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.
So I’m back at work. And yesterday, I left a doctor’s appointment in Peabody a little later than I wanted, then got stuck in traffic heading into Boston for a client meeting.
Thankfully I JUST made the meeting, but in the moments where I was stressed out, worrying about disappointing my client, frustrated with sitting in my car doing absolutely nothing (at freaking 10:30am. WTF?)… I had a thought which could potentially change everything for me and my family.
I’m not sure what it is about Tobin Bridge traffic, but I’ve had a number of life-changing lightbulb moments on that bridge. Like a year ago, when I decided we needed to get a puppy.
Anyway. Yesterday, the thought struck me:
I can’t do this anymore.
I have spent this week sitting in traffic in order to sit in a meeting where people talk about the wording of internal controls. And whereas it seems like everyone else in the room actually CARES about finding the right words and making changes to the internal controls in order to meet the auditors’ new criteria… I really don’t CARE.
I just want to do the work and go home.
Wait, scratch that. I don’t even want to do the WORK. Internal controls SUCK.
And I DEFINITELY do not want to spend 2-3 hours every day commuting.
It feels like I’ve been saying this forever, I know. And I cannot tell you how much energy I’ve spent over the years trying to think my way around my career. (The cliff notes version of the issue: I am almost 40, I am not willing to devote my time AND money to learning a new skill. Whatever it is I end up doing, I cannot spend any more money on education to do so.)
And, too, there’s this idea: I don’t love accounting, but I don’t LOATHE it either.
My friend D and I have a joke: whenever there’s something that gets in the way of our daily chats (aka: work), we’ll respond: work is lame.
And the other day, she responded pretty thoughtfully that, for her, work wasn’t really lame. She liked her work, but when the circumstances prevented her from, say, eating lunch or leaving on time, that’s when it became lame.
It got me thinking. What do I actually LIKE about my work?
I like the people. I like being an expert, where they look to me for answers when they have questions. I like helping them get work done; in most cases they’re so understaffed that they’re truly grateful when I can offload some of the work for them. I like that I know how numbers from transactions flow into the financial statements. I love analyzing budgets; looking at what a company spent last month/quarter/year and where they’d like to dedicate resources this year.
Yes, I don’t LOVE my job, but there’s lots I like. And honestly, given my propensity for becoming obsessive about new ideas and goals in the first place, it’s probably good for my family and life balance that I don’t actually HAVE a job I love.
But I LOATHE the commute. I dislike the compliance work; I feel like all I do is help the auditors cover their asses – and create far more work than I believe necessary. I hate that for three days this week I’ve gone through nearly a tank of gas, spent $2.50 to spend 20 minutes every day on the goddamn Tobin Bridge, AND spent $20 for parking in the garage under the building. Every day I go in there, I spend $22.50. Not counting the gas and wear and tear on my car.
For what? To sit in meetings and argue over language wording of controls. And my overwhelming feeling is, MEH.
I can’t do this for much longer.
I’ve been considering, for a while now, going out on my own and getting my own small business clients who need help with bookkeeping, budgeting, reporting, and tax work. What has always stopped me before now is the fact that I’d have to start USING friends as networking pawns; asking people for favors, putting myself out there as a salesperson. I really just kind of hate networking; the idea of having an agenda to meeting up with someone other than a “hey! I haven’t seen you in forever!” makes me uncomfortable.
But I can’t commute to Boston anymore, you guys.
And I feel really strongly that people who own their own business should be able to focus on their BUSINESS, too. If you have a yoga studio, your expertise is in yoga, not financials and journal entries and invoicing and budgeting.
I happen to be good at the accounting and business stuff.
It really isn’t a sales pitch, then. I have a skill that people might need. And it’s just figuring out how to identify the need.
So I called a couple of friends this morning – close ones who happen to have their own businesses, who I knew would be supportive and help me out with tips and ideas. And they were great – helpful and supportive.
