Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Another inconvenient death.

I recently mentioned that I had a bunch of stories in my back pocket that were aging so that they wouldn't be quite as fresh in the memories of others. This is one of them.

A long time ago, I wrote about inconvenient deaths and fieldwork.

Sometimes life happens and you wriggle out of what you were doing to take care of it. Sometimes life happens and it's not that easy.

When my favorite person died, I was in the field. I couldn't just drop everything and go, because we were in the middle of nowhere and there was one truck. I may have tried to make other arrangements, but we only had one day left (I got the phone call at night after I got back from the hotel), so we were checking out anyway.

So there I was, trapped with a bunch of balky equipment and a long day in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of coworkers, and all I wanted to do was get the hell out of there and go home. But the best way to get out was to finish the job. I asked my coworkers to ignore me as much as possible, took the sampling locations that were as far as possible away from other people/bystanders, and spent the entire day snuffling over the equipment. I was a wreck. Part of my distress was that I'd realized that I'd been somewhat cavalier about going back for visits, because I didn't think that GF could go downhill that quickly after being sick and then mostly better for so long. 

We'd had a short week, so I had office work planned for the day after we got back. That following morning, I showed up in all black, announced that I was leaving for a wake that afternoon in x state, and hit the road without giving anybody at work a chance to do anything about it. I pretty much cried the entire way there. But I did make the afternoon wake.

The whole episode - the death, the fieldwork, the run back for the wake - crystallized for me the realization that I did have limits, that I wasn't going to sacrifice my most important relationships for a job, even during a lousy local recession. After the funeral, I took a hard look at what I was doing, my finances, and where I wanted to be in life. And I made some pretty drastic changes (not at once, but over a couple of years) to get back to a work/life balance I could live with. It's been working out so far.

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