Sunday, April 27, 2003

Knowing the Unknown

Big things have been happening in my life of late that challenge the idea of knowing or dealing with the unknown. The biggest one is that my mother has cancer. Ovarian cancer. I learned this a few weeks ago and after spending a day or so in a complete state of denial, I realized that not only is it real but it is happening to my mom. Since there were so many unknowns it was especially hard to wrap my mind around what this news really meant. After a week of this, she went in for surgery for the debulking procedure, the first step of her treatment. It seemed to go well and next week is her first appointment with her Oncologist to decide on the next step. I’ll be going home next weekend and hope that the not knowing will diminish through the week. I talk to mom regularly and she seems to be in good spirits. It helps with the worrying, but not enough. There are still too many questions that no one can answer. The combination of worry, fear, frustration is powerful. I knew that I’d have to deal with something like this some day; I just didn’t realize it would be happening so soon.

I figured that keeping up with the bad economy and keeping my job would be my biggest worry. So the news above has cut the additional worry that I may get laid off or “bumped” from my position. I really do like what I do. It’s still managing a computer help desk, something I’ve done for the past 9 years. I enjoy the people I support and the people I work with in my department. It’s not a high stress environment but we still have lots to do. I can put in a 40 hour work week and know that I’m doing good work that people appreciate and that makes a difference to my customers so that they can support their clients better. Sounds good, eh? Well the budget needs to be balanced and being a civil servant, that means that new people with less seniority are at risk if they end up reducing the deficit with our positions. The unknown comes in now. Our union contracts are up for negotiation. How bad the budget is might be exaggerated to get the unions to take less at the bargaining table. Or if it is really as bad as they say, I might get bumped by someone in my classification who has more seniority than I, even if they don’t have the skills to do my job. Or I might have to supervise someone who bumps one of my staff. (Really the least of my problems but a potential headache of the worst type – the type that lasts until that person retires.) How all this happens is decided by a complicated set of rules.

And as you might imagine I got both sets of bad news at around the same time. I’m fairly resigned about my job. There is only so much I can do. I have gone back to living as if I’m already unemployed in an effort to build up a little bit of a nest egg. In a moment of panic I started scanning the job boards, but soon realized that’s just adding fuel to the fire. My boss has been especially good about telling us what is happening and how we might be affected. While it’s lousy news to deliver, it’s good that we are talking about it openly. The rumor mill can demoralize anyone with the bad news, so I appreciate the effort he is making to stay on top of things as best he can.

I’ve been talking about this stuff a lot to various friends and family which help me more that I would have thought. One friend told me I seemed especially stoic considering the news. I assured her that it was just that I had reached a state of acceptance, realizing that I can’t possibly know the unknown and to get all crazy about it would make me crazy. Once I get past my most obvious issues, I found that things were going pretty well for me. I can deal with the job, I’ve been through worse and I have a better support network now than I did a year or two ago. I will do the best I can getting through my mom’s cancer. I plan on being as supportive as I can for her and know that I’ve got a great support behind me so that no one gets to go through this alone.

How are things going for you? Can I send you a hug?

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