When I took a break from this space a year and a half ago – back when I thought I’d never actually be back to write here – I started a new blog, under my real name. I linked it to my Bacefook account and everything, and I had every intention of writing there.
But wow, it was hard to write there, knowing it was linked to social media. For a long time now, I’ve felt stopped up, wanting to write, wanting to say things, wanting to create words, but the worry, What will everyone THINK? has stopped me. Who really cared what *I* had to say? And for that matter, what DID I have to say? What topics were safe? With all the anxiety around it, the space kind of turned into running blog, which, when I was overtrained and burned out with running this spring, I couldn’t update either.
But then, this summer, I acknowledged that my soul was screaming out at me. I ignored it for so long, I suppose the only way it could actually get my attention was to keep me up at night and give me panic attacks.
And I said it out loud. I’ve BEEN saying it out loud, to almost everyone I meet. I say it to strangers right now, mostly – because I don’t have answers as to HOW I’m going to get there, yet, but if I keep saying it I’m hoping the how will open up to me. I say it in my journal. I say it when I’m alone, when I pretend someone asks me what I do for a living, where my answer is NOT that I’m an accountant.
I say it in my dreams.
I want to be a writer.
And yes, I know that ALL bloggers say they want to be writers. I don’t know what it means for me – I don’t have a story yet, nor do I have a real PLAN for getting there. And anyway, it’s unlikely I’ll ever actually make a living from a blog and writing, because I probably won’t even be published, even if I DO find and write my story in the next few years.
The thing, though?
I don’t really care.
For the first time in thirty eight and a half years, I’m acknowledging that I have a fundamental need to capture life in words. And in a lot of ways, it’s like trying to catch wind in a closed fist. But it’s something that drives me, and ever since I said it out loud (and wrote it down, many, many times), I’ve felt more settled. Less anxious.
(Well, at least until I start thinking and trying to formulate a plan and the fact that I don’t actually have an idea for the next great American novel. And then I worry I’m going to be an accountant the rest of my life. And THAT thought makes me anxious. Thankfully, though, I remember I don’t actually HAVE to have a plan. Yet, anyway.)
Writing is actually really similar to running.
With running, all you need is a pair of shoes, and you can go out and run.
With writing? All you need is a notebook and a pen and you can write.
So my plan, in the near term, is simply to write more.
I joined an online collaborative writing site – Storium – where I am playing three games as three different characters. And I’m trying to use blogging as a warm up right now, before I sketch out story ideas and characters.
I love blogging and I’m going to keep doing it.
But… having two blogs is a pain in the ass. Commenting on people’s posts is hard – I’ve had multiple times where I’ve commented as my real name and then had to go back and revise so people know who I am.
But really, the issue? It’s hard to separate my two identities – the me in real life with the me that is the Serenity Infertile. Of course, I feel a lot more safe as Serenity, because, well, I’ve been Serenity for a long time, and it’s harder to be out there as your real self sometimes.
But I think it’s time I stopped hiding behind her.
I want to blog as ME. All of me, not just the infertile me. Not just the runner me. Not just the parent me.
And so I’ve decided to permanently move over to my other space, the one where I blog under my real name… and I’d like for you, all of you, to join me. I’ve just recently become self-hosted, and the space isn’t fully complete yet, there’s a lot more I want to do with that space… but it’s mine, and it’s ALL of me.
For those of you who do not know, my real name is Karen.
And I’d love it if you joined me at my other blog.
(Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.)
I took a 6 hour embodiment workshop at a meditation center in Boston on Saturday, where I spent the morning learning how to live inside my body, to move WITH my body, and to be in the present moment. After eating lunch in silence (the BEST sandwich and salad I’ve ever tasted!), we walked to a park down the road from the center.
And as I was wandering between the trees, feeling the bark with my hands, looking up at the leaves blowing in the wind, it struck me that I needed to be more like a tree.
I’ve been living in the tops lately, blown about by the wind of anxiety and stress and worry and insomnia – afraid I’ll blow away.
What would happen if I stopped inhabiting that space in my mind and instead lived inside my body, rooted in the nourishing ground of my life, my friends and family and career and hobbies all helping me stand tall and thick?
(Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.)
I have always hated the question, What do you do for a living?
