The power of ‘No’ can be compared to a Category 5 Hurricane, blows in off warm waters leaving devastation as its calling card. Even when the word is unspoken, it echoes, bouncing through heart, soul and perhaps worse, mind brutalizing with self-doubt and ‘what if’. Self-flagellation is a terrible trap; one I think might be all too easy to fall into especially when combined with ‘No’. This is not an issue of self-pity, not at all an issue of the glass being half empty or even depression creeping in and shaking me harder than normal. Though I suspect all these things are present and accounted for in my current state of mind; no, this is simply an acknowledgment of ‘No’ and ‘What if’ being part of the echo chamber.
Truly, I don’t know why the past week has been so hard. No, that is a lie and if nothing else I shouldn’t lie to myself, I know why.
It is hard because when I look in the mirror I see me, I am not overly impressed and it hurts.
It is hard because I am frightened, it isn’t a feeling I do well.
It is hard because the sound of no, even when silent is battering what small bit of ego I have remaining.
It is hard because the sound of my own voice is the only one I hear most days.
It is hard because despite my best intentions I feel myself slipping between the cracks.
It is hard because it isn’t fair, I feel childish when I say that which simply pisses me off.
It is hard because I am full of regrets, I am afraid that is what it will be forever and ever. Amen.
My husband left me; he says it is my fault. Okay I accept that, the fault lies with me. I was not enough, I did not do enough or I changed too much, or I wanted too much or something simply wasn’t right and I didn’t add up. My pragmatic self, the part of me that wants to move forward quietly says, ‘accept, allow this to flow over and past you. It doesn’t define you.’
I am right now, right this minute defined by the pain I am feeling by the loss. I am right now, right this minute defined by the echo chamber of, ‘Not enough’.
I am not working right now. For twenty-two years, I have built a career in a field that was hard on women. I have worked my proverbial ass off. I have fought for every good reference, I have been demeaned all too often, I have been called names, I have been ignored and passed over for promotions I earned, I have earned less than my male counterparts. I have watched my industry be outsourced and in-sourced. I have been bullied more than once, with no consequence to the bully. Now, when I should be reaping the benefits of my hard work, my great references, my long hours; now I am hearing, ‘No’, more than any other word in the dictionary. Now when I want to stop travel, stop consulting, stop fighting for contracts. Now when I can make my life easier with less people to support, now ‘No’ seems to be the biggest word in the English language.
We don’t think you can make the transition.
You have too much experience.
We don’t think you will be happy taking the cut in pay.
Of course, the code is you are too old. I am only fifty-six years old; I still have many years left to go. I am still a viable human being with an active brain and much to offer. Why can’t someone, anyone just be honest? We don’t want to hire you, you don’t fit the profile of what we want sitting in our offices. You are too fat, too old, whatever it is. Just stop beating around the bush just say it.
Instead, along with ‘Not Enough’, ‘No’ screams in the echo chamber, dances through telling me I am not worthy of recognition or of value on any scale I used to measure myself against. My fear beats against my chest wall, battering me, demanding the answer to the question, ‘what if everything you did was for nothing, what if all the long days, long weeks, long hours; what if it was for nothing?’
Now, today I find myself trying to make reservations to return to Seattle for what is likely the final bedside vigil of my nemesis, my second mother. I do this not because I owe her this final courtesy, I do this because, hell because I have compassion for both her and my baby brother who I love despite his lack of understanding of why this isn’t my place. I do this because no one should pass from this earth alone. I do this because I hope someday someone will do it for me. I do this because I do not want my brother’s heart to break thinking she was alone. Yet in doing it I weep tears of frustration and yes even some fury, because he doesn’t understand why he asks much of me. He will never understand why I say to him, it isn’t my place.
So my heart cracks. My eyes leak. My fury, it seems also to be present and accounted for and the echo chamber that is my mind continues to whisper, ‘Not Enough’ and ‘No’ and even ‘What if’.