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TAKING WHAT THEY GIVING
My brother and I are talking on the phone last week. It's evening but I am working, as I have been doing every evening when I don't have plans or previous commitments, for what seems like, and is, in fact, months. I'm grumpy with it and also with PMS and the fact that in the war against the inanimate, I am losing daily skirmishes—the windshield wipers on the car have, for instance, achieved strategic victories not once, but twice in the past several days. I can't remember now what day it was that we talked, as every day has blurred a bit, dull with the sameness of stress and the wet waiting for spring.

I tell him that I will most likely have to work all 4 days of my long weekend, in order to try and get out from under the mountain of work that threatens to topple over and bury me completely. He scoffs, because he, too, knows what it is like to work and work and work all day, all evening, all weekend, with the only reward or recognition your own sense of ethics. I make some flippant remark about slogging on while other 'mere mortals' enjoy their 4 days off, and he scornfully tells me that I am the mere mortal, if I must slave through my days off to catch up. This does nothing, obviously, to help the grumpiness, and after rankling for awhile under the skin, feeling that I should have had a comeback, I finally come up with one. If I am doing the work of (at the least) 2 people, then I am no mere mortal to have to work the amount of extra time that I am, in order to keep abreast of things.

And after 4 days of steady work, during which time, because of the fact that everyone else is off as well, and there are few new requests coming in, I can feel that I am actually...almost...nearly...just about...caught up, and I think it was worth it. Sort of.

There is something strange in my makeup, I think, sometimes. Here in Sweden, in fact, in all of Scandinavia, it is extraordinarily easy for people who are stressed out at work or just plain burned out, to go on paid sick leave, at the expense of the government, in order to recuperate and get their metaphorical feet back under them. I have been feeling very close to burn out for some time, with no real end in sight, but I cannot imagine just giving up and bailing out in order to unwind, de-stress or whatever. I just get grumpier and grumpier, which can't, I know, be healthy in the long run, but honestly, what alternative do I have?

I DO say no to projects. I do tell my boss that this is a huge, ongoing problem. I realize that I am not alone. But even though I don't like it very much right now, I do still love my job. I just wish it, like the weather, would lighten up.

Today it snowed and snowed and snowed but it didn't start sticking until night had fallen. All day it swirled around but only wetted things, made them damp with cold. Now the world is whitewashed, a sight I would have found great enchantment in a few months ago, but which now only makes me sigh and turn my face from the window.

Earlier this afternoon, Karin threw a huge hissy fit at being told she had to wear snowpants to go to a friends' house and stormed and whined and generally got on my last nerve in every way, and I couldn't take it and told her, short and snapping, to cut it the hell out. For awhile, she laid on the floor of the laundry room and sobbed loudly to herself about the unfairness of life and parents and when that got no reaction, she finally stomped past me and slammed into her room. Several minutes later, she came out again with a much-folded piece of paper and dropped it beside my laptop, before turning on her heel and marching back to her room (*slam*).

I picked up the notepaper and unfolded it. In English, she had written, "Hwy Why does it semm like you don't love me?" At the bottom of the page, she had written, in Swedish, "Hälsningar, Karin" which means greetings or regards.

Now, you have to understand that hissy fits are something Karin does well, with style and elaboration, and that she has been doing them for so long that all of us mostly roll our eyes or laugh at her to chivvy her out of it, or ignore her, or (especially in my case, as I have the least amount of patience in the house) lose our temper with her. I wrote on the paper, "I ALWAYS love you. It's your behavior that I don't always love." And I folded it back up and went to her room. The door was slightly ajar and I could see through the crack that she was curled up under her comforter. She peeked out and saw me and almost giggled at the grimace I was making at her and said STOP IT MAMA and thrust her head back under. I opened the door and slid the note under the edge of the covers and then I went out again and shut the door and waited.

I heard her rustling about, and after a moment I went back in and pushed her over and climbed into the bottom bunk with her, wrapping my arms tightly around her. She'd been crying and she made me tear up, too. "I ALWAYS love you, kiddo," I said. "Nothing you do could ever make me NOT love you. But I don't love the whining and fussing. Do you understand the difference?" She nodded and we talked for a bit and huggled and then it was okay again.