I’m embarrassed to tell people I’m an accountant, because they immediately assume I am good at math and love numbers, and that is a BIG lie. I was a solid C average math student; the girl who wrote poetry about how much I hated my math class in high school. The girl who took Intro to Linguistic Theory in college to satisfy my “math” requirement.
I feel fidgety and uneasy when I talk about my chosen career.
And until this summer, I’ve been telling myself I really don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
But I do know.
I don’t know how I’m going to get there, but I know what I want to be.
When someone asks me what I do for a living, I want the answer to be this.
I am a writer.
The last day of vacation, the day before we leave our cabin on the lake, is one of the hardest days.
The afternoon is a frenzy of packing and taking the boat out of the water and my MIL and FIL getting completely packed so my MIL can slip away at 6am, before the triathlon starts. She hates goodbyes and endings… and she just wants to be in her own house.
We have spent the day at an amusement park this year – Lucky and my nephew are just tall enough to ride alone, and the two of them want to ride everything there. We get back just before dinner, and Charlie runs off to help my FIL get the boat out of the water.
My MIL comes by to vent. I never should have said things were going really well between us. He’s been snippy with me all day and I’m about ready to smack him.
I soothe her by saying, The last day of vacation is hard.
Later, after the pizza and the packing up of the cabin and the gathering of all the things we’ve dropped all over during the course of the week, Charlie and I are sitting on the couch, sipping wine and listening to the waves lap at the shore through the open windows of the cabin.
It’s just that I look forward to this all year, I tell him. And now have nothing to hold on to: next year’s trip is SO far away.
So we dream about taking another trip, coming here for a long weekend this fall, knowing we are booked up for weekends through September. And anyway, it wouldn’t be the same, just the three of us, in the cooler weather, where we can’t spend the day playing in the water and sitting on inner tubes and Lucky and his cousins can’t roam between four cabins like the flock of ducks that comes by every day.
We’ll wait until next year.
And it’s so far away.
This year, Charlie’s cousin’s boat is still in the water, and Charlie decides to do one last early morning fishing trip, since he’s caught only one fish all week. We are mostly packed, and when my phone wakes me up at 6:30, the pink tinged light in the window tells me it’s going to be another glorious day.
I make coffee, open my journal, and write a bit. But then a voice inside me tells me, Go outside, and I listen.
The lake is as still as glass, the orange and pink glow of the sun reflecting off the water. I breathe in; the air is cool and clear, with a hint of fall. I hear only the hum of crickets, and I’m reminded of the passage from Charlotte’s Web:
The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone,” they sang. “Over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.”
I should feel sad; vacation’s over, and summer’s nearly over.
But inside me, I feel something else. Quiet. It’s a solid calm that’s centered deep inside; I almost feel like I can touch it in the center of my chest.
The anxiety, my closest companion all summer – is it gone? I take a cautious moment and look for it. It seems to have evaporated, or left for a little while. All I feel is quiet and calm and easy breath, even when my mind starts casting about, looking for the worry. What about the packing? You really should take a shower, Serenity, Lucky will be up soon, and make sure you get him some breakfast and you should text your dogsitter and make sure that Happy gets home okay.
The thoughts buzz around me, swirling in the morning air.
All summer, whenever my mind starts up like this, I’ve had a physical reaction to the worries. A tightening of my chest. A feeling my heart will beat out of my chest.
I can feel is that solid quiet.
I look forward to this all year.
Ah, the irony of writing a post where I say I’ve been writing every day since I started vacation, and I have a goal to write every day… and then not being able to write at all one day.
I did not write anything yesterday but review notes for the person that is helping me test controls. The woman I work for wants me to step up and manage this new person, which is fine, but it also really kind of sucks. I was envisioning a situation where I could do my own work and the other person does hers, end of story. So far from feeling as if I am extracting myself from my current work situation, I feel like I am getting more and more entrenched.
I keep reminding myself that nothing is forever, and really, it takes only a conversation to alert her that I cannot work this project next year.
* * * *
Anyway, so here I am, sitting in my kitchen, stealing time to write while I wait for the babysitter to come so I can work for the day.
Mel had a great post yesterday.
Show up and write.
So here I am.
I have to admit I’ve had a hard time writing in my space because I feel like there are SO many blogs out there, with so many people who have much better things to say that I do. This idea wars with my other idea that there IS space for me in this community, the infertile who made it to the other side but remains one of the few that is working to accept that the family she was given is her complete family.
