All week long I’ve tried to think about particularly insightful things to say here.
I’m not sure I have any.
Here goes: I went back to work.
I was not planning on doing this, at all. It just kind of happened. I hate when people say things just kind of happen, but as it turns out they do.
Summer rolled around and all I could think about was how bored I was. “Ride your bike,” I said to myself. Twenty minutes after I was done I was bored again. I tried cleaning out the closet and and organizing the refrigerator (ha who am I kidding that last one never happened), but wound up lying on the couch. I was in a slump.
Midway through the season something shifted. I decided to embrace the quiet instead of thinking of it as monotony. I went to the bookstore and got some books. I disconnected from social media. I turned inside and got very still.
Maybe a season of rest is just that: a time to take advantage of being given time to rest.
I stopped thinking about what was going to happen next and focused only on each day.
I REDISCOVERED SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM.
I decided to visit my mom and dad.
That is not my mom and dad.
While I was in Canada I got a couple of calls from Santa Monica. I sent them to voicemail. While Chris and I were hiking in the Rockies my phone rang out in the middle of the wilderness. “I hope the bears can’t hear that,” I whispered, gripping the bear spray. Later while we were sprinting back to the car in the pouring rain he mentioned it was another call from Santa Monica, “You must’ve won a cruise.” We looked at each other and laughed.
I never gave it a second thought.
When we got back to California, I didn’t check my voicemail for a week. Why would anyone be calling me? I’m retired.
But then my dentist left a message and a string of others played behind hers. SOMEONE WANTS TO HIRE ME? Panic filled my throat.
“I’m not calling back,” I said. But then I decided I am still the person who returns the call, even just to say no thanks. So I gripped that phone, palms sweating, and prayed to God it went to voicemail. It did. Freedom!
A week later I found myself sitting at the head of a conference table with people I had worked with before. How did I get here? It was totally surreal. I could hear myself answering questions and making small talk, laughing even! I swear it wasn’t me doing the talking.
Hey, I’m in here! Why is my mouth moving?
For three hours that day I sat with people in jeans and t-shirts, khakis and running shoes. People who ate soup out of a Whole Foods cardboard container. People who make a lot more money than me doing things their way.
People who remembered me.
It felt good.
Cut to scene and here I am. When I left LA that day I said to myself, “Oh hell no, I am not doing this.” For a minute in that room I had tried to put on my old self and she didn’t fit anymore. I felt her slide right off like a slip dress, a visceral experience, my vision blurried as the noise in my brain thundered.
Had anyone else noticed?
Over the next few days I considered how it might feel to do something productive again. But what if I couldn’t do this job anymore? What if my brain couldn’t handle it? I decided to try on my old job.
I logged into my computer for the first time in over a year. The page swam in front of me and I shut it off.
Things had really changed and I was one of them.
The thing I missed most about my old life was being around smart people. I worked with and learned from some sharp tacks. I want my brain to have that again. I want something to do that is just for me. So, despite a lot of fear, I talked it over with the people at the table and we came to an agreement to ease me in.
I’m tempted to say I’m ba-ack, but the truth is, I’m not.
I’ve stopped trying to be the person I was. I can’t go back. I’m not that person anymore. I can only be who I am today, do my best and be honest about what I’m capable of.
It sounds easy, but is still hard for me – which has been the biggest surprise of all.