My husband has quit his full-time day job to focus on other parts of in his life and spend more time thinking about his daughter. I admit to being envious as I too would like more time with Clea but I do not have the relevant skills which would enable me to work from home as he does.
I have had people say to me that now that my husband will be working from home, I should challenge myself in the workplace and take on new roles which would require me to be at work for more hours. This infers that challenges can only occur through work and that work is the basis of our lives.
I do not agree with those who say that I should keep busy and challenge myself at work. I work four days a week and I do not have enough time to think about Clea or to spend time with my sons.
Many years ago, I remember considering the word ‘success’ and whose definition of success was more relevant to me. I decided then that success in terms of monetary gain was not my definition of success and that work was not the only place where you could achieve success in your life. It was then that I took four months leave from work to travel overseas; it took me two years to return to Australia.
I was retelling a story to a colleague last week about how (about six months after Clea’s death) I had been asked to assist in drafting an important speech for a minister but I had declined because I did not know how I would handle the stress of preparing that speech. This colleague said, “The minister’s office couldn’t argue with that excuse”. I’m not sure she had thought about her response before it left her mouth.
I sat in a meeting of very senior public servants about a year after Clea’s death. I listened to them discuss the unfolding global financial crisis and the risks to the economy. As I listened, I wondered what these men (as they were mostly men) would have done in a tsunami. Would they have met the challenge of death? How would they have coped as they ran for their lives with the water gaining on them, and then engulfing them in a surge of suffering? How would they have coped dragging themselves out of the water and searching desperately for their child?
Recent conversations have made me wonder what these people think a challenge is and why they think that my life lacks these so-called challenges. I have come to realise that most people think that I should ‘get over’ the death of my child and ‘get a life’. Even my family thinks that.
I would like to point out that I have faced more challenges than any of these people. I have faced the challenge of survival; I have looked death in the face and said no. I live the daily challenge of trying to function in a world where my child has lost her existence.
My daughter is not an excuse. I do not want to fail or let people down anymore than any other members of my work team. I would like to work on issues that interest me and I do not want to be bored at work. But I do not want to work like a dog (I have worked that way before) and I have other priorities in my life.
I am challenged every day. I wake up and listen for my daughter’s voice. I pick up my sons from school and search for my daughter amongst the girls playing in the playground.
I am challenged to explain myself over and over again to people who think that I choose to live like this; people who think I push them away or don’t cry on their shoulders. As though a little hug will make all the difference. As though all I have to do is work harder.
I do not need to challenge myself at work. Simply functioning is enough of a challenge these days. I am challenged to be interested and engaged in life when I am simply waiting for this life to be over. I have challenged myself every day for the past 138 weeks and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.