It’s hard sometimes for me to read other blogs, too. Where are the people like me?
I see all these posts with people who are done with family building, and the general theme is that they feel like their family is complete. I usually see those posts where they see their older child playing with the new baby, or they post a picture where the kids are interacting.
Those posts are written with such warmth and thankfulness and happiness that it used to make me ache with longing.
And here’s where I confess: I would get angry at a lot of those posts. I was jealous and bitter.
Of course it’s easy to feel like your family is complete when you get what you want, I’d think.
I know, I’m awful. I used to hate those feelings.
But for so long, I felt like I was MISSING something. There was a piece missing, a part missing. The baby I didn’t get to have. And though I had the very same thankfulness whenever I looked at Lucky – because, really, how LUCKY we got with him, it’s nothing short of amazing – it never lasted.
I wanted more.
I wanted my baby, the one I lost. The one that made me feel sick and who had a beating heart. I wanted her, the one who didn’t make it.
I wanted my arms and heart and belly to be full again.
I wanted to be able to post on my blog, looking at Lucky and our new baby, how complete I felt.
And I have still have days where I long for that baby, still feel that expansion and contraction of pain in my heart and belly whenever I see an infant; a visceral want that comes from a deep, deep place inside me whenever I snuggle with my nephew, or hold a baby. And it’s still hard for me to see pictures of siblings, because my heart hurts when I realize that Lucky will never know what it’s like to have a brother or a sister.
I think that’s the hardest part for me to accept; that Charlie and I have siblings who are such a big part of our lives, and Lucky will never get to experience that kind of love.
Whenever I tell people, or say out loud, there will never be another baby, I now have this deep, unshakeable sense of peace. I sometimes look at Charlie and Lucky and Happy, and I feel that same warmth and thankfulness and happiness that I see in those Complete Family blog posts.
Our family IS complete. There isn’t anything missing, no piece we need to find and fill into our family. The four of us (and yes, I count the dog, who is quite decidedly NOT the same as having another child… but oh so wonderful a companion.) make a unit that’s distinctly ours.
Acceptance. I haz it.
This acceptance is not at all what I thought it would be.
Over the years of fighting infertility to bring home the family we had dreamed of, I saw acceptance as a mirage, an oasis in the far distance. It was so hard for me to say the words, We may never have any more children.
Even with the “may” in there, it was hard to think about.
Even as I was giving away clothing and baby gear, I never really thought I’d ever look in the mirror and admit that we’d never have another baby in our house.
Even as we walked away from treatments, I had the idea, maybe. Maybe we’ll get lucky again, this time with a surprise pregnancy. Or maybe we’ll adopt. Maybe we’ll change our minds someday and go back to treatments.
I needed that maybe. I needed the hope that our walking away wasn’t final, that we were leaving the door open a crack just in case we changed our minds. I needed to sit with the decision, the hope, the fear, the fail, the bigness of the decision to stop trying. I needed time and distance from the cycle of hope and fear.
I don’t need the maybe anymore.
Our family is complete; we will never have any more children. And yes, it hurts to say that.
But it also feels right to say it, too.
Well, my plan to de-stress at the lake worked. Enough that my MIL actually commented to me, You seem so much more relaxed this year.
I journaled, and I disconnected from social media, and drank coffee and watched the stillness of the lake in the early mornings, and ran relaxed vacation miles, and sat in an inner tube in the water, and ate and drank and SLEPT. After the first night there, anyway – since I don’t sleep well the first night anywhere – I slept pretty damn well.
The week was gorgeous – the one day where it rained buckets even ended with a brilliant double rainbow.
By the Saturday morning we had to leave, I felt calm and centered and balanced. It’s been so long since I’ve felt STILL, where I haven’t felt that tightness of anxiety in my chest and stomach. It was wonderful. I sat outside, in my pajamas, with my cup of coffee, and savored the stillness – both in the lake AND inside me.
And then we came home and unpacked and I did 50 loads of laundry and made a menu and had to go food shopping and went to a birthday party for our friend and cleaned and Happy came home and Charlie mowed the lawn and I went through mail and put out all the bills that need to be taken care of this week.
So by last night all that calm, that stillness I remembered was gone. Poof.
Rainbows don’t last, and peace is fleeting.
I want to find that stillness again, though. In my everyday life.
