Saturday, December 05, 2009

Stuck

213.2 (<-- go figure: I ate a big, sodium-and-fat-laden takeout meal for dinner last night)

Lately I feel stuck. Although there are many good things in my life and I am able, at least on an intellectual level, to acknowledge them, I am once again feeling that I am not where I want to be in my life. For weeks, I have felt that I am suffering from a mild depression; nothing serious enough to have a significant impact on my daily life, but just feeling joyless and like I am going through the motions.

It seems to be a feature of my personality, or a recurrent theme in my life, or something, that at least every few years I find myself feeling restless and unsatisfied. In the past, this feeling has seemed to stem from external sources and situations: an unfulfilling job, a bad relationship or prolonged singlehood, lack of friends in the city where I was living. Now, from the vantage point of having nearly reached middle age (40 is only a little more than 15 months away for me), I am beginning to wonder if I am the problem. That no matter where I live, what I'm doing for a living, or who is in my life, I am going to periodically having this feeling of being stuck.

When I was just out of college, in my early 20s, I had a 2-year relationship with R. We lived together for most of our relationship, and I can truly say that he was my closest friend during that time also (and constituted the majority of my social life). Our relationship was solid and, really, the first romantic involvement I'd had up to that point which was not dysfunctional in some way. R was loving, respectful, supportive, you name it. . . an all-around great guy and great boyfriend.

Yet in spite of the stability of our relationship and R's many sterling qualities, I always knew on some level that I would not stay with him long-term, that our relationship would not lead to marriage. (Sadly, he did not know this, but that's another post.) At the time, I believed that marrying R would be "settling" because he wasn't ambitious or educated, was of average intelligence, and was content for life to simply continue as it was indefinitely. I shared none of those characteristics. We were also from vastly different backgrounds: he was Navajo and had been raised on the reservation by his non-English-speaking, traditional grandmother.

More than our superficial differences, I felt that we were mismatched on a deeper level, that he would never truly "get" me, and that if we married, I would end up dissatisfied with the direction my life had taken. R accepted me just as I was. . . which sounds like a good thing, but given the fact that *I* wasn't satisfied with myself, I thought that he would hold me back.

In the (many) years since my break-up with R, I have realized what a blessing it is to be content with your life as it is, as R was. I've realized that the problem was not him; it was me. (As a side note, I will say here that R has been happily married for over nine years to a doctor who adores him; they have two adorable little girls together, and he was a good stepdad to her now-19-year-old son.)

[Lest you begin thinking at this point that I regret not marrying R, or that I am in some way discontent in my relationship with MM, let me assure you that neither is the case. My marriage is fine. I made the best decision I could make about R at the time when I made it, and I have not regretted it. I share this story merely as an example of my pattern of dissatisfaction with the (perfectly good) things in my life.]

I am fortunate to be married to a great guy. We live in a comfortable home with two wonderful golden retrievers who bring a smile to my face every single day. We are both employed in full-time jobs with benefits and earn enough money to meet our basic needs and then some.

My parents are still living, and I have a good relationship with both of them. I have a sister and nephew whom I love, though I don't get to see them as often as I would like. My in-laws are terrific people who are completely "no drama" and have unreservedly welcomed me into the family.

I have some great friends, near and far, who are there when I need a shoulder to cry on or someone to just gab with. I am able to donate my time (and sometimes my money) to charitable causes. My health is pretty good, obesity and high blood pressure and cholesterol aside. (Yes, those are raising my risk for future disease, but luckily, they haven't caught up with me yet.)

If pinned down and asked to name the precise source(s) of my current discontent, I could come up with three things: my weight (always an issue on some level), my inability to have a baby, and my job. . . . not necessarily in that order.

I have talked about my weight on this blog ad infinitum. I am not going to beat that long-dead horse today.

I have talked less about our difficulties in having a baby. Yes, I mentioned here that I went off the pill in April 2008, but I haven't written much else on the topic. To make a long story short, we have been "trying" since that time, nearly a year and eight months now. The only thing we have to show for it is wasted time, wasted money and frustration. I had one very, very early miscarriage in August 2009, and other than that, no results whatsoever, despite the use of medical intervention.

