I Got Knocked Down

It was a rough moment when I realized I’d quit living life.  It had been building since the end of the start up, but it took another year and a half to reach a spot where each day I merely survived.  I woke up in the morning and counted the hours until the day ended.  I knew I couldn’t just stop.  People depended on me so each day I did what I could.  There was no laughter.  There was no joy.  I had moved from feeling hopeless to being terrified of hope. I  Hope only brought pain.  Life had been chronically discouraging for so long that discouragement had become the only reliable constant.

The desolation I’d been living with became tangible in the beginning of 2015.  I came across an ad for the Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse initiative.  The campaign was a positive reaction to the domestic abuse issues.  I read down the page and was startled to realize it was a reflection of me.

For the first time I was seeing how battered and broken I had become.   I started looking for how I had gotten to that point.  It would have been easy to point fingers and blame someone or something else.  But for me, it wasn’t anyone’s fault.  No one contributed intentionally.  Anyone who knew they’d contributed would be horrified.  I had simply been battered by life.  Life is hard.  Life hurts.  Life is a battle.  And in that moment I realized it was my perspective, the labels I was applying to situations, that was damaging me the most.

I realized that I was allowing what had happened to rob the joy from my life.  I couldn’t move forward if I continued thinking the same way.  It was time to embrace a new way of life.  Pain is unavoidable, but suffering is a choice and  I continued to be someone who was suffering.  I needed to become someone who HAD suffered, but moved on.  Life is full of pain.  I can’t change that.  But I can change how I react to it.

That one decision shifted my perspective.  I realized I was not an option-less victim, but a battle-weary warrior.  I had forgotten that a warrior isn’t someone who wins, because the reality was I wasn’t winning at anything.  A warrior is some one who fights, who gets knocked down, but staggers to her feet and continues toward the goal.  It’s all about willingness.  And simply because I hadn’t quit, I was in fact a fighter.

I was devastated by the start up, but I still got up every day and did what needed to be done.  I faced adversity from my family, had to live with/through a lot of other people’s choice, but I did and didn’t let it stop me from making the right, generally painful decisions for my and my family’s future.  I gave my kids all I had to help them create an even better future for themselves.  I fought and I failed, but as long as I got back up and tried again, I was a warrior.

So I choose to live as a warrior.  I have the scars to prove it.  I hurt and I stumble.  Sometimes I fall flat.  Life still knocks me around, but I refuse to stop.  I’m building the foundation for the next stage of my future.  I’m raising daughters with more weapons to fight life with.  Adversity does not disappear.  They will face it, too.  They have.  Life will continue to be a battle, but my perspective has changed as have my choices.  I will not let being afraid keep me from joy.  I will not let life win.

 

The End of the First Five

March found us unemployed, but relieved.  The wondering was over.  We were back in control of our decisions.  These were the things I craved from freelancing and were such a struggle to give up when we joined the start up.  However, unlike the end of our time at the start up, this transition from the agency didn’t happen abruptly.  We’d known it was a possibly outcome and had been able to plan for it.  Work was flowing nicely, a healthy mix of wrapping up projects for the previous employer, beginning projects with the likely new employer, and additional contracts.

April came and the new employer wasn’t quite ready for us.  But we weren’t really ready for him either.  We didn’t want to sign on with someone new while we had a backlog of work.  We were done with the 18 hour work days just to keep up.  Besides freelancing always pays better than working for someone else.  When the work’s there, of course.  I did have one quirky disappointment.  Starting the new job April 1, 2015 would have rounded out the five years perfectly.

It was hard to consider giving up freelancing again.  We were in a more comfortable place than we had been in a while.  Life was still a swirling storm of maybes, what ifs, and which way do we go, but we had more control and input.  We had some good options before us and we were looking them over carefully to see just which direction we wanted to head next.  I craved stability, found myself jealous of my friends with husbands who’s jobs were stable and reliable.  I felt burned by our last two employers and struggled to want to trust someone new.

