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A Change Is Going To Come

September 30, 2005 | Category: In My Life

We drove home in silence.

I watched the skies out the car window. My knees up to my chest and my feet on the dashboard as he maneuvered the van through the murk of Lower Wacker. Every few feet, a crash of rain on the roof as we would be exposed to the world above.

My son was asleep in his car seat behind me. Around his wrist, a bright yellow hospital bracelet. I looked back at him often, my heart swelling in gratitude at his peaceful expression, he feverless cheeks.

Down on the car floor, my phone lit up and I ignored it. Despite being on Emergency Leave, my phone had logged over 30 incoming calls. 13 messages. My deputy had been let go due to budget concerns and my manager was attempting to fill in. I had told him a dozen times that I was not in a sitaution where I could deal with work. He kept calling.

Twenty feet outside my window, the river danced with the rain. I watched the boats push against the wind and the people rushing with umbrellas over the bridges above. The flags lining Michigan Avenue flapped and pulled violently.

In the passenger seat, I thought about my son. I thought about how he was fine. I swallowed back the terror that something truly evil was unfurling inside him. I clenched my eyes shut and prayed.

"He's going to be all right," my husband announced softly, firmly.

I nodded, and gripped his hand.

It was like a kaleidoscope, in my mind... The day I came back to Chicago. Walking into my old apartment for the first time, the creak of the wood floors. The flash of light as I was slid into the torpedo tube for my MRI when I got sick. The chalky smell of books in the room where I got my job as a corporate trainer. The feel of slippery hotel comforters in dozens of towns. The touch of CD's hand brushing mine the night we met. The dry, earnest expression of the guy who interviewed me at Mega. The moment of disbelief as I waited before walking across the backyard to get married. The stink of chlorine as I pulled myself from another set of laps. The sound of my son, alive inside me after the doctors had sadly warned me that he was probably gone.

My phone flashed again at my feet. I looked away just as the road corkscrewed up from the underground. We exited the tunnel and he flipped on the wipers. Ahead of us, a bouquet of thousands of taillights on a congested highway.

I traced my finger into the fog on my window.

I thought about the advice I'd had lately. About how, if I quit my career, I would be bereft of it. About how I'd never get back to the kind of income again, which was probably true. About the sacrifices it would mean, the struggles. About how, now that he was in full-day school, the benefits of an at-home parent were not as high as when he was a baby. I thought about never getting another emailed "attaboy". About how my personality needed challenge.

I grabbed up the phone and called my boss back. The conversation quickly disintegrated. He told me I wasn't being a team player. He fashioned an inconvenience into an emergency. Exhausted, angry, I finally hung up on him.

I rubbed the heel of my hand against my eye. Tears of confusion and frustration. Of fear. Of relief.

For an hour, we rolled towards home. For a guy who grew up in a rural world of dirt roads, my husband is an extremely skillful city driver. He gently tacked across surface streets, finally bringing us into town the back way.

The driveway was shiny and wet. The cool air burst into the van as we hopped out, moving quickly to the back. The door slid open and in a practiced, synchronized motion, he wrapped our son in a blanket and carried him away as I reached in and gathered up all our things.

I paused on the stoop, looking up at the still-green leaves of our big tree dripping with rain. The air had changed. I shook the wet off my hair as I stepped into the house.

"The weather's turned," I called, closing the door firmly behind me.

He caught my eye and nodded. "I know."

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Tagged: Corporate, Mommy, Life


Great site! I have Linked you.

Posted by: MICHAEL MANNING on October 4, 2005 08:24 PM

Glad to hear Bear is doing better. Something nasty has been going around. My niece was nearly hospitalized with the same symptoms!

About your job situation - wow - it's hard trying to pay the bills with a job you hate. I hope you are able to find another career choice that works for you! In the mean time I'll keep sending good thoughts your way!

Posted by: Rita on October 4, 2005 08:05 PM

Poor you and CD, poor Bear. I would have been terrified also. I see in your most recent entry that he is feeling a bit better and I pray this keeps up. I have no words for the work situation, I am literally shocked at their behavior. Grrrr. I suppose it makes the decision easier.

Posted by: halloweenlover on October 3, 2005 08:12 AM

You and CD and Bear will make your way. Of that, I have no doubt. I have no advice nor words of wisdom, just a hug and a shoulder.

With love,

Posted by: Margi on October 2, 2005 01:57 PM

Best of luck with Bear; I hope he is just completely well very soon, and that it isn't anything.

Congratulations on sticking up for yourself to your boss right away, especially given the other more important things you had on your mind. That takes guts, and knowing what you are worth, so that is great. He certainly deserved it.

It's amazing what they will try to get away with if we let them. (meaning, supervisors at any level...)

Posted by: Krisco on October 1, 2005 11:51 PM

Good writing. Really.

I'm a corporate mommy too and I have the same thoughts about leaving it, about never getting back to the same salary (age discrimination is just around the corner for me and I'd face that surely if I stepped out of line).

It's so hard. So hard. And even *I* am angry at your boss.

I hope the little boy is better for good.

Posted by: JustLinda on October 1, 2005 11:41 AM

Do you know what you really want from your life?

<: -) ... to Bear!

