Tuesday – a good day for a miracle

I’m a believer. And I so believe in miracles. One happened in our lives over the past week. I know because I was there.

I know I have bored you all yawn-less with my job-hunting tales and lack of success. So this is not about that. Well, not really. My husband, or, as one of my blogging buddies referred to him yesterday – and I just loved it! – Mr Sunshine decided, for a number of reasons, to take an intermission from his doctorate studies and join me in the fun pursuit of finding paid work. He had a very small taste of rejection (I still out-no him by a mile) as he applied for counselling or assistant psychologist posts. He was either not shortlisted, or shortlisted and interviewed, without success.

Last week, we felt like we were running out of options. We belong to a wonderful church, to a special small group in our church, and we have fabulous family and friends all around the world who have been praying for us and for things to shift. Last Tuesday morning, we two prayed with an increasing edge of desperation. What more could we do? Leaving London didn’t feel right; we were doing all we could and what was the next step? You all know my experience of looking for work here. So we left it up to God. It felt desperate, but it also felt liberating.

That very morning, my husband got a phone call out of the blue, regarding a job he had applied for a while back and for which he hadn’t even been shortlisted.  The job entails an element of study and someone had dropped out, so they had a place they wanted to fill. They invited my husband for an interview for that spot. The job interview happened a week later (yesterday, also Tuesday). He came home mid-afternoon not too sure how the interview had gone, but reassured that he would hear the outcome either way by the end of the day.

We spent the rest of the afternoon pretty much in silence. Writing and reading and getting on with what we needed to do. We couldn’t speak. The minutes ticked by in rhythm with our anxious heart beats. My stomach was in a knot. Six o’clock came. The phone still hadn’t rung. Seven o’clock came, still no call. I couldn’t believe they wouldn’t take him on (they’d be crazy not to), but I also couldn’t imagine how good news would feel. I couldn’t bear the thought of another night of uncertainty.

At 7.15pm our phone rang. It was a call for my husband. They offered him the job. We high-fived, we screamed, we jumped and we cried. (The Royal we, of course.) We called our boys, we let everyone we could think of know the good news, and we thanked God for miraculous answered prayer.

So he starts next Monday. It is a counselling job, where he will spend three days a week as a counsellor in GP practices (doctors’ rooms) and two days a week at King’s College London, completing a Masters diploma in CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), which will feed his career and earning capacity whether he continues with his doctorate or not. After a career in advertising, he now has a permanent, full-time job. Studying and doing the work that he loves and is so fabulously gifted – and called – to do. And for all that he’s getting paid.

For me, I can’t remember how good it feels to have the heaviness of pressure off my shoulders. And I’m realising that this is a gift for me too. My time to pursue my dream of writing. My time to shine. This is my time to sunshine. Thank you, Lord.

I thought love was only true in fairy tales
Meant for someone else but not for me.
Love was out to get me
That’s the way it seemed.
Disappointment haunted all my dreams.

Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind.
I’m in love, I’m a believer!
I couldn’t leave her if I tried.

I thought love was more or less a givin’ thing,
Seems the more I gave the less I got.
What’s the use in tryin’?
All you get is pain.
When I needed sunshine I got rain.

Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer
Not a trace of doubt in my mind.
I’m in love, I’m a believer!
I couldn’t leave her if I tried.

I’m a believer: The Monkees

Sunshine signing off for today.

The glare of the no

This was a big weekend in the life of one of our favourite reality TV shows – the X Factor. Last night’s show ended with the top 12 acts being picked for the live shows. I cried.  I could so relate.

Not with the acts going forward. But with those who didn’t make the cut … rejection is an ugly thing to deal with. The contestants had pinned their hopes on “making it” in the music industry by getting through to the top 12. Many of them didn’t want to go back to their normal lives, they felt this opportunity was a make-or-break one for them. I do feel sad that so much rode on the show for them, and I do hope there was emotional support for those of them who didn’t get through. It’s tough to get a no with 13 million people watching.