However, T was also feeling burned, but burned out on development.  He’d been at it for twenty years and the demands of the last five had removed much of the joy and excitement.  He’d been building websites fro 20 years and his teacher’s soul was longing for an outlet.  Switching to documentation was the perfect move and terrified me.  His job was at the core of how our family survived.  We had always had that to fall back on and now it, too, was gone.  It was the last stable part of our former life that I had to be willing to let go of.

And I did.  Like everything else I’ve wanted along the way, I let it go.  When the job was ready in May, we took it.  It was a healthy environment with quality people and opportunities to learn and grow both us and the business.  No job is perfect and there were growing pains, but we can tell we made the right choice.  We hope to stay for a long time, but if the last five years have taught me anything the future is completely unpredictable.

Aside from the initial choice to make this journey, I’m not sure I’ve liked a single decision we’ve had to make.  Most of them hurt me, made my life harder, and out-right terrified me.  But I did it anyway, with as little push back and complaining as I could.  Not because I’m a saint or a martyr, but because I kept my eye on the goal.  Our goal was to create a future with more options for all of us.  Did we do it?  I don’t know yet.  Did we give it all we had?  Yeah.  Yeah, we did.

And the Path Veers Again

After San Francisco, we worked toward finding a new normal.  We were turning our marriage around and working on rebuilding our family.  T didn’t love his job, but it was good enough for right now and contract work was light, uncomplicated, and manageable.  We were headed into November and feeling excited about the upcoming holidays.  And then….

November 21 the email came.  T’s boss shifted him from his current job to an exciting new opportunity.  After getting to know T better in San Francisco, the boss realized that T was the right guy for a new venture he wanted to try.

A small firm in India needed help keeping the lights on.  T was just the guy to help them figure out how to turn it around.  If it succeeded, T would become the CEO of the new company.  If it failed, well T would be out of a job.  Not because he’d failed, but the company needed to fill his current position and no one knew if there would be a position open for him.

I think I just laughed.  The irony of it all.  Once again we were looking forward to calm and predicable and we were shoved in the opposite direction.  I couldn’t be angry and I couldn’t say no.  It was moving forward, and that was the direction we were headed, but most importantly it was perfect for T.  There isn’t anything he loves more than helping other people.  He loves to teach.  He loves to mentor.  This was that and more.

We packed up our expectations and headed off in a new direction.  An advantage this time was an illusion of control.  T carefully asked about expectations and was told to just go, do, try.  And he did.  He talked to people, did research, and learned what options the Indian agency had available to it.

Then the unspoken expectations reared their ugly head.  The boss did indeed want some specific things done.  And just like that, two weeks before Christmas, we were back in the demanding, unrealistic expectations of start up hell.

T was excited.  It’s fun for the person who’s part of the discussion, who gets to make choices, who sees “the vision”.  It’s not fun and exciting for the single parent trying to pull Christmas together (after four unbelievably horrible Christmases), educate the children, and keep the house from falling apart.  It’s not fun for the person who has to live with the chaos and has no choices in what’s happening.

About every third day the focus changed.  There were time zone issues that led to odd working hours/days.  A third person was brought in who also had ideas and made changes.  Everything was important.  Everything was timely.  Everything had to be done now.  Everything that was work related, that is.  Once again money was tight, family was always second, and there was no time for anything else.  And it was likely that at the end, we would once again be out of a job.

And we were.  By March we were back to freelancing.  The boss had worked hard to find a place at the company, but it felt like moving backwards and T was done being there.  We picked up a three month contract with them to clean up some projects and started talking to a new prospective employer.  T had begun the conversation around the end of January.  The work looked interesting, the employer looked honest and family-oriented, and now it was just a matter of timing.

Decisions and New Directions

For over two years I had been trying to explain my needs and feelings to T.  He cared and he tried, but he just didn’t get it.  I reached the breaking point when he was between sessions at wordcamp, told me he wanted to chat, and left me hanging while he talked to someone else.  It seems so small, but he came looking for me and just wandered off.  He kept telling me I mattered, my needs mattered, but he kept putting me second to everyone else.  It seemed that constantly someone else would come along who needed something and “couldn’t I just” change my plans and give up what I wanted to meet their needs.