I think it might be time for me to strike out on my own.
In the short term, I have to keep doing what I’m doing: the woman for whom I work is understaffed already – as is the client I’m working for. And I committed to doing the 2014 controls work. I need to honor that.
But it doesn’t mean I can’t start laying the groundwork for my own business; trying to pick up a bookkeeping client here and there in the meantime.
I am so excited. And hopeful.
And a little nervous and scared, too.
Man, I do not KNOW why I haven’t been able to write lately. I feel as if my thoughts and feelings are all swirled around in a murky mud puddle – the kind you get in March in New England. They freeze overnight, are full of sand and dirt and melted snow and slush and if you step on it, the thin ice will break and you’ll end up ankle-deep in cold murk.
Writing is complicated lately.
So much easier for me to close out the “New Post” screen and do something else. Like budgets, or chatting with friends, or dishes. Or nothing; anything that requires no thinking or feeling. Something where I’m skimming along on the surface.
My truth is that I’m both okay and not okay.
It’s freeing, empowering even, that I don’t have a Plan. This, right in front of me, is The Rest of My Life. Charlie and I are watching Lucky (and Happy!) grow up right in front of us, and we’re a family, and in SO many ways we have such a good life.
But I have many moments, too, where I think, This is my life? Wait!! I DIDN’T SIGN UP FOR THIS!
I’m trying to decide if my expectations were unrealistic, or I’m just really unhappy with some facets of my life, or some combination of the two.
What I know: I am still full of self-loathing. I cannot put words to how much I hate my female parts. They utterly failed me. And then I struggle with this feeling. Because, I mean. I have a CHILD. You’d think that I’d have at least some measure of thankfulness that I was able to carry Lucky to term AND nurse him when he was a baby. My girl parts did just fine then, right?
But then I remember how, when I was pregnant with Lucky, I felt like we had snuck one in, came in under the radar. I never felt comfortable being pregnant; I felt like I was faking. And we really did get incredibly lucky – he managed to avoid the scarred, dead, unhealthy parts of my uterus which killed countless embryos; the part of my body which was responsible for so much loss over the years.
I’m thankful – so thankful – he’s here with us.
But I also cannot shake the unrelenting anger at my body for failing me so many other times.
And that anger is hard to manage, sometimes. For a while, I’ll be fine, and happy, and I’ll think things like, Wow, isn’t it a blessing we didn’t end up having another baby! We would have given up so much freedom! and I’ll go for a run and feel strong and happy and listen to the birds chirping and feel the sun on my face. And I’ll come home completely content with my life.
But the Beast will rear up and catch me completely off-guard, and I’ll flip the fuck out over a perceived slight from Charlie, and I’ll throw it all on him, because obviously he’s not good enough or fast enough or doing any of the right things and he doesn’t even KNOW ME. Because that’s what I do – I get pissed off at other people instead of looking into the black pit inside me. But while I’m yelling and pushing him away and trying to get him to hate me as much as I hate myself it’ll all come crashing down on me.
I’m the fucked up one, I can’t make any more babies, I’m a loser and a failure and I loathe being an accountant and I’m a crap mom to boot. And I don’t know what the fuck I want, so what’s the POINT of all of this shit anyway?
And I go to therapy, and talk through it all, and hear my therapist tell me I’m doing all the right things by talking it out and recognizing it about myself.
But nothing changes.
I still feel stuck. I feel gypped. I feel like the life I imagined when I was stuck in my room as a teenager with no social life and controlling parents isn’t at all close to what I have.
And intellectually, I can SEE that I’m doing this all to myself, that this is life, baby, and no one said it was fair, and good god Serenity, don’t you realize what you HAVE? There are people out there who are barely making their bills and cannot have ANY of their own children and are working jobs where they don’t have the luxury of disliking because it’s the only way they won’t DIE. This is a first world problem, your inability to have more children and the life you dreamed about when you were stuck in your room as a teenager with no social life and controlling parents. And anyway, teenagers know NOTHING of real life, which means that your expectations were probably too fucking high. Just let it go.
