When Life Gives You Lemons, Make A Top 10 List

In a funny twist of events, my most successful writing seems to be about my lack of employment as a writer. Today, DoubleX.com has posted my Top Ten List, 10 Reasons Why Losing My Job Has Been Good for the Universe. I would like to believe that this list is a) funny b) true and c) will lead to me getting a new job so I can stop pretending that I like being unemployed.

To me, a, b, c basically summarize the nature of the self-deprecating humor that evolves when we are approaching the asymptote of Total And Complete Despair. That kind of humor has been my go-to fix for about 6 years now.

It started in college. I had this friend, C., who loved coffee and catastrophic thinking as much as I did. Whenever we stopped overworking ourselves enough to have a little free time, we’d meet at WaWa to buy 24 oz weirdly flavored coffees, complain about how much work we had, come up with reasons why boys would never like us, over-analyze the reasons why we were unable to like ourselves, and then decorate our chatter with some intellectual sparring to prove that the reason boys didn’t like us and we didn’t like us was because we were just too damn smart. Refill coffees, repeat.

These coffee sessions were fun because my friend and I were pretty good at being really sarcastic. But after 5 years, I realized that all-negative humor all the time still leaves you feeling pretty negative. And a few months ago, I suddenly had the funny sense that self-deprecating humor could go too far. Basically, self-deprecating humor is only funny if somewhere deep inside, you have a little self-support system.

So, after I got laid off, I decided to aim for a more balanced diet. Sure, I’d still make fun of myself. But I’d add other things, like yoga, small presents for myself, one or two genuine conversations with another human being, basic self-respect…and so on.

I learned that there is nothing wrong with the mostly-sarcastic approach to life. As long as you’re not lying to yourself about it. Sometimes it helps people to feel more comfortable. Last weekend was my friend’s annual birthday party in CT, and I killed time in the parking lot while waiting for a ride by explaining in great detail to two younger friends what it meant to have a lifeFAIL.

When our ride came, we all buckled up and the first thing the driver, my friend N., said was, “Hey, RB? Weren’t you dating someone last year?”
“Yeah!” Shouted one of the boys from the backseat. “She used to have a job last year, too!” And we all had a good laugh, because I had effectively demonstrated that LifeFAILs are funny.

That said, two days later, it was 3am, I was in the pool, and I was worried. I said to N., “I have no idea what’s going to happen to my life. And I don’t know what to do.” I wasn’t joking. He replied by saying what everyone says, that I would be “fine”. But he added, “You know, you seem to get a lot more joy out of just living than most people do.”
“I know,” I sulked. “But all I get is joy in a moment. How and why am I supposed to move towards the future?”
“More joy in the next moment?” He suggested. “That seems good enough to me.” Now, of course N. is starting business school next week, so he is clearly someone who can tell me that “stopping and smelling the roses” will sustain me through retirement….oy. But at that moment, I took his words at face value.

I also realized that I get a lot of joy out of being sarcastic. So if I pretend that unfunny, horrible things are funny, so be it. Sure! There are definitely 10 great things about being laid off. Maybe 20. And if there aren’t, I think we can all have a joyful time acting as though there are.


9 thoughts on “When Life Gives You Lemons, Make A Top 10 List

  1. I've been out of work for a while as well and have experienced some of those same, fearful “deer caught in headlights” moments. I got the same advice that your friend gave to you…here's hoping it works for the both of us!
    Nice post – and congrats on the doublex thing!

  2. There's nothing wrong with being sarcastic and self-depreciating, as long as you can also give yourself the proper love, non-sarcasm and non-self-depreciation when its needed.

    Congrats on your article being published. And yes, I love the irony there!

  3. While I've never been able to give up WaWa coffee, I came to the same conclusion about sarcasm and self-confidence. I have learned that the things I write down and say out loud are remembered the longest, by myself and others. In the course of my life I will only get so many words… and in hindsight I wish I hadn't wasted so many enumerating life's trials and spent a few more counting its (atheistic) blessings… of which you were, and are, one. So from one wiser woman to another: thank you for the coffee, your humor in all its forms, sharing your brilliance, listening, and always understanding even when I didn't understand myself… and mostly for possessing an intellect and a spirit I admire and envy. You are a fabulous friend and I love you.

  4. Congrats on the publication at DoubleX.com.
    It is true, your writing has taken on a new sizzle with your unemployment. I think you'll look back on this time with appreciation for all that grew from it.

  5. Another great post.

    It's hard for us sarcastic types to find a balance between saying what we think is funny and starting to believe what we say. In situations like you are in, it's even harder because emotions are so raw.

    Bravo to you for committing to finding a balance.

  6. oh seriously i needed to read this too.
    i also had a friend in grad school where we'd go on about everyone and everything. it was fun. it was SUPER negative. and i wasn't happy. mostly because i like being sarcastic, but i am inherently not the most sarcastic person around. actually i suck at being sarcastic.

    and i might soon be unemployed… and it scares the crap out of me.

    i've been thinking today that i might need a lot of yoga… and i think some positive happy people- which i will get to it tonight!


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