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Many Methods of Measurement…

When I lived in Minneapolis, I worked for a small ad agency that eventually tumbled and crumbled and closed up shop. While I was there, I made some friends, worked on some interesting business, and got some good funny stories (always important.) One of those was sort of snarky, if only because it was brought on by the target of our snark. One of our co-workers (public relations) always behaved as though she was working ‘just to keep busy’, as though she existed on this ethereal plane above us, even when she walked among us. She loved to recount her days spent in New York City, and her favorite line was uttered with dripping nostalgia: “Life was measured in Hermes scarves….” I had to ask my compadre in snark what in the hell that even meant. “Oh you know, Jennifer. They just scrimped and saved and skipped meals so they could afford to buy a Hermes scarf. They’re like, $500 apiece.” Safe to say that was a different life, and definitely a different plane from mine. But my co-worker did a spot-on imitation of her, complete with the wafting of her hand and fluttering of her fingertips, and I could almost see the brightly-colored silk streaming in the breeze.

Since my unemployment started, I’ve measured time differently. It’s odd, and strangely emotional, as I tried to explain it tonight at knit night. Each day that I wear makeup, I take it off in the evening with one of those makeup-remover wipes, the kind in a plastic bag with a seal, to keep the moisture in. When I first lost my job, I wondered if I could continue to afford to buy them. (They’re like, $5 for a package of 30.) After the terror of financial ruin faded, I did continue to buy them, and as I removed one each night, I wondered where my life would be the next time I needed to replace them. Unlike the previous 10+ years, I don’t have the illusion that when the calendar page turns, and the makeup-wipe wrapper is tossed in the trash, life will be the same as it is today. In some ways, certainly, I don’t want it to be the same. But we are creatures of habit. For the most part, we have routines. For 90% or so, that routine includes getting up and going to work roughly 5 days a week. Now I work part-time and cobble up freelance as I can, and wait. And wipe. And wonder. Where will my head, my heart, my creativity be when I wheel my cart down the beauty products aisle at Target, and toss another Boots 4-in-1 Makeup Remover wipes into the cart? Not knowing, in some ways, is good. It stretches you. It pushes you into new perspectives, new paths, as you restructure your New World Order and check your budget and reflect on what you enjoy doing and what you’re rid of, too. In some ways, though, my heart aches to the point of tears for the comfort of knowing. Let me clarify. The illusion of knowing, because none of us really, truly KNOW. We assume. We hope. We wish. We trust. That things will remain relatively the same, because they are comfortable and they provide and they are The Way, where work or goods are exchanged for money or services. So when people say things like, “Let’s plan to do X, I think it’s the third week of April,” my mental calendar is a mystery. I used to know immediately if I could participate or not, what was on my schedule and what the future purportedly held. Now I assume very little and just wonder… where will I be?

That said, I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t be buying one of those silly scarves.

4 Comments

  1. Yet again, you move me. My sister had a college roommate who’s family came into money late in her teenage year. She was fairly self indulgent including never cutting tags off things and purposefully hanging her clothes with the tag out for all to see. My sister still is in contact with her. She lives in a very chic, upper east side condo, complete with…..one of the most over the top Hermes scarf collections. At a minimum she has 250 of them. She claims that she will donate them to a museum when she dies. My sister who also has been blessed in life related this story to me and said how can anyone measure happiness in a scarf, yet her friend does. We don’t know where we will be tomorrow or where are fortunes will lead us, but one thing we are wealthy in is friendship, and yes, it doesn’t put the B-BQ on the plate but it always has the richest sauce…..I lurv ya Jen….Keep your ever amazing spirit glowing.

  2. well i measure my life in dog food. josie eats better than we do. 🙂 oh and let’s not forget the other two heathens. they get their fair share of our money…the cats, that is.

    great reminders, jen.

  3. Wow, Jen. What knitting group do you attend? I bet that’s a rock’n FUN one. But your posts either move me to laughter or tears, and this one was thought provoking and teary. You are SO RIGHT. I’m experiencing it vicariously through Bob’s unemployment right now. It’s really unsettling – not just the financial aspect but the sheer uncertainly that remains. Unfortunately, I don’t know that it’s just our age – but our time in history.

  4. You said this so well. Especially about how none of us really KNOW. I mean, you and I both understand how quickly our loved ones can be taken from us and how we can think they will be with us forever then wham… they’re gone. Everything in life is that fragile, we just take it all in stride and try to ignore the voices telling us it can all be gone in a heartbeat. I think most of us really don’t appreciate what we have when we have it… any of it at any time.

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