Let it go.
Why CAN’T I let it go? Why can’t I keep those moments of contentment close to my heart? Why do I keep spiralling back into pain and anger and fear and sorrow? What the fuck is WRONG WITH ME?
My truth is so complicated. I can’t hold onto the happy for long enough, and I keep trying to run after it, and it keeps eluding me.
And I KNOW, I KNOW that I need to sit down, really stop MOVING, in order to find the long lasting contentment I seek. Intellectually, I get this.
Sometimes, it’s just really hard.
When I decided to run a marathon back in 2011, I signed up for a running clinic through what is now my running club.
The first workout – 200 meter repeats – I was struck with the strongest feeling.
I was made for this.
Over the years, I’ve wondered about my focus on running, mostly as it relates to me emotional, mental, and physical health.
Charlie put it best, recently, on a day where I was getting antsy because it was late and I still needed to get miles in that day.
Always, the running, he said. Obsessed.
I am NOT obsessed, I replied. I do things other than running. Swimming, for example. Weights. Yoga. Cycling.
… So you can run MORE! he replied, laughing.
We both laughed, knowing that he was exactly, 1000% right.
My silence these past couple of weeks has been a function of processing through layers and layers and layers of emotional baggage.
It’s like I finally decided to go up into the attic to clean it out… and was confronted with a room, packed to the brim with 37 years of hoarded Memories and Denied Emotions. There’s been little space to even navigate. So I’ve just been sorting through, processing, moving things around, letting go.
And with all the work I’m putting into sorting through all the crap I’ve never managed to get through, patterns are emerging.
For example, I’m starting to see that I have very little clarity about what really makes me happy.
Said another way: the person I am now is a function of many, many years of trying to fix my many weaknesses. I’ve found gratification in working around the faults my parents found in me.
I’m an excellent Finder of Lost Things, for example. Because I ALWAYS lose stuff.
I’m also an amazing Project Manager. Because I hate being overwhelmed by everything I have to do and not knowing where to start. I also know that if I think a task will take me, say, 2 hours, I should budget 4-6; even more if it’s something I don’t actually like or want to do.
Because I’m easily distractable, you see, and will end up using that extra time.
Last night was the second week of my spring running clinic.
The combination of weight loss and consistency in weekly mileage for the past few months has turned me into a very different runner than I was last year. And I’m working with a coach who has always told me I was capable of more than I’ve done thus far.
One of the benefits of hiring a coach is that it takes ALL the guesswork out of building a training plan. He’s stayed on top of my weekly mileage in the weeks where my ankle has flared up and I couldn’t run through it. He’s scheduled me for strength training when I mentioned my IT band was becoming bothersome again, way up at my hip.
And a couple of weeks ago, he planned a speed workout for me. And this time, he told me to hit a certain pace for each interval. I hit them, easily.
And when I got home and plugged in the distance and time into the computer, and saw the average pace, I was completely gobsmacked.
I never thought I could actually run that fast.
I WANTED to, of course. But wanting and actually DOING are very different things.
So last night the workout was three miles of intervals. I ran them strong and fast – at the pace I never thought myself capable of.
I don’t know how running does it, but the act of running somehow distills me into my very core. Everything falls away, and I’m left with just my essence, my hrdaya – heart center.
My runs lately have been moving meditations, where all I have to do is listen and something will well up from deep inside me. They’re generally phrased as questions, and they’re said with a voice that is quiet and full of knowledge; so much different than that nonstop chatter voice of my mind.
Last night’s thought? The universe has given me a gift.
A good friend of mine asked me yesterday, just before clinic, if we were definitively done trying for another baby.
She knows about our struggles, and she knows that I was pregnant last fall and lost it.
