I retired from my job at the cuckoo’s nest- Oregon State Hospital- on March 31st, last week. It was an end to 49 years of work. My first real job was in the summer of 1972 at the Green Furniture Hospital. My brother’s friend Roy helped me get the job. I stopped by there last week.
Today is also the 28th anniversary of my teenage daughter’s suicide. Some things never grow old.
In a little bit I will travel to Portland with Elizabeth to meet Matt at Powell Butte where her ashes are buried. I’ll continue this afterwards.
Back from Powell Butte. A lot of tree damage up there from the big ice storm. I left some change and diet coke at the spot.
When I was out the other day looking at places where I worked I also stopped by my first high school. It was Washington High but became a music venue (Revolution Hall and more recently it looks like a Whole Foods overlooking the old football field. The Revolution Hall is shuttered due to Covid. Don’t know if they’re coming back or not. Two blocks from there is the house where I was initiated into Ananda Marga.
The past week I have felt awash in loss. It has felt very true that all of life is loss. (I know it is also rebirth- the thing is just transformation- but my heart wants to hold on to what it loves.)
Looking ahead I feel extremely positive. I am grateful to not have to work to survive right now. I am grateful for the opportunity to see who I am without the job.
Identity is a big piece of this-
My work life has meant the construction of a work persona. The role uses skills that I have but which also cost me. It has never really been a fair deal. The end of work as my way of living is one brick out of the wall.
The Green Furniture Hospital is where it started. I stopped in. I told the guys there that I worked there in 1972. They let me look around. They showed me some pictures of people that used to work there. In the oldest ones there was someone that looked like me. It all looked the same though they said there had been a fire 25 years ago.
On good days I worked in the shop sanding furniture (“furns” we called them, “green furns”), removing paint and stuff with Jasco. On bad days I worked in the basement scrubbing furniture in a vat of solvents. Acetone, toluene and one other I can’t remember. There was a tiny window in one end of the basement. After I’d go home and shower you could still smell remover on my breath. On the best days I got to go on pick ups or deliveries.
Across the street there was the park where I used to eat my peanut butter and honey sandwiches for lunch. I was a vegetarian.
Then back into the shop.
I got the job to earn money for a school trip to Mexico. That was just a blast. Worth it. Another story for sure.
Interesting that my career began at the Green Furniture Hospital that was not a hospital and ended at the Oregon State Hospital which is also not a hospital. (It’s basically a mental health prison and forced treatment center but that’s another story, too.)
Today I got too tense. I was struggling to be engaged and social and normal and I’ve been freaking out inside. It doesn’t help that I can’t express it well. I feel ashamed that I am unable to relax or get energy from being around people. I get many good things from being around people but energy or relaxed are not two of them. Then on a day like today I feel overwhelmed and eventually end up barking to be left alone.
On the other hand, for an anniversary day it’s not so bad. And I haven’t had any issues or “symptoms” in the weeks or days leading up to it. Everyone has been good and kind.
This topic of identity, roles and work is one I will come back to. I have the time and the general inclination to write. Today is not the day.