And, yeah, I could.  Had been for years.  I knew it would be a part of this new journey.  We were all making sacrifices, but the balance seemed to be off.  It seemed that more and more I was making the sacrifices so everyone else could thrive.  Not only was I giving all I had, but it seemed I was only getting criticized for it.  No one commented on my successes, but everyone jumped on my failures.

Oh and I did fail.  Please do not read into this that I was the perfect martyr.  I was stressed, fatigued, and fighting hard against panic and hopelessness.  It was the perfect mix to guarantee failure and lousy parenting.

Not only was I feeling criticized for every misstep and being the source of all the problems in our family, no one understood why I felt all these things.  I tried to explain it again and again.  No one got it.  No one understood that I felt unloved and irrelevant.  They knew that wasn’t true and they didn’t know how to help me understand that.

It all created a perfectly awful situation that reached the breaking point on a Saturday afternoon in October.  I wanted to run, like a rat abandoning a sinking ship.  I wanted to just be done and make all the pain stop.

Instead, I took the rest of the day to think through what I wanted and what I needed, to sort facts from feelings and discover what the actual problems were that needed to be solved.  I looked at the truth of who we were and what we had been working toward.  Then I looked at what I wanted and what I was willing to do to obtain it.  Lastly, I thought about the children and what was best for them.  I couldn’t continue the way we were and, really, neither could they.

Sunday morning we talked.  T was still in San Francisco and wouldn’t be home for nearly a week.  As factually as I could I laid out how I felt, why I felt it, and that I had found three options for moving forward.  I was not giving him an ultimatum.  I laid out my needs and gave him options.  We didn’t make any decisions that day.  Instead, we took some time to think about it.

He came home and we talked openly and honestly.  We chose one option to start with, but the other two stayed on the table in case we couldn’t make this work.  We found some misunderstandings and sorted them out.  We decided on some changes we could make to our communication and committed to using them.  Nothing was fixed yet, but we’d picked a new path.  Once again we were working together toward a common goal.

His and Hers Perspectives

Until now, it has been surprisingly easy to sum up the journey.  I’ve tried to report facts and limit the feelings.  After all, the point is to give an overview of the path we traveled.  The analogy of a path brought to mind the similarities between our journey and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  They start in the beautiful shire, but by the end they’re hanging over the lava inside the volcano.  Like them, we started with high hopes and an idea of the difficulties ahead.  Like them, we had no way of knowing the setbacks we would face and the pain and fatigue those setbacks would cause.

We never planned to join a start up or come on board at an agency, but we were still moving forward toward our original common goal.  We were still committed to providing a new future for our family, but now we found ourselves with very different perspectives and feelings of  the events that had occurred.  Our views had begun to diverge during the start up and joining an agency only made the distance grow.

T had a remarkable ability to let the bad roll off his back and focus only on the long-term good of the decisions being made.  He could see us moving toward a better tomorrow full of possibilities.  I couldn’t do that.  All of the bad was sticking to me as if I’d been tarred and feathered.  The negatives might not be permanent, but they all had some impact on current life and that’s where my job existed.  I was responsible for keeping us alive, clean, fed, clothed, and housed.

I had a vision of the good possibilities ahead, but the future had already proven itself to be intangible and unreliable.  The good was all “ifs” and “whens”.  If’s and whens don’t pay the bills and keep shoes on the kids feet.  I was mired in the here and now.  And the here and now looked a lot like the aftermath of a tornado.  We were all battered and exhausted.  Funds were running low.  So much was broken and I couldn’t fix it.  My life was one of chronic disappointment.

Every time, and I mean every single time, I thought the bad was done something new and completely unexpected happened.  Mixed up paychecks that left funds short.  Cranky clients who had been friends for years.  Struggling to find hours when people headed off for holiday vacations.  But Christmas was coming and even though life had been rough and the last three Christmases terrible, this was surely going to be the turn around.

