Uselessness

Uselessness — n. The quality of having no practical use.

— From Webster’s Online Dictionary

I’m thinking this has something to do with the initial hormone shot wearing off, but the past few days I’ve been fighting a skirmish with my old pal, depression. I thought I was finally past that, damn it all.

I sit there in my room sometimes, facing the laptop screen, telling myself “I hate life” and then, just as rapidly, rebutting myself: “No, I don’t hate life” (which actually is quite an improvement over previous bouts with the darkness). The bicycle and the blogging have been therapeutic, but only to a point. Saturday night I went out to the Chinese buffet very early in the evening, then just went home and wasted a whole evening on the computer, not feeling very social or very worthy of anyone’s company.

Last September and October, at my absolute worst — the double-barrel anxieties of dealing with the family post-coming out and the total frustration at not being wanted in the work world, not even worthy of a rejection — I did this for a few weeks. I’d sit in my room, maybe lie in bed for hours, play computer games for hours on end, go to Winco every day or two and buy shit foods and stuff my fat face and then go to bed and repeat the process the next day. And life went on without me. It wasn’t until I went home in November that I felt even human again. I never want to be at that point again.

The malaise these past few days doesn’t come close to that. Besides, I’ve been riding my bike almost daily, even through the blahs, and I can feel the weight staring to come off at last, and it feels pretty damn good. But it still doesn’t clear away all the dark clouds — or the root of them: the pervasive feeling of being useless, 14 1/2 months after my layoff.

The odd thing, though, is that this resurgence of the blues has happened while I’m in the midst of the first two solid bites I’ve had on jobs since I’ve been out of work.

I had a preliminary phone interview with a nonprofit three weeks ago for a big position. Last week, I was strongly encouraged to apply for a managing job at another nonprofit. (And if you’re wondering: Neither job discriminates against gender identity.) Playing the waiting game has me on pins and needles at the moment; nothing I can do but go about life and wait — wait for the first place to get back to me about a second interview, wait for the second place to get back to me about a first interview.

Finally — not one, but two places interested in me. And I’ve allowed myself to be optimistic and even to fantasize — to look ahead a little bit and go to craigslist and see what the rents are like in both cities. But nothing’s for real until one of those people says “Welcome aboard, Fran. It’s good to have you.” Until then, I’m still useless.

(And BTW, let me just jump in here: NO, this is NOT a call for “Oh, Fran, you’re not useless” comments. I won’t even approve them. This is just a reflection of life at the moment, a chronicle of what a person — at least this one — goes through inside in the face of prolonged unemployment. So no pity comments, okay?)

Yeah, yeah, I know — I’m not the only one out of work. If that’s supposed to be a consolation — well, it’s not. If it’s supposed to be a scold — well, perhaps you’d like to trade places if you think it’s not so bad. I know I don’t have it as bad as some, and I do have friends in worse straits. I saw the post on Huffington Monday morning about 99ers — people who’ve run through their 99 weeks of benefits. In California alone, 111,000 people have exhausted their benefits. People out of work six months or longer make up 45.9% of the total unemployed; people out of work at least a year make up 23%.

And all the while, the scumbags who helped bring about our miseries in the first place are still doing what they do best: gouging us and bleeding us dry.

I’ve been on unemployment a year this week. (Woo hoo!) I’m eligible for checks at least into early 2011. But my COBRA goes up in September from $240 a month to $687. I won’t be able to swing that. I’ll have to ditch the health insurance and hope for the best — hope that my CPAP machine for my sleep apnea doesn’t break down, hope that I can still swing the just-started hormone therapy, hope that I don’t break any teeth. But I’m on the clock. If something doesn’t give soon, I’m screwed.

But aside from that, there’s the overall feeling that I’m not a productive part of society at large, I’m not pulling my weight, I’m just being a sponge. I feel like a charity case, which is a very humbling experience, especially staring my 49th birthday in the face. (Yeah, I realize on a rational level that I’m just getting back all the money I paid into unemployment all these years, but still, on a visceral level, it just plain blows.) I don’t really have a solid reason to be here at the moment. At least a reason I can understand.

Plus, I’ve noticed people dropping out of my life lately, some seemingly on purpose, which cuts me pretty badly. People I’ve known for years, decades. People I was always good to. People who have dropped off the planet, who don’t return calls or emails, or who get short with me for no goddamn reason. Maybe they told me all the right things to my face when I came out but really didn’t mean them; who knows? I have no clue and none seem to be forthcoming. I still have quite a few friends, but enough weirdness has happened lately to make me think that at some point, everyone else is gonna jump ship, too. That’s been part of the loop tape running through my head during this latest tussle. While I’ve been able to fantasize about being employed again and making a difference and getting paid for it and really making a mark, I still sometimes see myself homeless in some place like Santa Cruz, totally alone, cut off from family and friends. It scares me.

If you know me, you know I’m a firm believer in everything for a reason, and I still realize there has to be a reason for all this bullshit. It’s just hard to keep that faith sometimes.

I did have a running email conversation the other night with a rather new friend in my life. Phoebe’s another ex-journalist who’s now a successful PR consultant in San Francisco; I met her at our friend Tom’s memorial a couple months ago, and she’s been a big help on both the job and gender fronts in the little time I’ve known her. She had some excellent advice:

do not feel down. just understand that your place right now is a headache.

being unemployed is horrific. if you didn’t feel like shit, you’d be a worthless human being.

trust me, i’ve been there re: job loss.

my advice? don’t frantically apply for new jobs. your leads are great. they offer what you want.

go to a movie. take walk. stop by a yoga studio. check out a gospel service.

do something that warms your heart and your spirit.

harness this window as a time to enjoy just being YOU.

[In another message:]

at the risk of sounding all god squad …

a higher being is giving you this time to improve you.

use it as you see fit, but use it.

don’t let it slip by.

[And about the uselessness thing:]

your significance is measured by the kindness you show others — and yourself — daily.

It all rings loud-and-clear true. But I guess the self part still needs a bit of work.

Maybe the girl half of my life is what’s keeping me propped up for now, just as the lunar module kept the Apollo 13 crew alive, except I don’t plan on jettisoning it when I’m ready to return to earth. The girl side is the side with the self-esteem and the relative fearlessness and confidence; the boy side, never that strong to start with, is the part that took a major hit.

Maybe there really is some purpose to my life. And maybe that job is just around the corner. And prosperity is just around the corner. But will my sanity still be here when the time comes?

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