I’m not at some kind of stressful appointment or meeting across town, fretfully watching the clock on the wall, worried that I am about to be late for another meeting back at my office, nor am I frantically attempting to drive from Point A to Point B in time to make Event Y.
Nope, I am just sitting here in the Atlanta airport, all by myself, chilling out (or attempting to; I struggle with that concept), waiting for my flight to take off for Florida in about an hour.
This isn’t actual business travel, either. Instead I am, by invitation, joining some other bloggers – a few I know and several I’ve never met – on behalf of Babble at a fun event I will blog more about later, something planned long ago and for which I’d already requested two days of my banked vacation time to attend. But it’s not a work-related trip in the traditional sense, and that’s because as of yesterday, I am on leave from my job for a couple of weeks.
Yes, that’s right. I am taking a time-out. A break. A breather. The rest cure. Whatever you want to call it, I am going to be doing it.
Because I really, really, REALLY needed this .
My job is one of the great joys of my life – both the work itself and the people with whom I get to work. I feel incredibly blessed to have such a fantastic job, and I assure you, I am not just saying that. With all the tough things life has thrown my way in the past few years, my employment with a great company doing work that interests and excites me has been a constant source of mental and emotional nourishment. When people ask me about my job, I often say that I pinch myself when I walk in the front doors of my office every morning, and that’s pretty much the case.
But in the two years since Henry was injured and then died, all I’ve done is run at warp speed in every single area of my life, and it was starting to catch up with me. First, I spent 5 weeks sitting at Henry’s bedside, never leaving, while juggling the job I had at the time (different company entirely than the one I am with now) and frantically attempting to retain my employment while still caring for my critically ill child. Then I was back at my desk within days of Henry’s funeral, and expected to be in sales meetings within only a week or two, struggling not to burst into tears as everyone around me acted like the world wasn’t totally different now.
Three weeks after my return to the job I had at that time, I had an emergency c-section late one night. The baby arrived less than a month after her oldest sibling’s death and six weeks before her due date. And you know what? I was then back at my job only FIVE WEEKS after I gave birth.
Very shortly after my return to work following G’s premature arrival I caught a very, very lucky break, allowing me to change companies and move into my current, wonderful job; this was truly one of the best things that’s ever happened to me — a real blessing. But even then, I only missed a couple of days between leaving my previous job and starting my most excellent new one, where I’ve now happily been working for almost two years.
I can honestly say that my work and my coworkers have sustained me in a really fundamental way since I joined this company. But to be perfectly frank, I recently realized that if I did not allow myself some downtime to work harder on NON-job duties, like processing and feeling everything that’s happened since April 27, 2010, I would not be able to be much use to anyone much longer.
I needed a break.
And let me be clear that no one at home or at work had ever once told me or suggested to me that I couldn’t take a break; all I had to do was ask and work out the logistics. The problem was entirely with me – me and my clingy, white-knuckling, monkeymind self – mistakenly believing that the harder I clung and the faster I ran, the better I would be at work and at home and everywhere else. In fact, of course, the opposite is generally true.
But it took me a while to realize that I had options, and that I could ask and should ask for some time off in order to give some closer attention to dealing with losing my child, and in my case, with everything else that’s gone along with it.
So with Jon’s support, I made the decision to request a temporary leave of absence from my beloved job – a leave that started yesterday and that will last a couple of weeks, after which I know I will be able to return to my work responsibilities with a renewed, clearer ability to be the best I can be at what I do for a living. And the support and compassion I received at work in response to my request for some leave time just blew me away. I will never, ever forget it.
What do I plan to do during this temporary summer “time-out?” Well, in order to quiet my mind and get healthier, I plan to do as little as possible, actually. Mostly, I think I just need to be still – be calm and quiet with nowhere to be and nothing very important to do except sit with my thoughts and spend time with with my family. I need the rest that comes with unhurried family life for even a week or two; I haven’t had enough restful time like that in far, far too long.
But this isn’t a vacation. I have plans to use this time away from my job for some specific work on healing from grief and trauma – stuff that I’ve known for a while that I’d need to get to eventually. And now’s the time to start on it. I have to focus on finding the healthiest ways for me (and it’s going to be very different for everyone who loses a child) to live the rest of my life with the grief and loss that is now just part and parcel of who I am, but which most other people don’t really understand (thank God). I have to learn how to live however many more years I have sanely and productively as a Venutian amongst the Martians.
Another way I’ve sometimes thought about what I am facing now is that perhaps it’s something like the physical therapy one must undertake after losing a limb. The limb is missing now; it’s gone. It’s not going to grow back. You look down and see that it’s gone. You know logically that it’s gone.
But now what?
You can’t get past the initial trauma, or accept the loss as permanent until you learn to use the prosthetic you are given, and until you consciously work on building up the muscles up that will now forevermore have to compensate for the loss your body has sustained.
That’s one way to describe what I think I have to do now, but I just haven’t had time to work on this stuff. Now, however, it’s become obvious to me that the time has come to at least get started with the first baby steps.
And I dread it. I know that a lot of this is going to hurt like hell. But I have to be the best person I can be to honor Henry and to show my other four children how to get back up and keep trying to get better and stronger, even when it sometimes seems impossible.
So that’s what I am going to be looking at with a great deal of focus in the weeks ahead. How can I be that better person? A good mother, wife, friend and yes, employee, even though I hurt so much all the time? How do I DO this?
During my time-out, I will blog as I feel like it, when I feel like it. That might be once a day or twice a day or once a week. For me, writing is pretty often part of working through things rather than a chore of some kind. But during my time-out, if writing feels like a chore, I won’t be doing it. Simple as that.
I have no illusions that a few weeks away from work without any big plans is going to make me get over Henry’s death or change me fundamentally. But I do plan to make the most of this luxury of time to hit a “re-set” button on my head and heart, try to learn some new stuff about myself and life, read as much as I can of all the books people have recommended to me since Henry died, and spend lots and lots of time just being at home with my children and husband. That actually sounds like a lot to get done in just a few weeks, doesn’t it?
READ MORE FROM KATIE OVER AT MAMAPUNDIT (HER PERSONAL BLOG)