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It’s that questionable time of year where a government-issued furloughed is so close I can smell unemployment’s awkwardness.

A furlough is when a worker, like yours truly, is placed on a temporary unpaid leave status.

My Park Ranger positing falls into a weird crevice of permanent yet temporary work subject to furlough. I am guaranteed 6 months of employment and little else. This is my second government-issued furlough.

The first furlough went better than expected since I went into a part-time/full-time schedule for a few months and then wound down to a couple of weeks off before going back to full-time for six months.

This year, I worked my 6-month contract but then picked up a detail (a temporary position lasting 4 months) into my boss’s role. He picked up a detail too. The details shook out into being employed for 10 months.

Next stop, 6 weeks unemployed.

Ready, Set, Vacate

I’m ready for a vacation, even if it’s more of a staycation.

I had scant time off during the holidays, outside of the silent meditation retreat. Even though it’s every inch the slow season where I see more geese than people and I love my job. But I love reading, the comforts of home, and guiltless bathroom time even more.

When I explain forced unemployment, some are aghast. After all, no work means no pay. As a federal employee, I can collect unemployment but at $250 a week it’s not a pay cut; it’s a pay crater. Still, it’s an option. When I worked for the local school district, I signed paperwork stating I wouldn’t collect unemployment. A sting was painful as the meager pay.

However, I prefer to look at this upcoming uncertainty as an extended vacation. When I return, our busy season will be in full swing of people, programs, and poop problems.  

The Doing

I value lists and have crafted several from groceries to to-dos to have-dones, I have a litany of things I turn from written debris into reality.

If I’m not taking it off a list, did it even happen?!

At the top of the furlough list is fun. Shocking, since I tend to put tough stuff first.

  • I’ll be traveling over the mountains and into the haze for the Color Run. Visiting Joshua Tree National Park is right alongside paying people to throw color in my face.
  • I need time to plan another life list trip this fall. Zorbing, staying in a luxe treehouse, are all possible options that I need space to research.
  • This year’s skill set is learning the constellations. This has been an on-again and off-again saga of trying to make this relationship stick. Fingers crossed this will be the year I can marry imagery with memory!
  • Play Greensleeves on the piano. Pianos have black and white keys that make sound depending on the operator’s actions – that is the extent of my piano knowledge. Beware my Wikipedia edits!
  • Update old BuLL blog posts, add better links and learn more about the wild world of digital words.
  • Explore local hot springs, a pie joint, and fancy restaurants in the boonies.
    • It’s Montana – it’s all the boonies! The total population is 1.09 million. LA and it’s 3.09 million, is laughing at how cute we are.

Cook, Clean, Repeat

With a hefty amount of pandemic experience and required at-home time, I learned how to enjoy chores.

It was a surprise to find enjoyment in daily tasks I used to dread, like cooking and cleaning. It wasn’t the task itself that I dreaded like a cold, weighted blanket, but the rushing from one chore to the next and the pinched feeling of no time for any of it.

Self-inflected stress from taking a mountain of tasks and trying to pour them into a shot of time.

One way to drain the joy out of enjoyment.

Cooking used to be a dreaded chore. When pressed for time, cooking felt like just another thing I needed to hurdle to get to the next hurdle. Time devoured the ingredient prepping and using heat to break down and mend flavors. Then the cleanup that was a never ending blackhole of dishes, cups, and more dishes.

There were plenty of nights when dinner wasn’t the only thing stewing.

Folding more time into cooking turned a chore into another way to explore. It felt less like a burden more like an expression. I never understood how cooking is an expression of love when all I experienced was frustration. The warming sensation, when seasoned with time, was an insight to a feeling I was dark to. I hesitate to say, I love to cook, but we are on healthier terms.

Government Issued Furlough

It’s all fun and games until someone gets furloughed.

I have wrestled with this frosty feeling. Time off is great! I have so many fun things to do, explore, and eat! But I will miss the two (occasional three) days a month I get paid. It’s challenging to save 12k when idling in unemployment.

My feelings flux from frustration to elation. I don’t intend to figure it out. Instead, I will ride it out. What else is there to do but take the crests and waves as they come. For all I know, this could be my final year with a government-issued furlough.

I’m stealing borrowing David’s insight from Raptitude, “It’s like picking your way through unmapped wilderness – the going is slow and there’s lots to trip over, but it’s new territory the whole way, and after the initial discomfort you feel very alive. Then when you come out the other side, this new territory has become part of your usual range, and you’re tougher and more interesting.”

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8 thoughts on “Government Issued Furlough: On It Like a Comet

  1. It’s so strange that your own government refuses to pay you for taking time off when IT’S the one forcing you to do it.
    The US is a weird beast sometimes…

    1. Yep, welcome to America! It’s how the government saves money because they aren’t paying salary or benefits. It’s worse in school districts, at least with the feds I can collect unemployment benefits with schools you sign a contract forbidding it.

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