Instead on December 22, we ended up with a daughter with a vicious dog bite.  The dog bite, which required surgery, became a “gift” that kept on giving.  In the immediate we had a tragically wounded twelve year old and a new pile of debt because our contractor’s insurance wasn’t going to cover any of it.  Then, on Christmas Day, the furnace went out.  Merry Christmas to us.

I’d like to say that was the end, but it wasn’t.  T went full time with the agency near the end of January.  However, the pay they offered wasn’t what we thought it would be and the benefits weren’t better.  February (Valentine’s Day), we learned my father-in-laws cancer was terminal and aggressive.  By the end of April, he had passed on.

T had begun traveling for work.  We had thought I would be able to go with him, but with all the added expenses and less pay than we thought we’d have, I started making even more sacrifices for the good of the family.  None of the things I wanted were practical or necessary and without focusing on the practical and necessary, we weren’t going to make it.   The constant practicality, sacrifice, and disappointment started to swamp me.

All of the bad from the previous summer had just continued to grow and compound.  Life never evened out to give me a break.  Life never quit being oppressive and horrible.  Our life had no margin of error.  More so every day I felt like the only responsible adult in our house.  Sure Topher was there, when he wasn’t traveling, but his days were spent with his friends at work building things that people noticed and appreciated.  He had a chance to get away from all the struggles.  I was constantly fighting to make life happen and no one seemed to notice.

We tried to talk, but our vocabulary was wrong.  We had a lot more understanding than we realized, but our words, while well intended, were not communicating our message.  We tried, but ended up only creating misunderstandings and more hurt feelings.  In August we had an ugly fight that devastated me.  Any hope I had left was just gone.  I didn’t see anyway to repair all of the damage.  By the time T left for WordCamp San Francisco, I was done.  I had nothing left, no answers to any of the problems.  I’d reached the spot where I didn’t even care if he came home.

Knowledge is Power, But It’s Hard to Spend

We picked an agency that met our two most important requirements:  respecting it’s employees and having a quality group to work with and learn from.  What it did not provide were the benefits we wanted and the pay we were hoping for.  But it provided enough with the likelihood of an increase in the future and so we were willing to take education over compensation.

It wasn’t an easy choice to move from one job that barely paid the bills to another job that barely paid the bills.  This meant more long hard nights of contract work after full days for the agency.  However, sometimes what you need to move forward isn’t more money.  Sometimes it’s more knowledge.  We looked at this next step as heading back to college.  If he was going to move forward in this career, he needed to learn some new things.

This philosophy had also played a part in two big contracts that we took on.  If you don’t challenge yourself, you’ll never grow.  It was time to grow.  And, yup, it hurt.  You just can’t take on projects that you don’t know how to do without hitting stumbling blocks.  But if  you want to grow, you move outside of your comfort zone and figure out how to make it work.

Joining an agency also came with it’s own discomfort.  T was used to being an army of one.  Now he had to adjust how he worked to fit into an established group.  He was also learning new things, things that everyone he was working with already knew.  Nothing brings on feelings of inadequacy like being “the only one” who doesn’t seem to “get it.”

But with all the negative, there was also a lot of positive.  At least for T.  His new job was exciting.  He had a new group of friends.  He was being challenged by his work, but also learning new and important skills, growing his career.  However, for me, it seemed less like we were building a good life for us and more like we were building a good life for him.

These feelings had been building through the start up.  I felt like I was making all the sacrifices and T was the only one who benefited.  Every day it seemed like I gave up something I wanted and took on one more unpleasant task to make this life work.  While he was growing skills he could use anywhere, I felt unnoticed, unappreciated, and alone.

I was not making new friends.  My job was not interesting.  I was struggling to be both teacher and solo parent to our kids.   Kids who were becoming teenagers.  Like Charlie Brown at Halloween when all the other kids got candy trick-or-treating, all I got was a rock.

And it hurt so much.  I felt irrelevant to my family, devastatingly rejected by the end of the start up, and abandoned by my husband who I couldn’t talk to without so much yelling and pain.  It seemed like every decision we had made was wrong.  I was tired.  I was stressed.  I was so afraid of what might come next.  Could it get worse than this?  Yes.  Yes, it could.

