If I didn’t spend most of Sunday in airports sleepwalking through a two-leg flight to Pittsburgh via Cleveland before finally pulling my rental car up to the Marriott downtown around midnight (all before my week away from home officially started) I spent it doing laundry and dreading having to go to the office the next day. No amount of positive thinking could prevent the Sunday clouds from moving in, and my mood darkened around the same time every week.
My routine during the week in Austin was mind-numbing. Wake up at the same time every day. Shower, dress, put on make-up, get in my car and sit in traffic for 45 minutes. I would pass the commute time with cigarettes, wallowing in my bad mood, and morning talk radio. Answering emails at each light on my phone because people on the East Coast needed their answers yesterday, and they weren’t very nice about it. I’d pay them back at the end of my work day.
My thoughts were profanity laced variations of the same theme every day: I should just quit. One of these days I’m going to walk in, give two middle fingers to them all and walk right back out. I’ll go back to school. I’ll do something I love. I’ll do something that makes a difference and helps others, not just a bank’s bottom line. I’m wasting my whole life. Oh, it’s payday again this week. Big bonus for the work I did six months ago on this check. Great. What good is money if you never have time to spend it or enjoy it or take a vacation? Fuck money. Living the dream alright. I hate my life.
I pulled into the parking lot of our office with the same resignation every day. I wasn’t going to quit–this is what being an adult meant to me at the time. Doing something joyless to pay for things I’d purchased on credit. I would turn the car off, and do my version of “serenity now”–deep breathing and a half-hearted pep talk. It’s not so bad, Rachelle, quit your bitching. I’d wipe the hate off my face the best I could, grab my laptop, and head inside. Unlock the door because I was usually the first one there, walk back to my cube, unload my computer and half slam it into the docking station. It always felt like I just logged off the stupid thing, because I had. About 10 hours before.
Both monitors would come to life while I walked into the break room and put in the single serve packet. At least there was decent coffee. Add Sweet’N Low, return to my desk and log in to the server. Three more emails arrived in the time it took to make a cup of coffee.
I would have an hour to answer the new ones, and run the reports for our Monday meeting. A long-winded check-in designed to make micro-managers feel like we were sufficiently managed. Muttering under my breath, “You’ve been CC’ed on every email I’ve sent. You know what I know, why do we have to do this every week?” I would print the reports, and mentally walk through what I had to say. One by one everyone else arrived with their own annoyance radiating as they hit the coffee maker.
We would trudge to the conference room. Circle jerk for an hour. Return silently to our desks with little new information and the same task lists we had created ourselves.
Back into silent work mode. Five minutes later, another email arrives from my boss. It’s a recap of the recap. I bite my tongue for the tenth time that day, and glance at the clock–10:00 am. New record.
For the next 10 hours I was immersed in tedious, boring work. I would eat lunch at my desk. Write queries, answer a hundred emails, make phone calls, export data, import data, make pivot tables, manipulate and triple check the data tapes I’d mapped before running the update queries; my life was an Access database and a cell block of Excel. =sum(fuck,this,shit). #VALUE!
And then the day would be over. My ass was numb. I’d log out, and pack the laptop back in my bag so I could finish what I needed to at home. Drive for 30 minutes without traffic, blasting angry music and trying to leave it behind so I didn’t bite my fiancé’s head off as soon as I walked in the door. I would eat something unhealthy for dinner, work some more on the couch, and go to bed, falling into a fitful, work dream sleep.
I’d reflect on the worst days and our busiest times, and note that there usually wasn’t a single moment of my days that belonged to me.
Repeat for 4 years, until I had nothing left to give, and then was laid off when business got slow and I wasn’t sure I even had a soul left.
My New Monday
It’s 6:00 am, and my husband’s alarm clock goes off. He gets up and gets in the shower. I get up and walk into the kitchen, hit start on the coffee, take my thyroid pill, feed the dog, and let him out.
While the coffee brews, I sit down on the couch and read some blogs on my phone. I check FB. A shared photo tells me I’m ashamed of Jesus if I don’t hit the like button. I make a mental note to hide some more friends, and tell Jesus personally that I still like him.
I kiss my husband goodbye, let the dog back in, drink coffee, and wait for my daughter’s voice to beckon me to her room. That is, if she isn’t awake before the alarm clock.
We go to the bathroom, grab some milk and something for breakfast, and she will settle in with her toys or Sesame Street, or her current favorite, Toy Story 2.
I go to the computer and attempt to write, but I don’t get very far before I start making another list of crap I need to accomplish during the day. I read more blogs, and try to comment, but usually end up leaving a trail of likes in my wake. I’m not very chatty in the morning.
I can usually sit and write for about an hour before my daughter reminds me she hates me sitting at the laptop, and it is really hers. I haven’t argued lately, because it seems like all I’ve been producing is whiny, sentimental or traumatic crap that I may never even get around to editing. It’s been more suited for a therapist’s scrutiny than for public consumption. Which is why you haven’t heard from me in two weeks.
When the toddler claims the computer, I start in on my list.
This Monday’s went:
- Clean out fridge
- Sam’s Club: pull-ups, pickles, milk, wipes, toilet paper, paper towels
- Clean bathrooms
- Water plants
- Walk the dog
I clean out the refrigerator, throw out moldy produce with my daughter’s help, and remove all the drawers. Scrub, wipe, and take the stirrings of my bad feelings out on the grimy surfaces. Spit, polish, and fill the air with lemon scented cleaner until I can see my reflection in the glass shelves, and can feel, if only momentarily that I’ve accomplished something.
I wonder if my husband will even notice that I’ve done this.
He did, but he didn’t say anything until I asked him if he noticed. Gimme my gold star, dammit.
When the cleaning chores are done, the laundry is sorted and started, and my daughter has taken great delight in helping me every step of the way, we get our shoes on and go out back to water the plants I’m really trying not to kill. Even though more water will get on me and the dog, I let her have the hose because she loves making it rain. I throw the Frisbee for Frankie, because I’ve already missed the window for walking him. It’s too hot. We spend an hour outside, running and laughing.
Time to shower for real.
We go run our errands, come back for lunch and quiet time, and then we spend the afternoon in the air conditioner finishing up the chore list, playing, watching more Toy Story and getting dinner ready.
Rinse and repeat.
If you let them, a toddler can be the worst micro-manager you will ever experience. If I get caught up in it, the list of mundane chores can consume me, and I’m left feeling as resentful, if not more resentful of my life today than I was of my soul-sucking career.
There’s no paycheck at the end of my weeks to prove I worked at something. I have to find validation within myself and be happy with the schedules I am free to create and manage myself now.
But, if I’m not careful to carve out some time in my day, I can go weeks staying at home where there isn’t a single moment that belongs to me completely either.
So I sit here this morning while my daughter is at school. Writing because that’s what makes me happy these days.
I need to work out. I need to keep cleaning and organizing. I need to go spend more money I didn’t earn because my mom is coming to visit this weekend, and I want everything to look nice for her.
I’m choosing to write and blog instead, and the freedom I have to make that choice is a blessing.