We were under so much stress when Paul was sick. Every day it seemed there was something new. He was miserable, uncomfortable, in pain, unable to walk, unable to do things for himself, unable to take care of Owen, unable to help me, worried about his lab results, scared that there would be something worse coming....It was ongoing, and it was difficult for all of us, physically and emotionally. Eventually he got to feeling better and was able to go back to work---still on IV medications and still on crutches and still visiting doctors weekly for disturbing lab results.
I was now leaving the house for work shortly after 7 and not getting home until 6. Seeing Owen briefly for breakfast and then for an hour before bath and bedtime. I was also taking 24-hour call one three-day weekend a month. I would come home and take care of Paul and Owen and the house and the dog (all with Mom's help) until I fell exhausted into bed.
One day it snowed. An inch, maybe two. Big fluffy flakes that stuck to the road. Mom (thank God) went to pick up Owen before it got bad. I waited at work for someone to decide that we should all go home. Finally enough people had called and said roads were slippery that I decided to just go. It took me 3 hours to drive 30 miles. It seems everyone in RTP waited for permission to leave, too, and every employer in RTP had someone trying to squeeze as much productivity out of their employees as possible. And all those cars packing down that little bit of snow made for slick slick roads and every local interstate became a parking lot.
As for me, I was full of road rage for the first hour. I cried in frustration for the second hour. And for the third hour, I began to think of how ridiculous this whole thing is. It is ridiculous that so many people stayed at work for so long after the bad weather began--either because they didn't want to lose any productivity or because their employers didn't. It is ridiculous that SO MANY people in one area live SO FAR from where they work. It is ridiculous that there are so many cars in this town--all with one person in them. It is ridiculous that there is no reasonable, efficient, unified public transportation system in this region to get people out of their cars if they're going to live so far from where they work. It is ridiculous that we think we have to have 3000+ sq foot houses for families of three to four members. It is ridiculous that we think we need every variety of shopping experience available within five miles of our huge homes. It is ridiculous that our children have to spend 10-12 hours a day in day care because our work day is as long as it is and travel time adds as much as two hours just so that we can support our huge homes and shopping for entertainment and living the way we do.
And I had it easy that day. Many children stayed overnight in daycare centers or schools, many people spent more hours in their cars in the gridlock, got home much later than I or Paul did. What if Paul had gone into a ditch--unable to walk without crutches? What if Mom had not been here to bring Owen home? What if I had a home bound elderly or sick relative who depended upon my care?
I couldn't help but think that day that there's got to be a better way to live.
Of course after that day, I made no real, immediate changes in my life. I took my child to day care, I went to work as usual. I pressed more out of each day until I was sick and then even after that. I continued to take care of things, to support and maintain my lifestyle. But work no longer seemed to deserve so much of my energy. Shopping began to seem pointless and wasteful. Eating out several days a week lost its appeal. Time with my family became more precious and worth protecting.
I'm sure it wasn't just the awful snow-day gridlock that made me start thinking this way. It was everything--my new family, Paul's illness, the feeling of lost opportunity. Whatever it was, I began to long for home. I began to long for a simpler life.
Paul, for his part, never stopped looking at job opportunities that might take us home. He kept looking at University websites, even fantasizing about business start-ups he could maybe try. And then there it was...the same job he had turned down last year was re-advertised. Should he try for it again? In my new mood, I encouraged him. He saw another University position, this one in another large city but a city two hours closer to home. I encouraged that one, too. At least it would be a step toward our dream, maybe.
When a couple of months went by and we didn't hear anything, we settled in again. We made small changes, not much. We started eating at home more. Family meals with all of us at the table. We started tracking our expenses so that we can see where we were wasting, throwing money away. I started trying to make more frugal choices. Making fewer trips to Target. Driving less in general and using the better gas-mileage car more. Skipping the weekend "shop-o-tainment" (although we kept the weekend "dine-o-tainment"). Very small, tiny baby steps toward simplifying.
Then, they called. Both Universities. And he went and interviewed and came back excited and energized. And terrified. Suddenly the opportunity was there again. Should we consider it? Are we crazy to consider it? Are we crazy not to?
(Still, to be continued)