* * * *
I’m not sure where I heard about the book, but when I saw the title I knew it was something I needed to read. The title alone made me want to read it. The Great Work of Your Life: A Guide To The Journey of Your True Calling.
For someone like me, who is struggling with career and happiness and wanting more out of my life and wondering if it’s even worth trying to find another career or stick with the one I’ve got… it’s a great book.
And as I was reading, a quote jumped out at me:
“If you don’t find your work in the world and throw yourself wholeheartedly into it, you will inevitably make yourself your work… You will, in the very best case, dedicate your life to the perfection of your self. To the perfection of your health, intelligence, beauty, home, or even spiritual prowess. And the problem simply is this: This self-dedication is too small a work. It inevitably becomes a prison.”
YES. Holy crap, yes. That is my life right now – improving myself, my marriage, my parenting. I’m the worst kind of perfectionist – not believing I can ever BE perfect but trying to be better than I would be if left to my own devices. It’s like I have too much energy and am looking for ways to expend it.
I want to love what I do. I want to feel like the work I do MEANS something.
I have long said that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, that I don’t really know what I want out of my life. I’ve also said that the reason I got my MBA and CPA was because my father challenged me (no joke, when I told him I was trying to decide between getting my MBA and going to law school he laughed and said to me, You? With a MBA? You can’t get a MBA. At least, that’s my memory of it. It’s likely he never said that I couldn’t get a MBA; because wow, that would be a mean and awful thing to say.), and I wanted to prove him wrong.
Last week, in the stillness I felt, when I really looked inside myself, a thought struck me. When I was younger, I loved playing music, reading, and writing. And my father told me that none of those three loves were practical for a career, too.
So why didn’t I take that as a challenge, like I did with his comment about the MBA?
The only thing I can come up with right now is that it has to do with fear. I didn’t care about law school or getting my MBA the way I cared about writing or playing my clarinet.
I think I was afraid of failing at something I loved to do.
* * * *
So I came home from this week with a renewed commitment to writing more. I started a journal last week, and I’ve decided to get up an hour earlier every morning so I can write in my journal. I want to post more here, too. But I think I’m also going to register for a creative writing class at the local community college this winter, too.
The fact is, though I loved writing as a child and teenager, I know nothing about the craft of writing and I’m not at all certain about whether or not I CAN write anything worth anything.
(I do know, though, from some of the books I’ve read/listened to, that you don’t actually have to be a good writer to get published, though.)
Practically speaking, I’m definitely not in a place right now where I can just quit my job and leave. I think that I’ll have to keep doing what I’m doing until another path becomes clear to me. Maybe it’ll be with writing, or maybe it won’t.
But that’s okay. Because right now I’m listening to what my whole self is telling me, instead of allowing my mind to convince me that I’m being selfish and ridiculous and just be quiet, Serenity, you have a great life.
I want more from my work.
I know that rainbows – and the stillness and clarity of vacation – isn’t long lasting. But I have the idea that if I keep listening and not judging myself for the way I feel (and others, too), maybe I can find a place where I can reach that stillness no matter what’s going on around me.
It’s worth looking for, at any rate.
It’s really hard sometimes to write when you have all this STUFF swirling around in your head and heart.
But it’s been like this for a while now, and I don’t think it’s going to stop anytime soon, so I really want to try to make sense of things.
So that’s your fair warning: this post will likely be disjointed and maybe won’t have a point. And it might be boring or ridiculous. But I’m going to write it down, because I really, really, want to start writing more.
And the only way to write more is to write more, right?
* * * *
I’ve been working with my current therapist now for three years. Three years of weekly appointments, and I’m only JUST feeling like we’re getting below the surface anxiety into what makes me tick.
One of the things I’ve been noticing lately is that I am very closed off in my marriage. I spend time DOING things for Charlie to show him I love him. Whenever the gas in his car is low, I fill it. I create our weekly dinner menu with his preferences in mind. I will run at 4 in the morning or 10 at night in order to get more family time in on a given day. I take care of as much of the family stuff as I can – vet and doctor appointments for Lucky, school stuff, making lunches, bus dropoff/pickup – so that Charlie has one less thing to stress about.
But when it comes to showing my husband love and affection, I am a freaking Scrooge. I hide behind stress and anxiety, I keep myself busy so I don’t have to take time out to hug.
