Yesterday, I went back to work. For those that don’t know, I work as a Substitute Teacher in our local district. I’ve been doing this for 6 years now, and have loved it. It began as my being just a volunteer parent in the room to being (nicely) coerced into actually working for the district. Of all the jobs I’ve had, this is my favorite. I’m very lucky that my DH works so hard and has a wonderful job that allows for me to work for peanuts because I like what I do rather than be a slave to the grind in job that makes me miserable. We have sacrificed quite a lot over the years so that I can be home with the kids. (That’s another blog in the works.)
I was due to go back to work in September. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to walk the halls where Nolan spent so many hours. I wasn’t ready to not run into him during the day. He wasn’t supposed to be in my schools anymore anyway, but his memory, his artwork, and his essence are all over the school. I had planned on moving up to high school with him this year, but have since decided that would just be too hard. Running into my boys during the work day has always been a highlight for me. Getting to have lunch with them (sometimes), having them in class, catching a glimpse of them with just their friends – it always filled me with such a feeling of contentment. Knowing their teachers on a personal level has been a complete blessing in so many ways. It has allowed for me to truly understand my boys’ struggles and to advocate for them from a place of knowing the whole story rather than just the bits they tell me. And truly, I love our school district. I love the people I work with, and I love the kiddos.
September was too soon. I tried again in October. Couldn’t do it. I couldn’t face the kids looking to me to be strong. I couldn’t guarantee I would be able to hold my tears for that long. Who am I kidding? I still can’t guarantee that! DH remained steadfastly understanding. If I worked at an office someplace, it would probably be different.
November came and I still couldn’t do it. With the holidays fast approaching, I was getting worse as each day passed. I said I’d think about it again after the holidays – if I survived.
Here comes January. I said I would do it. In all honesty, I did it more for DH than for me. He’s been baring the brunt of the financial issues and sparing me the details. Unless you’ve been through it, you really have no idea how expensive it is to lose a child. We were lucky to have such generous donations gifted to us, but we have still spent pretty much every dime we had to pay for Nolan’s medical care and lay him to rest without going into debt. Add to that the necessity of some pretty major house repairs, and it’s not really a matter of my working because I like it anymore. So I bit the bullet.
I went back to work yesterday. I knew it would be hard. I cried all day Monday after I agreed to work on Tuesday. I prayed for strength to hold my tears in. I kept repeating to DH, “I don’t know if I can really do this.” He kept telling me “You’ll be fine.” We were both right. And we were both wrong. I did do it, but I wasn’t fine. It was a different kind of difficult than I anticipated. On the way to school, I said to Li’l N, “I hope I can do this.” He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “I did it. I had to go back to school.” Bless his dear, sweet heart. I held those words close all day long. I am so so so lucky to work with amazingly caring, compassionate, supportive, and genuine people. I knew that if at any moment I was ready to break down, that I could just leave the room and they would cover for me. That helped, and I thought for sure I would need that kind of support. I didn’t. I held my tears in check. There were a couple of tough moments, though. One little kiddo said to me, “Mrs. B., I saw you on the news. I saw what happened. I’m really sad for you.” Her bright eyes looking up at me nearly brought me to my knees. Her little outstretched arms wrapped around my waist, and she didn’t see the tears that I refused to let fall. I whispered “Thank you, Sweet Pea,” and after a couple deep breaths we got to work. Another precious little heart said to me “Mrs. B., I saw you on tv, but I don’t remember what it was for.” I was ok with that, but then a few minutes later, she said “Oh yeah! Now I remember, but I don’t want to say it because I don’t want to make you sad.” Dear Lord, these children are so very tender. I smiled at her, willing the tears back, and said “It’s ok. It is a very sad thing, but I’m happy that I get to spend time with you again,” and we got back to work. So, I guess DH was right in that regard. I was fine with the kids.
What I really struggled with was feeling disoriented. I had walked those halls for 8 years. (Remember I volunteered long before I worked there.) I spent so many hours working in each room at some point or another, and yet nothing was familiar. I knew 99% of the faces, and yet some of the names escaped me. I felt dizzy – really dizzy – a few times. The room spun with my mind. It reminded me of the times I passed out and stopped breathing, although I clearly was not in the grips of any panic attack. I read my schedule 100 times and still couldn’t think of where I needed to be next. Nothing sunk in. Luckily, it was a pretty light schedule. It felt good to be back, and it felt so completely wrong to be back. I felt like I didn’t fit anymore. This was part of my life Before, and I’m so very different Now. I felt like a fraud. I smiled when I wanted to cry. I laughed when I wanted to scream. I talked when I wanted to be silent. It was a very hard day, so when I came home, I put on the baggiest sweats I own and crawled into bed.
Will I keep working? Yes. Is it hard? YES. Is it time? Yes, it’s time. I’m hopeful that the more I do it, the more “myself” I will feel. It will be different Now, but maybe it will be an ok kind of different. I will still get to run into Li’l N during my day. I will still get to have lunch with him (sometimes). I will still catch glimpses of him with just his friends. I will still get to have him in class. These are invaluable blessings. I do still love the kiddos. I do still love spending my days with them. I am still blessed to have a job that fits my life rather than have to fit my life around a job. These are things that haven’t changed Since, and I think these are very important things.