I’m in the very fortunate position that I don’t need to work, by this I mean financial need, which is really rather lucky because (right now) I’d do a pretty terrible impression of someone managing paid employment. I’m sure I’ve mentioned my new
scatty creative persona before, probably many times if only I could remember stuff… like for example where I’m going with this post?
When I was going through cancer treatment and way beyond into recovery, I found I could gauge my mood fairly well by what I was doing. When my particular cancer bomb exploded in my (cosy-stay-at-home-mum-looking-for-a-job) world, I was actively seeking employment.
- Was it because I had a burning desire to re-join the rat race?
- Was it because I was bored at home?
- Was it because of financial reasons?
The answer to all of these was a resounding “No!”, the reason I was attempting to re-enter the work place was because I felt I had to. Rightly or wrongly I felt that my boys were old enough for me to have to get back to the real world, as a real person instead of being just a mum. And the most obvious way to do this was via employment.
Picture this, you’re at a party and on meeting new people the most often asked question is… “What do you do?” – leading to deep furrowing of my forehead – “Do? Me? Oh, nothing really, I’m a stay at home mum.” END OF CONVERSATION
Please know that I am not criticising stay at home parents or carers, it’s such a valuable role and one I continue to do.
One of my favourite films is ‘About a Boy’ and I am Will, except I’m not, not really, but that moment at a dinner party when he says he does nothing, that’s the moment that he is seen as nobody and isn’t worth talking to.
And I guess that’s how I felt, like I was missing out on that simple way of being a real member of society. So, I was applying for jobs to find something to make me feel more worthwhile. Not jobs I wanted to do or had any passion for, but ones that would fit in around the boys.
And then cancer hit and the job I was offered on the actual day of my diagnosis I had to turn down (part time postie if you’re interested?) and instead my new vocation was attending hospital and clinic appointments and wondering how on earth I was going to get through all of this.
Then right in the middle of chemo, worsening mood, feeling horrendous, and after I’d been diagnosed with a heart abnormality (which in all likelihood was triggered by chemo) what do I do?
Yup, you guessed it – I applied for a job…
In the middle of chemo… what? why? are you crazy?
And you will not guess where this job was (because this makes it even more crazy)?!
In the middle of chemo I applied for a job at a hospice… oh ok Karen, not your best move…
It was sometime later that I noticed the pattern. When my depression was worse I would desperately look to find some normality in life, something that I could do to prove to myself that I was ok and that life was good.
Something like applying for jobs. Or entering cake baking competitions (again in the middle of chemo). Or getting involved in volunteering and fundraising.
None of which filled the chasm inside me, the enormous hole that made me feel like I was nothing.
When my mood improved these things weren’t important, and so it continued… my mood fluctuating up and down and with it my striving for normality would come and go.
At some point I realised what the driving force was and I stopped.
I had reached a level of self-awareness where I understood that my actions were about as useful as applying antiseptic to a broken leg.
No amount of grasping at normality would take away the pain of my emotions.
Emotions that had been spiralling down, down, down.
No more job applications, no more school governor duties, no more volunteering or baking competitions. I’d learnt that none of these things would make a difference, if anything they’d make things worse by increasing the stress I was living with. I’d learnt that self-care and minimising stress was a better way to help myself… still not sure where I’m going with this post…
And for the past year or more I haven’t applied for any jobs, I turn down responsibilities that would be damaging to my recovery (obviously not critical childcare type responsibilities) and instead I focus on me.
So, yes, I am fortunate that I don’t need to work because in releasing myself from my own perceived obligation to become worthwhile through employment, I’ve found the space to become who I am now.
A real person of my own making.