So I told her the truth: that I was 99% sure we were done, really done, but I was having a hard time closing the door completely. We don’t have any hope left. I can’t even consider walking back into that clinic, doing the shots, the medications, the transfer. And the life I have now is pretty full; I get baby time through my family and friends, and I am starting to wonder if that’s the universe’s plan for my life – if I’m just not meant to have more than one kid. And if I can’t have a house full of kids and chaos, maybe I should focus my energy into finding a career I love and making the life I have NOW better.
She asked me if we had considered a surrogate. We have, I said, but the cost is staggering and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it.
Late last night, she texted me and offered to be a surrogate for us if we wanted. I know it’s a huge thing and surrogacy isn’t like a simple fix. But, I know it’s really expensive, and if a uterus is the thing you need, I mean… I don’t know, it just occurred to me.
I don’t know what’s next.
I think we are done with trying for kids, even with my friend’s generous offer to act as a surrogate for us.
I think I might quit my job for a bit so I can allow myself the space to think and feel, in the hopes that my next career might spring up organically.
I think I might keep sorting through the room of emotional baggage in the attic and let go of what doesn’t help me anymore.
I think I’m going to try my best to qualify for the Boston Marathon when I run my marathon in the fall.
I think I am finding out that no matter what is next, the life that I have now – my friends, my family – EVERYTHING that has led me to this point – is a gift.
All I know is that last night, I felt THANKFUL. Thankful for infertility, because without it, I wouldn’t be in this place I am today. Without infertility, I wouldn’t have met my friend D on a TTC board and I wouldn’t have been introduced to the idea of running a half marathon.
Because of infertility, D is one of the most important people in my life. Because of infertility, I found running – and my therapist. And ran a marathon. And found the motivation to lose 35lbs.
I have always tried to find the good in our IF; it’s been really, really hard on days.
But last night, it struck me.
Our IF is a gift, too.
I have done some form of the Meyers-Briggs personality indicator maybe 4-5 times over the past 15 years. The full one in grad school, when I was getting my MBA. Some shorter forms of it a few times since then.
But every time I’ve done it, I’ve gotten fairly consistent results. I come up as an INTJ or ENTJ, depending on how sociable I was feeling when I took the test.
(For those of you who haven’t taken the test, the four indicators are Introvert/Extravert, Sensing/Intuitive, Thinker/Feeler, and Perceiver/Judger.)
Everyone around me – including Charlie, who’s done the Meyers-Briggs himself – has expressed surprise that I was typed that way.
Which, in retrospect, probably should have been clue. Because the thing is, for an INTJ/ENTJ, accounting is actually a pretty darn good career choice. But I feel like it’s ill-fitting, right? So maybe that’s a clue: I’m not actually that personality type.
Anyway. This week, I picked up some career books from the library. The first one – Do What You Are – is based on the Meyers Briggs personality indicator.
And though I didn’t really think I was different than the results I’ve always gotten, I decided to wipe the slate clean and start fresh – that is, break free of the EXPECTATION that I was a certain way.
It’s probably not surprising to YOU, my readers, that I came up with different results on the Meyers-Briggs this time. But I was completely gobsmacked. The type that I came up with? It’s ME. It’s the REAL me, not the me I want to be. Not the Me at Work.
Which, honestly, if I think about it – makes a TON of sense.
Nearly 20 years ago when Amy died, I made a decision: I could not be the person I was anymore. Why? Because I wasn’t a Responsible Person – when a person clearly needed me. I didn’t care enough about other people to reach out and help my cousin, who was clearly suffering. Amy reached out to me twice, and I did nothing to help. NOTHING.
Now, of course, I have perspective. And I understand the reality: her death wasn’t my fault. But back then, I believed that if I were a different, BETTER person, I might have saved her.
So I changed. I became Responsible. I modeled myself after my father; became organized, made decisions, worked my ass off to achieve success. Went to business school. Got my CPA. Forced myself to be the person I SHOULD have been; someone who would have helped her suicidal cousin.
