Today was an especially troubling day at work. There were several tough conversations - polite fights; just rubber bullets - no live ammo. Part of me knows that conflicts are inevitable at this time of year; people are returning from vacations and are not happy about it. But knowing it’s inevitable doesn’t make the individual tough day any easier.
The hardest part is trying to shake it off. Trying to find that thing that will put those unpleasant moments in context and help me to regroup.
Under normal circumstances I can do this on the ride home. i’ll grab a hot cup of coffee from a Dunkin’ Donuts’ near the highway and put on some of my favorite tunes.
Tonight I went through David Gray, Billy Bragg, Reckless Kelly, the Indigo Girls and Shawn Colvin without so much as a dent in my feelings. Loud or soft, rocking or folksy, I looked in vain for the notes or the voice that would coax the little monkey off my shoulder. Nothing.
I thought about trying a beer or a glass of wine when I got in, but these day I pay a heavy price the next day for even a single glass of wine - HEADACHES! I weighed the cost against the benefit and decided to try a shower instead. That helped a little. So did the nice dinner of payaya that my wife had prepared.
“Glad you enjoyed it,” she said lightly, “Hope you feel better.”
I did, but I was still bothered. I think too much time at work does that. It gets me into the mood that all my worth is judged by my performance there. It makes me worry that if I fail there, I fail all together. I thought maybe I’d have a look in on the kids to try to put things in perspective.
My son was already asleep when I got home. I went up to check in on him and that helped a bit. He’s so peaceful when he sleeps. He looks like a little puppy curled up on a pillow. It’s a help just to listen to his soft breaths.
“Read me this story, Daddy,” my daughter said when I came down to check on her afterwards. She was still awake and excited from school. She opened a big volume of collected Thomas the Tank Engine stories. It’s a big red book with a blue satin bookmark sewn onto it. I love that book. It reminds me of the books I used to have when I was a boy.
“Why is Toby stuck,” she asked when we reached a point in the story where Toby the old fashioned work engine runs out of water for his steam engine.
“There was a new signalman,” I said, “He sent Toby on to the next station without a drink. He didn’t know Toby would get stuck.”
“Oh,” she said, and I sensed that she wasn’t satisfied with the answer.
“Toby just wasn’t lucky today,” I said, “But his friends are helping him.”
I think you can guess that this is when I figured out what I needed to do. After my kid was asleep I gave a call to one of my good friends up in Boston. Just hearing their voice was enough.
We talked for maybe ten minutes. We had planned to get together soon and this provided something to talk about besides my worries. It got me thinking of good times again; of people who just like to hang out with us, with me. It was like rain on wilted tomato plant. I felt worlds better.
“I still have friends,” I thought when I said goodnight and let them go, “It’s not so bad.”
It’s not so bad at all.