I really don't have much more to say on this topic, and there is no advice anyone can give me that will improve that situation one iota. It is what it is.

I have occasionally written about my job here as well, specifically, my dislike of having to bill my time. I realize that this is a necessary evil of civil practice and that the only way my firm makes money is when clients pay for the time we spend working on their matters. I thought that as I gained experience in civil practice and increased my workload and responsibilities, the billable hours would come. That has been true to a certain extent, but I still find it onerous and contrary to finding a productive flow to have to track all my time, all day long, in tenth-of-an-hour increments.

Although when I was hired I was told that my monthly billing goal was a "recommendation," now because I have consistently failed to meet that goal in all but a few months, I am in a situation where my salary will be adjusted down proportionally in any month that I do not meet my target. What fun.

There are other frustrations as well. I work for four different partners, and each has a different workstyle and expects different things from me. On the plus side, they are all nice guys, not one jerk in the bunch. There are the inevitable interpersonal conflicts with some of the administrative staff in the office which I'd have no matter where I worked. None of these, in isolation, would be enough to make me want to change jobs.

The work I do is a mix of interesting and boring. On weeks when I am attending or taking a lot of depositions--and thus interacting with other people--I like my job. On weeks where the bulk of time is spent sitting at my desk, writing, reviewing documents or doing legal research, I like my job less. I am the most junior attorney in the firm, which means that I get stuck with a fair number of undesirable assignments.

I have philosophical differences with a major client of one of the partners. This client is a governmental entity, with all the expected bureaucracy and employee turnover, but more than that, my knowledge of some of its practices, gained through representing it in litigation, has made me wish we did not represent it. (I can't say more than that.)

The mild-to-moderate discontent I am currently experiencing about my job does not even approach the level of discontent I had with nursing before deciding to go to law school. In the main, I still like being a lawyer. I know that any job as a lawyer is going to involve a lot of reading, writing and research; I know that I will occasionally disagree with the philosophies and beliefs of the party I represent; I know that there is no "perfect" situation.

And yet. I miss having more personal interaction in my job, and I hate billing my time.

Where many people in my position would just suck it up and find a way to tolerate the things they didn't like, I feel almost compelled to seek out a better situation for myself. (Though given the current economy and job market, I am probably going to have to just suck it up, at least for the foreseeable future.) I'm not quite sure what might suit me better, though.

And I have to come back to my original conclusion: that it's not the job, it's me. Have I not found myself to be eventually discontented in every professional position I've ever held? The longest I have worked for any employer post-college is three years, and that was for a company that sent me on a different job assignment every 3-6 months.

Given what I now realize about myself, is it realistic to think that changing jobs is the answer?

I don't know. I hate this feeling of being stuck, though, and in the past, the only way I have found to get past it is to change some things. I don't want to change any of my relationships; I own a house and am not in a position to relocate; and I can't do anything about my lack of fertility. So what else could I change?

Oh yeah, I guess I could try working on the whole weight/health thing. 'Cause that's something I've found myself to be really successful with in the past. (I mean that sarcastically, in case you couldn't tell.)

Maybe the solution is intensive therapy (which, by the way, I can't really afford). Or finding God. Or who-knows-what.

Anyway. If you've gotten this far. . . . thanks for "listening."

2 comments:

Wyatt & Co. said...

Hey, for what it's worth, I don't think there is anything really wrong with you. You are just in a rut. Most ambitious people need for things to keep moving in a forward direction to feel satisfied. You not only feel that you aren't moving forward, you are missing something that you really want and aren't too thrilled with how you spend the vast majority of your waking hours. Not much you can do but look for a new job, hope things improve, and try to be positive.

I hope things start looking up for you. Rut plus striving for something you not only can't have right now, but have no real control over is a bummer :(

TUWABVB said...

I truly enjoyed reading this - not because I like to see you sad (obviously) but because you were able to articulate so many feelings that I have. What an insightful post! I just have to say that you have .such insight and the ability to change (as you have in the past), so I know you'll land on your feet. That being said, I think one thing this crappy economy has done for all of us is to make us grateful for what we have. That doesn't mean, however, that you can't want more.