Learning

It’s been just a big ‘ol voyage of discovery for me lately. I’m still unemployed, and one of my biggest challenges is how much I like it.

There is so much to do with my time! In the past few weeks I’ve taken online training and earned a certification that may help me land a job (or at least get my foot in the door someplace). I’ve also started learning some code. I’ve taken a few free online training courses in Javascript and Python, and will be moving on to a SQL refresher. And then there is all the self-care I’ve doing.

Last week I had my last (hopefully) physical therapy appointment for my neck. I still get occasional, mild tingling/numbness in my right hand and arm, but it’s bearable. I’m accepting that my body has accumulated wear and tear, and that I likely will just have to get used to things like this happening now and then. I’m still going to PT for my ankle, but I’m hoping to wrap that up in the next few weeks, too.

My next physical milestone will be eye surgery #4 that is scheduled for September 17. The previous three surgeries and copious steroid drops I’ve had to use in my bad eye have accelerated cataract development. The eye docs both agree that the cataract is advanced enough to merit removal, although I could put it off for a bit longer. The uncertainty about my medical insurance makes me reluctant to wait, however. I know that I have this particular insurance plan through the end of the year and that I’m within $200 of my out-of-pocket maximum for the year. When I get a new job, my medical benefits may be different, and I may be forced to find new doctors. I’d much rather have one of the doctors I’ve been working with for the past three years do my surgery, so it makes financial and medical sense to do it now. I won’t need to go to San Francisco for this eye surgery, though. The local ophthalmologist is able to do this procedure, which makes the arrangements for transport much easier.

I’ve been counseled that removing the cataract may not make a big difference in my vision, though. What I perceive as cloudiness in my vision may or may not be due to the cataract. The local eye doc noted that I’ve lost quite a bit of vision due to the glaucoma, and the “cloudiness” could simply be my brain trying to fill in the gaps. I won’t know without the surgery, though, so it’s worth a try. The doctor also told me that there is a risk that my drainage device may stop working after the surgery. If that happens then I’ll have to have yet another surgery to add a new device. Despite these uncertainties, I still think it is worth the risks. After all, my only other choice is to just give up on trying to improve my vision, right?

Not working has also given me much more time to follow my thoughts and reflect on my emotions and reactions to situations and people. I feel like I’m making huge advances in understanding myself and trying to create new, positive neural pathways. Self-reflection was something I struggled with in the past; setting aside time for it just seemed like a luxury and a privilege I couldn’t afford. I’m practicing gratitude, making time for physical rest, and simply enjoying being in this time and place.

Summer is nearly over and I need to step up the job hunt, though. I think I’m ready for the challenge of keeping these good habits for my mental and physical well-being in balance while I’m working full-time. The voyage continues!

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Big changes

Hello again. After over four months off from blogging, there is so much I can write about that it’s hard to know where to start.

First, I am OK. My last blog post focused on how much pain I was in: both mental and physical pain. The former was helped immensely by adding a small dose of sertraline (Zoloft) to my daily regimen. I haven’t had good luck with SSRIs in the past due to unpleasant side effects, but this one doesn’t seem to have any for me.

I’m still working on the physical pain, but I’m doing much better. The numbness/tingling eventually went away, but then it came back again in June. It was even worse when it recurred. I had a few days where I could do nothing but lay flat on my back with no pillows of any kind because that was the only way to keep the numbness and tingling away. I went to the doctor and was told that it was likely I had a pinched nerve in my neck. Only with an MRI could we definitively know what is causing the issue, but I was given some muscle relaxants so I could sleep at night and a referral for physical therapy. The PT has been helping and I only occasionally have the feeling of numbness/tingling now. I’m still sleeping without any pillows under my head, though. That seems to be the only way to ensure that I don’t wake up with pain.

There was a little side problem that developed just before Memorial Day. I fractured my right ankle while missing a step as I walked into the back yard. It was just a small fracture, but it limited my mobility for several weeks since I was in a walking boot. I’ve also been doing PT for the ankle to strengthen it.

The biggest change in my life, though, is that I was let go from my job of nearly 20 years. As I reflect on how things had been going at work, there were signs I should have been looking for another position. But I was simply not able to focus on that with all of the other issues I’d been dealing with. I was told the news just before Memorial Day weekend and informed that June 1 would be my last day.

There were many emotions I felt during the phone call where the news was delivered to me, but one of the most telling was relief. I had been trying to make the job work for me for three years. My transfer to a new group at that time had a profound effect on my job satisfaction. Whereas before I had been a bit bored and feeling slightly stuck, after the transfer I had increasing feelings of unhappiness and futility added to the mix.

I think I did pretty well in negotiating a severance package. I did not take the first offer and asked for additional weeks. While I was initially told there was no room for negotiation, I was given the additional time and so I am being paid through the end of the calendar year. I also get to continue my medical, dental, and vision coverage as if I was an employee until that time, and I was given a transition assistance coach.

After the last day of work, I decided to give myself a week off and not start any job hunting activities during that time. That week off extended through the end of June as I found myself working through what it meant to be without a job for the first time in 35 years. It was freeing and terrifying at the same time.

Eventually, I got my resume in shape, updated my LinkedIn profile, secured my references, and started looking at job listings. Three weeks ago I applied for one job, and over the past two weeks I’ve applied for four more. I’m getting better at cover letters. I received one rejection and I shrugged it off. I’m stepping up my networking game, too.

The Bay Area economy continues to be strong and I’m sure to find a job. In order to afford my mortgage payment, though, there is a certain salary I must make. That rules out getting a job here in wine country, where the local salaries don’t pay enough. I also can’t return to work for a non-profit as I did at the beginning of my career, or use my library science degree to work at a public or academic library. None of those jobs pay enough, either. I’m looking jobs in San Francisco or East Bay, since they seem to be the only ones that have adequate salary ranges.

And then there is the possibility of selling my house. I just don’t want to think about that now, but I will admit that I am savoring living in this house in a more intentional way with this thought in mind. I love my little house and intend to keep it for as long as possible.

Despite having severance that covers all my bills for now, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the job loss is affecting my financial plans, too. So there are plenty of potential financial blog topics I could write about in the coming months.

That’s it for today. If there is anyone still out there reading this, please share an update or job hunting tips in the comments.