I’m slowly adjusting to the newness of this life. I’ve been 9-to-5-ing it for so many years, this freedom to set my own hours for a while has been…almost unnerving. I keep waiting for the time off to end, for the dread to start growing in my stomach, for the clock-watching to remind me I have to go to bed in order to drag myself off to work for 8 am.
For the most part, it’s only been a relatively small thought in the back of my mind. I don’t talk about it much. I don’t think, “OMG, I’m not working!” at random points in the day. I don’t even feel ridiculously happy not to have to deal with the stress and BS that were a regular part of my day on the job.
Today, though, as I was driving around doing errands, there was a moment. It is a beautiful fall day here in Kentucky–the sky is blue and clear, and the temperature is just cool enough to be perfect. For a moment, just a moment, I was back in my desk at The Day Job™. It hit me, hard like a punch in the stomach. I could actually feel myself in the desk chair, a computer in front of me, white noise choking me, that trapped feeling all lab rats get when they become momentarily aware of their real situation.
From my desk, I could see out a window onto the parking lot in front of the Chinese buffet next door. Rain, snow, sleet, or sunshine, I would look out of that window countless times a day. My eyes would drift away from the screen and the work and the reality and fixated on that Outside place. Outside, where people were running errands and meeting friends and working in their yards. Outside, where time was just time, and not a weapon used against you.
And I remembered, like it was happening, the ache I would get sometimes, on days just like today, when I would look out and see the clear blue sky filled with sunlight and cool breezes. I called those days my Alpaca Days, because I would have rather been doing anything – even herding alpacas – than stay inside that cold, stale office. In my mind, I would just grab my purse and leave, without even telling anyone, without even turning off the computer. I’d get in the car and pick up my sweetie and we’d drive without stopping until we hit an ocean.
Today, I realized that I didn’t have to raise alpacas. I didn’t have to run away from home.
I was out there, in that sunshine, on that perfect day, doing what I wanted to do.
And I realized, “Wow, I don’t have to go to work for a while.”
Love to you all,
It’s 10:25 on Sunday evening. For the first time in years, I’m not watching the clock. There is nowhere I need to be in the morning. I have clean clothes, and my shoes are near the door where I always keep them. My keys are hooked onto my purse, but I will not need them as the sun is rising on the beginning of the week.
I had a panic attack today just before dinner. My stomach clenched in on itself like a knot, my hands began to shake, and I could feel my pulse begin to race. I was in free fall.
The story I’ve told myself for the majority of my adult life is that I’m not good at structure. I need outside structure in order to keep me productive. I need a time clock to punch, a schedule to be adhered to, an agenda to follow, or I will be useless. I need someone outside myself to tell me who I am, where I should be, what I want. I need someone to tell me how to feel and how to live.
My “job” for the next several weeks, outside of packing up and moving, is to clear my head. I need to get myself clear of this Stockholm syndrome that has taken over my life. I know this to be true, and yet for all the learning and growing I’ve done over the past few decades, I am at a loss at where to start.
I have been given an amazing gift, a gift so many people would kill for. I have time.
I have stolen silence from my life for so many years, edging peaceful moments in the nooks and crannies of my crazy world. And now, I’ve hit the jackpot, time-wise.
And I’m scared to death. That free time seems to spread before me endlessly, and yet at the same time I’m afraid I’ll blink and miss it. I’m afraid of wasting the gift, so I’m tempted to cram it full of tasks and activities and goals and lessons. Anything to avoid the aching, empty silence where my authentic voice can find me.
“Listen to that inner voice,” people always say. “Listen to your higher self.”
I’ve heard from my Inner Wise Self (IWS) before. But I don’t think this is the voice I’m looking for. I think this is a much deeper, more primal voice, one that has been stuffed so deeply inside of me I’d forgotten she ever existed. And she’s got a lot to say.
