It’s interesting to me that my first blog post was one year ago today, on March 13, 2013. This is interesting to me because… well, it will make sense to you why this is interesting to me when I get further into the story.
Last winter I was wrestling with whether or not to leave my job, or, more accurately, WHEN to leave my job. I had been unhappy with the work I was doing for quite a while. As I said in one of my previous posts, it’s a fine job for the right person… I just am not that person. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t necessarily mean that you like it. And I didn’t really like the work I was doing.
Now, there are two parts of this story. The first is physical; the other is the power of the mind. It’s all about the mind-body connection, right? Isn’t everything?
When I returned to my position in September of 2012, after being away from my job for eight months and living in France for much of that, I started to have problems with my right shoulder. I don’t remember having any trauma to the shoulder. I don’t know if working on the computer, especially moving the mouse while at work caused the problem… but it definitely exacerbated the problem. To make a long story short, I had frozen shoulder. I would wake up in the night with excruciating pain; almost like what a Charlie horse in your leg feels like, only I couldn’t get easy relief. It wasn’t long till I couldn’t raise my right arm over my head. I could put it straight out in front of me, parallel to the floor, but at its worst I couldn’t go much higher than that. My physical therapist was as frustrated as I was, because never before had she worked with someone who was losing range of motion while working with her. It turns out that I started going to PT during the freezing stage; then it was frozen; and then it started a thawing phase but not until much, much later.
I have such a different understanding and empathy towards people with debilitating illnesses since that happened. When you’re in pain like that, it’s difficult to focus on anything else. Yet you look normal. You’re not on crutches, you don’t have a cast, you don’t have a bandage on your head. So no one else knows that you’re even in pain, until you wince when you move too suddenly. Or you fall to the floor in pain. And both of those things happened to me on a semi-regular basis during this.
So this was going on all winter as well. I tried cross-country skiing a few times. The first time I was able to do it. I had to be careful not to lift my right arm too high, or there would be excruciating pain. The next time I skied, I couldn’t do it. My pole was too high for what my arm could handle. This was depressing to me, because cross-country skiing, being out in the quiet woods in the early morning, watching the sunrise, feeling like you’re away from all of civilization, is one of my favorite things in the world to do.
I run with my running buddies all winter long when the conditions aren’t right for skiing. Most of the time it’s with my friend April, and sometimes it’s with various other friends, depending on their schedules and the time we’re going out in the morning. So last winter, April and I had been eying a coffee mug that was stuck in the ice just off the road, out on one of the corners of the loop that we usually do. It looked like someone had been walking their dog in the morning while drinking coffee and had set the mug down to talk to someone. In other words, the mug was just sitting there. Undamaged. Just as it would be on a kitchen table. Only it was frozen solid in the spring-like slush. There were many weeks that it was completely covered in snow. We thought that maybe a snowplow would break the mug as it was plowing the corner, or any number of other things could happen to the mug.
So we started joking that we wonder how long it will take that mug to become unfrozen. April said if it’s still there in the spring, she would take it home with her. We had a big thaw in February, and the mug was free! I asked April, “are you going to take it home now? It’s unstuck.” She replied that it wasn’t spring yet, so she would wait. I warned her that we were getting a big snowstorm the next day, and she might be taking a risk that it would be broken the next time we saw it if she didn’t take it now. She said she would take that chance.
So the big snowstorm came and again the mug was completely buried in 2-3 feet of snow; more once the snowplows went by. And again we started to look for it on our morning runs.
About a month after that big snowstorm, and with all the New England winter weather in between (snow turning to ice turning to rain and back to ice and/or snow again), we were out one morning and we saw the mug again, after weeks of being buried! This had become something to look forward to joking about on those early morning runs: Where do you think the snow will be up to today on the mug? How long do you think it will take for it to thaw completely? Do you think it will break before that happens?
So one day in the middle of March, April, Lauren, and I were out running our usual loop (that Lauren’s son dubbed The Q because from our houses it has a little tail on it, so it’s more like a Q than a loop), and we saw quite a bit of the mug. We all three decided to see if we could pull it out, like King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone. Only this was a mug. In ice. Ice both inside and outside. And it was still frozen solid. SOLID. In the ice. So that morning I told Lauren and April, “When that mug is unfrozen I’ll resign from my position!” And I said it jokingly but deep inside I hoped it to be true, although I wasn’t 100% sure I was ready for that. But really, are we ever 100% ready for anything?
Later that day I thought about that mug, and I thought, “how crazy is it that I’m deciding my future based on a mug frozen in the snow? A MUG?!!” I thought about the one-year anniversary of my mom’s death coming up in April, and I knew I would be starting my Certificate in Positive Psychology class around that anniversary… and I knew that I didn’t want to be working at the job I was at, at least not on the actual anniversary of her death. And I knew that our son and his family were going to be visiting our house in April, and I wanted to spend time with them… and I had decided to leave my job in May (I had it all planned out), anyway, so…. why wait? Why not leave earlier than I had planned?
And then I started to really look at the calendar, and I realized that if I was going to give at least a two-week notice, three if I wanted to be nice, that meant I had to give my notice soon. Like within the next day or so. And was I scared! What if I wasn’t making the right decision? What if I couldn’t make money doing work that I loved? What if I wasn’t a good coach?
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me… the time was right to leave my job. I had gotten vested; that was my main reason for staying as long as I did. There was a big project coming up in September, and if I wanted to make it right for my colleagues, I needed to either leave very soon, or stay till the end of fall semester, which meant 8-9 more months. I had already left in my mind; I didn’t want to quit and stay like so many people do…
AND my shoulder still played into the equation; it had to! I don’t think frozen shoulder just happens; I think it manifests physically for things that are going on emotionally and mentally. And that shoulder was STUCK. Frozen. It wasn’t going anywhere…
(… to be continued)