The polite sounding lady who only held my fate in her hands left a message for me to return her call. We played phone tag and she won her round just as I was pulling out the chicken nuggets.
It was the first time that I had ever filed for unemployment and she'd had some questions about my application. Even though my husband (who was far more experienced in this sort of thing) had never been contacted directly, I figured that it must be somewhat routine.
To give her my full attention, I stepped into the hallway that lead out to our garage .
Between the shuffle of the pan on the stove, the chatter of hungry children, and the door closing behind me, I must have missed the part where she introduced herself as the lady who was about to sucker-punch me.
Where did that nice lady who shared my name go?!? I liked her better.
This lady wasted no time on niceties and had me pushed into a corner before I could even think about what had happened.
I was not used to being spoken-over by other adults.
Isn't it customary to take turns listening and then speaking?
It had been one week since I had walked away from the job that I had loved for the past ten years, that had fit my life perfectly, and I had done everything that had been asked of me.
Skills assessment? Check.
Meeting with Case Manager? Check. Check.
We had even loaded up the family and driven to Salem to look into the possibility of enrolling in a program that certified teachers to teach English to non-native speakers.
How is it that I am the one that raised a red flag?
She did not seem interested in any of my foot-work and demanded that I tell her how I was going to fix my situation.
'What resumes have you sent in? I need to know what you are going to do.'
You and me both, lady.
She even implied that she could disqualify me based on the fact that I might have a conflict in availability due to childcare needs.
As in...I have five children?
I thought about telling her that my plan was to do her job and get glowing marks for bedside manner.
It was equally tempting to ask her if she was offering to babysit, even though I knew that what she was really saying was that there was no room for my life outside of her formula.
As a child I had a big sister who occasionally liked to try to kick me in the back of my knees while I was walking, just to see if my legs would buckle. This felt sort of like that.
These type of moments make it easy to forget that the voices on the other end of the phone line, at the opposite side of the counter, behind the anonymity of the computer screen and assumptions, are still just human voices attached to feet that also lose contact with their foundation.
Humanity is a complicated thing and answers that are easy and fit neatly often buckle when faced with the weight of our unique stories.
But mouths that pause to listen, and words measured to manifest truth and grace can remind us all that we can always stand up again.
Even when we do find ourselves on our faces, in shock at the things that have snuck up from behind us, only our legs have failed, not the ground that we build upon.
When the time is right, we can take off our shoes and press in to learn it in new ways.
Invariably, isn't this always the next thing?
Isn't this the only true way forward?