What happens after being blindsided (1/3)

It’s been two weeks and a couple of days. The first week I kept to my work routine, mostly out of shock and a fierce determination to prove to decision makers that I will remain committed to my work. Also, there’s years of experience in showing the stiff upper lip that only comes through generations of tough Irish grit.

I attended meetings where some in the room may have wondered why I would still be there. Why not? I’m still in this position until June 28th. There are projects to be done, community and art that needed advocating. I also had commitments. To my students. To the annual Bethlehem Fine Arts Festival. To my kids. I had to keep going.

On Mother’s Day, it hit me. After struggling with wind gusts for the second day of the Fine Arts Festival, I felt it coming like a bad head cold. I had to shut down my area of the festival one hour early so I could go home, drink a large gin and tonic, and begin to grieve. When my thoughts turned ugly, I turned on HBO. Game of Thrones. Silicon Valley. Veep. This Week Tonight with John Oliver. Sleep finally met me there.

Monday, I went back to routine. Skipped the early workout to drive my daughter to an orthodontist appointment, which got screwed up because they didn’t tell us it was supposed to be at a different office. Used the time to get her required library books. Back to campus to meet my research advisor. Two hours waiting at the bookstore, and the meeting ends up being cancelled. I sat there watching people moving on with their stress. I needed to go home. Back to the numbing comfort of television.

Monday afternoon became a near 24-hour stint of watching really bad television. Good Lord, I watched 50 Shades of Grey.

Why move when a cat is sleeping on your lap?
Why move when a cat is sleeping on your lap?

I plowed through Grace & Frankie on Netflix; every episode of two seasons. I hit a show hole. Started watching the ends of movies as I clicked through channels. Enough of that nonsense. I cleaned the house; did all the laundry. Ironed. My kids’. Clothes.

Pulled myself together for a late afternoon meeting on Tuesday. Thankful not just to be out of the house, but to have a purpose. And to have my thoughts valued by a respected artist and producer in our community. (I’m talking about you, RH) Thought that would give me the support to go back to work on Wednesday. Nope. I feared being in public. Something might trigger the thoughts in my head to accidentally come out of my mouth and possibly burn a bridge. My husband, the Rock (no, I’m not married to Dwayne Johnson) advised me to use my vacation time. That gave me permission to fully wallow in my sadness. Until I had to get my daughter to a harp lesson. And then attend a chaperone meeting for my kids’ band/choir trip. Pull yourself together, woman!

On Thursday, a friend texted me from the hospital asking for a visit. Then a respected colleague and friend wrote an email asking to talk about the bombshell news and to offer help in sorting out next steps. Still too fragile for public engagement. I kept thinking about Kelly Ripa’s opening monologue at her return to her show after some scuttlebutt about Michael Strahan. (I know about this because I watched it while on the treadmill two days before I was blindsided.) Even though I was numbing myself with TV, I was vetting the sadness AND collecting my thoughts before returning to work.

Friday, I finally got functional again. I had to be. How could I let my good friend be in the hospital alone when her life got turned upside down by a fall? And I had to finish some projects I promised another good friend.

I showered. I found my iPod. I got on with it.


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