Treadmills

I typically enjoy the “Coffee with Jesus” comics. I ran across this one today on a friend’s page and it resonated with me–although it was a different sort of resonate than the first time I saw this a couple of years ago.

Finding meaning in what you’re doing is hard. Really hard. Let’s face it: most of us work jobs where we are a mere cog in a machine we can’t even fathom. Many of us are part of a system that we hate in general, but because the system exists, so does our job. How much more self-hating can you get?!

Sometimes, though, a new attitude doesn’t come naturally. Sometimes you need a new treadmill.

I am still working as a cog in an enormous machine–a machine that, in part, I despise. If the IRS tax code weren’t so darn complicated, most of us would not have jobs in accounting (yes, there are still jobs aside from tax, and accountants have been around long before taxes became so complex–my job is actually not tax, but I can promise our firm would not employ so many or have such long hours if taxes were a simple 5% of your income or the like). And here I am. I make changes to numbers, omit or add commas, move text so slightly you might not notice if you weren’t me, and white out smudges and marks on pages before photocopying and binding. It is in so many ways a boring, unimportant job. And yet my co-workers consider my job one of the most important. Why? Because I’m the person who makes their hard work become reality. If I weren’t there, those numbers they computed would just sit in the Excel documents on their computers, doing no good for anyone. Having a job like this–which is insanely stressful some days (like today), I might add–has really helped improve my attitude toward being a cog. What I was doing before had more feasible results, in some ways–I paid bills and received money. It seems like that should feel more important. It didn’t. Seeing the product in my hands helps me feel like this treadmill I’m running isn’t so aimless.

I was reflecting today what a major change my new office is as well. I didn’t know just how deeply affected I’d been by jobs I’d worked in the past–especially at the public defenders’ office. I catch myself flinching whenever someone approaches me, and my heart races every time I get an e-mail or IM. The supervisor at the law office had a perspective that in order to be in charge of others, you have to routinely yell at them. She and the director both felt that taking the blame for something (or admitting any fault) was a severe short-coming. I apologised once for something that really wasn’t my fault, but that I had missed before handing it off, and was reprimanded severely for my lapse in judgment. I found myself quickly wanting to place blame squarely on another’s shoulders instead of taking any part in it because of that reaction. And the supervisor rarely spoke to me unless I was “in trouble.” Usually the mistake was her own, but since she couldn’t possibly admit that, I was next in the chain to take the hit. I often received angry, passive-aggressive e-mails from co-workers. There was so much anger just flying everywhere.

After four years of dealing with that environment, which at the end started just feeling “normal,” I see now what’s happened to me. I feel constantly guilty because even if I don’t feel like I did something wrong, I probably did. I am convinced everyone is mad at me. I stare at an e-mail with two sentences for an eternity before sending it, hoping that my simple request (“Please sign off on the RCS.”) won’t be taken the wrong way. When I get an e-mail, I tremble that someone misunderstood my intentions in my message.

I wonder if I’ll ever feel comfortable again. I wonder if this feeling will forever be ingrained in me. It’s purely exhausting.

The work environment has helped my attitude so much, and has helped this treadmill be a little less pointless. I see why people like working here.

It also gives me the question: why do so many people feel like they need to rule with an iron fist? Why can’t lesser-ranking staff be shown respect? Why can’t a supervisor or boss gain others’ esteem by being a good person to emulate–and not simply bow their heads in fear?

Maybe we’d all be able to find our treadmills a little easier to endure.

Advertisements

Mothers’ Day when mothers are difficult and you aren’t one

I’ve heard several people say, “There are plenty of women who have given birth who are not mothers, and plenty of women who haven’t given birth who are.”

Mothers’ Day is for women who have mothered their children (or someone else’s children), not for the rest of us.

I think even if the unimaginable happens and I ever have a living child, this holiday is going to be banned in our household. It infuriates me that it’s more sacred than Christmas or Pascha, and that it hurts so many women in so many different ways.

But truly, knowing what I know about pregnancy and childbirth and the frailties of infancy, I am amazed every day that any of us are even here. The fact that women for millennia have sacrificed themselves–their lives at least figuratively, and sometimes literally–for the continuation of humanity is humbling, even and perhaps especially in this age of low infant mortality. We are all here because someone sacrificed for us, even if they didn’t mother us.

The day is not just sad because our babies are not with us, and I can’t be a legitimate mother, but also because I deeply mourn not having a mother-in-law. I always wanted a mother-in-law who would be like a real second mother to me–someone I could call and e-mail and go shopping with. I have met my mother-in-law three times now, she has never said more than five words to me (I remember them all: “Hi,” and “Go sit over there.”), and she didn’t bother showing up for our wedding. Having a baby made us more distant from here, since she verbally expressed to my husband that she was “too young” (at the young, young age of 60) to be a grandmother so we needed to have an abortion.

On Mothers’ Day, I mourn for our lost children (especially since everyone chooses this day to announce their own joyful, perfect pregnancies) and for the mother my husband and I both lost.

It is hard to be joyful when my heart is in pieces. The struggle against bitterness is ever so hard.

Maybe if others can be shocked and horrified when you asked what they did on Christmas (“*gasp* I don’t celebrate THAT!”), I should be able to do that about Mothers’ Day, too.

The mountains that were once molehills

Last weekend, I made a trip that four years ago would have been effortless–and was, since I made a similar one about four years ago.

Strange how time and experience change everything.

I visited my alma mater for an alumni get-together–an extra special one that the symphonic winds group throws just once every five years for alumni of the group. A concert is held and former students spanning fifty years attended. It was a good excuse to see people I hadn’t seen in a long time, and also those I doubt I’d ever see any other way since we weren’t close enough to actually visit each other, but it’d be nice to keep up on each other’s lives once in a while.

We’d been planning the trip since November, when I was pregnant but didn’t quite know it, and then I was contemplating going with the knowledge that I’d be six months pregnant for the trip. By the time we bought plane tickets, that baby had died, but his presence in our plan-making hung over my head the whole trip.

The plane ride was by far the most difficult I’ve ever endured. I’ve been on planes nearly a hundred times (perhaps literally) and they never really bothered me. Then again, last time I flew, I was still able to drive, I was still able to bear being a passenger in the car–let alone the driver! I can hardly stand the almost rural area we live; could I survive Southern California traffic??

I felt like it was a huge milestone for me to be able to make it through the flights, and to be brave enough to suggest my husband rent a car for two of the days we were there. I didn’t drive, of course, but I only had a handful of minor panic attacks, which is improvement. Just being able to get there, make plans, be OK with plans not working, and to be calm enough to face those I haven’t seen in so long and admit that I’m not the person I thought I’d be today–those were all huge things for me.

I try not to compare it to how I was upon graduating four and a half years ago. Let’s face it: there is no comparison. I have been through more like in the past four and a half years than the first twenty-two (and those weren’t a piece of cake either). So why would I expect to still be that person?

I dreaded most the number of colleagues who would be happy, ignorant parents by now. But I was surprised–the vast majority of them, while married, do not have children born or in the works. One friend had a baby shortly after Seraphim was born, but she left him at home. I think all of this helped me feel more comfortable. Do I want people to have babies and continue the human race? Absolutely. But right at this moment, I have to admit I don’t want to know their children. Right now I want to feel comfortable in my own skin again, with other people my age, and then maybe I’ll feel comfortable with children again–once we have our own, as unlikely as that will ever be as it looks now.

I am thankful the trip was so positive, and it makes my heart ache for the past. I hope I can channel the ache into encouragement–supporting myself to come out of my shell of pain a little, revisiting the things that once brought me such joy.