 

 

Agency Shopping

September came.  We had contracts to transition to, but were still in limbo with the agency.    The agency had looked so promising, had generated so much hope, like a silver lining on an ugly situation.  It had seemed reasonable to think we would transition from one job to the next fairly seamlessly.  But there we were.  Waiting.  Wondering.  I was already struggling with feeling discarded by someone I trusted after having given so much to make the start up work.  Now this agency seemed to just be stringing us along.

Tired of waiting on seemingly empty reassurances, T did the smart thing.  He talked to his friends in the WordPress community.  A couple of really great people stepped up with encouragement and ideas.  They suggested a path he wouldn’t have taken on his own.  He didn’t feel he was “good enough,” but they encouraged him to give it a try.  We moved beyond the one initial agency that had responded right away and looked at others.

Agency shopping became a thing.  We weren’t just looking for a job.  We were looking for a place to invest ourselves, a place to settle in and stay for a while.  We didn’t need to work for someone.  Freelancing was still an option, but we were looking for something more.  So what did we want in exchange for our freedom?

We wanted to work for a team.  

The primary factor we were looking for, and our main reason for looking at agencies, was  a good group of people to work with.  T was self-taught.  He started building websites in 1996 because it was intriguing to him and, except for almost 3 years (1997-2000), he worked on his own.  He was the only guy, or the primary guy, at the corporation we left and at the start up he was the only WordPress developer.  He knew he needed other developers to help him grow his skills.

We wanted to work for someone we could trust.

It’s possible that some of the questions we asked these new agencies came across as selfish.  We wanted facts about sick days, vacation days, holidays, and advancement.  Ironically, our interest wasn’t just about what they were offering, but in making sure they’d deliver.  We wanted to know if they respected and valued their employees.  It had been too long since we’d worked anywhere that did.

We wanted to work from someone who understood that our family needed balance.  

We weren’t looking to be handed anything.  We wanted to join an agency that didn’t overwork their employees.  Too many places demand 60+ hour work weeks out of their employees and we just weren’t going to do that for someone else anymore.  We needed a break from constant demands.  Our family was worn thin.  We couldn’t handle always being on call or having every job be urgent and important.  Sure, we could be flexible.  Building things doesn’t always fit into a 40 hour work week.  But if the agency was going to ask us to give, they had to be willing to be flexible and give back.

He did his research.  We talked through the options.  Eventually, he found just the place.  An established company was growing their WordPress branch and it was a great fit.  Good benefits, the right pay, and most importantly a good environment.  By the third week of September he was under contract to hire.  In 4 months he would be full time and the future looked bright.  But doesn’t it always?

When One Door Closes…..Then What?

Last post I mentioned that our departure from the start up was sudden.  The first Monday of August T met the tech hire that he, as CTO, didn’t know they were looking for.  Tuesday at breakfast with the CEO he learned the new hire was his replacement and that he would be unemployed by the end of the month.  Needless to say, by about 11 am that day life was feeling pretty ugly.

It was a scary place to be, but also, for T primarily, it was a relief.  We joined the start up with an idea of what the atmosphere would be like.  Unfortunately, it was even worse than we thought.  As the company grew so did the demands.  Failure was not tolerated and mistakes were taken as almost a personal slight.  I can understand why Topher was glad to be done.

I was glad to see that go, too.  However, what lay ahead was terrifying for me.  Not only that, I struggle personally, for reasons I’ll probably write about someday, with feeling thrown away, excluded, not good enough.  I was devastated, but T was motivated.  By lunch he had started his search for what he would do next.  This was August 2013.

Since we had made the jump to freelancing in April 2010, the WordPress world had changed greatly.  Gone were the days when your only options were work for a corporation or work for yourself.  Agencies had begun to develop.  Not just developed, but been around long enough to have moved beyond a start up to be a stable, reliable option.  They had histories and reputations and employees with stories to tell.

