Looking for work

-Why didn’t you get that job?
-Because I am useless.

This is the way my mind works. His psychiatrist told my friend to stop looking for work, because the pain it caused was too great for him. I find it difficult, I hate completing the forms, and I feel dreadful after interviews, which might make me perform worse while there. I resent the whole process. I project my own judgment onto the recruiters.

Not getting the job because they are hateful might be just as unhealthy.

Not getting the job also proves I am useless. Right now, I feel intense anger and hatred which I aim only at myself.

I can find excuses for other people. I can find them for myself, if I think about it. This is where I am, now. This is the situation of those looking for employees.

Even after yearly meeting, I am depressed, now, because of that job. Did I let my friend down? That slothfulness is wicked in me. And the rest. And the loss of it, because it would have been a good thing to do.

This is how my mind works. I would like it to work otherwise. It is the root of the insanity I noticed aged 20, that I felt at once the Centre of the Universe, and worthless. Neither of those views was rational, and I could not come to a sane view in between. Even once I worked out the sane view-

I am a human being- fearfully and wonderfully made, yet one in seven billion-

the insane views still affect me. And they affect my actions now, my fear of acting.

Wish me well.

Titian, Danae

Milton Keynes

I walked down to the Grand Union Canal, and stood under the flyover, looking at its concrete support. With tiny pebbles embedded in the surface and an oval shape, there is an attempt to make it pleasing, if not beautiful. I touch it to feel its strength- if you hug trees, why not concrete pillars?- then wander towards the park. First there are permanent moorings, for inhabited narrowboats- “Moose Drool”; one has a Skull and Crossbones flying- then 48 hour spaces. A swan on the grass is grooming, despite the children nearby, staring at it; and I thought, What’s the point?

If I got this job, and uprooted myself to what the inhabitants call “The City” though City status has not yet been granted by Royal Prerogative. 250,000 people is bigger than many cities. If I got this job, what does it get me?

“Why do you want this job?” If there is a next time, I might tell the truth: “Because I am desperate, and terrified of losing my benefits. Because I think I might have some hope of getting it, and in a Quaker context some hope of using some of my gifts.” How would that do? This lot explained that instead of that they would ask “How would this job fit this stage of your life journey?” Well. Immature, unable to comprehend or bear my emotions, and in complete ignorance of what it would mean I chose to be a lawyer, imagining I would impersonally and rationally enforce rules. Then I transitioned. I want to escape into the Quaker bubble, surrounded by nice people in a sort of Postman Pat world, insulated from the Outer Darkness.

I put that in slightly different words. And “After some publication I would like time to develop my writing”, though I am unsure I would actually do that.

Honestly. “What is your life journey?” “Exulting in the imbalance of power between us, I am going to ask you to expose all your vulnerabilities”. Or, What? It’s hardly “Tell us how brilliant and successful you are” when the job is a minimum wage receptionist’s, part time, live in so it is hard to escape even when off duty.

I see people bearing up under difficult circumstances, even exceptionally stressful circumstances. I wonder about my own, how have they been enough to break me. After my interview in January I was distraught and despairing. This time I thought I had got my despair in first: I dragged myself there though I hardly saw any point. Nope. I am still enraged and despairing now. “I think you should apply for more intellectually challenging job” texted a friend. Oh, Brilliant! What, exactly? That’s as bad as “Why are you not still a solicitor?” Soberly, I formulated- every human being has good and bad luck, character, choices; it is as it is; now, I cry out “Because I am weak, stupid and useless!”

Gerda Wegener Eva Heramb


The garden is very beautiful. I am able at will to enter that state of meditative presence, but here it is demanded of me: I took a few steps from the door, and paused, to look from above at the grounds; then a few steps further, looking over to the walled garden; then further, finally to the Magnolia. I am with the magnolia, seeing heaven in its soft, furry buds, my attention shifting to the whole. I touch the buds. I am in my senses. This is where I prepare myself.

