Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Power of Choice

I shared with my boss the other day my recent job interview experience. As I have said, I love my boss, and knew there would be no unpleasant consequences if she learned I was open to a new job. In fact I believe, as does she, that it's important for a boss to know when an employee isn't getting what she needs, so the boss can adjust the role as appropriate, and help find a new role if necessary.

I learned that my boss has identified me in the upcoming review cycle as ready for a new role within the company. That was comforting to hear, as I would like to stay at the company if I can. (It's easier, and I get lots of vacation for my tenure -- two important considerations!) But more importantly, I suddenly stopped feeling trapped, victimized by my job. Suddenly I felt like I was there by choice, not by necessity, and that gave me a whole new level of patience and resilience in the face of difficulty. "I can handle this! I know I won't have to do it forever, so it's OK for now." seemed to be my thought process. How powerful, how valuable! A lesson well worth remembering, that reframing a situation in terms of choice can make it much more bearable.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Emotional Fragility

It struck me recently that I'm really much more emotionally fragile at work than I used to be. I guess I was always emotionally invested in my job -- how well I felt I did, how I perceived others as valuing my contribution, how much I enjoyed my day-to-day tasks. But in the early days after T died, I really didn't care much about work. It was something to fill my days, it wasn't too taxing (luckily a lull at work coincided with my world falling apart), and I had no emotional energy left to worry about my career. Recently, though, I've started taking more of an interest, as I face the thought of spending most of my waking hours at work, doing something that doesn't really thrill me.

So I've been dissecting what isn't working for me. And a big piece seems to be related to partnership, collaboration, and engagement with a peer (or several) who cares like I do about what we're working on. Being the only one out in front leading the charge, or more commonly pushing a rope, just isn't satisfying for me. It's in fact exhausting. I know I could handle the rope-pushing better if there were one or more people pushing it right along with me, to strategize and sympathize and celebrate with. And that insight leads me to wonder if I'm looking to work to try and fill the partnership void in the rest of my life. It's not the only place I have relationships with adults, but it is the only place where those relationships are expected to produce something; where there is a commitment to see things through even if it gets tough (not unlike a marriage). Hmm, I guess that also says something about my orientation toward friends. I have a number of wonderful friends, but I think I always expect in the back of my mind to have them just disappear one day -- there's no formal commitment in friendship like there is in marriage, or a job title.

My boss recently gave me some positive feedback on how well I drive organizational change, and hearing that helped my attitude quite a bit. Knowing that what I'm doing is really hard, and valued, and recognized, makes a big difference. But why should it? I'm a grown-up. I should be able to take pride in my work knowing that I'm doing my best, whether others recognize it or not. Is this another symptom of the aftermath of grieving? Or a more fundamental need for validation?

I guess I was expecting a silver lining side effect of grief and loss to be a more inwardly-focused sense of accomplishment, and less worry about what others think. Life is short, after all, sometimes too short. Do what's right for you, and forget about what others think. If that is indeed a result of great loss, I'm still waiting for it to manifest for me.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Definitely Not

Apparently I hadn't done too badly at my first round of interviews at my old boss's company, because I was asked back for a second round on Friday. I felt better about my performance this time, and was expecting an offer today. What would I do? I didn't feel strongly enough about the opportunity to be willing to give up my Fridays off, but otherwise I was leaning toward taking the chance, doing the more active thing.

And then the hiring manager called and said they weren't going to be making an offer.

Oh well, it means I don't have to make the hard decision. But it was disappointing not to be wanted. He gave me two reasons: first, my hands-on software project management experience is a little stale (which is one of the reasons I want to make a change), and second, the environment is more high-stress and difficult than he thought I could be happy in. I value his feedback, and accept his assessment of the degree of challenge, but still would have liked my first job interview in 13 years to have resulted in an offer. Now my confidence in the desirability and applicability of my skills and experience is a little less firm, and I'm tired already, imagining the effort involved in mounting a full-on job search. But I've started -- I reached out to another old boss for any referrals (he'll keep his eyes open) and a LinkedIn recommendation (he committed to posting one in the next week).

On a side note, I purchased a deck of oracle cards after I got back from Sedona, to have fun while exploring various avenues of spirituality. Twice during this job interview process I did readings asking "Should I take this job?" The first time, I got the "Practice, practice, practice" card. The second time, it was "Autumn". At the time, I didn't really understand how to interpret the readings, but in retrospect, it's very clear -- this was a practice round, expect to practice more, and be ready for a new job in the fall. Whether one believes in the magic of the cards themselves or not, the message is pretty obvious: I've got to work for what I want (practice) and the outcome will eventually be positive. Which is no different than what I've always known, and always experienced. But it was fun to get to that place again through a new path!

What do you think of oracle card readings?

