May 30 2012 By Louise Jordan
There’s something very strange happening to me. I finished my last job about ten days ago, and am now looking for the next one. As the days go by, I am starting to feel insubstantial, ghost-like.
In an effort to save money, I am working from home a lot and this is adding to my isolation. Because I am short on money, I don’t go shopping either, and so the normal personal transactions of daily working life are dwindling. Yesterday, I was in Ealing for a course, and on the way back, noticed how irritable and distracted everyone on the platform was, mainly because the return train to West Drayton was delayed. I thought to myself that I, too, probably would have tutted and scowled like that a few months ago, but now it doesn’t faze me at all.
I have started to notice all the things going on around me – birds singing their hearts out, insects buzzing and even weeds in full bloom – nature bursting into life alongside the train tracks as I sit waiting on the platform. And at odd moments like these I have felt a sudden sense of pure joy, something I remember from my backpacking days.
That was the last time I found myself with no responsibilities or duties to perform, and nothing to do but discover and enjoy the world. It turns out that this joy wasn’t only available on the beaches of Vietnam and in the bars of Sydney, but also in the garden of a townhouse in West Drayton and on the sticky platform of Ealing Broadway Station.
Now that I have become unconnected to the stresses of everyday working life, it is as though I have taken a step back and can see clearly for the first time. Either that, or not working has sent me a bit doolally.
My increasing sense of invisibility is also evident in my spreadsheet of work expenses. A few months ago I was driven to take the train into town almost every day, send endless e-mail proposals to companies, arrange work lunches with former colleagues and keep up-to-date with news and gossip by buying magazines and books.
All of this is catalogued and calculated on Excel – will these spreadsheets be the archives our future selves will use to look at how we lived?
Now, when I go through the receipts at the end of the month, there is almost nothing to report. When I was hungry after my course yesterday, I eschewed all the expensive sandwiches in Sainsbury’s and bought myself a single banana with 18p of change in my purse, in order not to trouble further the steady creep of my overdraft.
Shops are beautiful irrelevancies, nicely displayed things I don’t need to trouble myself with because I can’t have them.
I get my vital daily reading matter from the library – thanks this month to Sandi Toksvig for her delightful fiction – and my MIL’s daily paper. Lunches take the form of leftovers and whatever’s coming up to its due date in the fridge.
Free exercise comes from walking and cycling in our local area – we discovered another new footpath near Uxbridge at the weekend, and have the nettle stings to prove that we were the first in a while to attempt that particular route.
And, so, apart from smashing down a few nettles, I take nothing from the world and put nothing back. I have become neutral, an observer.
However, my poor husband still has to go to the office every day in order for us to eat, so there is the tiniest edge of guilt creeping into my zen-like state of calm.
So, with reluctance, I turn away from my dreamlike state and back to the job pages I go.
Louise Jordan is a journalist currently not quite 'sofa-surfing' at her mother in law's in West Drayton while between jobs.