Here I am sitting at the back of the Midlothian Library while Nelson gets his Wednesday evening tutoring. I’m trying to ignore the two young guys having a very bizarre and yet intense and maybe even well-informed conversation about world currency. It’s not really a conversation. One of them seems to be providing a lecture to the other. At a common table at the library. It’s fascinating. The lecture recipient keeps leaning this way and that as if barely remaining in his seat but then he occasionally adds a comment or question which keeps his compadre going at a rapid pace. Apparently, this guy has the onset of WWII boiled down to something about the free market and John Adams. But I digress.
Tomorrow I am supposed to return to work. I am not at all sure if I’ll manage it. I have been on the verge of what I assume is a panic attack the last couple of days. My chest has been aching today and I’ve been pretty close to tears for much of the day or else fighting off sleep which feels defensive in nature. This business of work and grief has been very complex for me. I have been out of the office for just over four weeks. I feel like I need four more to be honest. But my doctor wrote the note saying to me “you’ll need a month; at least”. What she didn’t say was ‘come back and see me’. So as this date on the calendar has been slowly creeping toward me like a lion in the tall grass I have been thinking “I don’t feel healthy. I don’t feel ready.” but simultaneously I also thought “I’m supposed to be able to go back now. I need to go back now.” I have this huge sense of obligation. It seems to be coupled with these comments from others that going back to work will be a good distraction. A good distraction??? I have so many reactions to this I don’t even quite know where to begin. First, I suppose, is that work is not supposed to be a distraction. It is something you are supposed to do and do well; in a fully committed manner. I don’t want to go to work and mail it in. It’s not the gym for God’s sake. (that right thee was a joke. A gym joke; get it?) AND more importantly, I have so many ways I would want to distract myself I don’t need to go to an office with people who aren’t my family and close friends to do that. I want to write, paint, go to therapy, spend time reading with Nelson, crying and taking walks by water and checking on my father and siblings. I want to buy an ash tree and plant it for my brother. I want to sift through the corners of his home looking for answers in the Virginia heat. Those are distractions that feel worthwhile at the moment. I do believe that I will find my way back to interest in my work but not today; not yet. If I had been physically injured no one would say to me go back to work and sit at a desk. It will be good physical therapy for you. My heart and my psyche are hurt. I don’t need to be distracted I need to be healed. I need the world to make a bit more sense than it does right now. Four weeks can’t get me past the loss of my brother of forty-four years. It can’t sweep the trauma out of my mind. And yet I feel guilty and weak for not being ready. I feel like I have to expose my pain to get the time I need and that makes me resentful even if it isn’t entirely true.
Meanwhile, as I’m writing this the guy with way too much information about world currency is now talking about his job as a cheese monger at a local grocer. That’s right, a cheese monger. He’s equally as passionate about this subject. He’s happy and proud and talking at length about the arm’s length of responsiblities he has making sure the cheese is fresh and properly displayed and cubed if needed. Yes, he said cubed if needed. I find myself wishing that I could have a job where I stood and cubed cheese. I think I might be able to do that tomorrow. Hi everyone, I’m back. If you need me I’ll be elbow deep in a rich munster. Pass me my hairnet. Except, cancel that. I just heard this guy say he’s concentrating on his career now and maybe he’ll date in his thirties. Cheese mongering may be too intense for me at the moment.
So the reality is that I am expected to turn on my computer and begin working tomorrow morning. I have taken no actions to postpone that or communicate my reservations to anyone so in all the ways that matter the train has left the station on this matter. It is time to give myself a pep talk and a permission slip to fail if needed. Just maybe not too profoundly or publicly.