Posted by: joli on September 30, 2005 10:56 PM

Just read back over the last few entries- So sorry that Bear was sick. I know you must have been terrified. As for the career. Family first. Do what you have to do to make ends meet, but those corporate schmucks can go to hell if they can't understand what it means to have a child who is in-the-hospital-sick. Screw them.

Posted by: Lucinda on September 30, 2005 10:45 PM

My two cents about your job: I usually don't have advice about work situations, and, frankly, I prefer to listen and be the shoulder to cry on. (Which I of course is always available) but honestly, after watching you for so long, I can only say that the challenge of finding a new job/career and of managing on a smaller income cannot be as bad as continuing down the path you are on. It is taking a terrible toll on you. Sometimes taking a leap into the unknown, and doing the "unpractical" thing is the best thing you can do. You are smart, resourceful, and so in need of getting out of a toxic work environment. Once you are out, and have had a chance to decompress, you may start to see how many other great opportunities and options there really are for someone with your skill set, intelligence, ambition, and business savvy. Sure, challenging professional jobs are stressful, but what you are dealing with is insane. It takes the phrase "rat race" to a new level. I wish I could give you a step-by-step plan for taking the plunge, but I can't...that is what makes the unknown so scary. As far as being bereft of your career, I think you will find other equally compelling ways to make your life interesting. You are not a person who sits around bored, you will find ways to remain intellectually stimulated. Maybe even something more true to your soul. As far as you not getting to the same income level again, I say, also, probably true, but I think there will be other lifestyle benefits that will compensate for it. Step away from the bad boss, my friend, step away from the bad boss...
Ok, rant over. That is what I really think about your job. You have my complete support, as always, and you will find your way.

On Bear...please give him hugs and kisses from me. I am glad he is doing better. I have been very worried, he has been constantly on my mind.

On your writing....simply wonderful.

Posted by: Laura on September 30, 2005 10:02 PM

I'm so glad Bear is feeling better - how scary!

Wow, your boss sounds horrible - I'm actually kind of speechless. I certainly hope you are documenting EVERYTIHNG and plan on going to HR to report his behavior. Maybe nothing will change but at least you're doing something. You sound so strong in so many other respects. I wonder why it seems easier to continue putting up with such awfulness. I echo Jessica's thoughts - you are way too smart and hard-working to continue putting up with this situation - there ARE other jobs out there.

Posted by: A on September 30, 2005 08:20 PM

I used to think seriously about tossing my career aside for something simpler about once a year.

Now it's about once a month.

What stops me is wondering if I would be doing this for me or for them. Increasingly I think it might be better for all of us.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin on September 30, 2005 04:51 PM

What an excellent piece of writing, Elizabeth. Best wishes to Bear, and like I've said before, you will do what's right for you. Have faith in your own judgement.

Posted by: Tammy on September 30, 2005 03:40 PM

I'm so glad that Bear is ok! I'm lucky that my kids have been healthy and haven't had to be in the hospital for any emergencies but my youngest has had two surgeries and watching her recover has been among the hardest things I've done - seeing your child in a hospital bed is heart wrenching.

I cannot believe your boss! That is a HORRIBLE work environment. My boss is more understanding when I take time off to take my daughter to auditions for goodness sake! And your boss is bitching at you when your son has been in the hospital? Honey, you need to get out of there. You have skills and contacts - you're smart and hard-working. You will be fine. You don't need that job - there are other ways to make money that don't involve dealing with people like that.

Sorry - I know I'm a total stranger and shouldn't be lecturing you! I just hate when people abuse power and behave selfishly on top of it. That's what your boss is doing.

On a nicer note - I love how you described the kaleidoscope in your mind. Just beautiful writing.

Posted by: Jessica on September 30, 2005 03:00 PM

I am glad to hear your son is ok. I know that can be very scary.

I am so sorry to hear about you workplace. That really sucks. I hope things get better.

Posted by: Crystal on September 30, 2005 02:31 PM

Honestly I cannot fathom that your boss could be so heartless as to tell you that you are not being a team player when your son has been in the hospital. My situation isn't perfect and I've been close to getting called onto the carpet for too much time off (my son has physical challenges and has a lot of doctor's appointments and therapy) but my boss has never come close to being as callous as yours was. I am so sorry and I hope you can find peace soon.

P.S. I'm so glad to hear Bear is okay. I know what it feels like to have a sick child and not knowing what is wrong with him.

Posted by: Critter's Mom on September 30, 2005 01:59 PM

I love you. That is all.

Posted by: Cheryl on September 30, 2005 01:20 PM

Some of us sacrifice careers, some of us sacrifice family, some of us sacrifice ourselves...but everyone sacrifices - you just have to decide which sacrifices will get you what you really want and need.
Hope that Bear is feeling better today and the nasty fever has been banished.

Posted by: cursingmama on September 30, 2005 12:12 PM

You and Bear have been in my thoughts and my prayers. You were there last night when I stroked my daughter's forehead.

By the way, sounds like your boss needs a babysitter. Or a punch in the mouth. Whichever.

Posted by: RP on September 30, 2005 12:05 PM

Oh, I am SO happy to hear Bear is fine... Phew!

And I am SO glad to hear that you and CD are coming to terms with your decisions regarding the corporate life.

Posted by: Sol on September 30, 2005 08:27 AM