The Return, Or, Saturday Morning at 11:23am


When I returned to full-time work the first time my daughter was 10, my son not quite 7. Arriving home at the end of that first day, I sat down on one of our living room chairs to call my best friend on the telephone. “How was it?” she said. “It was OK,” I said. “It was different,” I continued. “Actually, it was so different, I don’t know who lived my regular life today because I sure didn’t.”

And so it went. That life, of total absorption in the minute-by-minute heartbeats of my children, was over. Never to return. Even now I get a lump in my throat recalling their velvet skin and plush flesh. How dumpling they felt, fitted to my lap.

This week I went back to full-time work again. This time the world I’ve inhabited for the past two years continued on without me, just fine. It didn’t grow up, get sharp elbows, and go off to college all the way across America. The good part about online communities is that their interactions persist, in text, at URLs, on pages. You can catch up. I haven’t yet been able to read all the blogs I used to, but I still get the happiness of comments here, still drop in on Twitter. I’m guessing that I’ll figure out a routine to stay in touch with online friends.

And this time, the world to which I returned also felt a bit as though it had waited for me The work environment is so familiar. Like children who find Narnia at the back of the closet, except in place of snow and witches we have that special carpeting native to offices, and a badge at our waists, “Oh” we say, “Oh!”

On the other hand, I walk the streets of San Francisco as might an alien from another universe. I’ve stayed put a long time in these suburbs and cities are something else.

Do you remember, or have you heard tell of an old television show called Mork and Mindy? In which Robin Williams approached all common objects completely without assumptions? In a famous scene, Mork tosses an egg into the air saying , “Fly, be free!” I find myself noticing everything as though it’s a revelation. As though the moral equivalent of breakfast might at any minute sprout wings of liberty.

I walk to work thinking, oh look, people read their phones as they walk! Look, you can order salads from those same phones, to pick up at the local deli. Look, leopard ballet flats. Look, chain straps, tight pants. Look, 2011.

Sometimes I think, “Oh. The sky!” In San Francisco the patented California periwinkle peeks out above or between gray office buildings. It’s head-turningly vivid. Causing, apparently, the invention of compound adjectives.

So when you are 55 and still in good health, when you can walk fast, given the right shoes, the world is an astonishing and wonderful place. Even the workaday version, especially when come to new and surprised.

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38 Comments

  • 10/22/11
    11:28 am

    Reply

    Lydia said...

    I like that you are back at work – for you, and for them. I think anything that brings back or preserves a little wonder is a Good Thing. :)

  • 10/22/11
    11:45 am

    Reply

    Terri said...

    Sounds like things are going well. I too notice the world in a different way when I interact with it ON campus instead of on the computer. This past Wednesday evening before my American Lit class met, I happened to step outside my building right at sunset and discovered Maxfield Parrish lighting on a glorious maple outside.

  • 10/22/11
    12:07 pm

    Reply

    yvonne said...

    wonderful post. the world is a wonderful place. i enjoy looking at the sky, too. enjoy every day!

  • 10/22/11
    12:11 pm

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    mona said...

    Kudos to you for boldly going back into the work force! It’s frightening to think about at our age. This is an inspiring post.

  • 10/22/11
    12:17 pm

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    Marcela said...

    :))

    I am very happy for you.

  • 10/22/11
    12:48 pm

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    Jessica said...

    What a wonderful bonus for you in going back to work!It’s amazing how there’s a whole ‘nother’ world out when we step out of our regular atmosphere, I’m in awe of the same thing myself quite often. It brings the joy of discovery to the forefront as we traipse off into new environs making all so much more interesting.
    Wishing you a fantastic weekend ‘off’!
    xo J~

  • 10/22/11
    1:25 pm

    Reply

    Kerry said...

    Creating compound adjectives is the closest we 21st centuy-ers get to making up new words. I think it’s a lot of fun.

    And I am so happy you mentioned Mork and Mindy in this post, because it made me think of my dad. His name is Mark and he once was a single dude with an English Setter named Mindy, and you can guess what everyone called them when they were together.

  • 10/22/11
    1:32 pm

    Reply

    Tricia said...

    How wonderful that the ebbs and flows of our lives can be juxtaposed against varying backdrops. And how fortunate that we have been able to experience a myriad of backdrops and a revolving cast of characters along the way. Most precious, of course, are those people we drag along for the long haul, and they, us. It’s all for good, no?

  • 10/22/11
    1:37 pm

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    Mise said...

    There’s a delightful hint of joy about this post, and look! no anxiety!

