Love and work (and when it doesn’t work out)

Crossing into April, Dawn and I were getting ready to be married. But the weather had been so nice every weekend for three weekends straight, we worried our luck wouldn’t hold out. All of us met at a lodge in the mountains, at a small town called Gold Bar. We had a cookout that Friday, then the wedding the next day. It was misty-cool in the morning with light showers, but by mid-afternoon it burned off. And that night we all stayed up around the campfire singing and drinking, then said goodbye in the morning, flew to Las Vegas, rented a car, and drove several hours to Moab, Utah.

About a week before the wedding my friend Loren wrote, he said he and his wife Christine hadn’t booked a hotel yet (despite instructions we’d sent): could they stay with us a couple nights? We had a small house then, the kind of house where you’re aware of every sound, like living in a tent. We agreed, they were kind of broke. I think they even drove up from San Francisco, but at least they brought some cheese.

We agreed, but part of me resented Loren for taking those last couple nights from us before we got married, and the stress of marriage closed in that day I went to get the rings, and we sat in the grass near Green Lake, he made me laugh, and I felt comforted by one of my oldest friends, whom I’ve known since 4th grade.

And then a few years later, my mom’s difficult, Parisian neighbor Gilles wanted to track down an old ex at Berkeley (he thought he’d just fly there and look her up on campus, but needed a place to stay) — so I put him in touch with Loren, and Loren’s wife Christine — and then I got an email from Loren saying Gilles was making Christine uncomfortable walking around their small apartment with just his bath towel on, fresh out of the shower, and I had to laugh. “It was bumming Christine out,” he said.

Ten years later we returned to Gold Bar for two nights. Some people from the group photo weren’t there anymore — Dawn’s dad, her grandma, my step-father John — and some couples weren’t together, like Brad and his girlfriend, or Loren and Christine.

Mom flew in from Germany with Eberhard, about to turn 60, recently retired from the German police force, his first trip to the States. He was like a dog with his head out the window the whole time, taking pictures of everything. The first night, we walked to the lake near our house, took roadies with beer, pictures of eagles, smoked cigarettes, burned wet wood well into the night.

But though it was our 10-year anniversary, I couldn’t enjoy myself. My job had taken a bad turn, and I worried they were going to take me off the project. I’d walk by conference rooms and see my boss with his boss, imagining them talking about me. (Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.)

In a sense we tried to recreate that weekend we got married but of course, you never can. Eberhard tended the fire, and was good with the hatchet. And he didn’t have a problem using it while wearing a Speedo, smoking a cigarette. And he’d just started growing his hair out, but it was thinning up top with a gray stub of ponytail in the back.

I was there but not there, feeling sorry for myself. I took that Monday off so Eberhard, my mom and I could see Seattle. It was a beautiful spring day; we drove to Golden Gardens, a beach near Ballard. Eberhard got his feet wet in the Pacific and I took pictures I promised I’d send, but was too distracted to remember. All they wanted to do was make fires at night and drink, or barbecue. Our neighbor complained about the smoke, she said it gave her migraines.

That summer we went back to Germany and decided we’d move there in a year, take a year off. I’ve witnessed this in other people who leave a job after working there a long time, it can become an identity thing. Maybe it’s because your work relationship is like other relationships with people you’re close to, or spend a lot of time with. Sometimes you change and they don’t, or vice versa, and you don’t fit the same.

The love for a partner expressed through marriage is a life-long commitment, a vision for a love that learns to endure itself, that gets stronger under its own weight. It’s like the tall trees around our house that get bigger year by year without you noticing.

Love the work you do, and find a place that will love you while you’re doing it. Don’t expect they’ll love you back, it’s not the same kind of commitment.

Photo by Loren Chasse: found art sculpture at Brad’s cabin, Waitts Lake, Washington.



