Re-inventing yourself

Rebooting your career after a long absence is no easy task. The word "depressing" comes to mind.

Two years ago, my 63-year-old mother-in-law moved in with us. We were one year into our marriage. She'd lost everthing: her home, her job, her memory of what she did with all her money or what city she lived in now. She was so skinny, so palid, she looked deathly ill.

Working from home as a freelance writer/editor (my business of ten years) allowed me to watch out for her as we pursued a diagnosis: stroke-based dementia from drug and alcohol abuse. She'd quit drinking, so we got her to quit smoking, too. Still, I couldn't stop resenting that she'd "given" herself an illness that now made my peaceful home into a hell-zone -- an awful perspective I never thought myself capable of, but I've come to discover it's common among caretakers.

By January 2009 it became impossible for me to work and deal with her weekly emotional outbursts of sobbing and yelling, or the biweekly visits to the emergency room for falls and urinary tract infections and pneumonia episodes. My panic attacks woke me from sleep. My heart raced for days on end. I stopped seeing friends, stopped gardening, stopped cooking for fun, stopped feeling anything but dread of her and my own home.

Eventually, the strain on our marriage became unbearable. After 8 years of living together, we were suddenly fighting over dishes, shoes not in the "shoe room", who got to decide the tv show we watched, and why we weren't sleeping in the same room. Something had to give.

To my business I waved bye-bye.

Now my MIL lives in one of the best assisted-care facilities in town and on a government program that will take care of her for the rest of her life. She's happy, well cared for, at peace with her conidition. We're finally free. Sort of.

We're not the same people we were before. We have to rediscover happiness, reninvent ourselves. But I'm rebooting my career in an economy that doesn't play by the old rules. 100 applicants for a tech-editing job I don't even want? No thanks. I can't go backwards.

This time I'm going to get it right because life is short. I'm going to do exactly what I want to do.

So I've polished one of my novels and sent it to an agent. And I'm teaching writing and editing courses monthly. And I'm blogging about misadventures in writing and editing so others can leverage my experience to advance their own careers.

I've never been happier with my career outlook.

And today, when I visit my mother-in-law and give her the $62.50 the government says she's allowed per month, and *again* explain why she can't have more money, I'll be feeling grateful. Grateful that she tore me away from work that numbed me, and grateful that now I can pursue my true calling(s).

That's one Happily Ever After I didn't expect.