A Strange New World: No More Patch, No More Job

I’ve never had panic attacks before, not really, even when news was coming out in the summer of 2001 about my husband having a serious mental and committing crimes at work.

But I’ve had several mornings, afternoons, or entire days these past few weeks of my arms shaking and feeling shortness of breath, of just generally feeling that some semblance of life as I have known it was coming to an end, and a big wide unknown was gaping before.

Panic attacks–mine at least–are truly physical phenomenon. I can’t say I was having racing thoughts. No, it just seem like my body was being overtaken by something outside myself, that worked its way inside.

The attacks started in the weeks before I gave up my job as editor of Walnut Creek Patch. I officially left that job this past Wednesday. Several factors went into this decision to give up a site I launch and put my heart and soul into. It was hard to give it up but at the same time, I came to the conclusion that it was the right and sane thing to do. I do not all regret my time editing Walnut Creek Patch. I do not regret leaving. I had taken the site as far as I felt I could go.

Time for a change. Life must move on.

But rather than do what some might see as the sensible thin–get a job first and then leave–I just decided to leave and give up my future and my family’s future to –I don’t know–fate? Some higher power?

Yesterday, I woke up at 4 a.m. in a state. Heart pounding. Terrified about the future and one particular job I’m going for. My husband tried to distract me with a visit to San Francisco MOMA’s exhibition, The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde,. That is, masterworks of Picasso, Matisse, Renoir and other artists collected by Gertrude Stein and her brothers during their time in Paris. I had to remind myself to breath as we wandered from gallery to gallery, reading about Gertrude Stein’s legendary soirees on the Rue de Fleurus in Paris and thrilling at the breathtaking colors of the Matisse paintings. I did allow myself the thought that Woody Allen well timed the release of his 1920s in Paris time-travel movie, Midnight in Paris, to coincide with this exhibit.

As we left the museum and crossed Yerba Buena Center Gardens, I broke down crying. Grief? Fear? Fear that I was in a state of fear?

The unknown. As life has turned out, I get to be the breadwinner because my husband’s illness limits his ability to work, if at all. I have to say, I like him not working but just volunteering. He helps out at Fresh Start, the homeless respite center. His mood has been better, and his symptoms have lessened, in the eight months he has been working.

I’m afraid to admit that I’m one of those women who would have liked to rely on the man to bring in the big bucks while I dabbled in my passion for journalism, writing. Yes, of course, journalism is not the most lucrative profession. You certainly can’t support a family in the Bay Area on it. So, I have to move forward, thinking how I’ll take care of myself and my family, a role I’m still getting used to. I just have to look to some role models: my single gal friends who are doing it on their own.

Indulge me for a minute but I can’t help but think of “The Second Coming” by WB Yeats: Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The Falcon cannot hear the falconer;/Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.

I think I’m the falcon?

Well, one thing about leaving the Patch job is that, I hope, to have the time and mental energy to devote again to Crazy in Suburbia–whether or not anyone is still reading. As always, this work will continue to be a work in progress. I’m still a bit crazy, of course. Those panic attacks seem to be good evidence of that fact.

26 thoughts on “A Strange New World: No More Patch, No More Job

  1. I'm here too. As you can see you are on my blog list on my blog. I'm always excited to see a new post on here.

    I'm feeling a lot like you these days I must say. I totally relate to your melt down at the Yerba Buena Gardens.
    My husband was laid off this past January, and officially out at the end of March. There have been days where I will be driving around town and just get teary and panicky also.
    Many resumes have been sent, but no bites, and this is making us both crazy. He is the sole bread winner, as I have been a stay at home mom for 20 years.
    We are hoping for the best and trying to keep positive, but like a lot of people out of work in the area, it is really easy to feel frustrated and scared to death.
    I hope another door opens for you that is more suited to your life.
    Take care, and I'm still reading 🙂


  2. Elizabeth and others,
    I am thinking of finding out if there is a story in women having to step up and be breadwinners in this new economy. I do believe there are figures I could dig up somewhere that would say that in terms of lay offs men got hit harder much more than women. Top wage-earning men, too.


  3. Crazy in suburbia is a more warm and friendly site. Patch seemed a bit corporate.

    Your gift is you and whatever you decide, you will soar and hopefully the money and so called security follows.


  4. Good to see you back here. Hope you can pace yourself to find what is next for you. See you in the neighborhood. Pete


  5. Welcome back to Crazy in Suburbia! Ever since moving from SF to WC 4 yrs ago, I have enjoyed your blog, even on those rare times when I disagree with you (see: controversy over Sufi group's construction plans).

    I was thrilled for you when you started Walnut Creek Patch and thought you made it a very good local site, but, at the same time (especially given how AOL and HuffPo are making huge profits off out-of-work journalists, unpaid bloggers and recycled content), I believe you'll now be able to use that experience as a springboard to something even more wonderful for yourself.

    p.s. I don't know if you watch the Colbert Report, but he did a terrific segment some months ago (after the huge HuffPo-AOL deal) about the site's wholesale re-posting of his material (along with the rest of the known world's), in which he joked that he would from now on re-post the entire HuffPo site at a new site called Colbuffington Re-Post >>> http://www.colbertnation.com/ColbuffingtonRe-post

    (bwahahahah! You have to love the guy)

    See clip here:



  6. Still reading over here and have referred your site to a friend who was struggling with a depressed teenager.

    Truthfully, the WC Patch site was always difficult to read. Not sure why, but just not something I remembered to check very often. Maybe it was more suited to mobile e-devices. I just use a regular old computer, nothing fancy.

