Someone very dear to me pointed out that many of my posts were too detached, and read like reporting. This individual had a point. I am a Federal employee and as such, I aimed to appear nonpartisan and to protect individuals’ privacy (including my own). That said, within those confines, I can share more of how the extended furlough personally affected me.
For me, I was blessed with enough savings as to not feel the financial stress that people living paycheck to paycheck felt. That said, as the shutdown dragged on, I felt the pinch. I hated making withdrawals from my savings account. I cut back on expenses. I held off on making charitable contributions. And even now, with my make-up pay deposited in my account, I wonder what will happen after February 15th. I realize that other people had it much worse than me. The following image from the Washington Post is one that is emblematic of what is clinically called the “partial government shutdown”– middle class professionals standing in a food pantry line.
A second feeling that I had was of complete helplessness. Yes, I could protest, and yes, I could write my Congressman. However, I did not get a sense that it was effective. I felt that I was preaching to the choir. I felt like a pawn in a political power play. It was very disorienting. In retrospect, perhaps images such as the the silent furloughed workers holding empty plates below (downloaded off of the web) may have influenced policy-makers. Certainly, the actions of the air traffic controllers who called in sick on January 26th had an impact.
A third feeling that I had was feeling in limbo. It was impossible to plan much of anything because who knew how long this furlough would last. We could be out another month or two, or called back to work the next day. As a planner, I found this maddening.
Like many others, I had trouble sleeping. In my case, typically, I would fall asleep but wake up 5 hours later, unable to fall back asleep. My rhythm was disturbed. I later heard of furloughed workers who made sure that they went to bed and woke up at their regular time; perhaps that might have served me well.
I did find constructive things to do. Several years worth of clutter was tossed, recycled, or given to Goodwill. I cooked a lot, using new recipes and ingredients. I spent time with family and friends. I read a few books. And I started this blog. When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.
Finally, I felt that, even as a pawn, I was a bit player in a very interesting historical moment. However, I fervently hope that I don’t have to do a repeat performance in 2 1/2 weeks.