The conversation, I fear, will go something like this. “Who are you?” she will ask. “When did you become this person? When did you digest all this BS about who you are and who you should be? When did the act of making money become your sole criterion of self-worth? And what the hell are you going to do about it?”
I’d like to think that my authentic voice will be kind and patient with me as I go through the process of deprogramming my psyche. But I’m afraid she will not I’m afraid of her anger, and the anger that I’ve been swallowing for so many years. I’m afraid she’ll realize that it’s not society or religion that’s silenced her, but my own fear.
What havoc will she wreak when she finally lets loose? And will I be strong enough to weather the storm?
I’m in free fall right now. I don’t know where I’ll land or who I’ll be when the dust settles. But it’s okay. This is a gift. My authentic self is still where she has always been–waiting, more or less patiently, for me to shut up and listen for a change.
So I don’t have to worry about going to sleep tonight. The alarm is not set. I can wake when I choose and, aside from a list of moving-related tasks to accomplish, I have nothing at all I need to do. Nothing at all.
Wish me luck,
Background Music: Adiemus by Karl Jenkins
Today, I finished up my two weeks’ notice at the job I’ve held for almost nine years. I’ve always wondered about people who do and don’t work out their notice at jobs. I’ve known people who just said flip it and left after one day. Others didn’t give notice at all.
I worked my last day like any other Friday–actually, I was a bit more diligent than usual. I made sure all my email was tidied up. I followed up on issues I had been working on and made sure my replacements had all the reference documents they would need for a smooth transition. I said my goodbyes dutifully to both coworkers and customers, getting personal emails and cell numbers where appropriate. i cleaned out my desk and made sure to place all personal items in the canvas grocery bag I’d brought. I turned in my badge to the supervisor on duty.
When 5 o’clock arrived, however, I was struck with a sort of Stockholm syndrome. My feet dragged as i walked toward the reception area. I was actually afraid to walk out the front door. That feeling of euphoria I expected never materialized.
I drove home in silence, a mood of intense quiet filling every corner of the car until the windows practically rattled with it. i felt my hands shaking and, almost instinctively, my mind turned to safer ground. I began to review the slights of the day–the supervisor who never bothered to tell me she’d be on vacation my last day, thus denying me closure of an actual goodbye. The teammate who groused at me for sending “too many emails” to help her cope with my unruly account when I was gone.
It felt better. It felt safer. I understood bitching about work. I understood frustration and resentment. No matter how uncomfortable these things can be, they are a lot more familiar than this all-encompassing sense of now what? that was settling upon me in my nascent post-employment haze.
I got my first “real” job in college, and I’ve been working ever since. Despite all my efforts to fight it, I have been unable to avoid identifying with my job, defining myself by the work I do, basing my self-worth on how much I earn and what prestige I can garner from the status of my position. Every bit of introspection, every spiritual book read, every billable hour of therapy I’ve endured could not keep me from falling into this oldest of traps.
I am my job.
And for the next few weeks, at least, I am effectively unemployed.
This begs the question, of course, “Who the fuck am I now?”
Who am I without a job to go to? Who am I without a job to bitch about? Who am I without the bars around me?
For all my posturing about wisdom and spirituality, I have willingly put myself in a cage for the majority of my adult life. Bitching and moaning all the way, I embedded myself into the very jobs that were killing me. I became the jobs that raised my blood pressure to potentially stroke-inducing levels. I became the jobs that increased my stress levels and pummeled my self-esteem and shattered my ability to trust my own instincts. I became the jobs that, for all intents and purposes, were the work equivalent of an abusive spouse.
And now I look into the blinding glare of freedom, and I’m paralyzed by it. There is a lot to do. We have to pack up eight years of life in the next four weeks to prepare for our move cross country to Phoenix. I have to sign up for Obamacare and make sure I have enough medication to get me through the transition time.
