Up until four years ago, my struggles were external. First I struggled against my parents, then against my ex. Having removed all external barriers to my having a life, I fell over with nothing left to push against. I have been wandering listlessly for the past 3 years or so. I am slowly dragging myself back to center, although it’s harder to find.
I was recently informed that my struggles are now internal. I now push against that part of me that I internalized from how I was raised, etc. So my parents may be dead, and I may be all grown up and out on my own, but they live within me. The judgmental, unkind, unsupportive parts of them. Internally, I am as abused as I was growing up. I give myself very little support, rage against my actions if I deem them stupid, and basically cut myself very little slack. I am kinder to the birds who feast on my feeders than I am to myself.
I was always worried that I could not financially support myself. It took me two years to find my current job after having moved 3000 miles across the country to start a new life. I didn’t have all the information about the job market when I moved. It was not as I had hoped or expected. I lived off savings for those first two years, terrified I would lose my home and wind up on the street. I finally found this job. I must drive 40 minutes each way, 5 days a week. Before this I had been a contractor for 24 years, working from home, making my own hours. This new permanent job was a huge adjustment for me. 8-hour days, 5 days a week, no negotiating, no telecommuting. The East Coast is not as flexible as the West Coast. My knee was the first to act up from all the sitting at the desk. They say sitting is the new smoking as far as shortening your life span. I gained 10 more pounds during that first year. And they pay me very well.
I have now been at this job for almost two years. The first year I wowed them with all I accomplished, which to me was not that big a deal. Having been a contractor in the boom years in Silicon Valley, I was used to working 3 contracts simultaneously, on projects that were the bleeding edge. It was an exciting time. And I made lots of money. Didn’t save a penny, but bought lots of musical instruments as music was my passion. Went to expensive spiritual retreats as my spiritual path kept me in search of healing all my childhood wounds, and owned half a house that I considered my nest egg for the future.
This second year has been spent reading novels online and playing solitaire. Occasionally a project appears that requires my attention, but they are few and far between. The morale in the company is in the toilet. People’s egos have been ground under by the owner, who is a narcissistic control freak. I am the only professional female in the company. All the other women are in support roles. I feel like I have stepped back into the 1950’s. This place is the last place I ever thought I’d find myself working. I had dreams of starting something new when I moved here, of somehow finally getting away from the computer industry. But after two years of sending out resumes for all types of jobs, this was the only thing I could find that paid enough to support both myself and my wife, who is on disability. It also offered multi-state insurance, allowing her to continue to see her doctors in her home state who have been keeping her alive these past 6.5 years.
I felt very grateful for this job that first year. Now I feel guilty for sitting here collecting a paycheck for very little output. I feel disgusted to be in a place like this after being part of the exciting Silicon Valley boom. I also know that Silicon Valley is no longer like it was in my day. Even if I still lived there I wouldn’t be doing what I did back then. I have lost my enthusiasm along with all the other beaten-down, depressed people working here. No one ever thanks you for your efforts. No one gets pay raises. There is no real HR department looking out for employees. There are under 50 people here. They run lean and mean and actually yell at people and threaten them when the mood strikes them. There are no employee guidelines.
And then after 8 hours in that environment, I drive home to my wife, who has been dealing with Stage IV Lung Cancer for 6.5 years. She is doing very well at the moment. It’s all about the moments. We live from test to test. The latest round of tests were so good that she doesn’t go again for 4.5 months – a new record! I never know how much energy she will have when I get home. Years of radiation treatment have caused overwhelming fatigue, and zaps to her brain have limited her short-term memory. We might have a wonderful, deep discussion, but I never know if she will remember it. I never know if she will have an appetite. The daily chemo pill ruins her appetite.
I haven’t played music since I moved here almost 4 years ago. My drums and harp are gathering dust. I used to suffer if I didn’t play something. Now, I just don’t play at all. I just started reading books again. I am an avid reader, but just couldn’t bring myself to open a book until the last 6 months. I berate myself for not putting in the effort to get back to my music. But mostly I feel tired and overwhelmed with everything I have had to do these past 4 years to redo my life. Too exhausted to drag myself back to center. But I really need to. I really want to.
So in the midst of all this, who can I turn to for support? Certainly not myself. I feel very much alone in the world. My wife, whose kindness saved my life, has her plate pretty full. My friends in the West have full plates too and not a whole lot of understanding for my current life. And local friends? Who has the energy to find them? And forget my family. They were never there for me. My brothers were raised by the same parents. One brother died last year. The remaining brother is a shell of a person.
I have no choice but to make peace with myself. I really need myself at this point in my life. There is no one else. I need me to be kind, supportive, patient and understanding. It might take the rest of my life to get there. I guess that’s why they call it an inner struggle.