faithfulness with good health, lots more cows and camels and stuff, and a bunch more kids (the interchangeability of the kids in this story was always deeply troubling to me, but that’s not the point).
I’ve never much liked the story of Job. It always made me feel like Job (and by extension, people in general) were pawns in a game of one-upmanship between God and Satan. But the story does bring up what have turned out to be some salient questions for me recently.
Since September, I’ve lost my dream job (ok…it wasn’t my dream job…it was a job with my dream organization which I thought was going to lead to my dream job and which I passed up a graduate program to take), I’ve had a big ramp up with all the chronic pain issues as well as various hormonal/chemical woes, and I’ve had the incredible elation of finding out I was finally pregnant followed by the loss of that child. In addition, I made the decision, while pregnant, to start working for the company my husband started out of our guest bedroom this year instead of looking for another job. I thought I’d be doing consulting, but really, I’m doing bookkeeping. I’m an ENFP. Bookkeeping is ENFP hell. It didn’t seem so bad when I knew that I would soon be a mom and this would be practical work I could help out with here and there while focusing primarily on being a parent for the next few years. Now, however, I’m on the brink of turning 34, I have nothing to show for my career to-date, I’m doing a job that has nothing to do with my abilities or interests, working for my husband in the country that I moved to for my husband, far away from my own family, climate, and sense of place and history, and I am, again, childless.
Enter Job. (*Disclaimer* I realize this comparison probably sounds ludicrous, that this is whiny and I have lots to be thankful for. Noted. But I’m in this spot right now and I’m going with it, K?) Like Job, I’ve lost my props – the things around me that tell me life is going well. The physical evidence of a God who’s supposed to be good. And it’s begging the question, who are you without your props? When you’re stripped down and you’ve got no accomplishments or comforts to throw in front of yourself to show people who you are, what’s left?
I had always rather hoped, expected really, that I would be one of the generous, beautiful people if my life came crumbling down around me. Turns out I’m falling kind of more into the curse-God-and-die category. I’m becoming one of the bitter ones. The ones who blame their spouses for their own decisions and are mean to call center customer service representatives and use their horns excessively while driving. The ones who become the old people who no one wants to visit. This is very disappointing.
We went down to the US for American Thanksgiving. It was an odd time, since I haven’t spoken much with my family in the last few months, yet there was so much to say. Consequently, I said as little as possible rather than spending the precious little time we had together sobbing. One day over lunch we somehow got on the topic of this strenghtsfinder test we all happened to have taken and how our strengths lined up with what we’re doing professionally. My brother’s a perfect match. He was pretty much born to do what he does. When it came to me it was clear that my strengths have nothing to do with anything that I do nowadays (which I almost certainly would not be doing had I not been pregnant at the time I got laid off), and in trying to sum it up and get off the subject, I just muttered, “Yeah, bookkeeping is not exactly my dream.” My mom, not letting it go, asked, “What is your dream, sweetie?” I was totally deer in headlights for a second. I realized what I really wanted to say was, “I don’t mess with those anymore. They give God too much leverage to fuck with you.” Primarily on account of the various children present under the age of 4, I managed to instead say “Oh, I don’t know.” Mercifully, my mom changed the subject.
But it’s true. There’s a real bitterness working its way through me about having two of my fondest dreams (career and children) come so impossibly close only to be snatched away within moments of each other. Hope is a cruel bitch, really. And God? I’m still working that out.
This is the point where I should come out with some brilliant conclusion to tie this all up into a lesson learned. But I have only learned this: I don’t like who I am without my props. I don’t want to be the old lady that nobody wants to visit. I feel so effed at the moment that I don’t know what to do with these realizations, but I’m hoping this is a start.