by Debra Dolan
Today is an anniversary date difficult to grasp. It was two years ago that I left the office saying, “See you on Thursday”, and have yet to return. After struggling for several weeks on a reduced schedule I was placed on immediate full medical leave. With employment as a priority, after the accident, I realized that all I had been doing was recovering from one day in the office till the next. Pretending was exhausting and only exasperated symptoms. Now after nearly forty years of always “effortlessly, it seemed” having a job, there does not feel like one is possible to return to.
Working has never been the centre of my life yet it has always been a very important aspect of it and I have poured energy, intelligence, candor, diligence and true self into diversified positions. Employment ensured purpose, routine, socialness and financial stability.
In the beginning, at home, I would gaze at all the busy people in my neighbourhood and among my cherished friendships with envy, desiring to join in again. I imagined that all I wanted was to be back where I used to be, but something in my head recently seems to have moved on a bit, a shift has occurred, and however much I am longing to feel my purpose and power again, it doesn’t feel possible returning to who I once was. I recognize that I have been waiting for my blessed pre-injury life to return. Now I understand it is unlikely and to move forward, not look back, in a new direction.
A few months ago, the personal contents of my desk arrived in a cardboard box; plastic spoons and all. I was shocked with how sad and demoralized I felt as I opened it alone and how literal a co-worker had undertaken the task. It had, after all, been 17 months since I was last physically present at the office. As the pitiful domesticity of my working life was placed on a beloved farmhouse table I wondered who had been designated the task. Were they stricken and sympathetic or mildly gleeful? There was no note.
Reflecting upon those raw feelings, I recognized there was never an opportunity for business goodbyes and that upset me tremendously given how much I had enjoyed my position and colleagues. Using the sorrowful unpacking emotion as a catalyst I found a larger cardboard box and with the same efficiency packed for donation all the business clothes I no longer identified with or had not worn for two winters. I spread them all over the bed and the floor. Skirt suits and trouser suits, coats, shoes, bags, scarves and coats, and all, I am proud to write immaculately kept. There were no descending hems or missed buttons and all items were freshly washed or dry-cleaned waiting recovery. As I placed them into their new temporary home I felt elated knowing another woman will have the same sense of independence and confidence that I had experienced wearing them.
Debra Dolan lives on the west coast of Canada, is a long time (45+ years) private journal writer, and an avid reader of women’s memoir. She has been a member of Story Circle Network since 2009.