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.
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.
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.