What’s In a Job?

Today I had a job interview.  Still within the organization that I work for, but different job, different department.  One of the perks of working for a large size employer is the opportunity to try new things.  This is something that I have done many times over the years, moved around, tried new things – some worked some didn’t.  If I didn’t try though, I wouldn’t know.  Usually I opt for temporary assignments, it gives me, and my new boss, a chance to size each other up and to see if we are a good fit.  I also believe it makes me a better employee by increasing my awareness of other areas, of ‘who’s who in the zoo’ – who the decision-makers are, and why and how things get done.

This job interview was actually a major step for me.  Since Kevin died I haven’t felt comfortable with pushing any boundaries or taxing my ability; his death literally wiped me out.  Besides the emotional ups and downs, there was an associated fatigue that seemed to seep right into my bones. There was brain fog, a cloudiness that descended on me, possibly my mind’s way of coping with Kevin’s loss and aggravated by lack of sleep.  These things made it hard to think and even to express myself coherently. Consequently, it became a challenge to do even the familiar which was frustrating and served to increase the pressure I placed on myself.  I would find myself measuring how the ‘old’ me worked versus how the ‘new’ me did.

My physical stamina was a concern, particularly on my return to work.  Even a phased return, with minimal hours, left me absolutely spent at the end of the day.  After I returned to work full time I still had to be mindful and accept that my capacity was diminished.  This meant standing down on multi-tasking and ultimately reverting to methodically doing one thing at a time.  Then I began to increase my workload; to return to where I thought I should be, able to do what needed to be done.  The end goal was to get through a day of work and still have some energy in reserve to focus on other activities outside of work.  I believe I am finally getting there.  I must be, since applying for a different job is something the old me would do routinely.

Kevin called me a ‘job hopper’.  He would show me our red vinyl book of telephone numbers for family and friends and say, “Count ’em, honey.  Count how many phone numbers there are in there under ‘Mom’s Work’.”  Truly, I have to say, there were a lot. The job hopping ended completely when Kevin was diagnosed with cancer.  After his death, and when I was able to start back to work, it was comfortable and necessary for me to go back to the familiar, to my ‘home’ position where I felt safe, to work on regaining my capacity. It’s a good indicator that my capacity is back when I start contemplating trying something new.  So, whether or not I am successful in this most recent hiring process I still feel like I accomplished something – I buffed off and shined up a part of myself that has been lost for the better part of two years.  If I get the job, for old time’s sake, I might write it in the red phone book and just imagine hearing Kevin say, “Geez, honey, at some point you have to settle down.”  Nope, no I don’t.

My Addiction

As I wrote my last post I wondered what other people do to help them sleep at night.  For so long, since Kevin died actually (11 months ago), I have been on sleeping pills.  Having a hot toddy and nodding off to sleep naturally (sort of) was kind of refreshing, not to have to take something chemical to make my mind clear when I go to bed.

I  figure there are a few obvious ways to get ready to head off into slumber. For me, it doesn’t matter what I’ve tried, I find sleep elusive at the end of the day.  Consequently I have been using sleeping pills literally since the beginning of April 2015, when I saw the doctor and she basically told me I looked awful.  I hadn’t slept more than three or four hours a night, and prefaced my sleep with a good long bout of crying.  In my defense, it does take a toll – the grief and the lack of sleep, so yes, I looked terrible.  I still have dark circles under my eyes, I honestly think they are permanent now.

Enter the sleeping pill, take one and half an hour later I was asleep. Trying to get off of them is not easy.  I have tried.  I substituted a nice hot bath, followed by some meditation, some relaxing music – didn’t work.  Tried using the Tibetan singing bowls to calm and relax me, it did while I was in that state of mind, but when my head hit the pillow the thoughts came back, the sadness.  I tried working out before I went to bed, exercising to get to the point of exhaustion.  I was exhausted, sure, but my mind still whirled.  It always comes back to the sleeping pills.  I love them, and I hate them.

Kevin would always say that sleep was overrated; the bags under his eyes were a testimony to the fact that he didn’t sleep very much.  Me, I always needed my sleep, and I still do.  I just don’t like the fact that I have to use a chemical inducement to enter into sleep.  It can’t be good for the body.  I suspect that having a shot of alcohol right before bed isn’t the answer either.

Fact is, for most things there are no answers, there’s just what works.  For me, for you, for her, for him.  Whatever works – within reason of course – and in moderation – of course. This is where I miss Kevin most, he’d toss reason out the window and believed ‘excess is best’, do it until you don’t want to do it anymore. For someone like me it was like living on the edge.  Now that he’s gone I am firmly grounded in the middle.

