I was fine when I was listening to the cricket (with shinydan
explaining the jargon and other stuff that confused me as it went along) and doing the dishes, but when they stopped for tea -- they stop for tea! there is no way I couldn’t like this sport -- I’d finished what I was doing too. So I sat down for a minute and ate some yogurt and immediately started thinking too much.
I was glad I’d done the dishes. And earlier today I did some laundry, cooked myself some nice food (English muffin pizzas! an old college favorite; oddly English muffins are a lot harder to find here so I don’t make them very often now), cleaned the bathroom... I’d done all this stuff today, and I felt really good about it. Still a long way from being a domestic goddess, but clearly a lot of progress had been made. It really did seem easier to keep everything okay (or, at least more
okay) after we moved. Sometimes these fresh starts do work...Sure,
I thought, it’s working out all right for me now, but what about when I have to go back to work?
When I’m working I come home exhausted, mentally as much as physically, suitable for little other than staring blankly at my computer screen or burrowing under the covers of my lovely bed. On my days off I’m little better. And of course as things pile up undone around me, it’s all the easier and more attractive to just hide from it all, narrow my focus so I can’t see the chaos that would drag me down, but being down anyway because there’s nothing good to see in such a narrowly-focused world.
Owning up to my mental state is not the only long-overdue thing I’ve done this week; I’ve been inspired to tidy up the cupboard under the stairs when I tried to yank the vacuum cleaner out of said cupboard and got a cartoonish avalanche of boxes spilling open and CDs crashing down at my feet. So I dragged everything out of it, most if it rubbish, and opened the scary door to the spare room to see what in there might be put in the cupboard under the stairs. I am making lists in my head and on the little whiteboard and trying to kill my procrastinating habits.
The house is in a worse state than it was in some ways; the vacuum cleaner languishes on the kitchen floor, freed from its prison but still not used today because I was too tired after lugging things around and putting them where it had been. Random things that had been there that I’m hoping Andrew will sort out are now strewn about the house. Still I’m not despairing, I’m proud of myself for how easily I’m able to focus on the good I’ve done rather than what’s left to do.
And, inside as well as outside, I’m feeling kind of ugly and strewn-about at the moment. A work mate texted me today, made me smile: “Hey Holly, you ok mate?” I knew this ear would be sympathetic so I did my best to explain, in the limited number of characters, adding thanks for checking up on me; I feel so invisible at work that it really did cheer me up. Still by the end of the two or three texts each that we exchanged, I was feeling wobbly and anxious again, for no reason I could think of but maybe just thinking about work again...
I’ve got a little more than a week left, and I hope it helps a lot because right now I can’t imagine going back. At all. As I sat there eating my yogurt I mentally surveyed my choices. I could, as that mate from work has, return with a reduced number of hours; working four days a week has made a big difference for that person and I think it would help me too. But enough? Do I need to change my job altogether? I have been halfheartedly applying for easy admin jobs (still within the NHS because I haven’t gotten over my wild happiness that it exists, and anyway I guess it has a good pension plan or something) but nothing’s come of it yet.
Man, I used to work in an office, and I hated it so much I can’t imagine what me-then would think if she could see me now, longing to go back to typing and Excel spreadsheets or something, when all she wanted was to get away from them. But a lot of the misery there came from working for a bank, and particularly a part that chased after people who’d missed loan payments. While my co-workers there went on skiing holidays in the Alps and didn’t think anything of spending a tenner on their lunch, I wore ill-fitting Primark clothes I couldn’t afford to replace and brought lunch in Tupperware containers because even the Greggs across the road could be too rich for my blood some days. I felt much closer to the people on the other end of the phone and it was hard on me to work there, even though I knew that doing so was the only thing that kept me and Andrew from getting calls from people like them.
Lots of things have changed and as much as I enjoy the feeling that the work I do is “worthy,” as much as I like my flexible schedule with its lie-ins and early finishes and random days off during the week, there’s a lot about it that I don’t like, that’s driven me to curl up and cry when I thought about going to work on Monday. Compared to this the very idea of a low-stress job is an oasis in the sad empty desert, and the less I have to use my brain the better. I still remember a line I stole from quuf
: drudgery becomes me
. I helped stick address labels on a bunch of leaflets for some LibDem thing a couple of weeks ago and worked away happily, thinking of that office job I used to have; on the days the computers weren’t working for me I’d stuff envelopes, a task I found much more to my liking than staring at a screen for umpteen hours a day anyway, filling in hellish little boxes on a database. To work with my hands, even if all I have to show at the end of it is a stack of letters imperfectly folded into envelopes, fingers sticky from the glue, brain wandering gently.
I just have no ambition at all. I don’t resent work like that. I am happy to be given something easy to do and be left alone, unconcerned with failure or success.
For the last couple of months Andrew has been pushing for me to think about going back to university. he’s enlisted my parents and some of his family in this, as if I’d need persuading. I liked school, and even when I didn’t I understood school; I belonged there. And to have left the way I did, to have run out of money and sanity while all my friends were graduating, to know that I’d need at least another year to make up for all the classes I failed and to have no interest in that because I had no resources for it and all I’d learned that year was that I was stuck with the wrong degree... it remains a big ugly blotch on my life, both a cause and effect of all the depression and anxiety that has landed me where I am now, in my pajamas writing this when I am meant to be at work for another 41 minutes tonight, meant to be at the end of another week looking forward to tomorrow as my day off.
So while obviously I’d rather that not be my abiding impression of formal education, it’s just as obvious that I’m not sure I’m any better able to tackle it now than I was then (especially with how atrociously I’ve failed in my OU courses these last two years).
Also, it’d mean I was much more dependent on Andrew’s income even than I am now when he makes twice as much as me. He’s more than happy to support me, it’s me that’s not entirely comfortable with the idea. Among other things, it’s taken me so long to attain any kind of independence (and even longer to decide that I really wanted it!) that I’m loath to give that up again already.
Going back to university is attractively less structured than work... but I also remember the relief it was for me to start working, to just work
, and how long it took to stop feeling guilty when I was just sitting around or having fun. For months after I left school I was looking over my metaphorical shoulder and feeling the stress of books I hadn’t read and essays I wasn’t writing even when there weren’t any of those any more. Perhaps as amputees scratch phantom limbs, humanities students stress about phantom essays.
So I’m wary of inviting that demanding on-duty-24/7 feeling back into my life... but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that university also holds some appeal for me. I’ve been watching taimatsu
‘s dissertation take shape over the past couple of weeks, both admiring of her prose style and her complex thoughts on her subject, fondly (or not) reminiscing about my own big essays, and being utterly grateful that I’m not in her position even now because I know I couldn’t handle it. And a lot of it I don’t miss; English literature never suited me as it does her.
And what would then? It’s all fine and good to want to go back to uni but what for
, Holly? I have no answer.
But it’s got me thinking (and talking to poor shinydan
, repeatedly) about word-choices in Old English riddles and other things so arcane you have to be an English major to even know they’re there, much less have opinions about them.
As always I’m susceptible to stories, and I think the one I want to tell here is about some dormant part of myself coming back to life, and of course about the intoxicating high of another fresh start.
I take these three ideas -- less work, new job, university -- out and play with them. I pretend they are a deck of cards and have a game of solitaire with them, turning over one and then another and wondering how they go together. I shuffle them around and put them away. They feel like old ideas already, the edges soft and creases worked into them. Feeling helpless to choose any one over another (or to just go along with things as they are, of course) was one of the things that drove me to despair and got me this time off work; a few days later I feel no closer to an answer but at least able to more calmly think about the question.