The motivations of a ghost


West coast of Ireland, 2009

When I took my first sabbatical in 2009, I left in July and came back mid-November. With the way it worked, you could go for up to six months and return to your old position but after that, and up to a year, you had to work your way into something comparable by applying, with no guarantee, which seemed like too much stress and ran counter to the feeling of letting go I wanted. So I opted for 4.5 months — July for backpacking, three months in Europe, a couple weeks at the end in the States. On my first day back I had a blow-out on the interstate and had to wait a good hour for the tow truck, and stand there on the shoulder watching how fast people drive, a Monday morning in mid-November with all that rain: the time in Seattle it really earns its bad weather reputation and deserves it.

When I got into the office my socks were wet and I was late, which looked bad returning from sabbatical, but I learned I’d be leading the same project I had when I left, they just doubled the goal and kept the name the same: a name I worked hard to change but couldn’t, also the name of a popular female contraceptive, a day-after pill, pointed out by some women on the project who suggested we rethink it: and when I left that group several months later to join another, I learned they had a project with that name too but it meant something different (and equally ominous), a business decision meant to go away quickly and quietly.

I accepted an offer for the new job in April but it was the same day Dawn found a house she was really excited about and so we drew up an offer of our own, which over-shadowed the news about my new job but didn’t matter, and when we arrived at the house for the first time I watched the kids run to the swings and decided I’d take a picture of the look on Charlotte’s face and try to save that in my mind forever, it felt like something worth saving.

They welcomed me in the new workgroup ad nauseam, which was really nice but grew tiresome it was so nice, and there was a house plant and card everyone signed, a detailed immersion binder, and after a month or so of this I got two new projects, held a kick-off meeting in late August but it was hard to get everyone together at that time of year with all the vacations, there were 20-some people and I hadn’t taken enough time with my business owner beforehand so that took up more of the meeting than it should have, her wrapping her head around the project — and though I’d led a coffee tasting and paired it with some really nice cheese, at the end of it I hadn’t met my objectives, which my boss pointed out nicely but it stung, and I guess for about four years I went back and forth trying to decide if I was in the right place, an arm wrestle in my head I couldn’t seem to win, trusting other people’s perceptions over my own.

By my standards I didn’t do as well on those first two projects as I should have, so I volunteered for a third one thinking maybe it was the projects that were flawed, not me — and it was my work on that one that got me nominated for a fourth, which was bigger than all of them combined, so I went on that project 100% but it was like the emperor’s new clothes, I couldn’t figure out why I was on it even though everyone else seemed to know, and this went on for about two years until I rolled off, and needed some rebound projects to flush the last one out of my system, to clear the air.

As it drew down to the end I wrote a few blog posts to capture how badly I felt, the conflict I had not being present with my family, acting distracted and unhappy, probably not worth being around anyway. I realize now why it was so hard for me to connect to anything because I’d lost the connection with myself, I had to relearn the lesson that so much of who we are is what we do.

I was somewhere very far away in a hammock in a breeze when my body jerked and I realized I’d been dreaming, that way the body jerks like it’s trying to catch itself from falling, trying to save itself from being taken away at the last minute.

I was circling the stairwell in a parking garage either going up or down I couldn’t tell, and the dream narrator (who never talks, doesn’t have to) let me know it was my old workplace, which meant I needed my security badge but it didn’t work anymore, I had no business being there now — these scenes from dreams like the script for a ghost, half-hearted performances, but strangely resemble our waking lives, our going through the motions, trying to find or mend something we can’t, trapped in time, unable to move on, fixed on a life only partly remembered in the past.

In the hammock in the breeze the way the sun lights the leaves and makes a swishing sound back and forth, I thought how perfect all this could be, if only for how I see things.


Categories: musings, travel, writing

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

23 replies

  1. So much of this reminds me of what I’ve been thinking about this summer, that ongoing struggle of perspective. I know I have everything I need in he present moment, but still the mind wanders backwards and forward. Both directions rarely bring anything but anxiety. In the hammock, though, with the breeze and sunlight? That sounds pretty perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Forever Jung.
    Actually I have only the most superficial understanding of Jung, but as far as dreams go, there’s something uncanny in virtually everyone having the same sorts of dreams. I guess we all share similar anxieties. Or brain chemistry. Did primitive man dream of needing to hunt and gather but being blocked by falling boulders?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s cute there, Karl (my middle name). Yeah, primitive man dreamt of parking garages he’d one day get to build so he could work inside where it was safe from falling rock. That dream about falling I read somewhere has to do with the soul wandering in sleep, and the sensation of jerking awake is it landing back inside the body. Buy it? If you do, I have some services we could talk about too.


      • I fell the other night. Diving into a pool, people below doing a Busby Berkley thing in the water, but they wouldn’t get out of the way. I veered and crashed into the land. I didn’t wake up. Aren’t I supposed to be dead now?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I had a dream I died but it was figurative, so sadly prophetic. Drowned in my own fears. Dreams are pretty wacky. REM song just on now from 89, the song “wake up”: “sleep delays my life … Dreams they complicate my life” Fun stuff. Time to go work out and wake up for real, that looking in the mirror thing —


      • Funny. Jungy. Lost my copy of that album years ago. Have a grand day.


      • And you, thanks.


  3. I’m probably personalizing this a bit but after my month of travels I find myself thinking about how short life is, how we spend so much time trying to figure it all out, and how time will erase so much of whatever I do accomplish.


  4. That turned out more depressing than I intended…finding happiness in the moments is what I wanted to get to before my finger hit the reply button.


    • No, I’m glad you personalized it and don’t worry about depressing with me. I share that view about time erasing things, makes me think of the tide combing the shores, restoring everything to how it looked before: grim or comforting, depending on your POV. I am trying to connect with people in hopes they share similar experiences, so I’m glad you personalized it and it made you reflect Jon, thanks. Enjoy your time there, and we’ll look forward to having you back here in the PNW.


  5. Parking garage ramp as M. C. Escher no-escape illusion. Shoot, I have a feeling I know what I’m gonna dream about tonight!


  6. Reblogged this on omigacouk and commented:
    I find your flow of thoughts interesting and entertaining. Your thoughts wet one’s appetite for writing.


  7. it’s all in the moments


  8. And I was thinking I was reading a nice retrospective with a key reminder, then suddenly I got lost in a dream.

    I don’t really remember my dreams; maybe if I made the effort to write them down immediately after, when only half awake I might keep a snippet or two, but once I wake up – poof – they disappear like ghosts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Dave– yes, that became a mash-up of a couple blog drafts I had and wanted to see how well they’d blend, you saw the seam clever reader! Thank you for sharing, I still have some reminders in there too. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Nice, very very good….I Inspired….
    Visit to my blog-: and give your valuable comments and likes, don’t forget to follow……..


Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: