Absence Makes the Heart Grow Stronger
I am writing this at forty thousand feet. I'm sitting on a plane. This is the easy bit. I'm away.
I'm travelling for work. As you may have gathered from these blogs, I'm in a fortunate position of having quite an unconventional life-style. This was not always the case. There was a time that I worked all the hours possible. Then we had children, and then I worked less, but had to find worked which paid better. After a decade of which, I suspect that I experienced 'burn-out'. A shadow of futility encroached on my soul. My son went to boarding school. To my family's bewilderment, I left my job. I wanted a Humboldt Year*. I gave myself time off, to work my way through an existential crisis, and also play schools with my daughter and a class room of dolls, teddies, and some brightly-coloured elephants. My period of healing is sometimes interrupted by an offer of work in another country. It's too lucrative to turn down, so I'll be away for twelve days; time awkwardly positioned across two weekends. It seems rough that our son will come home for the first of those weekends, only a few hours after I have left.
A week before I leave I am inconsolable. I mooch around like an 'emo' teenager in a state of hormonal inertia. All tasks seem exhausting: tidying up the kitchen feels like enduring a marathon run; doing the laundry may as well be a hike up Everest. I am in such a state that I shut down. The thought of leaving, and time spent away makes me rage - the return of Rumpelstiltskin (see blog nine). It is easier to just do nothing; to reveal nothing; to contain everything. Showing anyone the dire blackness of this mood would unleash something terrible. It is best to keep it hidden, especially from myself.
All I can focus on is those two missed weekends, and the injustice of not being there for this precious family time. Even though it is me who is leaving, I am the one feeling abandoned. It just feels unjust. Why do I have to go? Why do I not get to spend time with my family? I know what a tantrum looks like - I live with a five year old. And inside I am having one. Of course I understand the answers to these hypophera. Why? Because I've chosen it. But this knowledge does not ease the pain, nor does it provide any illumination through what feels like a torture - an empty darkness of despair. Procrastination is the only temporary relief; it makes me feel strong - defiant. I don't complete the packing of my case and I don't fold my suits away in their carrier until I am due to leave. I don't feel all that strong or defiant, when, to finish my packing, I have to get up a five in the morning. Perhaps I could have done it the night before - that's the price we pay for a tantrum.
Then, suddenly, it's gone. The mood has dissipated. My face is no longer cramped up in anguish. I can breathe again and my thoughts are clear. I'm on the way to the airport. I enjoy the travel. The work is interesting, and my colleagues are fun. There are daily rewards. In addition to the long work days and starting at 7 am, I will also be spending some time in the 30 degree heat sitting by a pool. The food is fantastic, and desserts are in abundance - especially chocolate mousse. Contact with home will be constant - we will have a regular three-way Skype at the same time each evening.
The thought of going is debilitating, but once I've jumped over the hurdle of the departure, it's not so bad. As I have discovered, It's easier to leave than be left.
*Willhelm von Humboldt was an influential 19th century German philosopher, linguist and educationalist. He believed that our natural state of health involved autonomous productivity and creativity (Bestimmung als Mensch). If an individual was not in this state, then he believed it was the government's duty to help them to return to it. I am not receiving any governmental help in my pursuit of this quest.
Next time ... I am visited by Sigmund Freud