Sunday, November 9, 2014

Detachment and Disappointment

One of my coworkers has been having a rough go of it lately. His position is technically split between two work groups and each of his bosses assumes they have 100% of his time. A week does not pass without him coming into my office to declare he is just going to quit. This situation causes him a lot of stress. He was especially down on Friday morning and then he talked to his mother on the phone. She makes a habit of buying lottery tickets in the state where she lives and mailing them to her son as a gift. This seems an odd habit to me. Anyway she called to tell him that she had sent him a ticket and that drawing had a 4 million dollar winner from the store where she bought it which hadn't been claimed yet. He had not received the ticket yet and so hope was alive that he could be the proud new owner of four million dollars. He spent the rest of the morning talking about what he would do with the money, how he would arrange his life, whether he would continue to work somewhere "for the benefits" or attempt to make four million dollars last the rest of his life. He planned and planned the rest of his life. He seemed to actually believe he had won the lottery, that the odds were in his favor, and his life was about to get very good. After talking up the possibilities all morning, he convinced his wife to swing by their house during her lunch break since she works relatively close and check the mail to see if the lottery ticket had arrived. It had. To the surprise of no one except my coworker, it was not the winning ticket. He was crushed and spent the rest of the afternoon sulking about it.

It is sometimes fun to play the lottery. You buy a ticket, but you also buy permission to dream. You think about what you would buy and how you would live and you might even get excited about it, but you are also pretty detached about these flights of fancy. When the numbers are announced and you inevitably didn't win, you tend to think with momentary disappointment, "Oh, too bad" and then you move on with your life.

This past week it seemed likely that Dave was going to be offered a job. In retrospect it was much less likely than it seemed. He ran into the middle management wall again where he gets enthusiasm from those he would actually be working with and then gets dismissed out of hand by the higher-ups for some unchecked box on his resume. Those boxes are never going to be checked. We made the choices we made and cannot go back and unmake them no matter how difficult it is now or how incomplete our information was then. We get to live with the consequences good and hard. He has hit that middle management wall repeatedly and it is discouraging. The only real hope is to find someone willing to look past an unchecked box. It is kind of like winning the lottery. It's possible in theory, but not terribly likely. There is always another applicant who has that box checked.

When these job opportunities arise, I struggle to remain detached. I deliberately suppress any thought or fantasy of how life might be. I do not indulge, but the thoughts bubble up anyway. I push them away, but they are there, waiting. I made the mistake this time of looking forward on the calendar to see what my last day at work might be. I shouldn't do that. In spite of my best efforts to remain detached, when the bad news unfailingly comes, I drown in a tidal wave of despair. I don't know how not to get excited beforehand and the disappointment is overwhelming.

I am not sure I will ever get to the point where I can dismiss the disappointment of another job rejection with a momentary "Too bad" and move on unaffectedly with life. I am not sure I am supposed to. I surely don't know what the purpose of all this is. Sometimes it feels like we are being toyed with for amusement. I don't really believe that, but despair is sometimes just a thought away, a feeling I have to actively suppress just as diligently as I suppress fantasies of raising my children. It is hard not to think the reason this job situation is so intractable is because it is for our eternal good that I not be the mother I want to be. That it must be better for them for me to be at work away from them. A life time of penance from me in reparation for my many failings in order to merit heaven. How about I just take some time in purgatory and get to raise my kids instead? I am aware this is irrational.

A much more likely explanation is that our situation is difficult to overcome and that's that. There is no cosmic injustice here. We made stupid choices and get to live with the natural consequences of them. However, we aren't giving up. We trudge ahead. We cry in our beers for a night and then figure out the next move, making plans based in reality, not fantasy. I only wish I could remain as detached from the process as I can when buying a lottery ticket.


bearing said...

It's that sense of tragedy that Darwin was writing about the other day.

I'm so sorry.

Literacy-chic said...

I understand this all too well. It's like my academic job prospects after having taken a nonacademic job: "The only real hope is to find someone willing to look past an unchecked box. It is kind of like winning the lottery. It's possible in theory, but not terribly likely. There is always another applicant who has that box checked."

Literacy-chic said...

You are certainly too hard on yourself. Not only does your situation not represent cosmic judgment on your parenting potential, it also does not reflect badly on your previous choices. They were not *stupid.* They were simply the choices you felt you had to make when you made them. And that is simply what we have to do. There is no way to know all possible outcomes. It is possible that had you taken a different path, you would not have some of the things that are most dear to you now! I know the disappointment, and I am so sorry. Maybe... there's something out there that you simply haven't seen yet. I hope that possibility finds you!!

Jenny said...

I will grant that there are times when I am entirely too hard on myself. And I am quite sure that if I had never chosen this path, there are many facets of my life, which I find vitally important, that would be completely different and I would be poorer for it. I know this, and yet...

Most of the time I am completely rational about these choice and recognize the good in them (and there is good in them), but sometimes I feel like an abyss is stalking me. I glance in its direction and peak over the side sometimes. When I do, I am dizzy as I feel its gravitational force. I have to actively run away from it in order to keep from falling.

Mostly though, I am tired. Tired of having possibilities dangled in front of me only to have them yanked away over and over again. From an emotional equilibrium point of view, it is easier to just stay in the zone of the routine and not think too much about life, but the interview process doesn't really allow it. I know the only way out of here is to walk through these emotional landmines until we emerge on the other side, but, in true, there is no guarantee we will ever emerge on the other side and I'm tired. But we do have a plan! So maybe one day....