I’ve JUST noticed it, quite honestly: the way I am clipped and stressed whenever he arrives home from work, or how I find things to get annoyed over, like lights left on, when I arrive home when they are home. How I bury myself in my task list, the computer, my phone, laundry. It’s like I find excuses and justification to stay closed off, ways to avoid connecting with him.
I think it’s because I’m afraid. I’m afraid that Charlie, with his high blood pressure and ridiculous stress levels, is a heart attack waiting to happen. What happens if I really allow myself to love him, to rely on him, and he dies suddenly on me? How will I survive?
Or maybe I’m afraid of relying on him too much, where my need becomes another stressor for him, and all of a sudden he realizes he can’t deal with the energy suck of his wife anymore.
Or maybe I’m worried that he’ll disappoint me. What if I rely on him and he can’t be there?
Or maybe it’s none of these things. I don’t honestly know why I’m so scared, why I am so stingy with showing love and affection.
What I know is that it needs to change.
* * * *
I listen to audiobooks on my long ass commute into Boston; I download them to my phone from the library. It’s a great way to pass the time stuck in traffic, provided the book is a good one.
The one I’m listening to now? It’s a good one. It’s this one – a true story about the chaplain of the Maine Warden Service. Listening to her story, told from her viewpoint, I can only marvel at her openness and love. And her faith, or non-faith.
How is it, after losing her husband in an accident, and working search-and-rescues and seeing all facets of death, she can be so enthusiastic, open, and loving?
And if she can do it, can I as well?
* * * *
Written in Athena for the month of August is this: Cultivate Love.
I’m starting simply.
Next week we are heading to my happy place – the cabin on the lake. I’m going to disconnect from the internet. No Facebook, no email, no running board, no Myfitnesspal. I’m bringing paper plates and bowls, and bottles of wine and board games and cribbage and royalty. I’m going work on cultivating a connection between us and with the three of us as a family. And when I find myself getting stressed or anxious, I’m going to stop what I’m doing and hug someone.
And when we get back, I’m going to kiss my husband goodbye and hello every day. I’m going to take a moment every day, when he walks through the door, to greet him and welcome him home.
When Lucky tells me he’s cold and wants to sit on my lap, or wants me to stop what I’m doing to watch him do something, or he wants me to sit with him and watch a TV show, I’m going to stop what I’m doing and be with him, in the moment.
THIS is my family, right here, right now. And I love them so much and am so grateful I have Charlie and Lucky and Happy in my life.
And I need to learn how to open up more.
Thank goodness I pressed “publish” the other day. I feel so much better now that I posted it.
I just hate feeling wishy-washy. Posting that I want to quit my job, but I can’t… or won’t… or some combination thereof… posting about that seems, well, disingenuous.
And redundant. OMG, so redundant. How many have you heard about how miserable I am with the job for SO MANY YEARS NOW? Seriously, Serenity. Either DO something about it or shut up already.
But I had to address it, because even though I KNOW my happiness would increase in a lot of ways if I quit my job, the anxiety over money and the lack of stuff we can do as a result of losing 40% of our income would mostly negate it.
I just need to figure out a way to navigate this career I have now AND focus on what’s best for my family.
And, quite honestly, it’s my nature to move, to DO something, to plan for the next thing, and a lot of times I wonder if my freakouts about how much I dislike my job is just a smoke screen for this desire for change. Yes, it’s true that my job does not bring me much joy. Or even satisfaction, if I’m being honest. But this seems to be my pattern, too. I’m miserable and I feel this need to change things up, because the change will make me happy.
That’s not really how it works, though. Change for change’s sake isn’t the right choice either.
So I am trying to temper my all or nothing tendency here and figure out a plan that is rational, reasonable, AND gives me more of the things I like about my job: time to run, time home with Lucky, and enough money where I don’t need to worry about paying the bills or taking the random weekend away.
So now that you’re caught up on the work-Serenity-induced-drama, there’s so much more I want to talk about.
For the past four years, I’ve been kind of obsessed with running races. I hired a great coach, ran track intervals, added weight training exercises specific to running, and was strict about my calorie intake to get into a weight range which would put me into a “lean” body fat percentage. Because when you’re running, every pound counts, and the leaner and lighter you are, the faster you can go.
