Monday, September 3, 2012

Roadside Rest

No one would be surprised by the fact that the events of the last few years of my life have changed me. Being laid off was more than enough impetus for me to engage in some serious soul searching; add a divorce to the mix and it's a small miracle that I even recognize myself!

Recently though I have really taken a look at the way things are now. I'd like to say that this introspective was a carefully planned and perfectly timed checkpoint I had the forethought to lay out for myself some time ago. But that would be a bald faced lie! The fact of the matter is that there have been a couple incidents very recently that pretty much forced me to abandon my course and pull off to the side of the road for a much needed peek at the map. 

The biggest kick in the pants came as I found myself in my boss's office having to answer some pretty pointed and difficult questions. The details are not important but the gist of the meeting is that I had not been the leader that he had expected of me. As the veteran tester on the team I was expected to  maintain open communications with the project manager so that she could make decisions about release dates and other major milestones. The current project is one that was started over two years ago and unfortunately was shelved before it could be completed. On this second go round there is a definite concern that the same thing could happen again so the pressure is on to meet the scheduled delivery. Anyway, because of the scope of the testing needed, our other tester was brought on to assist. Somehow, during a team meeting I found myself a passenger rather than the driver or at least in the shotgun seat where I aught to be. Some expectations were mentioned that I had not planned on, and the other tester spoke up and predicted that testing would take two weeks longer than planned. The project manager, though concerned stated that she would push the date. I said nothing. Soon after that I was asking those difficult and pointed questions. 

Very shortly after that my daughter and I were discussing our weekend plans. I suddenly remembered that we had tickets to a special ballet performance that night and went to pull them from the drawer where I had stashed them. As I was checking the performance time I made the disappointing discovery that the show had in fact been the weekend before! We had missed the event an I hadn't had even the slightest clue that I had messed up the schedule that badly. 

I hate disappointing people and in the period of a few days I had managed to really let down two of the most important people in my life - my boss and my daughter. Fortunately I managed some reasonable level of damage control and things will be OK, but there really was something that needed addressed, and soon. 

It was not difficult to see what was going on, actually. I had become as a passenger in my own life rather than the driver. I was sightseeing, just watching the world go by... When the scenery was nice I enjoyed the view. But when the view out the window became unpleasant - like the run down section of town, or the drought stricken countryside - I didn't change course to find a better path but rather just went along for the ride expecting things to change on their own. 

This, I think, is a sign that I have succeeded in relaxing and am getting comfortable with this particular phase of my life. Right from the start of my single again life I was hyper vigilant about everything - My calendar, my daughter's schedule, the bills, the budget, my work schedule, even my free time was carefully scheduled and planned out. I checked and rechecked the calendar. I ran simulations of cash flow scenarios. I kept multiple calendars in case something was lost or erased by mistake. It was a full time job. But it fulfilled a purpose too. It helped me keep my mind off the mind numbing pain my heart was in at having my world so radically changed.

That's how it started anyway, but the pain is over now. And do you know what? I miss it! 

Well, not the pain exactly, but the fact that I felt something. Now there is just an empty place where my relationship used to be - It's a yawning void that was once filled with love for the woman I always thought I would spend the rest of my life with. It's now a vast emptiness that very recently overflowed with heartbreak, anguish, and regret. All of that is gone: No more love. No more anguish. It's just nothingness now. Some would argue that this is worse than the pain and heartbreak and I think I would agree. In fact I think the fear of that nothingness is part of what kept us together for so long.

So it turns out that just like a pendulum I had swung away from the extreme of hyper vigilance and was very uncomfortably swinging toward the extreme of not giving a shit. It makes sense. Being hyper vigilant takes too much energy and therefore I couldn't keep it up. But without that level of effort comes down time. Too much down time means there is not enough busy work to push away the loneliness... too much time to dwell on the void where love used to be... 

Ah, but not giving a shit is not only effective in forgetting one's loneliness, it is so much easier and more fun! I started to push responsibilities to the extremes of my day. Getting up and going to work remained fairly normal. After work? Just TV, Movies, and video games - no seriousness except almost as an afterthought. Bills and stuff like that were dealt with, but even that was starting to slip. And it turns out so was work. The swing of the pendulum was affecting that as well. 

So now that I have taken stock of the situation I know what I must do. I have to remain in the driver's seat of my life. I have to get back on the road to healing and that includes dealing with the void that's been left in my heart. As I see it, there are many people and things in this world worth caring about, and they can take up some of that room for now. But I will always reserve space for someone special. Someone that I may not have even met yet, but someone that I believe is meant to fill my heart with the love and companionship that I so dearly miss. 

So I think I'll pull out the GPS, put a damper on the pendulum and forge ahead with a more tempered and healthy level of attention to the details of life. For there is something else I have re-found within myself - Faith. And because I have faith, there's Hope. 

And that's enough to keep me going.