It feels like I haven’t seen my husband in weeks — it’s not true, but I haven’t seen much of him in a long time. His work has been… crazy. He had all of three days off in January, and February has followed course, which is exhausting for him — and, by extension, for me. And you’d think the upside of that would be that we’d be banking some big paycheques but… no.
The thing is, at the moment (at the moment? for months!), there’s just no predictability from day to day what his hours are going to be and, thus, no predictability what his weekly paycheque will be. One day can be a bumpercrop 12 hours and the next day can be a barren two. It’s literally that up and down, and we have no idea from day to the next how it will go. Whenever I hear the truck pull into the driveway, I instinctively shoot an anxious glance at the clock — is it late enough? Did he get enough hours today? Everything is depending on what time that truck comes home.
And you might think there is some plus-side to those days when he only has to work a couple of hours — I mean, he gets downtime, right? A day off, doesn’t he? — but… no. He stays at the shop waiting to see if a call comes in: there, but not paid. And the whole time, I think he’s out there working and all is well, until he comes home (what time? Oh it’s 5 — thank goodness! All is well!) and tells me, no, it was only three hours today… And my heart sinks.
But when he does get the hours — when the weather cooperates and sends frigid temperatures and ice and misery that has people running to the phones — he’s gone all hours, working to the point of utter collapse. And then getting another call at 11pm, just as we are settling down to our end-of-the-day cuppa — could he?, they ask — and he looks at me and shrugs. It’s money… it’s all money, and we have to take what blessings come however they come, so he sighs and drags himself off the couch and changes into his work clothes and heads out again. And I go up to bed alone.
So when the hours are light, I am just terrified, but when they are long, we don’t see each other for days on end, and he is exhausted, and I am lonely and taking care of the kids on my own all the day and night. And even when the hours are bang-smack on normal — when he comes home and answers my perpetual question with a smile and “eight!” — I worry that eight hours today will not be enough if the rest of the week doesn’t match. Every day, we start each day as a complete unknown and it’s been this way for months. And it’s incredibly stressful — incredibly stressful.
Just lately, everything’s been swirling about inside me — too much, too much — and I have felt so overwhelmed. It seems we’ve had one health crisis after another since the new year, and each one knocks us out for nearly a week or more, and pushes the stress levels up higher. And E1 has just gone into a new phase of “No!” that is stretching my patience past its limits. And though I appreciate my mum’s help enormously and she appreciates spending time with the girls, we have — just by necessity — ended up seeing each other nearly every day, and that is really too much for either of us. And then there is the trying to stay in the red. And those crazy hours. And it’s time for me to tackle our bloody taxes again, and there’s almost nothing on earth that gets me more panicky and overwrought than trying to work out taxes. And all this stress rouses my old friend Failure from his slumber — he’s really never far away — and he comes out cackling with fingers pointed and condemnations flying, to taunt me and poke at me and slap me and… and… what can I say to deflect it? It’s all true.
I feel so strung out, so tired, and this week it’s all just gotten on top of me. I can’t stop crying. I miss having friends nearby that I’ve known for years — the people you need round you when you’re feeling overwhelmed. And though it sounds odd to say, I miss my privacy — just the simple pleasure of going where I go and doing things the way I do them without observation. And, oh I miss my husband, I really just miss my husband — it feels like I haven’t seen him in weeks.
In the post yesterday, there was a tax bill from the county that I wasn’t expecting — it was startlingly huge and I didn’t know what was, didn’t even know what it was for. Fortunately, it turned out to be an error, but too late — I was over the edge, blindsided by a such a surprise from some entity I didn’t even know existed. It ripped the last bit of bravado from me, and left me slumped on the floor and crying, hardly able to get control over myself for the rest of the day.
But this week was turning out to be different from the rest. The hours started rolling in, like we’d never seen before. M was on call over the weekend and the calls just kept coming — he racked up three days’ worth of normal hours before the week had really even begun. And every day after followed suit — by Tuesday, he was already well over forty hours, and I was astonished to realise we were on track for a bumper paycheque that would start to make up for the difficulty of late. And boy, do we need it! The car insurance is due next month, and there’ll be another one of those panic-inducing gas bills… Oh, yes, I’ve been watching those hours clock up with a growing feeling of excitement. And poor M has been looking forward to nothing more than dragging his weary body into bed at the end of each day.
When I spoke to M last night before he headed off to night school — did I mention he fits night school in twice a week as well? — he could hear in my voice all the raw aftermath of that tax bill panic. “Sounds like it would be a good idea for me to stay home with you tomorrow.” he said gently, “What do you think?”
“NO!!!!” I panicked — had he done something? Had he taken a day off?!?!? We need him to keep going and rack up as much overtime as possible before the end of the week. We were on a roll and we need that money!
“Oh…” He had been hoping for a different answer, I could tell, and so I panicked afresh.
“Well, work’s slowed down, so they had a look at who had the most hours this week,” Oh, I see. “…and that was me, so they told me they didn’t have anything for me tomorrow, so that the other guys can get their full hours.” Yes… yes… that made sense. And it was only right — if the situation were reversed, I know I’d be grateful.
And so we had a day together today — and it was really wonderful, it really was. A quiet day together as a family — nothing particularly to do and no where to go — like we haven’t had in… well, months really. It was exactly what I needed, a balm for my anxiety that did no end of good. A quiet family day, a day with my husband, on a… Thursday.
And it will still be a better-than-normal paycheque, and for that I am very grateful. But it won’t be that bumpercrop now.
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