Work is the fabric of my days. I was raised that way: watching my mother's busy feet carry her from one room to the next, listening to my father's movement in other parts of the house. Evening was a time for different work, hand work - be it organizing a calendar or writing a note or crocheting a baby quilt. I grew up spending twilight hours with a book in my hand, a pile of beads in my lap, and something to be done crawling around in my mind. Work is movement.
I have worked in a professional capacity since I was eighteen. Surrounded by offices and people who used schedule as a verb. Work is life. Work is lifeline.
When Chip and I started to conceive Bean in our minds, the child of dreams and cloud - the wistful imaginings of two people with little concept to the actual being that was to come - we discussed what my work would become. I wanted to be home with this baby. I wanted to mold and craft and teach her in a way that only my hands could. This raising of her would become my work.
But life and work are wild things. They are messy. They scatter our carefully organized dreams to the wind with their firehose spray of inconsistency.
As things shook out in the months leading to Bean's birth, we understood that I would need to be something that it is hardest for me to be - a concept that I am seemingly not - which is this: flexible. I would need to be flexible with my life, with my plans, with the raising of Alice, and most of all with work.
Luckily, my brushes with the most unwieldy side of life and work have yielded some fantastic and amazing associates. People who I have worked with, who believe in me, and who ultimately want me to succeed. One such person is my dear friend John. He came along with a business proposal for some extremely part time work when it was needed in those early days of baby Bean. For three years I've been doing this work quietly in the background of my larger work with Alice.
Then came a fateful lunch, a discussion with John, and many talks with Chip. This was a month ago now--- I've mentioned it in passing, how things have become very unsettled and very strange, how I haven't felt connected enough to explain my feelings about any of it. In the abstract, it comes down to work. Am I brave enough to embrace it, in whatever form it comes? I have always hoped the answer to that question would be yes. Because that's who I believe myself to be - someone who does the work, who lives to blister her fingers in use. John's business is growing and he approached me about expanding my work with him - picking up an additional four days each month to work in his office and in the field. Work: so helpful for bills and our dream for another baby. But work: away from home and away from dear Alice.
After talking with Chip, I said yes.
There were logistical realities to deal with, namely Chip's long stretches of time away from home. We were able to adjust some schedules and plans, enough so that he would be able to watch Alice on three of those four work days. The fourth day we punted for this month, but going forward I'm working out a babysitting swap with Kate, a lifesaver and my very good friend.
Once the physical pieces were put in place in the weeks leading up to this change in our routine, all that was left for me was cerebral, emotional, internal. The things that I do best, depending on how you define best. I am a very practiced worrier, a fantastic internalizer, and on top of it all I am very gifted in the art of The Fret.
I can hear the collective eye-roll: how picking up an additional four days each month isn't that big of a deal, how work is just work and I should be grateful to get it. And you're right. You're absolutely right. But as a child of routine, I crave sameness. I need stability. And making this adjustment in our lives isn't as small as it might seem. There was a time when I only saw the future with Alice as a bright empty field reaching into the far-off horizon with no detours or turning paths branching off. It might sound so boring, but it felt incredibly peaceful. Now that I'm in it, I see all the dips and turns, the hidden valleys that are impossible to see until you're on top of them.
In the weekend leading up to my first day back at work, I did my best fretting: biting my lips and throwing weird tantrums because I hadn't folded all the laundry. Chip found me on the stairwell after I had thrown a stack of towels onto the floor in a fit of irritation. He pulled me in for a hug and then said that I should just follow David Bowie's advice about change. I replied, "You mean to 'turn and face the strain?'" He nodded, yeah, that's it. Face it. Embrace it. Feel it. And then let it go.
My first day back at work, I locked myself out of John's office twice. I spent two hours trying to keep his new puppy quiet during a business meeting. I trained on a couple of software programs that are completely new to me. I took phone calls and tracked expenses and tried my best to organize someone else's work life. I went home to a living room not completely destroyed by my 3-year-old and a husband that was thrilled to see me.
My second day back at work, I used GPS to navigate the outer wildland of a northwest Seattle district known as Magnolia. I ran errands, did marketing work, and spoke to several of John's clients. I went home to a house, again, not completely destroyed by my 3-year-old and a husband that was thrilled to see me.
I spent the next several days recovering the house and myself into the routines of normalcy. And when I thought back about this life of mine, the new normal that we're doing our best to transition to, I felt okay. I felt good. I feel happy.
Work. I am doing my best to embrace it, in whatever form it takes.