These comments, and the review by his supervisor left him shaken, angry, and resentful. He was hurt by the insinuation that he was not working enough, or fast enough. We mentally reviewed the past year together, he and I; the trips out east, events, worries, scares, changes, and the tolls it took on us. Certainly from Christmas until my father's death on January 13th was the toughest, but every day leading up to that eventuality---as everyone knows who has a terminally ill family member ---is full of worry, sadness, longing, anxiety, and anticipatory grieving. This anticipatory period is draining, too, and I'd say most people, except those who have been through it or sensitive to it, wouldn't "count" that as a weight on top of every day activities. And of course, the period after the person you love dies is really hard. Duh.
For my husband, a man who has only recently come into his own emotional availability, grieving for his father-in-law has been very hard on him. To deflect the attention from himself, he will tell you that it's because he's been so worried about me, concerned for me, my weight loss, my stress, my sadness. While I know that is true, he has also begun worrying about his own parents, both still alive, and what their deaths will feel like to him.
To: Soul-less Office Hags
From: Normal Human Being, only slightly biased
Re: K's not pulling his weight
cc: Ball-less Supervisor who delivered annual review
Does it not make sense that perhaps someone who's been through the ringer over the past year might be having a tough time at work? Should he have worn a sign to remind you? Might the weight of real life slow down the daily, weekly, or annual productivity of the department's most recognized employee? Does it mean that he is just goofing off, or has a profound change temporarily altered his ability to function at the same level?
Just wondering, because, thankfully none of you has ever had the misfortune of watching and worrying as a loved one is dying slowly from a terminal disease, or have had to watch that person struggle to breathe, suffer indignities in front of your eyes, watch that person leave this life. Thank goodness you have never had to arrange a funeral, clean out the house, watch a part of your own life change forever. And just keep on pumping out your 9-5 while your spouse is 1500 miles away for four months. As if nothing has happened.
Thank you, and have a nice day.
Right? So, he's telling me about his review, and when he's done, I gently remind him that it's possible his "productivity" may have indeed dropped. This may be a just fact rather than a judgment. What would be wrong with that, considering the past year? Whose work wouldn't be affected by the year we've had? And I also said, gently, that he's experiencing grief for the first time in his life. This is Something pretty Important. I am proud that he's recognizing and allowing himself this experience. I told him, that, too. I'm glad our life together takes more of his spirit than his job. He is not only the Happy-Go-Lucky Guy everybody loves. He now has a vulnerability that is hard on him, hard won, but gives him so much more depth as a human being and as a partner.
These little lightbulbs, appearing like fireflies, keep coming. Productivity has more than one definition.