Categories: identity, Memoir

Tags: , , , , , , ,

18 replies

  1. Love this post Bill! Interesting comparison between love and work life. I have read that we spend more time interacting with our work mates than our love mates sometimes, so no wonder that when it ends, we feel rejected and a little lost too. Have a great day Bill!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ilona! Happy Easter and thanks for the nice note; you’re right about the work thing and all the more reason to love it. Peace to you and yours on this rainy spring day in the PNW. Bill


  2. Very absorbing post, and it introduced a really novel idea to me – – despite spending a lot of time analyzing jobs, careers, work, workplace interactions, team-building, coworkers, styles of management, office dynamics, etc. I realize I’ve never once thought of The Job as a relationship in itself.
    Difficult to synthesize all the components – -the duties you perform, stuff you’re learning or teaching, people you report to, people you work with, people you’ve never met face-to-face and only know through email, etc. but there is a definite environment, or habitat, whatever you want to call it, and the at some point, you distill the group dynamic/tasks performed, and decide if you want to “partner” with this and entity.
    Wow, that’s a bit long and incoherent, but we spend so many hours of our life, it’s valuable to think it through. Happy Spring, we’re actually seeing the SUN here – many denizens are yelling in alarm, shielding their eyes, and scuttling for the subway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • King comment and philosopher Parker, thank you for the continued thoughtful remarks. The Job is a complex thing innit? I hope your relatively new one is working out well, and you’re enjoying Boston. You must! If not for that Scottish-inspired soup, the Cullen skink I think it’s called? Cheers to you and yours my friend. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I find myself thinking a lot these days about over-identifying with one’s work, whether it be the product of that work or one’s place in a hierarchy. In this country we seem to do that quite a lot, which is why job loss or change can feel like the ground shifting underneath us. I’m still drifting, briefly attaching to things and then running away. An inability to commit for fear of subsequent failure. Sounds like a relationship issue, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes the rat hole of work and identity. And it’s cultural, too. I’ve come to a new place that’s good, and better. I liked your piece a lot today. And you sound great. Frohe Oster, meine freunde. I’m sure I misspelled that by you get the drift. Bill


      • I’m glad that you are happier in your workplace – that’s got to be a good feeling. Now that I’m finally getting the groove of working at home, feeling gratitude for the resources, becoming a little more professional, and playing the doomed Hausfrau a little less (self-pity and shame are a toxic combo), I feel optimistic about the road I’m on.

        Happy Easter to you as well, Bill!

        Liked by 1 person

      • And god bless you for the sax.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Love the image of Eberhard with his snout out the window! “Sometimes you change and they don’t, or vice versa, and you don’t fit the same.” Very true. Going through that myself right about now.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. during different phases of my life, i’ve had different jobs/careers and loved most everyone of them, in its own way. now i sound like willie nelson song.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Like Robert said, it’s fascinating to think of your work and workplace as relationships, but you point out that they’re one-way relationships. Like a relationship with nature, sort of. Nature doesn’t know you love her.

    I’ve been working from home for so long now I think I wouldn’t be a very good partner for an outside workplace anymore!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love working from home, never thought I would. I also miss the vibe of the office, when there’s a good energy there. You sure feel it when there’s not. Here’s to spring! To loving nature and not expecting her to love us back 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Old friendships have a certain character too, don’t they? Someone we know well enough to step around their smelly droppings and trust enough to believe they’ll do the same.

    Some different scents in this one, Bill. More filling out, more direct commentary, even an exhortation. Less shadow. Makes me wonder about your wondering about your readership and how it might change, like a job.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gosh, frightening level of readerly insight there Bruce. Made me look over my shoulder just now, you did. Less shadow! Ack! I live in the dark, I refuse to renounce that! Shadow makes everything look bigger, more mysterious dunnit?! Thanks for reading, reader. Oh the wondering…no end of material there for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Have a glass of red, mate. I hope engaging at a slightly deeper level is OK. Sometimes (though much less often here than the small number of other blogs I visit regularly) the fatuousness of commentary makes me want to scream. And they are just MY comments!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Always OK and helps me keep things real. Which is hard at times…not sure I’ve got the nature of this down pat, so to speak. The fatuousness of commentary indeed. Thanks for visiting regularly, by the by.

        Liked by 1 person

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