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Head Above Water

April 19, 2013

When life gets hard, I wear more makeup. Well, when life gets normal-hard, not dead baby hard. When Teddy died, I did not care how I looked. But right now makeup is my war paint. I use it to prove that I’m professional and cool and above it all, to show that I’m coping, to keep people from feeling sorry for me. To transform myself from vulnerable to invincible. I refuse to be a wounded wildebeest right now. Instead, I will be the feisty wildebeest who will disembowel you with my horns if you try to take me down.

It occurs to me I may be a touch paranoid about my workplace, now that I’ve written that.

Also, I have an acne breakout on my chin that rivals anything I dealt with in high school. It’s hard to be cool and tough when your skin is screaming “hormonal imbalance!” at everyone who looks at you. The makeup helps with that, too, though, so maybe I’m breaking even.

Sometime this week someone was supposed to contact me to set up an interview regarding my denial of tenure and my appeal of this decision. It’s Friday now, and I’m hoping I hear from them soon. I hate this so much, and honestly, I don’t think it will go through, but I need to do it. For me, it will make the difference between letting go and giving up (thanks for your post on this, loribeth). I’m so good at blaming myself for everything, at saying “I’m sorry. I suck. You’re right, I suck. Global warming? Yep. I caused that.” And that is precisely what I need to avoid. My work was (and is) good. I met the criteria. I’m continuing to do good work. I’m an asset to the libraries and the university. This needs to be my focus, not just for any upcoming interview but for my own sanity and ability to move forward.

I’m applying for a couple of jobs, and it is both scary and fun. I like that there are possibilities. That I can imagine my life somewhere else and it’s not all (or even mostly) sad. Also, it’s a good exercise in talking yourself up. Because I am good at a lot of things, and reading sets of required and preferred qualifications for academic librarians reminds me that I’m a sought-after quantity (don’t snort – I’m boosting my confidence here). Life goes on. I hate it when people say, “Everything works out for the best,” not just because it is wrong but because it seems to come from such a privileged, smug place. But not all disappointments result in long-term sadness, and sometimes change really can be good. Moving might just be good. Shaking myself up and looking at what I really want from work, beyond stability, almost certainly is good. Of course, moving a family where two people are academics is a little bit tough, so I would have to get an awfully fine job offer to justify uprooting right now. But there happen to be a couple of awfully fine jobs out there, so who knows?

I am jealous of everyone I know who owns their own home, though. I want roots. I want my own place. I want it palpably. I look at real estate listings and quietly sniffle, and watch snatches of HGTV and wish that I were “loving or listing” it, or working on a renovation project with the property brothers. And someone needs to tell all those new home buyers on Property Virgins that whining about stainless steel appliances and dated bathroom vanities just makes them look like spoiled yuppies with messed up priorities.

Saturday night, N. was cranky with me for some reason. I was cranky right back. He got up in the middle of the night and I heard him go outside and my heart sank because I only know of one reason for him to step outside at night like that. One reason. And I had nightmares about him smoking pot again and woke up scared to death. But I couldn’t smell anything, and when I asked him about it, he looked chagrined and said, “There was a dog that wouldn’t stop yapping and I almost lost it. And then it’s owners came home.” And I believe him, and I have no reason not to – he’s been working amazingly hard at staying clean and I feel guilty for even doubting, but sheesh. And I am realizing that this fear is just part of what it is to live with someone in recovery right now. I feel a little guilty about it, but it doesn’t mean I’m a bad partner, it’s not an unreasonable reaction, and it’s one I’ll be less likely to have as the months and years move on.

April 10 was National Siblings Day here in the U.S. It’s the kind of holiday I never knew existed before Facebook. I think so much about where Teddy would fit in our family, about how much he and Bea would love each other, and it seems like spring spurs my imagination to seeing the two of them together – this little boy, his face a blur, leaning over his smaller sister, holding her hand and running to the slide, showing her a ladybug. I know it wouldn’t have been idyllic, that there would have been howling and screaming and “she broke my favorite toy!” and “he pushed me!” and “I was sitting there!” I know it would have been twice the sick days (at least) and twice the laundry and twice the mess and chaos, but I want it anyway. All of it.

Which is why, when I wear mascara, it is always, always waterproof.

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3 comments

  1. Hi. About your appeal, I’ve felt the same way about “I suck, I should have been able to do more.” But from the outside, and another way to look at it, is “It’s amazing I have been able to do as much as I have given my circumstances.” Once I’ve said that to people, they absolutely agreed.
    It can take up to a couple of years to get back to one’s previous level of performance after the loss of a child. Other institutions have given faculty tenure clock extensions in comparable circumstances.
    Really, once I could get my head around “it is amazing that I could do as much as I did” it changed a lot for me, inside. Good luck, and yay for waterproof mascara!


  2. Yes to waterproof mascara and BB cream. Sometimes it feels like the armor I put on to face the day.

    I love what you said about things NOT always working out for the best (I cringe when I hear it, even more because I used to be one of those smug morons who might have been known to SAY it–gah). But you’re right. Beauty can still come out of the muck, and disappointing situations can bring great new opportunities.

    I also loved Lori’s post on letting go vs. giving up.


  3. Thanks for the shoutout — I am glad if that article gave you any comfort. FYI, I have had more zits in my 30s & 40s (& now 50s) than I ever had as a teenager. WTF??!! :p 😉 But I agree — I find that when I’m going into an uncertain situation (a baby shower is a great example…!) it helps if I feel like I’m looking fabulous. Realistically, I know that nobody is really paying any attention to me (they’re all staring at the expectant mom’s stomach & all the presents), but it gives me more confidence to face the world.



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