I had a job interview yesterday. The only good thing about it was that I can tell myself this is the last one I’ll ever have to go through–not because I got the job but because at my age and with my resume, full-time employment opportunities are as rare as wise decisions were during most of my life, when I was compiling that resume (I have many years of expertise in the world of alcoholic character actors, and cult leaders, for example–not exactly marketable skills).
Oh my God. It was horrible, even though a rational person would probably say I did fine. And even when it was over, I had this mental slime residue I couldn’t get rid of–all the things I shouldn’t have said, or the things I should have said, or the part when my mouth went obviously dry during the teaching demo (let me demonstrate what a panic attack looks like), the part when I couldn’t download the file properly or even work the light switch, the fact that time ran out when I wasn’t even close to being done, the way I managed to put my boss on the spot, the way nothing I said even made sense.
Oh my God.
All of you people out there who promised to pray for me–WTF??!? Was the cell tower to God out of range? Because intermittently, I did seem to get hooked up to something that mattered–but then it was like, hello? Hello? Can you hear me now? How about if I move over here? It’s……not…….working…….Hello? God? Anybody?
Jesus! (He was asleep in the back of the boat, snoring.)
The worst part is this aftermath; it’s like compulsive instant replay of the move that lost the World Cup on a penalty kick: the goalee sees the ball coming a little too late, she jumps and reaches, but it sails over her head. Again and again.
Failure to perform.
Naturally, one obsesses: but is it always this excruciating? Do other people want to blow their brains out if only to shut them down? Or drink a fifth of whiskey? Or spend over two hours watching Snow White and the Huntsman? That was the method of oblivion I opted for, which turned out to be just a metaphorical replay of my interview, in which a perfectly good fairy tale devolved helplessly into a slow-motion fiasco: Really? Seriously? Fairies that look like Gollum, and a cartoon deer?
Even my escape was second-rate! A real writing teacher would have gone for the Jack, not a Skinny Girl margarita and a chick flick. So now I get a meta-level beat down from my crowd of inner critics, who, through long work in therapy, had been won over as fans or at least convinced to tone down the criticism, until this interview–I had won their respect, but then I disappointed them and now I…
Oh my God: shut UP!!!
It’s not even about whether I get the job. It’s all about punishing myself for not performing perfectly. I know I’m not the only one who does this, and I know I do it all the time–not just in high-stakes events like a job interview.
Reassurance is not a cure.
Success is not a cure.
Screaming, on the other hand, helped—and this was a revelation: on the way home from the movie, I realized I was alone in my closed-up car, winding through an unpopulated area at high speed, so I tried it. I believe it’s the first time in my life that I’ve actually screamed, so I had to experiment—but it didn’t take long for my first wimpy effort to accelerate into a throat-scarring banshee wail that sounded like an ice pick driven into my ear—followed by blissful, complete, mental silence.
Wow. I’m good at screaming. Maybe I could get hired somewhere to demonstrate this.
And now, with the whole thing receding into some reasonable mental space, no larger than it deserves, I’m thinking maybe those prayers worked after all: maybe what I needed was to give voice not to the perfect interview, but to a lifetime of perfect, desperate rage. I mean, think about it: sixty-five years old, and I had never screamed. Maybe God wanted to hear my voice, because I think it might have been loud enough to reach, wherever he is–loud enough to wake Jesus up in the back seat, because suddenly there was silence and the mental storm ceased, just like when those guys in the boat woke him up and he calmed the waters and asked them where their faith was.
Maybe some version of the next miracles he performed will also follow: freedom from the compulsion to cut oneself with stones, freedom from long and mysterious bleeding out, freedom from the lifetime nightmare of being misunderstood and misjudged, which is the trauma that seems to give rise to this whole thing. As in that last miracle—when Jesus woke up the little girl who was supposedly dead—the people who raised me thought I was dead, maybe because they had worked so hard to kill me, and in subsequent roles over the course of a lifetime I had been cast as the silent good girl, or the victim lying flayed open on the table in some real-life version of CSI.
But it turns out I was just asleep. The first thing I did when I woke up was to scream, like anyone would upon having her chest wall slit and peeled back to expose the heart to being measured, weighed, analyzed and rated. That’s what it felt like every time I was sent to a different home, a different family, when I was a child. My life was on the line if I failed to perform, and screaming was not an option.
Now, though, it’s apparently a whole new world—and in a weird synchronicity, I notice, today is also Independence Day where I live. God only knows what will come out of my mouth next.