A Week of “Meh” …

Last week was a week of “Meh”. Remember how I mentioned I was doing some contract work for a local nonprofit organization? And remember how I mentioned that I was enjoying the work? And remember how I mentioned that I was starting to feel more alive and better about myself than I had in years?

Yeah. Well … that’s all gone. Thank you, COVID-19. I found out last week that I won’t be getting any more contract work for now. Luckily, the company feels it’s a temporary pause. They didn’t cancel my contract, and they told me they are looking forward to having me back on the team when things go back to normal — whenever that might be.

I’m not mad about getting shut down. I totally get it, and, honestly, I was not surprised. I felt really fortunate to be getting work as this pandemic started rolling across the U.S., but, in the back of my mind, there was that feeling of dread. You know the one I mean: that nervous, sinking feeling that tells you things are going too well, and that you are soon in for some disappointment.

april2019-dandelion-macro2-sm

It sucks. I don’t think I’m overstating things when I say that. The people I was working with were very apologetic. I know they feel terrible about it. But, really, they have no reason to. It’s not their fault. It’s not my fault. It’s just the way things are for right now. Times are uncertain. We have no idea how long we might have to huddle in our houses. Maybe only until the end of April. But maybe all the way to June. Or maybe even longer. Everything feels uncertain and scary now. Businesses have to cut expenses. And, of course, an independent contractor is the first expense to go. I’m not angry about it. I’m just … sad.

So, my contract work dried up last Monday. Before the pandemic happened, I had applied for a job with a company in our town. Last Tuesday, I got a call from the hiring manager for that job. He wanted to let me know they are dropping me from consideration, although he appreciated my interest in the job, and he said he wants to introduce me to other people in the company’s legal department once we can all leave our houses. I came into the hiring process late, and they already had people lined up for second interviews, so I didn’t have much of a chance, from the start. The hiring manager told me this, up front. I appreciate his candor and his willingness to continue offering me some of his time and assistance. It was incredibly kind of him to make the effort to call me in person, instead of letting the form rejection letter speak for itself. But … getting rejected sucks, too. Even if you weren’t totally sold on the job (which I wasn’t), getting rejected is a blow to the ego. Last week felt like a combination knock-out punch!

summer2018-maui-mamasfishhouse-sunset1-sm

And so, I have been feeling bad about myself. No matter how much I tell myself none of this has anything to do with my skills or qualifications … No matter how much I remind myself no one could foresee how everything has had to shut down due to COVID-19 … No matter how much I remind myself that this is all a matter of bad timing and nothing more … I feel like a big, fat, ridiculous, stupid LOSER.

Depression has joined the party in my head, whispering that I am worthless and making it hard to do anything I want or need to do. It’s hard to get up in the mornings. It’s hard to work up the energy to do even the simplest household tasks. Luckily, I can’t avoid cooking, as my family still needs to eat. And the dogs still need to be fed and loved on. These have been saving graces for me. Even so, I can feel it pushing down on me — that black cloud of self-hate, tinged at the edges with feelings of failure and worthlessness.

Here’s the thing: I need to get my shizzle together and stop whining over what I have lost. Today, I sat down and thought about all the good things in my life: my family loves me, my parents are still in good health, my dogs are a constant delight, and so on. Yes, I may have lost out on something that made me feel good about myself, but my family is still okay. My husband’s job seems stable, and we are (so far) weathering this crisis pretty well. I don’t hate staying at home, which is a huge positive right now. I can still enjoy nail polish and reading and all the little things I love on a daily basis. No one I know is sick with this horrible virus. I am so fortunate in many ways, and I don’t even realize it.

tx-hwy1-IG-sm

No, I think it’s not quite that I don’t realize it. I think it’s more that Depression has a way of hiding these things from me. At times when I start feeling down on myself, I have to remember to go looking for them. This isn’t to say that feeling sad over getting rejected or losing work is wrong or anything like that. On the contrary, it’s a valid feeling, and I need to let myself grieve over the things I lost. But I need to remember I haven’t lost everything. I need to remember I have also gained. And I need to remember that this loss, no matter how awful it feels, isn’t the end of the world.

Today, I took a walk in the sunshine. I felt the wind against my skin. I smelled the freshly cut grass. I raised my arms toward the blue sky above, and it was Good.

Into the Deep End … And Where I’ve Been

Y’all!! It is MARCH!! Even more than that, it is nearly halfway through March. And I have been MIA since the beginning of January. Ugh. This feels like the same song, second verse for the story of my life lately.

(Also, this isn’t part of this post, but I’ve gotta toss it in here: It is freaking SNOWING right now. As in, big, fat flakes floating to the ground outside my window and at least an inch on the ground so far. Crazy!!)

rose-snow3

Anyhow, where was I? Oh yeah. My life and the twisting, turning story of me being “me”. Or something like that. I wish I could come in here with some interesting, funny, and fascinating tale. But, as often is the case, the truth is more than a little boring.

Our move to Illinois is still a work in progress. We are pretty much settled into our house, but we still have a lot of things to unpack. I am amazed, on a daily basis, at how just three people can possess All The Things In The Universe. I swear the movers brought stuff that wasn’t even ours. I swear this every time I go down into the basement and start unpacking boxes. Unfortunately, each time I unpack a box, it turns out all the stuff inside it actually belongs to us. I’m still working on figuring out where to put things. I’m still working on which pictures to hang on which walls. I’m still getting my home office unpacked and put together. Aaaaand, I am still cleaning out my closet. It is all a very slow work in progress. But our new house has kept us comfortable, warm, and dry all winter long. And, apparently, even into the Spring. (Did I mention it’s snowing outside right now? Did I mention how this is crazy?) Our new house is starting to feel like “home”. And that’s a good thing.

