The Exhaustion at the End of This Job

Everyday Adventures

Each day when I get home I’m exhausted. Wiped out. Wanting nothing more than quiet and maybe an early bedtime.

I don’t get that, of course, because Duncan needs to go out and I have projects to work on and I really need to be putting the word out about my availability for freelance projects and putting in resumes for jobs. I have other things I want to do, fun things like sewing some tunics for myself from my fabric stash, creating some art, or just enjoying a book.

Why am I so tired? It’s work that’s doing it, sure, but why?

Let’s take a moment to recall that I’m only working 4 days a week instead of 5. And that those days usually end around 3pm (occasionally I’ll be in the middle of something and stay until 4pm, but that hasn’t happened in a while). And while there were a few days where I was clearing out filing cabinets or moving boxes, most days are spent at my desk, clearing up a myriad of clerical loose ends.

Yesterday, for instance, I spent the majority of the day trying to set up online access to the remaining 10 vendors (things like utilities, phones, insurance, etc.). This would not normally be a big deal but things get weird when you’re dealing with business accounts and the various hoops some companies make you go through to be able to see your bills online, much less pay them. AT&T is being the biggest pain, and there’s a weird workaround I have to use for the city utilities because we have 3 accounts and only 2 of them have metered services and, therefore, are fully accessible online.

Minutia is the meat of my day.

I was talking to my friend and accountability partner of the last several (five?) years about this on Tuesday and she, bless her, understood completely. She said that she’d been with companies during shutdowns before and the transition period can definitely be emotionally exhausting. That made me feel less ridiculous and a bit reassured. Validated, even.

And then something in my head clicked:

The business is in Hospice and I’m experiencing a form of caregiver fatigue.

Am I being overly dramatic? I really don’t think so!

I mean, let’s look at it. I’ve known the company was in decline better than most and longer than everyone but the owner–generating the financial reports month after month, there was no way to avoid the truth of what was going on. The blood (cash) flows slower, the memories (clients) aren’t as clear as they used to be.

When the announcement came that we’d be closing at the end of April, that was basically a DNR. There was nothing else to be done, time to put your affairs in order. We notified our clients and vendors. The equipment was put up for sale. We started saying goodbye.

We settled into the hospice period with a skeleton crew of three, doing what needed doing as each day saw the rooms empty little by little. And we wait.

It’s an active waiting, or it has been so far. But like a patient that rallies for a time before resuming the decline, the activity is tapering off and those that are left are in a holding pattern.

Life goes on outside the patient’s room, plans are tentatively made, but everything seems to hinge on when that final breath and the uncertainty of when it will be.

Why don’t I walk away? Leave the room, step into the sunshine, clear my head, and get on with the rest of my life?

For the same reason those sitting at a patient’s bedside for weeks on end doesn’t: a sense of responsibility. There’s still a job to be done and you honor the life that is almost over by bearing witness to it. You do what needs to be done.

I’m not trying to say I’m some sort of saint for this. No, it’s a job and I’m getting paid for it. I’m not completely altruistic. But I am also the person who knows where the files go, how the system operates, and the best one to help see it through. 22 years is a long time to spend somewhere and to just walk away like it’s nothing?

That’s not how I’m wired.

Realizing the parallel between the closing of a business and the slow decline of a person is helpful, though. It gives me a frame of reference and makes sense of the otherwise inexplicable exhaustion. The situation isn’t without a dose of anxiety, either, but at least that was a tab bit more transparent in its source (seriously, I have no idea what next month is going to look like, job-wise, so, yeah).

Old, bad behaviors are surfacing due to the anxiety and the fatigue means I’m not exactly at my strongest, willpower-wise. My eating habits are ridiculous right now (I have little desire for “real food” preferring more than usual the fried, the sweet, and carby) and I constantly want to go shopping (it’s a sad twist that worry over finances triggers my desire for retail therapy).

That’s still in line with caregiver fatigue, as they spend all their time and energy caring for the dying and neglect their own living being. So now that I know what’s going on, I can work with it, around it, and through it. And I can do a better job of taking care of myself, too.

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