  • 10/22/11
    2:16 pm

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    hostessofthehumblebungalow said...

    Oh to hear you so happy and grateful makes me smile.

  • 10/22/11
    4:10 pm

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    Anna Mavromatis said...

    Yay!!! So happy to read this; thanks for giving us a taste of your glorious new [work} reality!

  • 10/22/11
    4:30 pm

    Reply

    RoseAG said...

    Sometimes life is just good.

  • 10/22/11
    5:06 pm

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    The Preppy Princess said...

    I was doing great, merrily reading and so happy things felt good when you landed back at work, and then I read “Fly, be free!”. It made me all misty-eyed for you and everyone braving returns to places they knew.

    Sending you a smile,
    tp

  • 10/22/11
    5:49 pm

    Reply

    Susan Tiner said...

    Martin and I are very happy for you Lisa (he asked me to send his best wishes). It sounds as if this change is just what you needed and that you’re appreciating it in surprising new ways. Sometimes change can be very good.

  • 10/22/11
    6:20 pm

    Reply

    Dawn said...

    How wonderful for you! I’m glad you’re right where you belong.

    My youngest is eight, and we’ve recently had the back to work conversation. I want to feel like you do about work, but I’m just not ready yet. Can’t I just read about other people working and comment?

  • 10/22/11
    6:52 pm

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    Mags said...

    You are alive!

  • 10/22/11
    7:54 pm

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    Charlotte said...

    I don’t comment nearly often enough, but this sort of made my Internet evening. By ‘sort of,’ I mean ‘completely.’

  • 10/23/11
    5:02 am

    Reply

    Amanda said...

    I am so glad that you are enjoying yourself and that going back to work went smoothly and that you feel good in the work evironment. I loved the Narnia analogy, I love those stories, read all of the books, and when I have children, I will probably consider the names of the characters.

  • 10/23/11
    8:01 am

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    Reggie Darling said...

    Congratulations on returning to the weekday work world, and embarking on a new chapter in your life! Be sure to cut yourself some slack as you get your sea legs, and don’t feel compelled to keep up the pace of blogging that we’ve enjoyed from you heretofore. Quality is more important than quantity, as our mothers rightly said…

  • 10/23/11
    8:11 am

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    materfamilias said...

    I’m so happy your re-entry is going so well. As usual, you capture your experience so engagingly. I’m taken with those rather stark borders you describe, and I realize that I’ve never experienced that (I built up a private home-based music studio when my kids were young, so the transition was incremental. Began taking courses as they moved through high school, so also incremental. And similarly, had an overlap between grad school and teaching part-time, to where I’m at now, teaching full-time, no kids left at home). It must have been ferociously difficult! How much better this gig will be — enjoy!

  • 10/23/11
    9:27 am

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    Vix said...

    Good luck with the re-entry; sounds like it’s off to an energizing start!

    Anytime I begin a new job (and I’ve begun many) I find the first month brutally exhausting mentally and physically. As others have said, take care to pace yourself….

  • 10/23/11
    11:38 am

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    Tabitha said...

    What a beautifully written piece, life is treating you well.

  • 10/23/11
    2:19 pm

    Reply

    kathy said...

    I love that you can walk to work sometimes, sounds so appealing to me living in a very spread out Los Angeles. And the transition sounds like it’s going well. Looking forward to reading more, and again, congratulations on being back in the workforce in such a miserable economy. No small achievement.

  • 10/24/11
    6:32 am

    Reply

    ilona said...

    Lovely observations – thanks for sharing them with us.

  • 10/24/11
    8:07 am

    Reply

    Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita said...

    Sounds like you’re off to a great start. I’ve no doubt you’ll be absolutely fine. And in the meantime, where else can we enjoy glimpses of periwinkle sky AND Mork? So glad to see you posting!

  • 10/24/11
    9:37 am

    Reply

    Mary Jo said...

    Lisa, I have missed you and thanks so much for the catch-up! I am so glad to know you are liking your new world and it’s good to shake things up and leave the suburbs daily for the city (i am experiencing something very similar with my new blog which takes me out and about and interacting with people in ways I wouldn’t normally do). Anyway, congrats on this, and hope you will keep writing here when you figure out a schedule that works for you.

    xo Mary Jo

  • 10/24/11
    11:25 am

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    Troi Nelson said...

    Hey, CC buddie! I got your blog url from the parent forum on CC. I haven’t been back there in years, but someone reminded me of the time that a few of us met on Halloween night at a restaurant up in the Oakland hills…6 years ago. Time flies!