That said, we didn’t just find the first position and hire on.  With freelancing still as an option, we looked through the options available.  T looked carefully at what skills he had to offer, what kind of jobs he might want to be a part of, and primarily what lifestyle would fit our family best.  We were tired of being under-appreciated.  We didn’t need to work in a hostile environment.  We were going to find a place that also met our needs.

This last was tricky.  One of the struggles we’d had at the start up was a complete lack of understanding of what kids need.  Why?  The CEO was a single guy fresh out of graduate school and had been an only child.  A lot of agencies were similar.  They had been started by people ten years younger than us who, if they had families, were, generally speaking, at a completely different stage.  We knew we needed to be cautious.  Our family was at a breaking point.  There was only so much more we could take.

I mentioned earlier that I was terrified.  I was, but maybe it was even that same day, there was a bright flash of hope.  An interview had been scheduled for just a couple of days later with a very interested agency.  I couldn’t believe it.  Had I panicked too soon?  Was it possible that only good could come from this?

The interview went great.  T was asked to do a test and he did.  That went well.  Things were looking so promising.  The transition looked so hopeful.  And then nothing.  Communication just stopped.  Our end date grew ever closer and there was nothing from this agency.  When asked, they said they were interested, but had a couple of things to take care of first.  No problem we had a few weeks.  Surely things would come together.  They knew we were a family.  They knew we needed a job.  And nothing.

 

Unexpected Gains for our Girls

It’s easy to look at the two years of the start up and wonder what good came from it, particularly for our girls.  As parents we want so much to provide a safe, comfortable world for them to grow up in.  Our time with the start up was never that.  Instead, our life was full of chaos, frustration, and the constant pressure of the next thing that HAD to be done.  What could our kids possibly gain from this?

Astonishingly much.  I’m not going to say I could see it at the time and the only goal we were focused on for their future was financial.  What they got was so much more.  (Because the reality is there haven’t been any financial benefits from the start up, yet.)

An easy benefit to see, maybe you’ve guessed already, is how to start a business.  Neither T nor I were ever interested in this.  My parents had started a business, but it wasn’t something that needed funding or a board.  At this point, if the girls want to start something, we know who to talk to and what’s involved.  We would have never guessed at any of this.

The act of starting a business and gaining funding involves a LOT of handshaking with a whole new group of people.  The girls didn’t shake any of these hands, but their dad did.  Because their dad was an honest, friendly, hardworking person, he built new relationships with people who run business.  Business the girls might want to work at one day.

What else?  They learned A LOT about conflict resolution.  As we screwed things up, we learned.  As we learned, we taught them and they got to learn at the age of 12 instead of figuring it out as adults, like we had to.  Being able to handle and resolve conflict will open doors for your future more than just about anything.  As much as it hurt to be broken people around our girls, they got to see that broken is only bad if you quit.

The girls also gained some incredible memories with their grandparents.  We weren’t able to be the parents we wanted to be.  We just didn’t have a lot left to give, but my parents did.  It was their opportunity to build solid relationships with their grandkids.  That’s a real gift.  To both of them.  Lots of kids and grandparents just don’t get that these days.

Most importantly, they gained confidence.  There’s a lot less “can’t” in their life.  When I was their age, I would never have imagined I could start a business.  That was something other people did.  Not them.  About this time they developed a plan for opening a cupcake shop.  They had it all planned out.  Or at least the start of a plan.  They’ve both moved on, but that door is wide open.  If they want to step thru, it’s there.  Because we put the pain and labor into building it.

New doors opened for us, too.  Kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.  Which one did we take and how did we get there?  Yeah, you guessed it.  Next post.

The Start Up

 

The start up was hard for everyone.  There wasn’t a person connected to us that it didn’t touch.  My parents really stepped up in a way I didn’t expect.  They’ve always loved me/us, but they aren’t always supportive and reliable. However, like with the choices to homeschool and freelance, they were all in on our move to the start up.  They offered to help me with anything around the house I needed and were willing to take some of the burden of parenting as I was doing most of it on my own.

