I checked my watch and sighed. The staff meeting was in ten minutes which meant I had 600 seconds to shake the funk I wrapped around me that morning like a shawl. I should have been ecstatic, primed and ready to let everyone know about the important client we signed the night before at dinner. It was a very big deal and the effort to bring the client into the Duncan Creative Group fold touched everyone in the office. The rush of us all working together toward a common goal, even if it was nights and weekends, and to have it culminate in a successful finish was a huge bonding experience for every person on staff. I was proud of everyone and was looking forward to sharing the story of how it all came together over ribs and cheese grits, but the heaviness I was dealing with was quenching my enthusiasm. Ellen was happy enough when I told her on the phone about our success, playing the role of supporting wife with an Oscar-worthy touch, so I couldn’t blame her. The Vice presidents were thrilled and made no effort to suppress their enthusiasm for my leadership throughout the process, so I couldn’t look to them as the root of my struggling. It was perplexing, but very real, and I needed to shed the annoying weight before I stood in front of my staff. Or at least act like it wasn’t there.
It wasn’t easy but I survived the meeting and the rest of the morning, fooling the world by acting thrilled and excited. Actually, I was thrilled and excited, just not the degree I expected. Something was tempering me emotionally and it was annoying. Wally stuck his head in my office and added to the accolades and I was relieved when he asked me to join him for lunch. I needed to get out of the office and drop the act for a few minutes.
It was cold outside so we opted to drive to Made in the Shade, a small sandwich shop a few blocks away. I stared out the window the entire ride, not offering much in the way of conversation, which Wally accepted in silence. After placing our order at the counter we found a table in the front corner of the diner. I opted for the seat against the wall so I could watch people file in and out. More staring ensued.
“Well, this may go down as one of the most exciting celebratory lunches I’ve ever experienced. You are downright bubbly!” Wally’s sarcastic tone made me smile.
“Sorry. I don’t know what the problem is. I’ve been fighting some creeping negativity all morning. It’s driving me nuts because I should be happy. I want to be happy. There’s no reason to not be happy. I just can’t pinpoint the source of the sadness so I can squash it and move on.”
“Maybe it has nothing to do with work. How are things with you and Ellen?”
“About as good as they can be living 300 miles apart from each other, her trying to find herself and me impatiently waiting for her ‘Eureka!’ moment.” I was surprised at the bitter edge that accompanied my answer.
“Sounds like we may be getting warmer.”
“That’s too easy. I know I haven’t put myself in the best situation to succeed, at least on the home front, but we talk every night and she seems to be honestly trying to get to an emotional place that allows her to join me. I get it, and I’ll admit I’m getting tired of waiting, but there has to be something more to it than that.”
“Okay, so that’s too easy. Let’s look at something else. I have a thought…” before he could finish, the voice screeched over the intercom our food pick-up numbers so he excused himself and went to retrieve our lunch. I got up to get a refill on my drink and wondered what words of wisdom Mr. Barnes had for me. I hoped it made sense; I needed some relief.
“So, you want my new theory?” Wally asked as he set down the tray that held our sandwiches.
“I think you’re suffering from a post victory letdown. You’ve been so focused on landing this account that, now that it’s over and you’ve been successful, there’s a void. The energy and creativity you put into the last few weeks was huge and, now that it’s over, it left a vacuum. It’s only natural. You can’t keep up that pace for extended periods of time, it’d kill you.”
“Okay, I’ll go along with your hypothesis, but what do I do about it? I want to get over it.”
“Oh, the next safari will come along soon enough, heck, maybe even this afternoon. You’ll find another client to pursue, another challenge at work that’ll take your undivided attention and you’ll get past the melancholy in a flash. Promise.”
I sat quietly and ate my sandwich, thinking about what Wally offered as an explanation. If it was true, it was kind of sad. The prospect that my happiness was dependent on work did not give me comfort. Of course, what else did I have at the moment? Work, phone calls home and a bare condominium. Wally seemed to read my thoughts.
“When’s the last time you saw your family in person?” Wally asked.
The question made me uncomfortable and defensive. “It’s been a while, unfortunately. This proposal has been consuming and the couple of weekends before that, things… uhm… got in the way so it didn’t work it out. It was no one’s fault, things out of our control kept happening so we had to cancel. Short answer, it’s been a month since we saw each other.” Just hearing myself give that answer made my stomach hurt.
“And you don’t think that’s a problem? C’mon, Earl, wake up. You need some face time with your family.”
“You’re right, you’re right… I’ll get started on that today.”
“See? You’ve already got a new project to work on. Feel better?”
I smiled at him and nodded my head. And I felt better.
“That sounds great. Are you sure it’s not going to interfere with work?”
I had just explained to Ellen my plan to get her to Atlanta for a visit. I surprised her with a detailed itinerary, complete with a pre-booked flight and a description of the restaurants we would visit. It was her first trip to my turf and I hadn’t given her an option whether she was coming or not. She sounded excited but, regardless if she was or not, she agreed to show up. I decided against bringing the entire family for a visit, instead focusing on my primary relationship, the one that needed the most work. Ellen and I needed some time, alone and uninterrupted, if we were going to make any progress toward our goal of being permanently together again.
This is an excerpt of a full length novel entitled “Back Again.” You can read it in it’s entirety by downloading it from here or you can keep coming back to this site and read it in chapter chunks over time. Your call but, either way, I hope you will read it and, most of all, enjoy it. And leave a comment or two. It lets me know you are out there…