Friday, June 18, 2010


I got to thinking the other day about how, while I'm not living the life I wanted to or expected to be living, I also probably wouldn't have gotten what I wanted even if T hadn't died, at least specifically around shared parenting and balanced personal time. Sure, it's an old story, and just about all women struggle with it. I would do well to remember, when I fantasize about other women's happy, intact families, that I would probably still have had a lot of weekend time with just me and B. T was a very active dad to his son D, which I was very much in favor of. I was proud of his dedication and commitment, and pleased to support him. Except when I wasn't... because there were occasions when I resented the time he spent on D, away from me and B. He mentioned once that it wasn't really fair -- if D were our child, instead of just his, he would be getting all sorts of brownie points from me for coaching basketball and baseball, going on cub scout camp-outs, taking D to birthday parties, and the like. Instead, as much as I wanted to be gracious and generous, it sometimes felt like he parented D and I parented B, and I didn't like it. In the very early days after B was born, I felt like we started developing a family identity, but somehow the coming and going of D (we had him every other weekday, and every other weekend) diluted the sense of wholeness, the sense of all being focused on the same thing together.

It also meant that often enough, on the weekend, T would be off coaching, or camping, and I would be home alone with B. Or at a mom's group play date -- I belonged to several because having company in the new world of parenting ended up being very important to me. And when we vacationed, it was the four of us. Other than those very early days and weeks when T was a very hands-on, equal partner in figuring out the newborn stuff, I don't remember much that involved just the three of us. Maybe things would have changed as B grew, and D's needs evolved as well, and again, I wouldn't have wanted T to have been a less involved parent. I guess it seemed to me at the time that he was more involved with D than with B, because he counted on me to carry the load with B, and as a much older child, D's needs were more time-consuming, or at least time-specific.

I raised the issue not long before T died. I felt a little petty doing so, because I was asking T to be more of an equal partner knowing that he had a whole additional responsibility in D. Maybe if I hadn't felt somewhat under-appreciated by T in general, I would have had more capacity to be OK with the lopsided situation. However, after that conversation, T started getting up in the mornings while I was showering to start B's morning routine. I would take over, usually during or just after the diaper change. It was a small thing, but it helped. I don't know what would have helped with the weekend situation; and it doesn't matter now.

But I do recognize that some of my grief is in recognition of what I didn't have, along side the pain of losing what I did have.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Maybe Not

My job interview on Friday went fine, but not great. I liked most of the people I interviewed with, and believe I could enjoy working with them. The company is poised to do great things. With the first few people I talked to in particular, I felt I was less than compelling in my answers to the now-standard questions that start with "Tell me about a time when you..." I need to brush up on past projects, remind myself of what I did, how I did it, and what I learned. I got better at it by mid-way through, though for some of the questions it was hard to come up with positive answers. I feel like so many of my projects haven't end well, for various reasons (none of them my fault, of course).

I didn't feel the pull, the excitement to dig in and get started, that I want to feel when choosing a new job. Now I'm second-guessing my expectation to feel that ... is it still too soon to have that level of positive energy in response to a job? When I took my current role, 5 years ago after my then-current position was eliminated, I was SO not excited to do the job. I had been burned out by that previous position, my confidence shaken and my professional worth bruised, and all I wanted to do was crawl under a rock, or at least do something easy where the resulting value was clear.

In some ways I feel similarly now. My confidence isn't as badly shaken, but I'm not happy with my track record these last few years, even before T died. Too many projects that started and then fizzled; too much pushing a rock up hill only to watch it roll right back down when I paused to take a breath.

I know I should write thank you notes to the people who interviewed me, and call the hiring manager to ask all the questions I didn't have a chance to cover with him during our hour together. But I'm lazy, or mildly depressed, or just not interested enough right now. And I'm not sure they're going to want to pursue me, given my mixed performance during the interview.

I did reach out to one person at my current company today to ask for career move advice. He has a broad purview of the company, to know what might be available, and also a good perspective to help me clarify what I really want. Ready or not, willing or not, the job search begins in earnest.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

When One Door Closes, Another Will Open

I had a bad day at work today. I got so upset at one point that I had to take a walk outside or I would have burst into tears or exploded. I imagined my escape, considered just quiting, thought about the steps necessary to do a thorough, effective job search. Change is coming. It must -- I'll make it happen.

I've gotten several messages from the universe today that what is required will be provided. The title of this post came in my fortune cookie tonight. Unpacking a bag of hand-me-downs for B from a neighbor, an identical but one-size-larger Hana Andersen dress appeared; just the one B and I decided we needed to replace with a larger size. I just need to trust that the right opportunity will come along, and I will recognize it.

But I really hate being so emotional. Tears yesterday, big upset today; I'm usually on a more even keel than this. Maybe it's PMS.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Another Echo

My dad has a good friend from college who he is still in close contact with. Avid skiers, Paul and his wife Marla retired to Wyoming 15 years ago or so. Before I started dating T, and in the early years after, I would visit Paul and Marla every winter, staying with them for a week of skiing and relaxation. They are wonderful people -- quirky, maybe even a little eccentric, but warm and generous. Paul in particular is a bit of curmudgeon, but I just really like him anyway. He's got a quick, almost bouncy energy, and he really seems to like me, which never hurts.