But the thing is, I’m not really an INTJ. Not naturally, anyway. And the issues with my career, and my life, and happiness right now? Likely a result of trying to BE someone I’m not. Which, really, is kind of silly.
So it SHOULDN’T have been surprising, then, that I got a different result this time. ENTP. And the profile of my personality type is ME – to a tee.
The things that I have spent the past 20 years looking at as my weaknesses – the dislike of routines and predictable, the difficulty with details, the inattention to other people’s feelings, the need to debate, the need to change things up when I master a skill (what my father calls my inability to stick with something)…
It’s my PERSONALITY.
I’ve spent the past 20 years trying to be someone I’m not. I’ve been trying to CHANGE things that are fundamentally me, and being disappointed when I can’t FIX it.
It’s just shocking to me that a test in a book has made me realize this about myself. I mean, at some level I realized that I made choices about my life after Amy died. I suppose I just didn’t realize how far-reaching those changes were.
Anyway. I am excited about this discovery. For the first time, I feel like I’m breaking free of the idea of who I SHOULD be and focusing on who I AM.
On Friday, in the midst of the beginnings of the Great Blizzard of ’13, I got an email from the woman I work for. Apparently, the client I worked on nearly a year ago had a question about a number. Boss Lady asked me, Can you look at the number she’s referring to and tell me what happened?
So I did, in between incessant questions and requests from Lucky, since Charlie was lucky enough to be working in the attic that day.
The answer: I have no idea how that number came to be. It seemed to have a formula associated with it when everything else was hardcoded. And it clearly wasn’t right based on a quick check to the financials.
I knew, when I sent the email back saying that the number was wrong that it wasn’t the end of it.
It wasn’t. Boss Lady took the opportunity to point out three other examples over the course of the past year where I had made “stupid mistakes.” And her comment, which honestly was presented pretty nicely, was that I was great to work with and smart – that this was the only thing that I really needed to work on, because we’re consultants and we can’t be making stupid mistakes.
She’s harping on it because she’s sending me to a new client where I REALLY need to be detail oriented. And I need to work hard on slowing down and performing a good self-review BEFORE I give my work to anyone to review.
I’ve been in accounting for 10 years now.
And. I’ve heard the same damn comments for the past ten years. My great failing in accounting is that I miss things. Small, stupid mistakes. I know it. I’ve worked really hard on it for the past ten years, working longer hours, creating my process so that I have time to work on a schedule, step away, then REVIEW the schedule.
So yeah, I need to double down on my work and ensure I tie out every damn number before I present it to someone for review.
But yesterday, on my run, I couldn’t help wondering: What would it be like if I had a career which played to my strengths?
I mean, I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t make mistakes – I’m human. But what would it be like to spend my energy working hard at something in which I was really good? Instead of spending all my time fixing mistakes, or working around my weakness, I could devote my energy into my job, and come home feeling like I am actually GOOD at what I do.
I chose my career largely to prove that I could be capable at it – to both my father and then the professor who told me, astutely it seems, that I wasn’t detail oriented enough to be a good accountant.
I chose this career because it is flexible, and accounting is largely recession-proof – and I couldn’t handle the idea where I’d be out of work during an economic downturn AGAIN at some point in the future. And there are times where I enjoy what I do; when I’m creating financials, for example. I do love it when everything ties out; it’s neat and clean and just WORKS. But I will always struggle with stupid mistakes.
This career I’ve chosen is ill-fitting; it’s JUST the wrong size, and I’m constantly having to tug, adjust, and pull it to make it look okay on me.
I am far from Stuck in this career. In a couple of years we would have the flexibility for me to do something else; not work if that’s what I wanted to do (I’m not sure I want that, either, though I confess I love the idea of it right now).
