It was no great secret that at the time I did not enjoy my job. In an informal appraisal session before leaving for a paternity leave I had never expected I was dutifully asked about any development opportunities I wanted to take.
I asked that I could have time to attend sniper training so when I eventually ended up at the top of a clock tower then I would be able to do the job effectively without all those messy misses you get with *dismissive wave of hand* amateurs.
They took it in the spirt it was intended but my dark humour barely masked how unhappy I was in my job.
This unhappiness was a piffling trifle compared to what followed. I remember phoning work and telling my then boss I would not be in as I would be taking paternity leave just not in the way I had hoped.
Very slowly my work inbox filled with messages of condolences and then just as slowly they dried up as the weeks went on. We had flowers and donations and despite my grumpiness and ranty post these small gestures were appreciated.
Eventually it came time to return. Prior to fully returning I had a catch up meeting with my manager where we talked about general approach and I gave him a copy of the Sands guide for employers.
So far so good. Return to work was a jarring experience. It was probably the longest I’d been apart from my wife in 7 weeks and commuting again was as fun as it had ever been.
It’s the return that really rams home the truth that as much as you want the world to stop and acknowledge your loss, that horrible howling black hole that suckling the light from your eyes draining joy wherever it may have the temerity to raise its stupid grinning head, the world doesn’t care.
I keep my head down lost in a fog when commuting so why should I expect special treatment from strangers on a train? Why should the world care? Each and every one of us has a maelstrom of woes that no one knows about.
*Stomp stomp stomp*
Anyway back at the office I return to…um…the office. I walk to my desk past bank upon bank of people that barely register my presence. Muted apologies are mumbled, offers of non-specific help made and then.
I may be being unfair. My recollections are clearly biased by my dislike of my then job that I paint it all black ignoring the people that I didn’t expect to show compassion and kindness taking the time to talk and make sure I was looked after and only remembering the hurt of those that I had expected to offer comfort giving nothing.
I am being unfair.
Let’s go for a walk around the office and bump into the poor unfortunates that didn’t get the SAD NEWS email and are about to open their mouth to ask me how paternity leave was and give a knowing and cheeky wink about all that sleep I must be missing. The moment of horror when it starts to dawn on them that parents with happy healthy babies don’t go that colour when asked about their bundles of joy. Something must be OH GOD WHAT HAVE I SAID. Usually followed by me apologising to them for this tricky social conundrum. We’d only ever exchanged pleasantries up until now and now it’s just gone into some very weird territory and neither of us quite know how to escape is that the time wow I must be going that meeting won’t chair itself you look after yourself and again so sorry bye.
Each time it happens the strategy starts to shift. Pre-emptive strike! Inappropriate humour! Downplaying! Outright filthy, filthy lies or evasion.
Each time it means reliving the recent past still so raw so fresh and painful and *recurring theme klaxon* tailoring my language to avoid upsetting others.
Then I moved jobs. I told very few people about the boys. I didn’t want that to be the only thing people knew about when I joined. Instead I took my time, waited to sound out those I could trust and then had the talk. Sometimes casually dropped in passing or in a quiet room during the harder times.
Things got better. I have good friends.