You know, I left the State Department for a lot of reasons. There are the ones I name when I’m talking to strangers (tired of traveling, wanted to raise my family) and the ones I name when I’m making a statement (objectionable foreign policies, an era of gay officers being less than) and the ones I don’t name if I can help it. But I don’t usually name the mundane reasons: I wanted to go home before dark. I wanted to use any email I liked. I wanted the freedom to work from home. I wanted to work less.
I think we’re not supposed to admit that, really. That we want to work less. I’m sure I could dig up some brave new world, bootstraps, Americana reason for that. But even though it wasn’t THE reason, it’s still A reason and I am very happy to have moved to a place where life moves more slowly. Or it used to feel like it did.
Seven years into this new life and I’m suddenly having to remind myself daily, hourly, that I am not writing foreign policy, saving babies, or fighting fires. I work in a library. I teach students how to do research. I don’t even regularly check out books, talk to cranky patrons, or pick up the horrible detritus of finals week in the stacks. But things change (as they should) and I have more responsibility than before and, more importantly, Debra has more responsibility than before and together our work has bled into every inch of our lives.
It feels like bleeding. I feel scratched and rubbed raw by the day to day negotiations, planning, and thinking. The thinking. It never stops. And my wife is my sounding board. And I am hers. And so our joint problem solving, solo thinking, and quiet evenings talking just drip and seep and soak the floors. Every morning we wrap fresh bandages and head off for more and every evening we come home with a new sore spot somewhere. If we didn’t care. If it didn’t matter. Maybe it wouldn’t feel like sandpaper on fingertips.
I tell her and she tells me it will get better. And we both mean it. But, in the meantime, it is so fucking painful and it shouldn’t be. Because it isn’t babies or fires or foreign policy. It’s just newness. And that will wear off. Wear down. Get smoother, softer, better.
Because it has to.