Finally, I sat up on the edge of the bed, and just before I stood up to go back to work in the dining room, she asked, "Did I spell everything right on the note?" so I got back in bed with her and cuddled some more.

Many Magnificent Blog-Belated Birthday-Returns of the Day to: knacke_brod, emmabovary and johann_metzger!
 tired
mood: tired
music: Nerina Pallot—Learning to Breathe


Comments
(Anonymous)

Some of my favorite moments with my daughter are after storms when we can see eye to eye again. I love that Karin asked if she spelled everything right. A future editor at practice?

Re the work - I say you have enough on your shoulders without adding guilt. Glad to hear the four days helped!

It snowed on Easter here too - but no sticking, just squalls of snow and hail interspersed with an egg hunt.

julia @ kolo

I was really proud of her for attempting to write the note in English to begin with, since she is still really unsure of herself there :) Our egg hunt was inside, and super late.

Thank you!

Oh, gosh, teary eyed near the end of this one. Today you get to share with my Mom the "best Mom ever award". Feel honored. Feel very, very honored.

Also, that strange thing in your makeup? I think that's called being an over-achieving, perfectionistic, I-am-a-special-and-unique-human-being American. It's part of our culture. They ram this "don't you ever give up and admit you're mortal" thing into you from day one. It's all pervasive through out the culture, me thinks. I struggle with it too. But I am trying to remind myself as well that I am a mere mortal. I am not a god. Dammit, even admitting it makes me twitch.

Perhaps you too would enjoy this song:

http://bezigebij.livejournal.com/179851.html?mode=reply

"Did I spell everything right on the note?"

Also, I know it will be near impossible, because apparently there is a genetic factor to this not being mortal thing - but, yes, cuddles are the only correct response to this type of question. That poor girl is going to become one of us (self demanding perfectionists) too. Please do everything in your power to make sure she is sufficiently Swedish to slack off once in a while. Though, most likely such attempts will be futile. God knows my Mom tried to achieve this and failed.

I gave up the "best mom ever award" before when I was yelling and annoyed at her, though. And I agree with you: I also think it's very much a part of my American heritage that makes me this way.

I cannot imagine just giving up and bailing out in order to unwind, de-stress or whatever. I just get grumpier and grumpier, which can't, I know, be healthy in the long run, but honestly, what alternative do I have?

you can always go postal, i guess. but that costs a great deal too for the tax payers...

you'd really want to watch that feeling of near burnout. i NEARLY got burned out 6 years ago and i still suffer mental effects. braincells don't grow on trees you know. :)

but I hear you can get them cheap on Blocket :P

This is a sweet story indeed. Since I am not a mom, I love to hear stories about my friend's kids. Thank you. :)

Sorry to hear you feel so stressed out. If you can take the sabbatical, really, it'd be good for you. During my long recuperation I have a lot of time on my hands. I truly think it has given me the chance to understand myself better. Not having to keep a schedule is wonderful. Of course I am craving work now and it's not just for the money (big, big part of it though!). But isn't that a great thing? To crave something instead of hate the thought?

You'll make the right decision. Have faith. :)
Joy

It's not a sabbatical, though. It's paid medical leave and you have to have a doctor's permission. Plus I think the guilt I'd feel at leaving my co-workers in the lurch wouldn't be very therapeutic. I'm not at that point yet, anyway :)

It's a good thing to realize, that you aren't at that place. :)
Joy

Sorry that work has been so stressful.

My 7.5 year old has written similar notes or has been known to ask me, "you really don't like me" on ocassion after she fails to get her way.

Heh! It must be a universal thing. I can remember doing similar things myself :D

Kids can cut you to the quick like no grown-up can!

I loved this post -- the perfect amount of wallowing and sentimentality for my gray and unhappy day. I'm now convinced of two things: 1) You are, of course, no mere mortal, and 2) Your children are incredibly lucky to have you as their mom. *hugs*

I bet they don't think so when I'm yelling at them! :P

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