But those things won’t take eight hours a day, plus two fifteen minute breaks and a one hour lunch. Those things won’t clock my time in and out, sending me nasty little reminders when I’m five minutes late in the morning or three minutes early coming back from lunch.
For the next five or six weeks, I am essentially a free agent. Unemployed. A ghost.
I have to resist the urge to start shoving things into the empty space. I am drawn to clutter, comforted by it, addicted to it. All this empty time and space is too frightening, too open and vulnerable to attack from self-doubt and backward thinking.
When I told people I was leaving my company, almost every single one of them asked me the same question, “What are you going to to?”
I asked Kathryn that same question, and do you know what she told me?
“You are going to putter. You are going to be. You are going to break free of the brainwashing that tells you your only value comes from the job you hold and the work you do. Because if you don’t, it won’t matter what kind of job you get when you get to Arizona. And if you do, it won’t matter what kind of job you get when you get to Arizona.”
So, dear souls, tonight I greet you as a caged bird no longer behind bars, held so long in captivity she’s almost forgotten that she can fly. But soon enough, I’m going to remember what those wings are for, and it’s gonna be an amazing flight.
Wish me luck–
Good night, dear souls.
Today I was brave. Today I was very brave. It’s not the time yet to talk about the details, but I have to say–brave is scary.
You know the old truism: “Bravery is not the lack of fear. Bravery is feeling the fear and moving forward anyway.” For the last few weeks, I’ve been fighting enormous fear. I’ve been fighting dread and self-doubt.
I’ve been hovering near the edge of the cliff, skittering back and forth like a scared animal.
Today, I jumped off the cliff.
I’ve jumped off that cliff before, and I flew. But over the past few years, I’ve become very comfortable. I’ve become very sedentary.
I’ve forgotten what I’m made of, and I’ve allowed other people to tell me who and what I am.
That ends today.
Still petrified. But at least I’m not stuck on the ledge anymore.
Keep watching this space for more details.
Sweet dreams, fellow travelers.
Background Music: Sara Bareilles – Brave
Just wanting to share a post by a blogger I follow, Charles Dowdy. It’s a wonderful reflection on middle age and how we can never let ourselves to continue looking down.
It is easy to get caught up in the past, and the things that did not happen. It is easier still to get caught up in life’s routine and the things that always happen. What I have to is remember that my path is not set in stone. I might be in the midst of a beautiful journey, but right now I’ve got my head down. The days of life advance and recede like waves in the ocean. It is time to live in the now. It is time to take chances. It is time bring my gaze to the horizon, no matter how bright the glare of what stands before me, and pedal forward through the rocks once again.
I’m still struggling to get back into a routine after last week. In addition to the disruption of the holiday weekend, last week was simply difficult. Far too much stress with far too little sleep, combined with an unhealthy amount of caffeine, salt, and sugar.
We’re not perfect. We mess up, miss appointments, fall behind on tasks. But if we constantly strive to do the best we can, defining best as the best we can do in that moment without harming ourselves or others, there’s no need for guilt or recrimination.
My goal is to get back to posting twice a day, consistently, every day. It’s important to me to have this routine, to meet this commitment I’ve made to myself and my readers.
I hope you’ll be patient with me as I work toward that goal.
Have a great day–
By the time Friday comes around, it feels like I’ve had a tap attached to my spine (like a maple tree). All the life essence is slowly drained by the stresses and frustrations of The Day Job until I feel depleted and weak.
The more I delve into the world of writing (and getting paid for writing), the harder it is to keep myself motivated at The Day Job. I do important work, and I’m very good at what I do. But there are days, weeks even, when I wish I could just head out in a random direction and live off my wits for a while.
The good news is that these impulses aren’t very strong, nor do they stay for very long. But they remind me, profoundly, that life is not what you do for a living, nor is it where you live and what you have.
Life is the sap of a tree, and you only have so much of it this time around.
So, what are you going to do? Let life drain you dry for its own profit, or use your own life-blood in the way you want?