‘Things are Rough’ is an Understatement

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.

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7 Responses

  1. It’s so hard. I work at an institution known for nose-to-the-grindstone, take-on-too-much, never-say-no, pull-it-together-from-whatever-grassroots-resources-you-can-find and those who purport to be family-friendly (read: my boss) are fine with flexibility…just so long as your unreasonable workload gets done. Soft would be good.

  2. Argh! Meant to say: Sorry it’s so rough. I hope it does get better and soon!

  3. You make even overwork sound beautiful, I love the way you write. Yes, I am very sorry things are so rough. It seems to be a horrible truth of every working person that there is just too much to be done, in a reasonable amount of time, by a reasonable person. My husband has been slowly wearing down for years and is switching teams at work to try and make it better, but the switching will take at least 6 months.

    So, drip, drip, drip go our evening conversations as I patch him up and send him back the next day. It would be exponentially harder if both of us were being ground down. I hope it gets better for you soon.

    • Thank you. That’s been a lovely thing to read today. The switching and the transition (as Becky) mentioned are wearing in and of themselves. I hope things are better for you and me both on the other ends of it!

  4. Spring is traditionally my better half’s busy season, so we’ve long had a tradition of communicating via post-it notes on the kitchen counter this time of year. My adding a new job this year on top of the tsunami of school events has made our life pretty insane this spring though. I don’t mind change, it’s just the living through the transition part – why can’t I wake up and everything just be different and adjusted already?

    • I think post-its might be better than commiseration. 🙂 But yes to transition – it’s definitely my weak spot even though I work hard to get better at it.

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