For those of you who don’t know the show, it is a singing show, a lot like Idols, but with a slight spin. The acts are divided into four categories – boys (under 28), girls (under 28), groups and the “overs” (male and female, over the age of 28 but with no top age limit). There are four judges and each judge is assigned a category to mentor, so the competition ends up being not only between the contestants, but between the judges too. I know it is starting in the USA in the fall of 2011, so watch out for it if it’s the kind of show you enjoy.

Last week was “bootcamp”. Acts that made it through from the initial auditions held all around the UK had to perform to the judges again, and, after a series of whittling downs, eight acts per category were chosen to go to the judges’ houses. Each of the judges was assigned a category, and their eight protégés flew to their homes to sing for their place in the top 12: boys went to Australia (to Danii Minogue’s home), groups went to Marbella in Spain (Simon Cowell’s villa), the “overs” went to Dublin (Louis Walsh’s ‘castle’) and the girls to Ascot (Cheryl Cole’s estate).

On Saturday night we watched each of the categories, in turn, singing for their mentor and on Sunday we watched the mentors telling each of the acts, in turn, whether they had been successful or not. In true reality TV style, the emotion is squeezed till the tears drop; and the wimp that I am has tears rolling down her face from start to finish. The ones who have been successful scream and whoop and jump and stomp and hug their mentor. The ones who are unsuccessful sit and sob and hug their mentor.

I can’t imagine how the mentors feel, to have such power to bring tears of joy and tears of disappointment. I applaud anyone who has the courage to enter such a show, and my hope for each one of them – top 12 or not – is that they go on to make their dream happen, away from the glare of TV lights and sensationalism.

So what does this mean in my life? Apart from being a huge fan of the show – I can’t deny it – I also love watching young and exciting talent and hidden confidence unfurl. I always support the slightly shy guy who doesn’t look like a star but sings like an angel. My favourite favourite is exactly that, and he made it through.

But for me, I can so relate to the disappointment of being so close, yet not making it through. One of the contestants said last night that he has heard no so often, it would be easier to deal with a no than the unknown of a yes. He got a yes, and I threw my arms in the air. I look forward to the day that I hear that all-too-unfamiliar word too. And I might just scream and whoop and jump and stomp and hug. Even if no-one’s watching.

Sunshine signing off for today!

My life on the island

Job hunting in London can be fun. Not. Ever. It feels like my working life is a reality TV programme, and I keep getting voted off the island. And I have to keep going back on to the island to be voted off again!

If I could do anything that meant I could cease the hunt, and leave the island of my own volition, I would do so in a heartbeat.

I send off applications and the wait feels like a results programme, complete with a loud heartbeat soundtrack. “And the winner is ….. not you!”

Please don’t feel sorry for me! That’s not the purpose of my writing about this. I’m a survivor. While I do allow myself the indulgence of self-pity every now and then, I keep praying and going and know – through gritted teeth – that this thick skin I’m growing will serve me well. One day.

I recently applied for a writing job with a charity based in central London. I sent in the detailed application form (it wasn’t the one where I mentioned mud-wrestling with Mathew McConaughey, promise!) and waited to hear if I’d been shortlisted. A few days after the closing date, I had heard nothing, so I knew I’d been unsuccessful.

However, I decided to make sure. I sent an email enquiry, and got a reply, which is unusual; I guess I should be grateful for small mercies. The emailer advised me that unfortunately I’d not been shortlisted, but said I was welcome to call her for some feedback. I arranged a suitable time to do so.

We eventually spoke at the end of the day yesterday. She said I had completed the form well and my application was strong. (“Good girl! You made that song your own.”)

She said the fact that my experience was largely South African, was a key factor. (This is the first time I’ve been told that directly, and somehow it felt discriminatory. “We don’t know that song. Is it big in your country?”)

She went on to say how inundated they’d been with applications, and also gave me some feedback about my style of writing, and saying that how I wrote the application form did not fit their brand. Fair enough. And whatever. (“Maybe you need to work on your vocals.”)

However, the gem is yet to come…

She said to me, “If I can give you some advice as you continue your job hunting, it would be to get as much UK experience as possible.” Seriously?

All possible responses escaped me. All I could do was listen in bemused silence. Gob-smacked, that’s what I was! What I really wanted to say was, “And you are the weakest link. Goodbye.”

Sunshine signing off for today! The tribe has spoken.