Eating it too.
I'm thankful for my job and everything; really, I am. I lived through a layoff at age 25 during a pregnancy with a one-year-old on my hip and two dysfunctional teenagers under my roof and a spouse with a fledgling business. I've worked for some terrible companies that sucked the life out of everyone who made the mistake of walking through the doors day after day, and for some whose culture I could only sum up by combining the worst parts of junior high with the best parts of a Russian gulag. What I have now is heaven on earth in every way imaginable when it comes to jobs and careers in this part of the country. I know this, and even after almost three fairly stable years -- a lifetime given my work history -- I remember it consciously every day.
And that's all fine and good, it's GREAT, actually, if I'm only talking about my career, my job, "success" as defined and recognized by the broader culture. But if my self has to come into the equation, whoever I am without broader culture's expectations and confinements, all I know is that I feel torn, and maybe a little trapped. I hate the phrase, "I want my cake and eat it too" because I've always cringed in disgust at its grammatical structure, but it's actually how I feel about mostly everything these days. I want to conquer every metaphorical hill I approach at work, but still have time to rest under the metaphorical stars and sip metaphorical wine and listen to my kids metaphorically play peacefully (since they would only ever play peacefully in metaphor). I've made certain choices that can only be sustained by my continuing to work. In an ironic and vicious cycle, there is a way in which I actually DO "have my cake and eat it too." My kids attend the school they do only because my job affords us the ability to pay for it; we live in a large, comfortable house with nice amenities and we live (to say the least) a life of luxury when compared to most of the world's population exactly because of this job, the thing that I say makes me feel torn and trapped.
None of us are sick or hurt or in trouble; there are no chronic diseases or unmanageable behavioral crises or stalkers or bullies or fatal allergies to deal with. Things are taken care of - big and small, important and unimportant, all of the official, bona fide priorities end up addressed and checked off the list. Bills are paid, deadlines are met by the skin of their teeth, gifts are bought for birthdays, social functions are attended, teaching moments are seized, life lessons are taught, tantrums are endured, relatives are called, paychecks are earned. But there is a sense of it all being mildly frustrating, even the best times, the times when everyone is fed and clothed and cooperative and at least feigning contentment. I'm not only talking about frustration stemming from the adults: Bryce and Quinn feel it too. Quinn's premature teenage eye-rolling and Bryce's passive-aggressive maneuvers of resistance to school and homework and Tae Kwon Do breathe a whole new life into the finger-tapping and sighing and clock watching and complaining that formerly characterized the malaise around here, mild though it may be. Sure, nobody's walking around with suicide notes taped to their foreheads, but we aren't playing ring around the rosy, either. The insanity has died down from a few years ago; there are no longer one or two uncontrollable 25-pound toddler-sized demons shrieking at us because we dared to put the wrong style of noodle on the dinner plate. We have more peace now, which is what I wanted. We have the money we needed to have both kids at the school I feel is right for them, also what I wanted. We have a dog who is obedient and calm; again, what I wanted. There is simply a blanket of rushed and irritated blah over all of us. Quinn verbalizes this perfectly on a fairly regular basis these days, most recently when a relative brought birthday gifts over for Bryce and we were all going through the social motions of pre-meal and pre-presents conversation. Quinn stood up and with a bored expression, announced, "I think it's time for Bryce to open his presents, blah blah blah." I totally got that.
Maybe what makes all of this a little tragic, if tragic weren't too strong a word for the more mild irritation and fatigue I truly have about it all, is the fact that I know if I didn't have the demands of my job, and had the ability to be at home always, to have "free choice" like Quinn's kindergarten morning time offers him, if I could "have my cake and eat it too" in what I guess is the traditional sense, I know enough about myself that I can honestly say I'd be complaining about all this cake, there's too much cake, who said I wanted so much CAKE, anyway?! Get the cake out of my face! So here I am, back at the beginning - or is it the middle? - of my vicious cycle. Ho hum, I have to go to work tomorrow. What they say about all work and no play really is true, blah blah blah.