In the book I’m reading right now, the main character continues her weekday commute into London months after she was terminated from her job. Part of her motivation seemed to be habit and a lack of purpose and direction. But the main reason she continued the act is because she was too ashamed to tell her landlord/flatmate that she was no longer employed.
When I drove to work Friday morning, the book fresh on my mind, I peered at my fellow commuters, wondering if any of them were burning fuel and hours on a faux commute to a job that no longer existed. If any of them were keeping up the pretense while using up the savings. I pondered spouses back home, blindly secure in the belief that their partner was gainfully employed and unaware of the daily play-act.
It seems like something meant for fiction.
But it’s not.
My ex husband did it too.
He was too ashamed to concede that he could not find work. So he pretended that he could.
For years, he simulated a job. He invented clients and projects. He manufactured payments from lines of credit. I’m pretty sure he even falsified an award. Apparently, he was the best at his pretend job.
And he’s not the only one.
A friend’s first husband pretended to be enrolled in school full time while spending time in bars.
A coworker’s husband fabricated a start-up business while engaging in an affair.
And there’s a woman in my periphery who spent her time shopping while maintaining the facade of employment.
Here is a related piece I wrote for The Good Men Project that explores how this shame around employment can grow and spread through families.
But the problem isn’t just that the secret is kept from the partners.
Often the person can’t even admit it to themselves.
Continuing the faux commute and maintaining pretense even for themselves.
Now obviously most of us will never hold down a pretend job and engage in a daily trip of make-believe.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t engage in our own faux commutes.
That there aren’t truths we’d rather not face and so we keep us the pretense, even for ourselves.
That we don’t catch a ride going nowhere because we’re afraid to admit that it’s a dead-end run.
That we don’t pretend that something is still working for even when we no longer work for it.
So take an honest look at your life.
And make sure all of your commutes are authentic.
The book is called The Girl on the Train and it is a great thriller, especially for anyone who has experienced gaslighting.