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Looking For Work with a Knot in Your Stomach

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Emotional, irrational, angry, panicked, and that's just the stock market. At least the dollar is up on the yen and there's a cup of steaming hot peppermint tea waiting to be drunk.

It is so hard to know the right thing to do. This week I felt constantly yanked back and forth between the show that has swallowed up our lives, and our real lives -- sometimes with only murky gray areas separating them. Fear has been a big, shadowy monster creeping up behind me and lurking -- I've spent the week with a knot in my stomach similar to watching horror movies as a teenager and waiting with dread for the next bloodthirsty maniac to jump out and get me, except in this nightmare it also wants my husband, children, house, car, clothes, shoes and even the cats. Though said maniac might want to rethink the cats as they have a habit of intentionally missing the litterbox when strangers are around.

Layoffs are everywhere. At school drop-off, more and more adults are no longer dressed for work at 8:30am but in jeans with no makeup. There are infinitely more moms and dads than nannies present and one mom shared her daily thought while getting dressed -- "If I'm not wearing a suit, everyone will think I've lost my job." At least I don't have to worry about that -- thanks to a little thing called reality show notoriety my layoff was not only whispered about by parents at dropoff, but also published in People, US Weekly, Life & Style, on Perez Hilton and even on NPR for god's sake. Who knew it would be such big news, but hey, it certainly took the pressure off having to tell people.

This week I networked and I listened. There are friends and acquaintances within the fashion, PR and entertainment world with whom I've literally been trying to get together for over a year, but never could due to working 40-50 hours a week. It feels great to actually make a date with someone you really want to see, and maybe there's something in the water but I was surprised to hear optimism. One friend is about to start a new job by choice, another just found startup investors for a new product and a third received a huge grant to expand her business. This is inspiring -- even in this tough climate there is growth.

I had some good meetings as well, mostly regarding opportunities spinning from the show. There's the licensing of a clothing line, a cosmetics company looking for a face, a product line looking for an ambassador, and commercial opportunities. I'd be lying to myself if the idea of getting back into acting hadn't crossed my mind. Frankly everything crossed my mind this week. Should I roast myself to the tune of the character from Season 1 by taking commercial roles as a pretentious housewife? Should I be the stunt-casting pretentious wannabe who gets murdered on Law & Order? Should I package our parenting book together, as some have suggested, with a dry, tongue-in-cheek book about social climbing in the big, bad city? The problem is that I don't think I know how to or want to write that unless it's completely fictionalized. I'd love to play Lady Macbeth at Lincoln Center but somehow I think people who know me as a Real Housewife aren't ready for that, nor would it replace my income.

While having these meetings, I continually begrudged the time, thinking that the time I was spending putting together press kits was better spent reading job listings and finding a job, any job. Yet that's the conundrum I'm in right now. If my family and I hadn't signed up to put our lives on television, these opportunities would not exist. If a few of them come together, I'll have replaced my income and be able to spend more time with my children. Certainly that would relieve stress. I hate it that right now I'm working from home on all these proposals but unable to focus because one of the lights of my life, my younger son, is on spring break and thinks that because Mommy is in the house it's play time. Another day or two of this and I'll turn into the Mom who leaves through the top door at 9 am and sneaks back in the basement door into the home office with strict instructions to keep him upstairs. I don't like dividing the house into kid and parent-seeking-work zones -- it feels very weird.

Support from friends and even frenemies is helpful at best, amusing at worst. I had a call from an on-again, off-again pal who after some preamble asked me, "Alex, are you on medication? Sometimes that can help take the edge off. It always works for me." Without knowing it, she jolted me out of my self-absorbed state of pathos -- yes, things are challenging right now but I am not ready to ask my doctor for a prescription. Besides, I'd need to stop laughing first. Laughter in the face of adversity can be a good thing -- just ask the President!

Is there anything positive going on at all? Yes, yes there is. Among other things I've been going through my graphic design portfolio and taking a moment to actually look at the work I've done over the past couple of years. When running around trying to meet deadlines with my hair on fire, it's rare that I'd ever go back and look at a project past the final edit. It's nice to look at my work with a [somewhat] detached eye and recognize that not only is it not heinous, it's actually rather good. Now if I can just fix my antiquated resume...