And then there’s the whole Figure out what you’d WANT to do, Serenity thing going on. Over the past 10 years, whenever I’ve complained about my ill-fitting career, I’ve never had an answer to the question that is inevitably asked. What do I WANT to do?
I don’t know.
So I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, I think, and hope that something presents itself to me in the coming years.
I held my new nephew last night. Twice; once so that my SIL could finish her dinner before she went to feed him, where he vacillated between tired and hungry, in and out of sleep, searching my arm for food.
The second time, after she fed him, sleepy and cuddly, his mouth open in a perfect O.
Oh, he’s so gorgeous. So little. So dark (just like Lucky was). So sleepy. So cuddly.
I looked up at Charlie, who was watching me, and we exchanged looks of shared pain.
This is so fucking hard.
I’ve been thinking about other options ever since meeting with my RE. Okay, so she thinks my uterus might be
completely jacked up presenting a problem for implantation.
Surgery COULD be an option, but she does not feel like it’s worth it to attempt. And frankly, I agree with her.
What about surrogacy? Adoption?
My feelings about our options are incredibly mixed, and I can’t sort through them enough to come to any sort of resolution on them.
And right now Charlie isn’t really open to either one, though I am reading into our discussions that he’s mixed as well. I suppose if I pushed the issue we’d both come to a decision that we’re okay with.
I didn’t think it was possible to have less hope than I did before going into this last cycle. But apparently it IS possible to have negative hope. Anti-hope.
I might have better handled a chromosomal issue with the embryo. Since meeting with my doctor, though, I have been struggling.
I know there are no FACTS, that my doctor could only theorize, why we’re not getting pregnant. But you need to understand, I have had questions for so long as to the REASON why our cycles keep failing.
We have gone through nearly 20 embryos over the years. And that’s nearly twenty BEAUTIFUL embryos: the ones that were rated highest by my clinic.
I have felt for years now that my body actively tries NOT to be pregnant. I felt, when pregnant with Lucky, that I had slipped one in under the radar. I was never comfortable, not for one DAY, when I was pregnant. It felt unnatural; he was breech and stuck in my rib.
And then, the two times I’ve gotten pregnant since: miscarriage.
So to hear that my doctor believes that my uterus has some hand in all this Fail… well, honestly, I think she’s right. I FEEL like she’s right. I’ve known, felt, believed this for years now.
And I don’t have the words to describe the utter loathing I feel about my body as a whole, feeling this.
I have a hard time putting the reasons why into words. But it has to do with the fact that my body cannot perform one of the most basic biological tasks of humankind – nuturing a human.
And that’s why running, right now, is not a salve for this ache. Because it’s not the same.
Running marathons will not change the fact that my body is not made for making babies.
Last week, when I went to pick Lucky up from school, there was a large sheet of paper on the wall, where they usually put their class projects and decoration for the seasons. It was a classification chart.
The question was: How many people are in your family?
The buckets for classification were simple: 3, 4, and 5.
The most kids were in the 4 Bucket – 8 or 10 kids wrote their names there. There were a few kids who had written their names in the 5 Bucket.
Lucky was the only one in the 3 category.
It was unexpected, a punch to my soul. I couldn’t breathe for a moment, and I fantasized about pulling the sheet down and ripping it up.
But I wanted to know how HE felt about it. So on the way out, I pointed it out and asked about it.
And he said, Mommy, I really, really wanted everyone to say ‘Three!’ like me. I wanted the number 3 to win.
I told him that he did win, because he was the only kid who had three in his family, that he was special. And I asked him, Did you know that three is a lucky number?
He hadn’t known that.
I hadn’t heard his teacher coming up the stairs, so when we turned the corner, she was there. And she told Lucky, Did you know that I have three in my family too?
It’s awful, but my first thought was, For now.
I know her son is young: 3.
For now, I’m trying to get out of bed every morning, do my work, parent my almost 5 year old, be a good wife, keep things going with Charlie is traveling.