But this post isn’t about that, not really. It’s all just background to what I really want to talk about. When you step away from your blog for a long time, you have to do a little bit of catch-up to put things into context.

bloomington-july42019-fireworks1-sm

Last month, I took a deep breath and jumped, feet-first, into the deep end of Life. I have been thinking about this ever since my husband got this new job. I have been talking to him about this ever since he got this new job. Finally, I did it. I decided to jump back into the work force. Yikes! It feels weird to be typing it out loud like this. And it feels weird to read the words in black and white as they flow from my keyboard. Maybe “weird” isn’t the right word for it. Maybe it’s more that seeing the words here in front of me makes it feel more real and more scary.

I left my last job in 2002. It is now 2020. I’m sure you can do the math and instantly realize I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost 18 years. I say “almost” because there are a few months leeway between the date I actually left my last job and today. Eighteen years! It sounds like a lot of time when I type it out loud like this. It sounds like a lot of time when I roll the words around in my head. It doesn’t feel like a lot of time, because all of it passed me by in what feels like the blink of an eye. All those years of laughter and fun and silly memories. All those years of watching my girl grow into a beautiful, thoughtful, amazing young woman. I feel like I turned around three times and, suddenly, I’m a lot older and my daughter is nearly grown.

roadtohana6-gardenofeden-peahen1-sm

I don’t want to face the reality of it, but my little chick is almost ready to fly the nest. I will never be ready for it. And she may not feel she is ready. But she is. I know it, and I have faith in the person she is. Next year, she is a senior, and we are in the midst of SAT preparation, college visits, and dreams for the future. She still needs me. I hope, in some ways, she will always need me: as a friend, as someone to turn to for advice, as a person who will always have her back. But she doesn’t need me to “mother” her any longer.

It was time to do this. It was time for the next step to happen, and my husband’s new job made all of this possible. I never planned to be away from the work force for this long. But I stayed in the background, keeping the home fires burning while my husband built his career. I was the parent on duty, 24/7/365, while he traveled for work and worked crazy hours and we hardly ever saw him. I’m not saying these things to throw him under the bus or anything like that. The way we ran things in our home and our family was something he and I agreed to, from the beginning. And I didn’t mind it. At the time, I didn’t feel like I was giving up anything. Because, of course, I had all those rewards: all the hugs and kisses and laughter and memories.

Now that I’ve decided to go back to work, I am starting to feel the weight of what I sacrificed. Not that I would change it. Let’s get that out and straight right now: I would not change a thing about it. If I had it to do over again, I would still do it. I would still stay home with that little girl and soak up all that love each and every day. I have no regrets about it.

But … It’s scary, going back. The weight of just how long I’ve been out of the game is heavy. And it’s hard to explain away my choices again and again. Not actually hard, but emotionally hard. It feels like being judged, in a way. It feels like people expect you to say you regret what you did, or that you would make a different choice, or that you thought about and missed working every single day that you were gone. Of course, that’s not my story, and that’s not what I have to say when asked the $64,000,000 question.

double-rainbow1-sm

In some ways, going back to work feels selfish. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve consciously chosen to do something that is just for me. So there’s that. It’s not like my daughter or husband are going to suffer from this choice. My husband has more regular hours now. A big reason for taking this job was the chance to move to a smaller town and for him to spend more time at home. He has some precious time now to be fully present and share in the laughter and memories. They are teenage memories now, but still just as sweet. My daughter is ready for this, I think. It will be good for her to learn some “adulting” now, before she is out of the house and on her own at college. And yet … that guilt. It is a pervasive thing.

I sucked it up, though. I told myself I needed to look that guilt in the eye and own it so I wouldn’t back away from it. And I started looking for jobs. I redid my resumé, which was a whole ordeal. I drafted a template cover letter. I got a rejection. I moved on from that and kept applying. And I got another interview, which was awesome and exciting. It was just a first-round thing, and I am waiting to hear back. Maybe I will get to move on to step two. Maybe not. But I’m out there. That’s what matters.

july2018-kerrville-bluechairs+sidewalk

In the meantime, I got a little bit lucky, too. I lucked into an amazing contract gig. I’ve been working at it since the end of February, and it’s perfect in every way. I’m able to work remotely from home. It’s with a nonprofit, and the legal department is small. This is amazing for me, because it means I get to work closely with two fantastic lawyers. It’s a part-time gig, from fifteen to twenty hours a week. This means I still have plenty of time to take care of household chores, pick up my daughter from school, and run her to various appointments. And the best part yet is that I am doing transactional work. This basically means reviewing and drafting contracts. It might sound boring, but it’s pretty exciting to me because I am learning a whole new skills set. I love learning new things!

All in all, I can’t believe I was lucky enough to snag this contract job. It is perfect for me at this moment in time. It’s a great way to ease back into the working world. It gives me some great new and recent experience to put on my resumé. And I am loving having daily chats and contact with colleagues. I feel really good about the work I am doing for them, and it is a huge confidence boost when I am able to have an in-depth legal discussion with one of my colleagues or when they tell me they appreciate my work.

On the slight downside, my new work is forcing me to re-learn how to schedule my time. I am trying to get back into good routines and habits, and it is a little bit of a slog. I will get there, but it might take a couple of months for it to happen. So far, this has meant less blogging time and more “running around crazy” time. But I am trying to settle in more and make time for all the things in my life that are important. That includes my blog, because hanging out in here helps my mental state. For now, I hope that will mean once-a-week entries on Saturdays or Sundays.

And that’s where I am right here and right now. Hopefully, I will see you guys back in here next week: same time … new story. Fingers crossed!!