There are some people who can Lean In™ and say YES to everything and are completely jazzed and energized by doing so.
I think they are the people that inspire shows like House of Cards. There we have a whole bunch of people who Lean In and play to win. It’s a certain kind of person and by golly, if they are that kind of person, more power to them. Enjoy.
The thing is, when you are poor or unemployed or just in a bad place, it’s entirely possible someone is going to suggest you, too, Lean In and make new networking contacts and you know, just do a little more because if you did you would be so much better off. Since you are now able to identify this person as the Priority Police you can realize they have no idea what you’ve been doing or if you really haven’t been trying to network or find a job or polish your resume and – if possible – turn and walk the other way.
Enough of Me Telling You What to Do – Let’s Talk About What I *Actually* Do
I’m happy to tell YOU to walk away because that’s what I should do, but don’t. I want you to have it better than I do, and one of the easiest ways not to feel like crap is to stop making this mistake that I seem to insist on making repeatedly. When the priority police tell me I should be doing more I immediately feel insecure, then I feel shame, then tell myself how horrible and lazy I am, and then I list all the things I could be doing that I’m not doing right now.
By the time I’ve gotten home or walked away from the laptop (depends on the conversation) the list has made it out of my head and onto some mix of paper, post-it notes, and index cards. It’s on tables, walls, counters, and floors. It usually looks like a jumbled mess between a mind-map, a resume, a cover letter, and a suicide note apologizing to everyone I’ve ever known for never doing anything with my life. What I’m trying to do with all this mess is figure out my life’s purpose immediately. It doesn’t matter that I already have a plan and am actively working on it. Instead of trusting my plan, I have given my entire brain and life over to the impressions of someone who doesn’t know me well enough to know what I have or have not done in the last day, the last month, maybe even the last year.
That’s how my brain is wired. I am willing to trust the opinion of someone with no information on me as long as it feeds into my overwhelming fear that I am not good enough.
There are people who can sense they are making a dent in your psyche. I don’t even think they all do it on purpose. Maybe they get some kind of rush when they feel your mental pushback. Like they’re really getting through to you! So they just keep drilling down until you feel you’re at the dentist’s office in Little Shop of Horrors and I start to wonder if they’re enjoying giving me all this Life Advice I could use if I was a completely different person living in completely different circumstances and – usually – by hiring people with my non-existent disposable income.
I tend to just start imagining that they are melting in front of me. Then the melty bits kind of swirl.
I’m sure if they notice me doing this they think I’m too dumb to pay attention long enough to be successful at anything, but at that point I’m hoping they think I’m too dumb to be saved and maybe, just maybe, they’ll decide to leave me alone.
Want to Know A Secret?
The people that do this…the people who judge and who tell you what’s what in your own life in an unhelpful way? They are always dealing with something messed up. I have never run into someone happy and unbroken wandering around telling other people they need to put more effort into things.
I mean, sure, happy people will give you advice and people who don’t have secrets will try to give you a hand or a referral or a suggestion but by and large if you are dealing with someone who won’t stop? Who is telling you to Lean In and read more business books and start something up? Their life is jacked up in ways you can’t imagine. Whether it’s childhood trauma or current events there’s something there.
Engaging with that madness is always a mistake.
You will lose because the other person is just not coming at you from a place of kindness or love, so they won’t hesitate to hit below the belt the first chance they get. If you’re sensitive like me and you make the mistake of engaging (I told you, I’m telling you to do as I say here, not as I do…you know I’m engaging with these people…it’s a sickness) you will find it takes mere minutes for the long list of things you need to be doing and the tone of “it’s SOOOO easy” quickly turns into “You don’t really want help, do you?”
Every. Damn. Time. I say, “No thank you.” See, I told you, I can’t resist.
What I mean is, “Not from you because it’s obvious you are not anywhere close to where I would like my finish line to be.” What they hear – no matter what form your “No thank you” takes or the actual words you use – is that you are a lazy cow that should be taken out into a field and shot like the glue horse you are.
What Are Unemployed People Doing if They Are Not Working?
There was this whole rash of posts online about 20-somethings who were unemployed and kind of considered it a vacation. I’m trying to remember the term … I remember! Funemployment. (That link will take you to a Google search so you can see the overview of articles on the term, nothing fancy.) So there was this weird sub-culture of people who were enjoying being unemployed and that kind of seeped into the general consciousness as something people did when they were unemployed.
Like, as a rule as opposed to an exception.
I don’t even understand that. You can only get away with that if you are in a very particular set of circumstances. Namely, you have relatives or friends willing to put you up for free and feed you. That can’t be a long-term prospect for any but a very few people, can it?
We spend a great deal of time on the phone with the mortgage company, the cellular company, calling medical providers who haven’t put through our insurance properly and are instead telling us we owe thousands of dollars for a couple ER visits I had in December after insurance, and researching what food banks in our area are open and not completely out of stock on food. Since our SNAP benefits were reduced and we are a little nervous about making it to the end of the month, food banks are where we go next.
But If You Can Find A Volunteer Run Food Pantry that Does Not Take Government Funding….
Here is a little secret about finding food. There are two kinds of food banks. One receives government funding and has a lot of rules about the things they can accept and give out to people. The second kind – what I call the Magic Food Bank – is one staffed by volunteers and does not take money from the government. The one we have goes to all kinds of local stores and gets their food before it goes in the trash. The big downside of this kind of food bank is you have to pay. The entry fee for today was $10 and let me show you what we got. (These food banks are also not income contingent so even if you don’t qualify for government benefits you can go get food!!)
This has seriously been such a load off knowing we can freeze a whole bunch of that bread to use through March. Sure, the white bread will be a little iffy once it’s thawed back out but put some peanut butter and jelly on it and it’s great, really.
The pepper picture was taken after my 4yo ate half of it. She really, REALLY likes peppers. We all do. The rest went into a salad with the organic baby romaine. We are saving the rutabaga for soup, because rutabagas are awesome in soup.
I also read on Poor As Folk about the possibility of picking up discarded/abandoned food shares from CSAs, so we are going to look into that as well. Produce is my priority.
Back to Leaning In
I have to tell you, for those of us who are poor leaning in is a whole other animal. I mean, should I spend my days making my children the best they can possibly be? Should I spent my days cleaning everything until it’s toothbrush-scrubbed? Should I spend my days making money? Should I spend my day researching ways to find healthy and fresh food for my family?
Really, I don’t have to be the CEO of anything other than my family to know that sacrifices have to be made in order to stay happy, healthy, and sane. I dedicate part of every other day to working out. That is a priority for me. It makes me feel good. It helps me to be a better mother to my children and keep my cool.
Really, all we have are our choices. The things we can think about at the end of the day and say, “Yeah, I totally did that.”
What are some things that make you happy when you get them done?
Last but not least…huge hat tip to Carla (who is absolutely apologetically herself…Always!!) for the inspirational Facebook post that made this post possible. It linked to an article at the Washington Post about reclining instead of leaning-in.