So Here’s the Thing

This journey is not an easy one.  Each day is a new day.  One day further away; yet not anything that can be measured by time.  If I could make people understand anything it would be that.  The passage of time, it can’t fix or mend.  It just is.  Another day, another set of thoughts and emotions.  Some days are better than others.

This is the year of the firsts, of experiencing things without Kevin.  So there are days when I despair at the loss.  His birthday, my birthday, the birth of a new grandchild; things he should have been here for but isn’t.  Yet just one year ago he was, larger than life and full of hope. Our lives centred around him.  So with the core gone, those events have to be redefined and none of us have the appetite to do that yet. We pretend, but we all know, he still factors in every thing we do.

As Christmas approaches the need to plan becomes evident.  We can’t wing it through this one, but it is emotionally draining and, consequently, physically exhausting to plan anything.  Christmas is a whammy on many levels, it is overplayed by the media, in the workplace and by retail.  For those who have experienced a loss there is no reprieve from the onslaught of emotions constantly roused when “Christmas Cheer” is rammed down your throat.

I don’t feel cheerful.  I do feel profound love for my family, and this year I hope to surround myself and my family with that love, but it is not likely to be a “cheerful” Christmas.  We will be thankful and reflective, appreciative of what we have, but we will all be very aware of what we have lost. I suspect that awareness will be with us always.  That’s when you realize that although we tend to measure things in time, there are some things that we just shouldn’t.


Bedtime Blues

I don’t particularly like bedtime.  It strikes me that my sadness at bedtime hasn’t lessened one bit in the interval since Kevin’s death.  It’s been numbed somewhat by the sleeping pills I take but it hasn’t changed otherwise.

I still sleep in the same bed that Kevin and I shared. For a few days I moved across the hallway and slept in a spare bedroom but that just didn’t feel right.  So I moved back into our bed in our room.  The music in the bedside clock radio is still the last CD he ever listened to.  His reading glasses are in the bedside table drawer.  The last books he looked at were art books on Escher and Magritte and they remain untouched where he left them, little pink sticky notes marking pages likely for his next inspiration.  I have left everything as is quite deliberately. Here I can surround myself with placeholders and mementos recognizing the warmth and comfort they bring is fleeting.

This has been a long, hard week filled with stress and worry.  It’s almost over now and things are starting to look up, finally.  It was the last week of June 2014 when this journey started and it seems likely that it will be the end of June this year when things will finally end.  Tomorrow I will make a visit to the hospital, and by all accounts, it should be a good one with things progressing well.  However, until this is over, really over, it’s still the same routine.  I will go to my little refuge, my bedroom, and while I lie in bed waiting for the haze to envelop me I will look around and remember, and for that brief time in that hazy state I can believe that my family is complete.  If I time it right, the pills kick in and I don’t have to surface from my imaginings, they just fade into a solid six hours of drug-induced and dreamless sleep.

I Have to Plan to Think and I Have to Think to Write

Today I realized I have perfected the ability to look without seeing.  I was sitting on the couch staring out the window and my daughter said to me, “That’s crazy, eh?”  I looked at her and said, “What’s crazy?”  I guess there had been some birds at the bird feeder which is right in front of the window.  There had been quite a squabble as the birds jockeyed for position to get at the food and it was quite entertaining.  It happened, literally, right in front of the window and I hadn’t seen a thing.

It wasn’t that I was lost in thought, I think more than anything I was devoid of thought.  I find that I can zone out completely, just go into stillness of body or mind or both.  I can still multi-task, I can walk to my car, or do housework or all those day-today tasks that need to be done.  I do them without thinking, just like breathing.  Now I find that often I can pass people in the street, at the store, at work, and it doesn’t register who they are.  Or maybe it doesn’t matter who they are.  Or maybe I don’t want to recognize them because to do so triggers a thought process about their family, spouse, routines that they blissfully take for granted; things too painful and too close for me to dwell on right now.

I think, truthfully, that the reason I choose not to see things is that I don’t care.  I don’t have the emotional resources to spend on interest or concern, not even for myself, let alone others.  Alternately, maybe it is that I can’t care.  Caring is active and needs effort which is just not possible for me right now.  Caring is a step beyond where I am at presently.  For the immediate,  I have to plan to think, just like I have to think to write.  It all takes effort and is very draining.