Sunday, January 28, 2007

Thawed Out But Still Behind

Once you get behind, it certainly is hard to get caught up again. The power outage of two weeks ago took a big toll in almost every part of our life here, my writing included. As I described a few days later, we eventually got our power back and began to put everything back in place.

However, I was not really able to get back into my normal pace once power returned. I'm not complaining, though, since the reason was that I started a new part-time job, something that my family and I are very happy about.

I haven't worked since March 11, 2005 when I went on medical leave to deal with multiple myeloma. During the intervening months since then, my employer decided that they didn't need my position any more and terminated me in absentia. Their reasoning in that decision was quite faulty, in my opinion, but perhaps it's just as well. The company has continued to do poorly under that same management, and it doesn't look like it will survive long anyway.

Since I was terminated, I have been able to continue my family's healthcare coverage using a COBRA extension. This allowed us to get the same coverage by paying the insurance premiums ourselves. However, doing so is almost prohibitively expensive. Our coverage currently costs over $11oo/month. Worse, one can use a COBRA extension for only 18 months. One way or the other, I knew that I was working with a limited amount of time to find an alternate means to provide healthcare insurance.

My new employer made me a very generous offer that allows me to work at a reduced pace, yet maintain decent healthcare insurance. Moreover, the work itself will be quite interesting, and I should be able to make a useful contribution. Another bonus is that I'll be working with some old friends, whom I have collaborated with a number of times over the past 15 years or so.

I started this new position on January 22, 2007, and I have been quite busy ever since then. There has been the usual bit of administrivia, filling out a seemingly endless number of forms, all asking for slightly different variations of the same information. There has also been a fair amount of computer setup, trying to get my laptop properly configured to work both inside the corporate firewall, and through a VPN connection from home. And of course, I've been trying to learn more about the tasks at hand.

My first project involves my becoming very conversant with a scientific programming language called Interactive Data Language (IDL), which is a quasi-descendant of the venerable Fortran (a language I first used in 1968). My new employer has built up a large body of legacy IDL code that needs to be re-organized and cast into a more readily usable form. I've always said that I'm really a frustrated librarian, so I expect that I'll be able to do some good here.

I find blogging to be therapeutic, so I have really missed my regular writing times. I'll be trying to re-balance my schedule so that I can get back to those. I'm glad that I'm only working part-time. One of my frustrations these past few months is the realization at how much more 'inefficient' my life is now. Everything I do seems to take longer than it used to. Although I am in remission, I still have a large number of medically related tasks that take up significant parts of the day. Also, I need more sleep than I used to be able to get by with. Finally, I am just plain slower than I used to be. Every activity, from eating to walking down a hall, I now have to do at half the speed I used to be able to manage. On off days, I'm even slower than that. I guess I'm supposed to learn patience from this. So will everyone else, if they are waiting on me. My brain still seems to be working at close to normal speed most of the time, so I'm hoping that I can learn a style of working that makes better use of thinking and less of moving.


JimC said...

Bill, I'm very happy to hear you are able to get back to work. Of all the various signposts on the road to full recovery from the illness this has to be one of the last. When I read your email on your website in 2005 in which you announced you were leaving work it seemed like the most momentous signal of how seriously ill you were. When I read now that you are back to work it seems like the most momentous signal of how seriously well you are. Congratulations!

Wile E Quixote said...

Thanks! There certainly were times two years ago when I had sincere doubts that I would ever work again, or even that I would live long enough to worry about it. By a year ago, I was pretty sure that I would live for a while longer, but was not at all sure that I would really be able to work. So it is with great satisfaction that I was able to report that I am in fact working. Moreover, I'm actually making a decent amount of money and getting the healthcare benefits that we knew we would need for the long haul.