Last summer, you guys, I was THERE. I was 2lbs away from my goal body fat percentage, I was running fast, I wasn’t injured, and I was ready to set the world on fire. I wanted to run a Boston Qualifier race in my October marathon.
The thing is, marathons are tricky. If something goes wrong, it can really affect your time. We’re talking an extra half hour on your time because of a blister. I did not have a good race day – instead of BQing, I blew up into tiny little runner pieces on the back half of the course.
I came out of that experience with a renewed vow to hit my training hard over the winter and see if a different strategy would get me at least a sub-4:00 marathon.
And, of course, this winter was terrible. It was frigid and full of snow, and I didn’t bother taking the conditions into account whenever I went out and ran my runs. Consequently, I trained myself right into the ground. I got slower and more tired, and I couldn’t get my legs to turnover. And I was cold ALL THE TIME. And hungry, too. OMG, so hungry. And cold.
(Did I mention the cold and hunger?)
It was awful.
It wasn’t until my friend D remarked to me, when I was complaining about yet another cold and snowy run, I guess I just don’t get why you insist on doing something that steals your joy.
She might not have said those actual words, but holy shit, she was right.
So I changed my goal for my spring marathon. I ran slower and ate more. And on the incredibly, awesomely, frustratingly hot day of my marathon, I ran a full half hour slower than my personal best.
And I decided that day that I was done with marathons for the time being.
Since then, I’ve struggled with insomnia and life stress and achilles tendinitis. And with all the anxiety, I’ve needed my running like I’ve never needed it before. Except the idea of racing – the time goals, pushing for a personal best, running when it hurts and keeping going – started to feel like a shackle, a chain around my neck and waist. Track workouts became stressful; I was now chasing my friends in last year’s pace group, panicking because I’ve lost fitness. I started to not to WANT to run. After two years of running 5-6 days a week, I started to take breaks.
It was too much, all of it. I needed a break from the (largely self-imposed) pressure.
So I made the decision not to run my coach’s summer clinic and instead run when I could manage it for the distance I want. I do have two races planned this fall: a 10k and a half marathon. But I am no longer running a training plan, or beating myself up for not hitting my paces. I’m running with people I enjoy running with, the friends who are chill and happy and run because it’s fun and a way to catch up with friends, not because it’s a way to get faster or look better or whatever. I run by myself without a watch, going only for mileage and not time.
It is SO FREEING – and I love running again.
It’s little things like this – walking away from personal best chasing because I now recognize how much pressure I put on myself. Allowing myself to be 5lbs heavier than some self-determined optimal weight because I now recognize that my number is completely arbitrary and allows for no joy in cooking – and eating – good food.
And, you see, THIS is how I know I’m going to be okay, that eventually I’m going to free myself from the restrictions and pressure and misery I heap on myself.
This is how I know I’ll figure out the work thing eventually, too.
It’s so hard to write about the subtlety of transformation. Because really, the fact that I am not focused on racing or counting calories doesn’t seem like a big deal by itself. But it gives me a lot of hope that I’m starting down a path of real self-acceptance.
I have three separate drafts sitting in my dashboard right now. All of them are untitled. All of them relate to my last post about how I wish I could quit my job. Which I wrote more than a MONTH ago.
About halfway through writing those posts, I’ve just had to click away. Partly because I can’t deal with thinking and worrying and obsessing any more. Partly because I’m mad at myself that I can’t just walk away from a job which I have spent the past decade trying to talk myself into liking.
I wish it were that easy. I wish I was the kind of person who could just quit, walk away, be happy and free, with the wind blowing in my hair and daisies dancing and fairies flying around me, playing beautiful music.
I wish I was the kind of person who DIDN’T stay awake at night worrying about money.
I wish I could walk away and deal with the reality that in not working, I take resources away from my family; resources that are just as important as my time and energy.
I wish my headspace wasn’t so exhausting.
I wish I didn’t feel like quitting was WRONG.
I wish I knew what the hell I wanted to do with my life.
The thing is. I make 40% of our total family income. Working my dreaded part time hours. And yes, if I subtract out self-employment taxes because I’m a contractor, it’s not nearly as much as it seems on paper. But it’s significant, and we’re still paying for student debt, and I have family that’s strewn about the United States, and already I haven’t seen my sister and brother since March 2013. Oh yeah, and did I mention that I needed a new car imminently because mine had a crack in the head gasket that couldn’t be fixed because the head screws were frozen?
