Monday, March 29, 2010


I've got that itch for change again. A while back, I spent a whole lot of thought and energy developing alternative scenarios for my life. How much money do I really need to live? Should I downsize the house to extract some equity and reduce my monthly bills, and quit my job? Should I take a leave of absence and concentrate on personal pursuits? Move to the wine country and work in a bookstore, or take off to Paris? I finally realized that in all that what-if imagining, I was just trying to find T again. Somehow, if I just changed the right thing, the gaping hole would be filled.

This time around, the trigger for spinning future fantasies was the realization that I feel stuck. Since T's death, everything has remained exactly the same. Job, house, friends, activities ... all have remained constant. I think that in fact this is a good thing. Stability in everything else helped balance the incomprehensible change I was grappling with. But I also realize I am frightened at the prospect of it staying this way forever. I'm living a great life, but it's the wrong life. I was supposed to be married, mostly happy, making decisions and raising my daughter together with my life partner. Now, I'm just drifting, like a space ship whose main thruster was knocked out, traveling in a random direction based on the last push from the now-silent engines.

I wonder if I make some reasonably large change, like a new job or house, will my life feel more intentional? We bought this house intending to stay in it forever. We even called it our "forever house". It's too big for just me and B, though, and if I downsize to something more appropriate for the two of us, will that feel like a positive step in accepting and adapting to my new circumstances? Or will I regret letting go of this great place, the last place T lived in? (You have to disclose when selling a home if someone died in it. How much detail do you think they need? T died in our bed, of natural causes. Will that effect the demand, or sales price?)

Job-wise, I'm still waiting for my professional mojo to return. I took a class related to my field last week, and really enjoyed it, but I doubt that my motivation and interest extends to searching for, landing, and succeeding at a new job. As I said last post, Blah. The more appealing change is to take a leave, or quit. Or best yet, get laid off, with a nice severance package to extend the time I can be jobless. I know I shouldn't even joke about that, with the difficulties so many good, qualified people have finding jobs these days, so it's a measure of the depth of my blahs that it's an option in my mind. And I also know that I'm not wishing to stop work so I can be with B more. At 3 1/2, she's often a delight to spend time with, but quiting work isn't motivated by wanting to stay home with her; it's to not be required to muster up the energy and interest in what seem fundamentally useless discussions, problems, and activities. I dream about working about 20 hours a week at something very satisfying and meaningful, with plenty of time for bike rides, projects, activities with friends, and also fun with B.

I know that in reality, I'm not stuck. I'm cocooned, preparing for my metamorphosis. I'm marshaling my strength and energy so that (to mix metaphors) when the thrusters are repaired and back on line, and real, appropriately motivated change arrives and my new right life begins unfolding again, I'll be ready for it. I'm incubating, gestating, hibernating. I'll be glad when this stage is over, and I can feel like my life is moving forward again.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I've been sad lately. We lucked out in Northern California this week, with warm, sunny weather on the heals of the time change. My stepson and daughter ran around in our culdesac after dinner during the week with the neighbor kids, like playing outside had just been invented. I rode my bike 6 out of the 9 days. The redbud trees are in bloom, and they are amazing. But I still feel blah.

Part of it is probably because the second anniversary of T's death is coming up next month. The warm breeze and blooming garden reminds of me one of the last things T said to me: "Our yard looks pretty good, doesn't it?" Part of it may be that things with Guy are tapering off. He's really a very sweet man, and I like him a great deal, but there doesn't seem to be much more developing. And with the anniversary blahs compounding the situation, I think I need to end it. Ah, but I do like him. So, I am conflicted.

I had an old friend over for dinner tonight -- someone I met in 1985 at my first job. We drifted apart about 10 years ago, reconnecting last year when I tracked him down after T died. I just felt the need to spend time with someone who knew me before T came into my life; someone who reminded me of who I was before, and could be again. He is good with kids, and brings his Weimaraner, and B was over the moon with excitement to have a real live dog sniffing around in the house and running around in the back yard. He brought pizza, and it was a much-appreciated, low-key evening. But now I'm facing a week of work, a week of getting up and being responsible and putting one foot in front of the other, and I am not feeling excited about it. I think I'll go lie down on the couch and rest up for it. Blah.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ode to My Bike

Yesterday I had an unexpected couple hours of freedom in the middle of the afternoon, and the sun was shining. I considered going to a movie, but I've been trying to make exercise a priority, so I summoned my willpower and hopped on my bike instead. And as I rode through the cool, sunny afternoon, I thought about my relationship with my bike.