    An open invite, if you are bored, come fruit harvesting with me. It is a great service project. Perhaps you'd even like to donate some fresh fruit to Fresh Start? Any food pantry, homeless shelter can use a boost in fruit donations.


  7. I told you before you started at Patch that you should instead put-up ads on this blog instead of working there. Stop complaining about financial problems and just do it! Be in control of your own destiny and have fun.


  8. Hey Anonymous 9:10 a.m.,
    I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining. I'm just scared. I get scared when I make big changes in life, even if the changes will lead in a positive direction for me and people around me. I'm taking a week or so off to chill a bit and assess life, writing, and how to proceed with this blog. Thanks for your encouragement. I think in a few days, I can start to relax and have fun.


  9. Martha, you are brave, and I'm sure it will work out great for you. I could sense recently that you were overworked and frazzled, so I'm glad you got out of that situation. You are a wonderful writer, and have so much else going for you. Your story of life since you learned of your husband's illness would make a great book. I hope you will continue the story on this blog. I look forward to following you as you enter this new phase in your life. With all the free time you have now, maybe we can do lunch one of these days.


  10. Hang in there, Matha.

    Just keep writing, and publishing on this site. something good is bound to come of it.

    And enjoy this break. When the work comes, there waon't be the time to hang and watch old classic movies with your 8th grader.

    And we'll get the word out that you are back!

    Dakota Soul


  11. BTW – I hate the Patch feature where the stupid “other news” crosses teh screen. Glad you left. They were turning into CC Times x 2


  12. Hello Anna, Thud (always loved that user name), Lamont “The Shadow?” Cranston, Elizabeth, Mike, and all you Anonymous commenters: Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. I always did love doing Crazy. And, thanks for asking me to write more about my husband. I might use Crazy as a vehicle for getting that all down. I don't know how much I'll continue to cover city politics…. Maybe leave that to my former colleagues at Patch. But, since I'm a crime junkie, I'll probably continue to cover that issue. Crazy also allows me to stray beyond Walnut Creek, if the topic is of interest and fits the definition of Crazy in Suburbia. Oh, and Anon. 1:24 p.m., thanks for the link to the Colbert segment.


  13. I followed you tp the Patch, and after a minor panic found you are back here! I love reading just about anything you write You make me laugh, think, and sometimes make me shed a tear. You are a terrific writer!!!


  14. Martha: I had panic attacks myself years back due to too much to do, too little time, and too steep a learning curve, back at the WCT. Not fun. I know you'll find what you enjoy doing and will profit by it.


  15. It sounds like your brain was telling you something and you listened. Got to stay healthy and sane. The Bay Area is very tough for writers (it's tough everywhere for writers right now). You have a lot of talent and curiosity. Perhaps freelancing can bring in some money while you decide what to do. Good luck. I enjoy reading your posts very much and I'm glad I found your blog two years ago when I moved to WC.


  16. Dear Martha…

    I'm going to describe an experience from last night that compels me to draw parallels to your wonderfully open, honest and refreshingly vulnerable blog, Crazy in Suburbia. It's going to sound a tad tangential, so hang in there with me!

    My wife and I, and our 18 and 22 year old children went to a concert at the Fillmore last night in San Francisco. Panic! at the Disco was the main event but we really attended to hear the lesser-known opening act, Fun. We heard Panic! at the Disco years ago when they were the lesser-known opening act for Fall-Out Boy and understood their mainstream popularity had grown, of late. The production value, lighting and audio quality of their act were clearly more evolved and layered than Fun.'s. Panic! was loud, energetic and powerful, almost angry.

    But Panic! had gone Hollywood and they lacked a quality that I seek in music. They lacked emotion. They lacked soul. They treated the audience with formulaic crudity and a lack of sincere respect. I am continually drawn to music that has the power to “Bring you to your knees, in tears.”

    Panic! could not provide that, for me.

    Fun., however, is a small indie band whose lead singer reinvented himself from “The Format”. Their music is difficult to classify–they don't just do one thing, they don't necessarily do ballads, or hard rock or songs with necessarily, meaningful messages. But their presence on-stage permeates with joy, kindness, respect and the love of music for music's sake. Their set was filled with a disarming vulnerability and generosity that I found incredibly endearing.

    So this is where I make the connection with you, Martha. I followed Patch when you introduced it to Walnut Creek. I liked Patch and it's casual, grass-roots approach to community related news and events.

    I never knew about, or visited your blog, Crazy in Suburbia.

    Now that you left WC Patch, I decided to take a look.

    Like Fun., Crazy in Suburbia is filled with soul, honesty, generosity and a “drop your pants” kind of vulnerability that is compelling and likable. You write with an intelligence that intimates a respect for your reader.

    If you had a concert, I'd buy tickets!

    You have a new fan.

    Don Eng
    Walnut Creek, California


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