I was reading a post on a message board for widows, and the poster wanted to know if it was reasonable of her co-workers to expect her back to work only a month after the sudden death of her husband. Most of the replys tried to assure her that it was okay to not be ready though a few touted the great balm that keeping busy – at anything – can be. I went back to work three weeks after my husband died. My employer generously gives a week paid leave and I am not being facitious when I say this because many jobs give much less time. Fortunately I contracted shingles around the same time and was able to take anouther two weeks of sick leave but I went back not because I was ready but because I felt obligated to do so. I wasn’t ready. My head was never really in the game. This was in mid-February and by mid-April I broke. There was just too much for me to deal with in addition to trying to be “normal”. Because, that is what people wanted. They wanted me to be okay so they would not feel uncomfortable around me or unreasonable when they expected things of me that I simply didn’t have the emotional reserve to handle. I brought some of this on myself. I had started a new position at a new school and delibrately withheld information about my husband’s illness from most of the people I worked with. I wanted to seem normal. I had spent the previous two years at a middle school where everyone knew my situation (though this didn’t keep some of them from expecting things of me that were far beyond my means) and I was tired of being “handled”. Still, the price for being strong and being able to cope is that people begin to expect it of you even when it is obvious you can’t do it. It was a stupid thing that tipped the scales and reduced me to a puddle. You should never cry in the workplace experts tell you and with good reason. People tend to think you are crazy when you do. My principal sent me home for two days and when I got back my vice-principal (probably because she knew me a little better than the others) tactfully approached me about taking some time off. I think she was surprised with the speed at which I excepted that invitation. My job is working with at-risk students who can be very sweet and caring but they are also emotional vampires. So, today I went back into work to pick up some things to work on and get ready for the new year which begins in about 6 weeks. And I am not thrilled. And it is not just hangover from my husband’s death. Being away from work as long as I have been has been a revealing experience. One of the things it has revealed is a genuine dissatisfaction with my job. Not the teaching. I love to teach. I make a difference even on my worst days. Reevaluation is good and I have been doing that a lot where my career is concerned and perhaps I am worried about nothing and I will quickly fall back into my work with the same gusto I had before. I think though that it is time to consider that this may not happen and a back-up plan would be a good idea. When I was in LaCrosse at the Viterbo campus, I fell in love with the idea of teaching someplace like it. Having a little office and meeting with classes in the different buildings and then walking home to a house nearby before going to pick up my daughter from school. Idyllic nonsense. But still, it got me thinking and the more I thought about it the more I realized that I could be really happy in a life like that. So, does this mean I am not back to normal? My normal before did not put my desires and needs first. My normal now seems to think that what is good for me is the only things worth working on. The thing is that I am nowhere near the woman I was three years ago or even seven years ago when my husband and I got married. And this idea that I should be over the pain of Will’s death or that time heals is just for the convience of other people who need me to be the person I was. The saying goes that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but hell, I was an Amazon already. There is another that goes, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”, but that is crap. God is not the source of the misfortune in any of our lives. The fault lies in our mortality and human fraility. I am more inclined to go with Granny Clavert in Gone With The Wind when she tells Scarlett that the worst thing that can happen to a woman is surviving the worst thing that can happen to her. When that happens no one is ever going to let you lean on them again.