No-Work Anniversary

I wake to the sound of rain pattering on the roof.  I just lay there a minute, savoring the feel of waking up in a warm comfortable bed.  Unhurried, I rise and dress.  Speaking to no one but the cats, I put on my reflective vest and amble along the road.  I walk comfortably – not rushing, not running.  Some days slower, some days faster.  I walk not because I have somewhere I need to be, or some fitness goal I’m trying to meet, but simply to get my body and mind up and going for the day.

After my daily exercise, I eat a breakfast of oatmeal with raisins and nuts.  As I eat, I flip through the local paper until I get to the jobs section.

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Employment opportunities in Vermont

I can’t seem to keep myself from scanning each employment opportunity, looking for one that fits my skills.  Usually, I don’t find anything.  Not even one thing that would use my education, or would play to my professional strengths.

Every week that I read through the 7 Days job section I realize how sweet my past job was, how specifically tailered it was to my strengths.  Highly technical, analytical, using a precise application of the law.  Independent.  Changable – something different every day – yet consistent in the scope of work required.  Minimal interactions with other people.  A combination of paperwork and hands-on activity.  My own office with a window.  Good pay for Vermont.  A state job and all that implies – stable, consistent raises, health insurance.

And a year ago today, that all ended.  June 6, 2016 was the last day I worked for money.  It has been a year since I had the job of a Military Environmental Analyst II.  An entire 365 days.  Funny how life works out sometimes.

Very funny.

I destroyed myself trying to keep that job.  From the moment of my first head injury, I pushed and stretched and struggled to keep that job and the identity that went with it.  And, heck, let’s be truthful – the independence and financial security that went with it, too.  I spent every scrap of energy trying to keep doing my job for 2 1/2 years, becoming less and less of who I was because my daily output of energy exceeded my daily input of energy.  So where did that energy come from to keep going?  My soul.  My spirit.  My life force.  I have no doubt that I shortened the years of my life spending myself so recklessly.  No doubt at all.

And, look, I ended up not being able to keep the job anyway, in the end.  I just stretched out and prolonged the inevitable change necessary to bring my life back into balance.  That change was to stop working.  Simple as that.  I just didn’t – and don’t – have the energy to work.  At least right now.

I still have the hope that I will work again, someday.  Some day is the foggy, distant future.  I know it won’t be in the next year, based on my slow recovery rate.  The year after that?  Or 2020?  I want to be realitic, yet hopeful.  That’s a hard balance to maintain.  I don’t want to fool myself, set unrealitic expectations and try to make myself be something I no longer am.  At the same time, I hope the future holds financial independence and – heck – even affluence.  I hope the future includes me having the energy and mental stamina to work 40 hours a week.  Or, even 30 hours.  Would I be okay with 20 hours?  Is 10 hours a week more realitic?  Can’t know.

How do I know I can’t work right now?  Well, let’s look at what consistutes a big day for me – say, like what I did yesterday.

I drove into town for a chiropractic appointment.  I had an hour appointment that included chatting with my provider.  I walked across the street afterwards and picked up three things at the store.  I drove a few blocks and returned some library books and picked some new ones.  And then drove home.  That was the meat of my day.  Later, after resting and HBOT, I made a simple dinner (from instructions) – tacos!  And that was all I had energy for yesterday.  Definitely no energy available for even an hour of working for money.

After fighting so hard to keep my job, it amazes me that I don’t miss it. I just don’t.  Working was so far outside my physical and mental ability for so long that when the responsibility of my job ended, it felt like a giant weight lifted from me.  I finally had the opportunity to create a life where I could be successful.  Where what I expected of myself, and what other people required of me, could balance with what I actually had to give.  Two and a half years after I was injured, I finally could reconstruct my life in a way that made sense and was realitic.  Thank the Gods.

Of course, it was a rough transition.  Hours of crying.  Fits of anger.  Depression.  Hopelessness.  Frustration.  Loss of self esteem.  Wandering the house alone every day, wondering what came next.

Eventually I figured it out.  Eventually I developed new routines, new rhythms for my life.  I found the balance that I had needed so long.  The space to rest and recover and actually, truly, heal.

And things finally started getting better, instead of continually getting worse as they had the previous 2 1/2 years.  Over the past year, I have slowly been healing.  Slowly.  Slooooowly.  But really healing.  I have developed a stable foundation for my life that will allow me to rebuild myself, and my abilities in a secure and real way.  I know my limits and live within them.  Until those limits change, and suddenly I can add one more thing to my routine, or handle a little bit more complex thinking, or drive just a little bit further.

I am improving.  All that is required now is patience.  And acceptance.  And not using a previous life’s standard to beat myself up or undermine my sense of accomplishment.

Most days, I can do it.  Most days, I’m fine.  Every once in a while, I remember that I was once a person who could work 40 hours a week, play roller derby, stay up late and get up early, and generally do whatever the heck I wanted to when I wanted to.  I think about that person sometimes, the person I was, and I miss her.  She’s still inside me, but that life is over for me.  Just like my last job of nine years is over for me.  I can’t go back.  There is no going back.  There is only going forward.

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3 Responses to No-Work Anniversary

  1. Marie says:

    Your experience so reflects my life as it was new beginnings for all of us with brain injury

    Like

  2. Adah Masaoka says:

    You are very articulate, and this resonates with me so much. I had an mtbi in January of this year after slipping on black ice, falling straight back, and hitting my head on a concrete curb. I am now back working full time as a teacher of 29 5th graders. In retrospect I should have taken medical leave and gone back only part-time. Honestly, my ego couldn’t take admitting that I couldn’t do my job, and I didn’t want the cut in pay. But it has been rough!! I’ve struggled with light-headedness, bouts of dizziness, equilibrium issues, sensitivity to light and noise (!) , following along with colleagues conversations, and so much more. I’m so looking forward to summer break on June 27th, and hoping for a quiet summer of slower-moving and hopefully healing. It sounds like you’re now on the mend. Sending healing thoughts to you!
    Adah Masaoka
    Seattle, WA

    Like

  3. Adah Masaoka says:

    Also, I think you could have a job as a writer; you have a great, relate-able “voice.”

    Like

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