Thursday, June 28, 2007

A paucity of certainty

I used to think the problem with my life (if one's life could be reduced to a singular problem) was that I had no choices. I was stuck in an office, doing work I didn't enjoy, and there was seemingly no way out. All I wanted was to be home, and I couldn't find my way there. Yup, I concluded. No choices.

Time and therapy changed all that. I soon came to realize just how many choices I did have. So many choices.

And so I made those choices. I came home. I took some jobs and gave up others. And today, well...frankly, today I'm equally miserable, just in an entirely different way. I'm home, but there is so much work to be done that I might was well not be. I spend so much time watching my kids, wanting to spend time with them, and yet knowing I can't, because there's always work, more work. Instead of being holed up in an office, I'm holed up at home. Where the end of the work day never comes. Where I find myself yelling at the kids to leave me alone, because there's pressure building up on me, pressure to get stuff done. Plus, there's that ever-present concept to battle--the one that says that because I work from home, I'm goofing off. When, in reality, it's the opposite. When I was office-bound, I used to spend hours chatting away with my coworkers, talking about movies and kids and weekend plans, gossiping about hirings and firings and our bosses' foibles. Doing everything but meeting my deadlines or getting work done. Now? If I spend ten minutes sitting with N watching TV, or doing Em's hair, or even putting in some laundry, I feel guilty. I may run errands for an hour or two during the daytime, but then I'm up until midnight, one, two am, catching up, getting ahead. Making sure nobody can accuse me of not pulling my weight. And then still having those accusations come.

The pressure is intense. The urge to quit, to walk away, to move on, is equally intense of late. I don't like the way I'm being treated; I don't like the direction things are going in. But at the same time, there are benefits about to kick in. And I still believe in the project, and when I'm not made to feel inadequate, I enjoy the editing I'm doing.

And so, once again, it's time to make a choice. But this time, rather than feeling hemmed in, I'm feeling confused. There are too many choices, way too many variables. And there's no clear-cut path. Should I go back into an office environment, where I know I'll be resentful and angry, but where I also know there will be considerably more stability? Should I hang on here, knowing that the money is not-quite-adequate, but better than I could do on a purely freelance basis--knowing that there's a chance my job could disappear any day now in favor of an office-based worker who can put in that all-important face time? Can we live on this salary? Can we live on this salary plus the freelance work I'm managing to pull in? Should I make choices based on the status quo, or will one of Baroy's many leads actually pan out one of these days soon? (He's trying so hard; he's getting so close. It's just been a long time since 'close' meant 'there'. Not his fault, but a fact of our life.)

If I knew what the future held, maybe it would be clearer. Can we really survive on not-quite-adequate? Is it actually adequate? Or is it actually inadequate? What cuts can we make in the budget to make it definitely adequate? Will it be worth those cuts? Will I continue to be miserable, watching my kids wanting me and not being able to be with them? Would I be more or less miserable in an office, not watching but knowing my kids wanting me and still not being able to be there with them? Would I then realize that I'm currently able to be with them more than I think? Will they suffer by my not being physically there, even if I have to be emotionally remote? Or would they be better off not having me tantalizingly in sight yet unavailable?

If only I had some certainly--even just a little certainty--about what would be the best course of action, maybe I wouldn't feel so frozen in confusion. If only I knew what to do, maybe I could do something. I can't believe that I'm complaining about having too many choices and yet...I am. Or, rather, I'm kvetching about it. I know it could be worse--I could truly BE without options, like I once thought I was--but that doesn't stop me from looking the choice-horse in the mouth. Whatever that means.


Green said...

There's a lot of stuff out there now about people living above their means. I wonder, could you live closer to your means somehow, thus reducing the pressure you feel you're under? Like, deciding you'll spend $15 a month on Netflix instead of going out to the movies once a month. Stuff like that.

Meg said...

Too many choices are not easy either. I think when you envisioned working from home, it was with less, not more job stress. For me, it is easier to work in the office as I can really leave it behind. Of course, the commuting time adds to time away from the kids and there are times when I have to miss school events. I have a hard time working effectively at home as there are too many distractions for me, but I know many moms who do it very successfully.

I hope that the job becomes less stressful and that something comes through for Baroy.

Ambre said...

Green, if you know TC you'd laugh at that concept. She's the only person I know who's actually cheaper than my husband ;) (actually, she's not- he's a super tightwad).

But TC, this isn't about too many choices. It's about none of those choices standing out as a clear winner, and about being afraid you'll regret whatever choice you make. Or maybe about being convinced that there are no good choices, which is almost the same as no choices at all. How about going back to what you did to get where you are- figure out where you want to be, and find a way to get there. As long as you're at least working your way toward the goal you'll feel better.

po said...

It's so hard, because nothing ever turns out exactly like we thought it would. I mean, you wanted to work from home the entire time I've known you. I'm so sorry that it hasn't turned out to be the situation you'd hoped it would be. :(

But yeah, it can ALWAYS be worse :p. You could be me, living in a shoreless SEA of uncertainty, and still paying rent.

Rodrigo said...
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Hilary said...

Wow. Some serious parallels in our lives, TC. I struggle with the same WAH issues you do in terms of feeling like I'm slacking off when taking care of household things.

I'm writing this from a hotel room in Chicago at 3am (can't sleep), about to start a weekend, conference for work and I had pondered if I could take at least a day off next week in comp time (since I won't be paid for the weekend I'm about to loose). Want to take bets on whether I actually do it or not? :-)