For now, I’m hopelessly behind on Christmas cards and present-wrapping and making sure that we’re bought for everyone we need to buy for. Oh, and bills, too.
For now, I’m trying to focus on my training program and race schedule for next year and snatch some Zen in the moments where I find them on my runs.
For now, I’m trying to survive this awfulness, the babylust that holds me prisoner, the ache of wanting a sleeping bundle in my arms, catching the scent of baby in my dreams.
For now, I’m just trying to get through one day at a time.
One hour at a time, one moment even.
That’s why I haven’t been posting. Because who really wants to hear my pain? How many times can you all, my readers, comment, I am so sorry, Serenity?
And truly. How many times have I written these same goddamn posts over the years, the longing, the frustration, the pain, the body loathing?
It’s the same fucking story, over and over and over.
And over, for good measure.
Except it’s NOT over.
It’ll never be over.
I am so tired of pain, of longing, of this story. I want off this goddamn ride, where I go from hope to fear to pain to hopelessness to even more hopelessness.
I want this to end. I want to be DONE, I want to move on. I want this pit inside me to be full of the things I DO have, the love that I have in my life.
I loathe this empty yawning ache, and I cannot be rid of it.
I really didn’t expect to go this long between posts, I swear.
Let me get you all caught up.
Charlie Brown had a business trip last week. A short one this time, but long enough that I had to scramble to get childcare so that I could get to the clinic for a blood draw on Thursday. Was able to drop him off at daycare early and managed to get to the center on time. With 10 minutes to spare, actually.
Estrogen levels are rising nicely. I go back in this coming Sunday for a lining and progesterone check. If all goes well, they’d expect to do a transfer at some point next week, maybe.
Which, as an aside, a short vent: seriously, you want me to come in on a LONG WEEKEND for a blood draw and ultrasound? When I mentioned that we were supposed to be away to the woman who called me (not my regular nurse, of course), there was crickets. To which I replied, well I guess I will be there Sunday morning then.
Charlie got home Saturday, and since we hadn’t mowed our lawn in like 4 weeks, I sent him out to do that.
And then I left to head to a girls’ afternoon makeover party a friend was having south of Boston. I carpooled with my BFF – left my car at her house and we drove to the south shore together.
(This will become important when you read what’s next.)
At 6:30, she got a text from her husband with a message that I needed to call Charlie.
Actually, the text said this: Serenity needs to call Charlie Brown. Lucky is okay, but he got stung by three bees and had an allergic reaction. Charlie used the epi pen on him and they’re at the Emergency Room.
Of course I called Charlie immediately. He told me very calmly that he didn’t see what had happened but surmised that Lucky must have gone near a bee hive. But! Everything was fine, they went to the ER because he used the epi pen on Lucky when he got stung by the bees. He had a full body rash, according to Charlie.
It wasn’t as scary as the cashew, he said. Everything’s fine.
Fine? You used the epi pen! That’s BAD!
But there was no real time to talk about it, because two seconds into our conversation, I heard noise in the background, and Charlie said, Oh, oh – hang on. Lucky just threw up. I’ll call you back.
Honestly, I held it together only because I told myself to calm down. I reminded myself that Lucky was in the ER, where, you know, doctors could take care of him. Charlie was with him. It was under control.
There was absolutely nothing I could DO – everything was out of my control.
He called me back relatively quickly afterwards, where we decided there was nothing I could do but stay where I was and call him when we were on the way home. I didn’t want to ruin the evening by bagging early, especially when there was no real reason for me to go.
There wasn’t. If I left early, I’d sit in the ER with Charlie anyway, marking time.
But I have to tell you. Instinct is pretty STRONG. You hear your kid is sick, bad enough to go to the hospital, and it takes a LOT of breathing to get you through the urge to run like hell to be at his side.
Sure enough, we left there around 8. And I got to the ER around 9:30, with a change of clothes for Lucky and a long sleeved shirt and sandwich for Charlie. And there was a lot of waiting around.
