Monday, December 22, 2003


Walk. Mass. Office. Morning Prayer.

Last night I went to bed early, around 8. Read appendixes in the Return of the King until I dozed off and the book fell out of my hands to the floor. Woke up enough to turn out the light. After I'd been asleep for a while, the phone rang. I often get calls in the middle of the night, at 2 or 3 in the morning, and when I wake up with my head hurting and my heart pounding, I can't hear anyone on the phone in my room. This time I heard a faint voice in the phone. I said, "I can't hear you. Call back and I'll get on another phone."

Ten minutes later the phone rang again. It was S who was laid off from Sun at least a year ago. She is old enough to retire, but she is ekeing out disability payments at 70% salary, not taxed, which makes it at least equivalent to full pay. Her town house is paid for. She is able to do pretty much whatever she wants, including going to swim at 24 hour fitness every day, but she is still angry at being laid off and bitter, bitter, bitter. I said, "What time is it?" She said, "It's 10:15." I said, "I'm asleep."

Now, I would think that a person who made a call after 10 o'clock at night and was told that the person called had been sleeping would apologize, offer to call another day, and hang up. Instead, she went on the offensive (at least I was offended): "What time did you call me the other day, 8:45 in the morning?" So? I thought. That's daytime. I never heard any rules against calling people in the day time. I felt a rush of loathing for her. " Are you punishing me?" "No."

I said, "What time do you get up?" "Whenever I wake up." Well, then, I thought, that will make it hard to decide what a good time is to call you.

I said, "Are you over the flu?" She had the flu when I called. I lay back on the pillows. I told her, "I think I must have the flu, I was lying here having sweats, maybe it's the flu." Am I wrong to think that a caller who was informed that the person she called had gone to bed early because she felt ill would apologize and hang up for that reason alone? Forgetting the part about it being after 10 and the person has been sleeping?

But she persisted. She asked me how I'm doing. I knew she meant about being laid off. I told her I'm happy, and that I'm doing all sorts of things to re-start my creative writing career. "Did you join the alias I told you about for Sun alumni?" "I did," I said, "but I opted out of receiving the emails, and I haven't gotten around to reading the postings on the website. "

"You should," S said, "I am not in that position, but I read about a man who had to start his own business because there are no jobs out there. I read lots of those stories. And other people talk about how hard they had to work to find a way to get insurance coverage." If she was trying to strike fear in my heart, she was saying exactly the right things. It felt like she was trying to bring me down, break my optimism. My stomach turned.

I broke in, "I feel awful. I was very happy to hear from you because I wanted to get back in touch. Let's talk some other time. I promise I won't call you at 8:45 in the morning if you don't call me again after 10 at night." And I hung up. I had a long time to think afterwards because I couldn't go back to sleep again.

Today I read a bit more ROTK in the middle, in the part about the scouring of the shire. I think it's Frodo who chides some hobbits who are complaining and blaming and finding fault, tells them they are talking "Orc talk." I want to be open and loving and friendly and accepting and supportive to everyone, but I hereby resolve not to talk with people who practice "Orc talk," and to drop that kind of talk out of my conversation. That's what us laid off writers mostly did after the layoffs for days. I would have done a lot more of that if I hadn't gone to a class on mastering anger two days after the layoffs. The things I learned in the class helped me put a curb on my part of the boss-bashing and paranoia.

Is this little screed against S a kind of orc talk? The precepts of the desert fathers about anger say to turn hateful thoughts into a prayer. I did some heavy praying about S last night after her call. And I offer up another prayer for her now. I need to.
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