Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Into the new world

This is the first week that it has really, properly sunk in that I am not working at my job anymore.

Most of the past three weeks have been enormously busy, so it already feels, in a lot of ways, like a lot of water has passed under the bridge since I bid my colleagues farewell on 25 June. However, because it was school holidays until Sunday and the kids have been with me, it felt like a holiday from work, rather than "my new life not employed in the office". I made no attempt to line up any freelancing in the school hols, and nor did any come my way, but this was right and appropriate and what I wanted and had planned for.

Two days ago, though, the kids went back to school. I did the morning routine and got them all delivered on time, then I came home, made a cup of tea, sat down and thought: Crap. What next?

Of course, I found things to do with my time - house-cleaning, novel-writing (I added 1500 words, which was very satisfactory), phone calls scheduling appointments and booking birthday parties, catching up on personal email. It wasn't that the 6.5 hours they were in school dragged; it was more than I felt like I should have been doing something else. (Something productive... whispered my Puritan work guilt brain).

Yesterday I was out for the entire school day, with medical appointments and tests, lunch with a friend, and a few errands. Surprisingly - or maybe not? - my general energy and mood was much better yesterday than on either Monday or today.

The big picture is I am not well again, with chest pain and extreme fatigue this time. Obviously a decrease in energy and get-up-and-go is to be expected, but it's curious to note how much worse I feel on the days when I am at home rather than out doing stuff. Partly, I'm sure, this is because I harness resources and overspend my daily spoons on "out" days, and then have to pay the piper on home days. I wonder if it's also, in part, that having structure, getting out of the house, and interacting with other humans helps me in many ways. Work, despite the ways in which it wasn't great for me, was terrific for providing daily routine and plentiful daily interactions. These aspects of it, I knew I would miss, and already this is proving true.

The problem is that I don't feel remotely well enough to start actively chasing work right now; the chest pain, which is likely muscular (but heart tests are being done just in case), is fairly constant and it wears me out, and I'm sleeping very poorly - chicken, egg, who knows? - which is no doubt a key factor in my fatigue. It's that old catch-22: having a project to work on would definitely help me, but putting the effort in to find or bid for a project is too much to contemplate. Really, what I'd *like* is for someone to ring or email me with a nice little 3-5 day job to be done over the next fortnight at home ... but if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride!

I am struggling a bit with incipient feelings of low self-worth because I am not currently contributing financially, even though I know this is premature given that I only stopped being paid, um, one week ago (when my outstanding leave entitlements were paid).  I still think I will find some work, and that I need to be both patient and persistent. Indeed, I spoke on the phone today to an ex-colleague, who left the organisation I have just left in October of last year. She hasn't worked since, but has just been contacted by an old employer to ask her to do some consultancy for them. This conversation gave me hope on a couple of levels - firstly because she may well need a subcontractor with my expertise, and secondly as evidence for the way opportunities can arise, even after the passage of quite a bit of time, if you are open to them.

More than that, though, I need to reset my internal metric of "what I am worth" to be less reliant on my financial contribution. Even if I do not earn a red cent all year, I still have the value I have, to my family and my community. Once my health is more stable, I can and will fill the gap with volunteering and more time with friends and family. I won't see this new world in grey; I'm going to paint it buttercup yellow in time for the spring.

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