T and I had a very small wedding, but we had to invite Paul and Marla. It turned out our wedding day was their anniversary, so I've always felt a special kinship with their marriage.

Paul and Marla were in town this week for a mini-reunion of the college gang, and they asked if they could come see me and meet B. We arranged a rendezvous at my house at lunchtime today. I was excited to see them, but thinking about their visit this morning, I burst into tears in the shower. They are still married, still enjoying each other into old age, and I'm alone. They were our future, but no longer. On our joint wedding anniversary they have joy, and I have sorrow. Etc. etc. etc...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Grief Echoes

This afternoon B and I met some friends at a local park, then headed to a pizza restaurant for dinner. These friends are from a new moms class I took when B was just a few weeks old, when we bonded over the challenges of nursing, napping, and whether or not to sleep train. We used to have a fairly frequent park play date on Friday afternoons, and I would always call T as B and I were driving home, letting him know we were on our way. After he died, I still went to those play dates, as I NEEDED the companionship, but heading home anticipating an empty house, having no one to call, knowing no one cared where we were and when we'd be home, was excruciating.

Tonight I felt an echo of that pain. It was great to spend time with my friends, I'm happy to see B getting more interested in other kids and start developing some rudimentary social skills, and it didn't even bother me when the conversation drifted into "how my husband does/doesn't help with the kids/house". But heading home to an empty house still stinks.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Work Mojo

Things continue to be touch-and-go at work. The good days are enjoyable enough, but they're not as frequent as I would like. I've been quite busy lately, working on projects that are important in the grand scheme of things, but aren't big, sexy, meaty projects with stimulating, committed co-workers to collaborate with. As best as I and my boss can tell, our team will continue to run these important but focused, small-scale projects in the near term. And this kind of work just isn't doing it for me. I so want to be part of a team where everyone is in it together, pulling in the same direction, dedicated to project success, rather than often feeling like I'm pushing a rock up hill. Sure, it's a very important rock, and my boss and her boss really care about it, but no one else involved in the project would notice if I just stopped calling meetings, or asking for data, or checking up on status. Sigh.

So I've started looking for other opportunities at the company, as much as I would hate to leave my boss and co-workers. And even bolder than that, when an old boss looked me up a couple weeks ago, I said yes to an interview next week.

It's exciting to contemplate a change. I just don't know whether my lack of mojo is situational -- i.e. I'll feel better in a different role or company -- or systemic, as in nothing will help except time (I'm still healing) or a new career (I'm a different person now). Leaving my current role and company, where I have a solid reputation, an understanding boss, lots of seniority (read vacation time) and a 4-day-a-week schedule for something that may end up being no better and perhaps much worse, is frightening. How do I make a good decision, when there are so many unknowns?

Obviously, this change isn't driven by ambitions or career aspirations. So I plan to make the call on whether to jump ship (assuming I'm given the opportunity) entirely on gut instinct. How I feel inside, how much excitement and pull I feel toward the role, the company, and my potential new co-workers will be my guide. Leaving my current company at this time of year is a bad financial move because stock vests and bonuses pay out in late August; if I find that I don't care that much about the money it's a good move. I have loved my 32-hour work week and feel like I would break down if I couldn't have Fridays to do my own thing; if I can't get that schedule at the new company and I find I don't care that much, it's the right move. If the money or the schedule get in the way, I will take that as a sign to keep looking, or hunker down and wait a bit more.

I realize I am amazingly fortunate to have the job I do, and even that much more fortunate to have the luxury to contemplate my career navel at length, as I am doing. A part of me says I should just suck it up and make the best of it. But a bigger part reminds me that life is short, and doing something that doesn't excite me more days than not is a waste of my time, and unfair to the company too. It's funny (ironic, I suppose) that the same event that gave me a more urgent appreciation for living has also at least temporarily made it difficult to get much enjoyment out of some parts of my life.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Dating -- Or Not

I'm in this funny state with respect to dating. I want to be in a stable, committed relationship -- I can't imagine not being married again -- but I just don't have it in me right now to do the Match/eHarmony Thing. I did just unhide my profile and turn on matching, so we'll see what happens, but I'm lacking the energy to put myself out there actively.

I love my quiet evenings alone, the total control I have over what I do and where I go, the freedom to dream about the perfect relationship that's waiting for me in the future. If I actually find someone I like, it would mean giving up dreams for a certain-to-be-flawed reality. Yeah, yeah, when it happens I know I will say goodbye to the dream without a backward glance, but right now it's enough to keep me from making "find a mate" a real project.

That said, I do have a plan to get out and meet new people this summer. I MUST get some exercise, and the only thing that has ever really worked for me as an on-going physical activity is cycling. There's a local bike group that rides every Thursday evening, and I'll get a babysitter for Thursday nights through the summer so I can kill two birds with one stone: get back into some sort of shape, and maybe get a date.