Saturday, May 2, 2015

Losing a Job is Like Falling Off a Cliff

We so often feel like we have an obligation to be in control of our whole lives, to have power over every circumstance and provision for every possible adversity.

We try to be invulnerable, because we fear that our own sufferings will impoverish and endanger everyone who has been entrusted to us. We think that our failure will make everything around us fall apart.

Having responsibility -- having others depend on us -- is indeed a very serious and a very real thing. It provokes within us the profound energy to keep working even in the face of many obstacles.

And we must do our best, every day, to invest ourselves in the responsibility that has been entrusted to us. Nevertheless, we fail in many ways, and sometimes our failures are dramatic and humbling. Sometimes we need help.

My name is John Janaro. I am a man, a husband, and a father. I lost my job. In the year 2008 I lost my entire career. Everything I had worked so hard to attain fell through my hands. I lost these resources not only for myself but also for my wife and children.

I have a chronic disability that places frustrating limits on my capacity to do any work. I don't know how to communicate this frustration and the problems it creates for a family. I live with it every day, and it's harder than I can possibly describe. We manage. My wife works, I do what I can, we live a creative frugality, and we have some help. We manage, but it's hard.

I also know well that health is not the only cause of occupational paralysis. Social and economic circumstances can destroy jobs, destroy opportunities, and overwhelm a person's resources. The enormous pressures of this constantly changing society are pushing people off their solid ground, and over the cliff.

Some find their footing again, in a new place that's better than the last. Thank God.

Many just have to grab temporary inadequate solutions. They try to shrink their own humanity as they grapple with the constantly shifting ground under themselves and their families.

Others just keep falling and can't see where it will end.

I want to say something, however inadequate, about people like me who are men, who have been responsible for providing for their families, and who have fallen off the cliff. I want to address the men because I am a man, but I also want to be heard by all those who love and care for such men, and those who depend on them.

I know that there are many men out there, husbands and fathers, my brothers, who tumble through this abyss of anxiety and humiliation. They are hindered by disability or economic changes or other circumstances. So many of my brothers lose their jobs and can't find work.

What a suffering this is! My brothers know they have something to give; they have experienced the hard joy of work and they know the value of its fruits. And one day, this work -- this constructive activity of tenacious self-giving -- is no longer possible for them.

They wake up in the morning, and realize with terrible clarity that there is no work for them that day.

Don't doubt this for a moment: they are ashamed of themselves because of a situation that they cannot change. They feel useless and disconnected from everyone else, even their own family members. But often they are awkward at forming or fostering relationships and are inclined to bury their emotions.

They are trying the best they can, but they are just poor little human beings. This is too much for them.

So they are falling through the gaping hole of loneliness and self-loathing, looking for a lifeline but too often grabbing onto things that let them forget, things that dull the pain.

I wrote a book about my own experience with this kind of stuff, about illness and weakness and suffering and the mysterious mercy of the One who refuses to give up on us. It has been fairly well read by many people in various circumstances.

I often hear from people who suffer from physical and mental illnesses, who are overwhelmed by life's pain, who struggle with their incapacities and incomprehensible losses. Most of the people I hear from are women. Certainly, many women face these same tensions as providers (even primary providers) for families, as well as the many special problems that come with motherhood.

I am always ready to walk with my sisters in solidarity, understanding, and support.

I realize that women often communicate with greater ease about their problems and experiences. Even though there is a vast array of dispositions that shape the human capacity for openness, not the least of which is the unique reality of each person, it often seems that women tend to be more spontaneously inclined to share their difficulties with others.

I wonder, though... where are the men? Where are you, my brothers?

I know that you are suffering, and that you feel helpless and afraid.

Surely we can help one another to bear our burdens. We can walk together, learn new paths, build in new ways, discover a courageous compassion, a virile tenderness.