A live-in job is intense, but I would have loved it. I barely noticed two candidates; two did not bother me, and then there was Rachel. I wish Rachel had not been there. I gave a good interview. Of course there are bits I regret- missing that out can’t have looked good- but I showed who I am. The final question was, “If we did not employ you, what would we be missing?” I expatiated on my wonderfulness: intelligence, stubbornness, emotional intelligence…

The first group exercise was, the six of you are on a boat with an irreparable hole and insufficient pump. The life-raft only takes two. Who goes? They started maundering about using bits of the boat as a raft. I said I wanted on the life-raft.

-What can you do for us, said one I barely noticed.
-Honour your memory.

The interview was Saturday. On Monday evening, I phoned my referee, who had not yet been contacted, and knew I had not got it. H texted wondering if I had heard but was too upset to let her know. No, I would let you know; later that day, I had the email, and did. She phoned to console me. Perhaps a little nest-building might do me good? She is not merely projecting her current concerns.

I was very upset on Tuesday, but realised that these are short-lived emotions, not enough to stop me trying again.

Sunday (today) I was at Meeting, at my exercise. I am cold, bored, and see little I can do for pleasure or to improve my situation. Godric bickered with his wife, complaining about her. She had got him up early, because I had emailed the meeting to say I needed a lift. Yes, I could have emailed to say I had one. “AACH! I am sorry you did not get that job,” he says. “It’s my distress, and not yours,” I shouted, turned my back and walked out. Then went back and hugged him to show no ill-will.

I do what I see I can do to improve my situation. I wish I saw more, or felt able to do more, but I do what I see I can do.

Degas, The Tub

Why do I care?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/82/Francisco_de_Goya%2C_Saturno_devorando_a_su_hijo_%281819-1823%29.jpgI despair.

It got to me, going to Edinburgh, all the anticipation- how would my life change if I got that job, what would I make of it? All the effort. And then the refusal. I get interviews. I have usually got an interview for each application I have made. And then I do not get the job. After going to Edinburgh, I did little the following week. I found that thinking “I will do X at Y future time” had no meaning. Y time came, and I did not. The thought, I need to do X, and I have time to do it Now worked.

Two client meetings got to me at the CAB. I phoned the tax credit office, to find what had gone wrong with a claim, since on the basis of what the claimant told me she was entitled to more than £100 a week- means-tested benefit, her family need that to live on- and it had been refused. It is not particularly generous. She seemed vulnerable, and in need of an even break. There is a dedicated phone line for advisers, but the person on that phone line could not find any details of the decision. It took 29 minutes, as indicated by the phone, for her to give me the contact number of the man who made the decision.

He wanted my full name, the address and post code and phone numbers of my office to prove I was who I said I was. I asked him what had happened and he said, “Why don’t you ask her?” Because I want to know what your position is. He told me I was arrogant, and he did not have to speak to me, after talking over me. He found me “condensating”, and by that time my brain was fried. I knew he meant some other thing but the word “condescending” eluded me. It was as if, rather than checking whether someone is entitled, he was seeking out excuses not to pay.

I have a law degree and benefits experience going back to 1993. File:Goya Dog.jpgI asked about why a claim for a benefit with simple entitlement criteria and clear entitlement had not been paid, and I could not get a straight answer. I could not even find out what the dispute was.

Man this morning, slightly more complicated benefit rules applied, involving two separate claims systems. He had asked the jobcentre what he should claim, and been told one thing but not the £30 a week more generous alternative. There had been a half-arsed attempt to get the claim right, the less generous way, but it was not followed through. Actually, they were getting more than they were entitled to, but that means that absolutely all of it might be recovered at some point in the future, without deducting the amount they would have been entitled to. This started six months ago. What should be done now? What should be done about the past period, given the near-impossibility of backdating? Why did that particular payment stop? Why has that particular payment not started yet?

I came out, and started weeping in the loos, and our lovely Peruvian receptionist consoled and hugged me. Why does it matter so much to me? There is the mirage of a system with clear rules for clear outcomes, fit the rules and you get the money. But put it into practice, and that does not happen. I have made appeals on serious knotty points of law, and here am I helping with claims. People who are entitled are not getting what they are entitled. The man this morning had a responsible job and has average intelligence, certainly greater than some benefit claimants, as benefits tend to be for the most vulnerable people. And he needs a lawyer to sort his claim out. The system is mad.

Written 15 October.