I’m going back to work today. The first day back since Peter died. At 7:30ish, I’m headed out the door to start again after four weeks spent in mourning. My boss is a compassionate, understanding and flexible man. I am fortunate he has given me this time and even luckier I have him as a boss. And I like my job. I do. I work for a Fire Department and I enjoy the paperwork, the payroll, the invoices, the data entry and the dealing with the public. I like all of it. Or I did before Peter died. Though perhaps, like everything else in my life, this time it’ll be different.
I work for and with the kindest people I know. First Responders are a special breed, with a special calling, and I am honored to see them in action every day. It hit me last night, I’ll also hear all the calls coming in, calls like the Fire Responders received at 3:07 on July 1st, the day my husband was killed. Those once background noise may now be loud rock concert clamor. Like I said, this time it’ll be different.
Since I started this nightmare of a life, some well-meaning people told me I should go back to work. I needed to go back to work. “They” said work will keep me busy, take my mind off my grief, and get back into a routine. “They” come-from-a place-of-love and present valid arguments. And maybe “they” are right. Yet, today, this morning, I am reluctant to step outside this sanctuary I cocooned myself in these past four weeks.
I’m not sure if I’m ready to pay attention to rush hour traffic, let alone fight it. I’m not sure if I can plaster on a cheery face and pretend I’m okay as I force out platitudes. I wonder if the pile of paperwork waiting for me, blank memory of my passwords or the payroll will overwhelm me. Is it payroll week? I can’t even remember.
I hope I don’t forget a lot in my past work routine. It seems like a lifetime ago since I walked into work. It was an old lifetime ago. It was the lifetime I spent with Peter, before his death. It was an old lifetime where Peter and I scurried around the house, getting lunches together, nipping each other’s lips while we said good-bye and scurrying out the door. It was in the old lifetime, the last time I worked, where I received my last text from Peter telling me he checked the weather, the radar looked clear, and he was going for a ride on his day off. It came in five hours before he was killed. The weather didn’t matter.
I’m in a new lifetime now and maybe my job will not fit well into it. Not now. Not while I am still in the midst of adjusting. Not while I’m still grieving. Not while I still mourn my old lifetime and desperately try to hold onto it like the comfort of a child’s blanket. Not now while my widow’s brain can only hold so much. Not while Peter is gone from my life.
OR, maybe this new lifetime is what I need like “they” said. Maybe the glimpses of the outside world, the familiar route to work, the kind people I work with and for, the tea I drink while I work, the paperwork I have to organize, the questions I have to answer from the public, and the all the ‘good mornings’ as I walk to my desk will give me a sense of normalcy, something I’ve been missing a lifetime ago.
I don’t know. I just don’t know anything right now – how I feel leaving, how I will feel when I get there and how it will all play out. I just don’t know. As I told my children yesterday, I won’t know, until I know. Probably a decent, new mantra, in my new lifetime.