    Love your blog! I’m on blogger: http://dontstealmypen.blogspot.com/

    My kids threatened to move back home if I wrote about them, so I write about something different for each day of the week. ;o)

  • 10/24/11
    5:34 pm

    Reply

    Catherine said...

    This is my first time stopping by and it was so nice to read about your return to work AND that you’re 55. I just turned 50 and am currently unemployed but trying my best to get back to the work place.

    I loved your descriptions- even the compounded adjectives. Thank you for some lovely reading.

  • 10/24/11
    5:35 pm

    Reply

    Marilyn @ Pink Martinis and Pearls said...

    Wow, wow and wow. I do hope you are sharing your prose talents with the corporate world although selfishly, I like to think you are just sharing them with us. You are amazing but then I have already told you this and you don’t need to hear my humble revelation. :)

    There is a sense of wonder at experiencing something familiar yet different with the new technology not available the last time we ventured out. It’s incredible how life ‘as we knew it’ has changed.

    So happy to hear you are enjoying the moment(s).
    xoxo

  • 10/24/11
    7:28 pm

    Reply

    Melissa said...

    Hurrah, friend. As not at all ready as I feel about going back to work, you give me hope that one day I might stumble upon a second act. More importantly, I’m tickled that you’re enjoying yours so far.

  • 10/25/11
    4:19 am

    Reply

    Sarah (Semi Expat) said...

    Oh what a wonderful post. So very pleased that your return to work is good – a new chapter in your life, enjoy, enjoy! X

  • 10/25/11
    1:21 pm

    Reply

    Mardel said...

    I never experienced that sharp delineation of roles, or the reentry. I worked constantly until I didn’t. Now I wonder what it will be like when I do return, somehow feeling like reentry would be akin to jumping across galaxies.

  • 10/26/11
    7:52 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Lydia – Thank you. Wonder is the Best Thing:).

    Terri – Oh I love that kind of light.

    Yvonne – Thank you!

    Mona – You are welcome. It turns out not to be nearly as scary as it was 25 years ago.

    Marcela – Much appreciated.

    Jessica – I think so much of this is being reminded about new adventures.

  • 10/26/11
    7:53 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Kerry – I love the story about your dad. So cute.

    Tricia – It is all for the good. And I agree, those who have shared the whole story are particularly dear.

    Mise – No anxiety. Nervousness, but that’s different. I save my anxiety for non-special occasions.

    Hostess – Thank you so much.

    Anna – My pleasure. Thank you so much for listening.

    RoseAG – That it is. That it is.

  • 10/26/11
    7:53 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    TPP – Aw. And you know, I hadn’t even seen the metaphoric imagery until you pointed it out. Thank you.

    Susan – Oh, thank you both. Please send Martin my regards. It is so much what I needed.

    Dawn – Yes. Yes you can. Stay home for some time more. If you add value somewhere, they will take you back in a few years.

    Mags – Exactly!

    Charlotte – And your comment, sort of, completely, made my day. Thank you for any comment you ever leave, but really, just having you read is pretty damn fab.

  • 10/26/11
    7:53 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Amanda – Edmund, Peter, Lucy, and Susan? Wonderful names.

    Reggie – Thank you. And I am trying to find my blogging legs in this new routine. I appreciate the pep talk.

    Mater – I’m kind of jealous you’ve been able to overlap. It seems you must have a more consistent trajectory of self.

    Vix – The first week was like a rocket, and I did feel the need to ratchet back this week, a bit.

    Tabitha – Thank you very much, and you’re right, it is.

  • 10/26/11
    7:54 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    kathy – A lot of luck involved. And this walking bit is a great joy.

    ilona – Thank you so much for reading.

    Stephanie – Thank you. And I am determined to keep posting here.

    Mary Jo – I want to go and spend some time with your new blog. I haven’t been able to keep up reading other blogs and commenting the way I did, at least not yet. But I will try.

    Troi – Welcome from College Confidential.

  • 10/26/11
    7:54 pm

    Reply

    Lisa said...

    Catherine – Best of luck with the job search, and thank you very much for stopping by.

    Marilyn – You’ve been such a wonderful support, all along. Thank you.

    Melissa – I have absolutely no doubt that work will reach out and bring you back into its fold, if you let it.

    Sarah – Thank you!

    Mardel – Jumping across galaxies, but like a galaxy that kind of says, “Oh, hi!”

    10/28/11
    11:49 pm
    Marilyn @ Pink Martinis and Pearls said...

    Knock ’em dead, girlfriend! :)

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