I just can’t justify quitting outright.
And I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, so it’s not like I can even plan my exit strategy and ramp up something ELSE in the meantime.
But clearly my work schedule was not working for me anymore. This summer has just been too crazy.
So what I did instead of quitting was email the woman for whom I work and tell her I could only manage 20 hours a week this summer, and that we needed to bring in another resource, because that wasn’t going to cut it with all the changes the auditors wanted the client to make. I told her that things were different this summer because Lucky wasn’t in full day daycare and Charlie wasn’t working from home. And I told her that I couldn’t give her more than 20 hours a week, and that was BEFORE vacation plans, since Lucky and I were just about to head to NC for two weeks to visit my sister and niece and nephew and my brother and new nephew and niece and friends and other family.
And I knew it would not go over well, because she is not the kind of person who handles changes from her expectations without reacting. This was a HUGE change from what we’ve always discussed: that I am the person who is responsible for this project, first and foremost, and I need to be willing to work whatever hours necessary to get the project completed on time.
If I’m being honest, I had kind of hoped, in a faint way you hope for these sorts of things, that she would be pissed enough to replace me altogether.
She was pissed, yes. But she did not replace me.
Instead she made it clear that I needed to cancel my trip to North Carolina and honor my commitment to her and the client by getting our project back on track.
And I caved. I cancelled our trip to North Carolina.
I don’t like disappointing people. I have taken the term responsibility entirely too seriously, for what I’m realizing has been my whole life. I don’t like telling someone who counts on me that I’m not up for the task.
There is so much of this entwined in who I am as a person, I can’t make a decision that, when you step back and look at it on paper, seems like it should be easy.
I can’t quit my job. But I can’t keep working in this situation, either.
In the meantime, I have been formulating my exit strategy. I recently had a meeting with a family therapist – a friend of a friend – about helping her come up with an accounting system for her business. But it’s clear from me from our discussions that it’s not necessarily going to be a profitable endeavor for me. It’ll be money – a little bit. But not exactly what I’m looking to get from investing time into doing more accounting.
I’ve also had coffee with the closer-to-my-house equivalent of the woman for whom I work – a guy who owns his own accounting firm and could always use extra help. He’s not interested in hiring a contractor, would want to hire me as a part time employee, but wouldn’t tie me down to a yearly hours requirement like the woman for whom I work now. He also nodded in agreement when I told him that ideally I’d work mother’s hours three days a week, and mentioned that he and his wife decided when they had their third child that they were going to try and make it work on just his salary. It’s important to be present for your children, he told me. I can’t say I’m excited about the idea of doing what I’m doing for more years – even closer to my house AND on better hours! – but I guess I feel strongly that I cannot walk away from the money without having some idea of what’s next.
That’s where I am right now.
And I haven’t pressed “publish” on any of these posts before now because I’m bitterly disappointed in myself for not having the courage to walk away from something which clearly brings me no joy. I can see it so clearly: it’s my own damn fault that I feel stuck and miserable and tired and joyless. I not only CAN do something about it, but I SHOULD. I have always felt that if you have control over something, and you choose to do nothing, you forfeit the right to complain about it.
I choose to do nothing, therefore I have to deal with the reality the way it is.
So that’s why I haven’t posted in more than a month. I still don’t know what I’m going to do. And I know there are so many of you reading this blog who want to scream at me “JUST QUIT THE FREAKING JOB!” I mean, hell, *I* think that to myself, too. Just quit the job, deal with the fact that we lose 40% of our household income. It’s just money, Serenity. Get out of there.
I wish it were that easy.
(And I’m going to press publish on this one.)
Since my post about not knowing what I want, I’ve gotten a whole lot better about sitting and listening to myself.
And when you listen to something long enough, you inevitably find one.
It’s a doozy.
I think I need to quit my job.
And the idea absolutely, unequivocally terrifies me.
Let me back up and tell you how I got here first.
Ever since I put out there that I wanted to go into business for myself, I’ve been talking with people and telling them that I’m thinking about trying to do something new, to go out on my own. For me, it’s been a way to try in the idea of running my own business and communicating to people that I’m interested in getting business if someone knows someone. Plus, talking about it helps me suss out my own feelings on the whole situation.
