Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The Next Right Thing

“You seem so OK with this, Beth,” a soon-to-be-former-colleague said to me yesterday on the phone.

I said something chirpy about how all the resisting in the world wasn’t going to make the company say, “You know what – you’re right. We messed up. We really desperately need you all.” I said that the sooner I got in with things, the better.

And I think I mean it.

Meanwhile, the atmosphere here is midway between a party and a wake (although isn’t a wake midway between a party and a funeral? I guess that’s what I mean). Colleagues are constantly popping out for a glass of wine – at 3 in the afternoon. We make jokes about what might happen to various celebrities in the next few weeks, and how it is totally not our problem. I am cheerily announcing to colleagues that I’ve suddenly started wearing my best work clothes and highest heels because pretty soon I’m going to be working in my pajamas. (I’ve always joked that I wanted to be one of those little old ladies who went to the grocery store in a tiara. But do you think I’ll become a thirtysomething who wears her red carpet gowns to the corner shop because I’ve got nowhere else to go?)

I know my life is about to change drastically, and I can see it so many little things. Designer sample sales? Haven’t got money and don’t need any more clothes. (Though I’m slightly tempted because I probably won’t get invited ever again.) Morning tube crush? Not any more. Pilates classes? Hmmm, going to have to ration them out... This morning I eyed the £1 bottles of cherry diet Coke I buy – usually in twos and threes – and thought yet again that it’s a habit I really ought to give up, for financial if not health reasons. And on Sunday, a friend and I debated meeting up but decided it was absolutely impossible to do so without spending money (she gets paid this week). Who wants to look in shops or markets when you can’t buy anything, and even if we get a tea we have to factor in the travel costs from our respective homes. (I didn’t point out that pretty soon I won’t be happy to gab on and on on my mobile because I – as opposed to my company – will be paying the bill.)

These are just small things, I know – but they’re a sign of what’s to come.

I can make loads of jokes, but the truth is, I’m scared.

Years ago, when my life was in a state of chaos and upheaval of a degree only slightly less than this, I cried to a very wise friend: “What am I going to do?”

“Do the next right thing,” she replied.

I love that answer. Sometimes the next right thing is just making sure I have a proper lunch, or that I've gotten enough sleep. Sometimes it's tackling a banking problem that's been bugging me for the past five months. Other times it is actual work. Whatever it is, it is progress of some kind, on some front.

Do the next right thing? I'm trying. I'm trying.

* * *

Weight this morning: 152 1/2

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Terms: Indefinite

So I got my indefinite leave to remain, but not without a six-hour struggle. A friend pointed out that it was lucky I hadn't hired a lawyer, because no lawyer would have cared about my case as much as I did. Basically, I hit them with as much paper (evidence) as I possibly could, and I used the journalist tactic of not taking no for an answer.

Why was I so desperate? Partly the fear of losing £950 (you have to pay up whether your application is accepted or rejected), but mostly the fear of losing my job -- and with it my right to remain in the UK, not to mention my eligibility for residency. For the past year or two, I've hung on to a job I haven't loved partly because I needed five years continuous on a work permit to qualify for residency.

After I escaped Croydon with the residence permit safely in my passport, I went home and cracked open the Krug and stared repeatedly at the sticker. Terms: Indefinite. I can work for whoever I want, and stay here as long as I want (unless I commit a crime, and I don't think they mean crime of fashion...)

I have never been very organized, and I blame this partly on binge eating. Everything is either a very immediate need -- so desperate, so overwhelming -- or just too much bother (especially when you're stuffed or just self-loathing). Which is why I can't help congratulating myself especially heartily for having been organized on the indefinite leave to remain front. I've had a lot going on, and yet I still was organized enough to take the test, book the appointment, and collect the necessary documents without a last-minute scramble. Yes, loads of people manage to do this sort of thing without feeling the need to congratulate themselves for it, but for me, when life seems overwhelming (which it does at the moment), I want to burrow into a mountain of pasta and hide, not organize bank statements and dig out my mother's death certificate to explain a 20-day absence from the UK right after my work permit was granted.

It's also a good thing I was so organized because today my company announced what I have been predicting for several months: That they are closing their foreign office and we are all losing our jobs. If I first had to call Croydon to set up an appointment now, I'd be out of luck -- I'd have to wait until January, by which point I'd be out of a job and ineligible.

I've been planning to leave for months, and now it looks like I'm going to be paid to do so (redundancy pay). But I still teared up a bit when I heard the news today. I guess it's one thing to think something is going to happen, and another to find out it certainly is.

And as I said to my grandmother, although I've been increasingly miserable in the job -- and feeling quite taken advantage of -- doing the residency application (which requires you to list all absences in and out of the country) reminded me of just how great things were at one point. What other job would have sent me -- in the same year -- to Afghanistan and then to a rapper's yacht in St. Tropez? I guess the danger is that I get so nostalgic and grateful for the experiences I had that I'm totally unable to negotiate...

In the middle of all this, I hit 100 days binge free -- and 80 pounds lost (weight this morning was 153). I expect this month -- and probably the few after it -- to be difficult, but I'm hoping to remember that eating doesn't solve any problem besides actual physical hunger.

Monday, 10 November 2008

The Last Vestiges

Just a quick one, as I am freaking out about my appointment in Croydon tomorrow for indefinite leave to remain in the UK (aka residency) – and about the impending layoffs at my company. I’ll freak out less about the latter if I am awarded the former, let’s put it that way.
Yesterday morning after breakfast I volunteered to go to the corner shop for a few items we needed. We were going out later and could have gotten them together, but for some reason it seemed really important to me that I go out – alone – and purchase them.

When I left the house I felt this great rush of joy and anticipation. I walked down the street wondering why, and then it hit me: It’s a vestigial bingeing behavior. It’s still absolutely automatic for me to grab any legitimate excuse to leave the house and go off on my own to a shop.

I felt a strange rush of emotion at this realization – part sadness, part pride, part relief. At the shop I bought the items we needed – plus a single 35g bar of Green & Black’s for me for later. I still haven’t eaten it yet.