Lucky was asleep, his face swollen and mottled.
As it turns out, he had a pretty bad reaction to the bee stings. Charlie gave him the epi pen because of the rash and the fact that his face was swelling up. He didn’t have any breathing problems like he did with the cashew, thankfully. But given how bad he looked nearly 4 hours after the whole incident? I’m glad we had an epi pen and that Charlie used it.
We got home at 1am and I spent the rest of my sleepless night checking on Lucky every couple of hours.
Sunday we were supposed to go out to my in-laws’ house so that Charlie could help my FIL split wood, because my FIL has two bad shoulders that have been surgically repaired, what, three times now? And at 9:30 that morning, my MIL called in a panic.
FIL was outside splitting wood right then.
So Charlie dropped everything to go help him, and I was at home with a tired and cranky 4 year old. All day.
We did find the source of the stings – a Bee Mordor; an underground yellow jacket nest right next to the house and where Lucky loves to play baseball. We emptied two cans of poison into the opening of the nest and I swear the yellow jackets just laughed at us.
When Charlie got home on Sunday afternoon, we talked a little about the Job Situation. Charlie mentioned what we’ve been hearing for some time: his next engagement is most likely going to be in Columbus, OH. Which would require 4 days a week traveling.
So Charlie suggested, Why don’t you just take a break from work for a month or two?
And I ran some numbers. Maybe, if we were REALLY good about the money we spend in the coming months, we COULD make it work. I got excited about the idea of luxuriating with TIME.
What I could DO with that time if I had it!
But man. The money stuff. It scares me so much.
So I talked about it with my therapist on Monday.
I’m sure you all have seen this in me before, but over the past year I’m noticing that I have this OCD/obsessive/controlling tendency. It’s kind of this little black streak which pops up from time to time when I am feeling insecure about something. And I either focus it on me (I get obsessive about losing more weight and what I’m eating), my running (I get obsessive about following a training plan to a tee), parenting (I get all critical of Charlie for his parenting style)… you get the picture.
If I took time off, I KNOW that little black OCD cloud would pop up and make me focus on our budget. Because that’s the only way I could gain control over our lack of money. And I’d justify why we couldn’t travel to Florida to see our family, or spend money on Christmas presents, or our usual Boston Pops tickets every year. I’d clamp down on every expense, questioning why we spend money on something like that. I’d spend a lot of time and energy trying to squeeze more money out of our budget.
I’d become the Grinch.
And at the end of the day, really what’s become untenable is this situation – where I’m commuting into Boston 4 days a week for a job where I feel like I suck.
So yesterday, I put on my big girl panties and emailed Boss Lady. I told her that Charlie was going to be traveling this fall, and my availability was going to be less than it is now, and it seemed easier if she didn’t have anything lined up for me for me to take a couple of weeks off. But that I was open to discussing.
And wow, it was a great discussion. She was understanding, and told me that we could work something out. We talked about a couple of opportunities where I could work 3 days a week, with 1 day in Boston and the other two remotely. We talked about a couple of opportunities which are completely remote – XBRL tagging – which would give me 1-2 days a week, here and there, for work.
Basically, Boss Lady said, There are ways we can make it work so you don’t have to worry about income and can do what you need to do for your family.
Seriously, WAY more flexibility than I had anticipated.
And I realized just how much baggage I have left from my last job. Where I felt guilty for putting my family before the Company. Where there WAS no flexibility; I had to be there, all the time, or I Wasn’t Meeting Expectations. Where working from home wasn’t good enough. Where face time was really important.
This isn’t like that. Not all the time, anyway.
So you’re caught up. We’re in the middle of our frozen cycle. Lucky has a bee sting allergy. Charlie will be traveling to Columbus, OH starting in September, through the end of the year. And I have a lot more flexibility with my job than I thought I did.
So for today? Things are pretty okay.