What can I say about anticipation?
Well first of all it depends what you are anticipating. Anticipation of a dreaded event or anxiously awaiting a special day may have similar physical and psychological symptoms. There may be the nervousness, the sleepless nights, appetite issues (both eating and not), and the unfocused energy, but ultimately dreaded anticipation and eager anticipation could not be more different. Afterall the outcome is either rewarding or difficult.
This post is about the dreaded anticipation. Knowing that a date is looming, one that you hoped would never come or one that marks an anniversary of a date you wish you could forget. This type of anticipation produces its own neurosis and this summer has been filled with that type of anticipation for me.
I recently decided to leave my job (which I thoroughly enjoy) to complete my degree and pursue my Masters. Something that my readers may think would or should be exciting, new and an anxiously awaited event. Well reader, to my surprise it was anything but. Announcing my decision to leave work and pursue my education was the first dreaded anticipation. That one admittedly was short, the decision and the announcement were only a week apart but once the announcement was made fear set it, almost immediately. Each day at work became a realization that I was even closer to my last day and that I would need to embrace a new endeavour, I was leaving something I understood and did well, this was a completely new lifestyle and my family was counting on me to be a success.
IN fact my family was putting their complete faith in me to succeed. This was not their idea, for me to return to school, I had to ask them to buy into this pursuit too.
Anticipation of my last day of work led to sleepless nights, nausea, heart burn, headaches, every physical symptom that can leave you feeling battered, bruised and doubting the initial decision to leave. Every day I wanted to throw in the towel, continue on the road I had been travelling. Stick with the job I was comfortable at, continue the role that I had started, knowing full well that this job would limit my future opportunities in my field. Anticipation was overshadowing rational thinking. Somedays it even took over for the rational side of my brain all together, leaving me bartering with myself to try to juggle a full time job, full time school, motherhood and a marriage, really who was I kidding?
As the last week of work approached I started with panic attacks, forseeing an unrealistic amount of expectations and workload looming on my desk. Whether real or fictional I began to believe that the anxiety I was feeling could be alleviated if I just decided to stay. I began to question my ability as a student, as a future social worker, even convincing myself that any education or ability that I had already obtained was all for not, because I could not do it.
And then the last day came.
I showed up to work at regular time, did my regular work, had regular conversations, maybe a couple of conversations were out of the ordinary because they were discussing my departure. Ultimately though, my day was regular. Nothing horrible happened. I went home that night and everything about that day felt the same as the day before.
Actually that is not completely true, the day did have a couple of abnormal moments. I felt some residual grief. I think I said Flynn's name in reference to one of my other boys about four times. Maybe that was because this job had so much of Flynn's life invested in it and maybe I felt like a part of me was being left behind. I did find it hard to concentrate on one thing for too long, my mind needed a break. I could also feel my emotions closer to the surface ready to spring forth if given an opportunity. It was all manageable though, I recognized that I needed to be patient with myself and allow for whatever my spirit needed that day and I got through it.
So the last dreaded anticipation surrounded the first day of school. The big unknown, the thing that I have given up so much to pursue and complete. That day was today. It started with my dog having an accident in my bedroom at 6am in the morning and I could have taken that as a sign of a bad day to come but I got up and decided that it was a good time to start my daily workout. I got that done before my boys were even out of bed. I got them off to school and before I knew it I was late leaving the house and had to change my plans to get a coffee on the way to school. Again considering that this was a dreaded day, it could have really put me in a foul mood, but I knew that I could do without until class was over and that I would feel much more confident if I was in class early.
I made it to class, with ten minutes to spare and when I looked around the classroom I realized that I did not look any different than my classmates, we were all nervously checking over our books, rearranging our pencils. That is when I appreciated this minor journey in my bigger path. I could do this, I could overcome the anxiety in anticipation and when I recognized that I began to appreciate that I had arrived. I was a student and what a powerful and motivating feeling that left me with for the remainder of today.
Anticipation is a journey that is met so many times in grief. Anticipation of a death, or of a milestone, like a birthday, due date, etc. Anticipation is overwhelming around anniversaries, especially the first after the death. I have always said that anticipation is often worse than the day and usually that is true but respecting the anticipation and honouring the emotions that follow can help in making the dreaded day what it needs to be for that person at that time.
Now I am anxiously awaiting my second day of school as a student.... for now.