This was a huge help.  I never really needed their help around the house, but I absolutely needed a haven for the girls to get out of the crazy.  While I know the girls felt the disappointment of having exhausted, unavailable parents, the time they spent with their grandparents created invaluable memories and helped give them more normalcy during a really chaotic time.

And we were so exhausted and unavailable.  T was working so hard to meet his commitment to the start up and to keep the bills paid with contract work.  There simply were not enough hours in the day.  By the time all the have to’s were covered, we were just exhausted.  Add to that the constant struggle to live on tightly stretched means and there was just nothing left.

There I found myself:  exhausted, unavailable husband, never enough time, never enough money, solely responsible for the welfare and education of two kids.  I just couldn’t keep the fear and doubts at bay.  And the fear and doubts just sucked the hope right out of me.

The communication problems I mentioned before really started to compound.  I reached a spot where I felt like I was standing in the middle of a hurricane constantly ducking debris.  I began to cringe every time I heard the phrase “oh, didn’t I tell you” and eventually I started to cry.

It seemed that every single day something changed, broke, was yelled about, or demanded.  I heard about all of the problems and frustrations and very little positive feedback or excitement over fixed problems.  The CEO demanded and insisted.  In the end, we weren’t the partners I was assured we would be, but were instead employees expected to perform without question.  The CEO was young and single and couldn’t understand why we weren’t as singularly focused as he was.

I was always willing to be flexible.  The start up wasn’t my choice, but if we were doing it I was going to do all I could to be supportive and make it a success.  I knew it was going to be hard.  All I asked was for the occasional break.  If you work a chunk of days in a row, then take a few days off to give us a break.  But that never happened.  Finish one urgent thing and the next thing became urgent.  All that mattered was doing and accomplishing.  And we did it.

T worked hard, but he also got “things”.  He went on trips, met with interesting people, learned new technology, grew his career, and enjoyed having a family available to him when he had time.  I began to feel like staff.  He spent time with me when he didn’t have anything else he had to do.  I washed the laundry, cleaned the house, and managed the girls, the oldest of whom was sailing into the “delightful” age of 12.  As a person, I began to feel irrelevant.  He told me how important I was and how glad he was that I was there, but all I could see was how happy he was to not have to do the menial tasks of life.

The fear grew.  I was giving up things left and right while watching him gain.  The only career I seemed to be developing was how to be a better housekeeper and I was making parenting and schooling decisions on my own all the while hoping that I wasn’t destroying my children’s lives.  And when I tried to talk to Topher, it just got worse.

Bad communication, particularly about work, took it’s toll.  I had reached a spot where it was hard to trust T anymore.  There were so many things that I thought I was told would be one way and ended up different.  Often he would say he’d be right there and I’d have to go track him down because he didn’t realize how much time had lapsed.  I was so scared and so frustrated.  The exhaustion and the emotion lead to a lot of yelling and our kids were there.  It’s a small house, where would they go.  But no matter what we worked to find a solution.  To end in a happy place.  We might be fighting, but we were fighting FOR our marriage, not to hurt each other.

Much like it began, the start up ended.  The CEO decided it was time for a technology shift and we no longer fit.  Six months earlier than we had planned and completely out of the blue we learned we would be out of a job at the end of the month.  And the CEO thought we would be thrilled.  Now we could go back to freelancing like we wanted.

He was right.  That is what we wanted.  We had already been making plans for what we would do when it was done.   In six months.  Not in three weeks.  It takes more time than that to set up contracts and have some money saved for the gap.  We did use contracts to help stay afloat, but in the end we decided to look into agency work.  This ending was so great for T.  He was free.  It really was all that we had wanted.

Sadly, I couldn’t see it that way.  I was already so overwhelmed with fear and hopelessness, that all I could see was us being thrown away.  Past experiences had created some deep insecurities regarding rejection and this brought them all to the surface.  I had to fight hard to avoid hate and I lapsed into a time of despair and mourning and self-doubt.  At the moment, it seemed that no matter how hard we worked and how logical our choices were, we were simply meant to fail.  Others could make the same choices and thrive, but not us.  We just weren’t good enough.  Add to that my deepest concern, what had we done to our children?