We've been through a lot together, me and my Specialized carbon-fiber triple crank road bike. I bought it the spring of 1993, when I decided that road biking might be a good option for exercise, and fun too. I had some new friends who were bike riders, and I joined a local cycling club. I learned road biking etiquette, how to change a tire quickly, and how to wear spandex unselfconsciously.

In the early years, I was a dedicated cyclist. I had a goal of 100 miles a week, and kept a ride log tracking distance, average speed, time, even altitude climbed. I got upset when my then-boyfriend scheduled a get-together with friends for the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday, because that cut into my riding time. I took my bike to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival several years running (there's great riding there!). I flew it to Washington for a tour of the San Juan Islands, and to Virginia for a ride through the Shenandoah Valley. It carried me from the Sierras to the Sea on a week-long tour in 1995 and from San Francisco to LA on the California AIDS ride in 1999. A family member gave me a license plate trim ring that said "There are only two seasons: biking and skiing".

Then T and I started dating. He was a more casual rider, and would join me on group rides occasionally, but by the time we got married his floppy heart valves were slowing him down, and after his valve replacement surgery the following year he didn't go out on the road much any more. We were concentrating on conceiving, then carrying a pregnancy, then parenting. Cycling for me fell below the line on my priority list most of the time.

I remember vividly the first ride I took after T died. From my journal: "Three weeks today. I went on a bike ride for the first time in years. Turning on to El Monte and seeing the beautiful hills and knowing you weren't here to enjoy them had me gasping and crying. Then I got to thinking about how I love riding but it had not been a part of my life when we were together. Returning to that piece of myself was painful, like the pins and needles of a limb that fell asleep."

Returning to that piece of myself has been harder than I expected, what with the demands of a young child and a job, and the time commitment required for a good ride. I did acquire a kiddie trailer, so I can take B with me on occasion, and the weather here in Northern California is turning the corner into spring. I felt so good after yesterday's ride, and I miss loving a fit, athletically competent body. Starting now, I am making it a priority to get on my bike at least twice a week, even for just 30 minutes. And rekindle that romance!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Trying to Get the Feeling Again

Back in January I wrote about the New Normal, about how I felt like I was moving out of the phase of active grieving and settling into the new life that T's death created. And I still feel that way. It may actually stick -- I may in fact be past the worst of it. However, there is one area where I feel like there is a longer-lasting legacy of loss, and that is with my job.

I am extremely fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time to have fallen into the software industry in the mid-80's. Tons of opportunity, not a lot of training or experience needed. From that lucky start, I find myself holding down a great job at a terrific stable company, with a wonderful boss and great pay and benefits. However, since T died I find that I just don't have the same level of dedication, the same interest and commitment in pushing through when the going gets tough. When I'm working on something I enjoy, I still get a real kick out of it, and apparently (according to my mid-year performance review this week) do a very fine job. But my resilience is low when a project hits a snag, or when I need to work on something I don't enjoy very much. A lot of the internal resistance is related to having to convince, sell an unpopular idea, or get someone to do something they don't want to do. And as a project manager, that last category comes up pretty often. My knee-jerk reaction is to want to throw my hands up, say "oh well", and give up. It's just not worth the aggravation. I mean, no one will die.

This attitude does not serve me well, I fear. Or at least, it doesn't serve my career ambitions, to the extent that I have any. And more importantly, it doesn't serve my desire to live with integrity. It's wrong to go through the motions, to phone it in. Sure, in the early days after T died, that's all I could manage. (After B was born I had a similar phase, and I cut myself slack then too.) But if I'm truly coming out of active grieving, able to focus my attention on things beyond my loss and the overwhelming idea of parenting alone, then I should either be regaining my work mojo, or I should find another job.

I've shared my concerns with my boss (like I said, she's great!). Maybe I'm just bored, having been with my current company for 12 years and in the same role for the last 5. Perhaps I need a new role, or at least a new and different project, so I can bang my head against some new problems for a change. Maybe a new company in the same field would suffice. I'm not sure of the solution, but this year, I'll be trying to get the feeling again. I just hope that I'll have the courage, energy, and financial fortitude to follow my heart where it leads.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Please Stand By

I am still here. Really I am! I have four posts in the works. I want to talk about peace, about lingering legacies of loss, about what's up with Guy, and about the mindset of wanting vs. needing to be part of a couple. I'm sure these are all fascinating topics, and I feel like I have a lot to say. But work was CRAZY for a while, and just when it settled down, my in-laws came to visit. They're leaving tomorrow, so I'm expecting to have some quality writing time Very Soon. Thank you for visiting, and please stand by for Great Stuff in the near future.