This weekend was the end-of-school bash for Lucky’s school. My running friend from town and her husband were there. In one of the first times we ran together, I asked my friend what her husband does. Not being a business person, she told me she wasn’t quite sure, but that he had worked in consulting for a bit and now was working for a company. And he was very, very busy.
So I assumed that he was in sales.
Except I was wrong. Turns out, he’s in the SAME INDUSTRY AS ME. We bonded over shared frustration about where the industry is headed, how we feel like our jobs are spent covering the auditor’s asses instead of creating real value for our companies and clients, and how hard it is to work for the industry right now.
And he told me that he knew a guy close to home who was in the same business who always needed help; he had contracted for him before his kids were born and stays in touch.
It was perfect – I could stay doing that I do, without having to commute! Perfect, right?
I went ahead and requested to connect on LinkedIn on the referral of my friend’s husband, and for a bit, I dreamed about the idea of not having to commute into Boston anymore and still keep money coming in. I mean, really, it couldn’t be more perfect!
I’d still do exactly what I’m doing now, except I wouldn’t have to spend 3+ hours of my day in the car.
And then, Sunday night into Monday morning, I was up most of the night with insomnia.
(The insomnia. Oy, the insomnia. I have had some pretty bad nights since my marathon on Mother’s Day. I might have slept more than 3 hours at a stretch once, maybe twice. Most nights, I pass out at 9, then am up from midnight until 3 or 4am, with some ‘naps’ here and there. It’s awful and torturous and I have done almost everything physically possible to manage it: melatonin, turning off my devices, going to bed when tired, avoiding caffeine, meditation when I DO wake up, white noise, allergy medication.)
I didn’t really make the connection until my therapy appointment yesterday, when my stress levels were through the roof. I sat in my therapist’s office, and, trying not to cry, told her I could barely breathe sometimes when I think about going to work.
My insomnia started right about the time I went back to work after my two month hiatus.
It’s not the commute. It’s not the schedule.
It’s the work itself.
I haven’t LIKED the work in a long time – since before Lucky was born, quite honestly. But see, I don’t HATE it ,either. And I think that’s what gets me: I don’t hate my job. I just don’t care.
And the more I start to focus on the things I want, the more I read about living the kind of life I value, the more I am realizing that there’s something missing as it relates to my work right now. It’s never more clear when I’m sitting in traffic on the Tobin Bridge; in those moments I have a clear existential crisis, where my entire being is screaming, THIS IS WRONG! THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY!!!!
I thought it was the commute. I thought it was maybe the kind of work I’m doing. Or maybe the company. Or maybe it’s just because I’m tired, because, you see, I CANNOT FREAKING SLEEP. I have been telling myself for years now that I can’t leave this job, it’s good and flexible and I don’t hate it and it’s good money, and it’s irresponsible to leave a job and take away resources from my family merely because I don’t CARE about my work. I tell myself to find something else instead – that I can’t leave until I have a good idea of what I want next, because really, it’s money and money is good.
But the thing is, I don’t know what I want to do next. I spend a LOT of my time and energy casting my thoughts around, trying on careers, researching the next steps and realizing that yeah, I don’t have the time or money for more schooling that would be required.
So here I am. Still no clue of what I want to be when I grow up, but realizing that my current situation is fast becoming untenable, emotionally, for me.
Yesterday, my therapist asked me, So what will it take for you to leave your job?
I don’t know. I really, really don’t know. Leaving is terrifying for me. I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I don’t KNOW what that life will look like. I’m scared of the sacrifices I’m going to force on my family if I decide to leave. And man, I feel SO selfish in saying, well, I don’t HATE my job, but I don’t like it, and therefore I’m leaving it.
I mean, really, who gets to do that?
But I can’t keep living like this either. I feel stuck, and anxious, and I consciously have to force myself to breathe when I think of all the work I’m going to have to do in August, while paying a nanny to take care of Lucky because there’s no more camp. Instead of being home with him, getting ready for first grade, I’m going to be juggling commuting into Boston and Charlie’s traveling for his summer meeting and making sure the dog gets enough exercise and all the work I need to get done.
I don’t know if I can do it.
I feel stuck and scared and tired and sad and anxious and I wish I knew what to do, really DO about the whole thing.
I’m hoping that by putting it out there, writing it all out, maybe I’ll figure out some way around it.