why hating work is useful

I was glad to be back to steady work. Steady work is steady money, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean the feeling of loathing that washed over me – here I am again, everything looks the same, everyone is the same, even if they’re not.

I know that’s not really clear, not the way I mean it to be, at least. 

There’s a chance to find yourself in work, especially in work that you dislike. There’s a framework imposed upon you, and you’re forced to create yourself inside it. Now of course I’m not advocating that everyone go out and find soul-crushing employment. Nor am I saying that people who are really really happy with their jobs are missing out on something. I guess what I’m saying – what I’m trying to say, rather – is that there’s a certain unpleasantness inherent in life, like chores. Like wiping runny noses or poopy butts, like bleaching the toilet bowl or cleaning out the bits of half-chewed food at the bottom of the sink. There are those things, then there’s getting terrible news – a teacher is quitting! A parent has decided to find his/herself and has abandoned the rest of the family! The latest guinea pig has gone to heaven and the pet store is going to close in ten minutes! The inspectors are here! 

And in those moments, the terrible as well as the mundane, I learn more about myself (and sometimes those around me) that I ever did meditating, as good and head-clearing as that was, or traveling, as amazing and eye-opening as that was.

So I walked in the door, hung up my car keys and old bag on the same hook, put on the same old name tag, and thought I hate working. Isn’t it great?

 

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on vacation

I could live on vacation forever – I mean, if there were a way to extend this into a permanent way of life, I would excel at the occupation.

As far as I can tell all it entails is drinking far too much coffee and watching nouvelle vague films. There may be the occasional deep existential thought tornado involved, but nothing more coffee can’t fix.

But maybe everyone wants to live like that too.

recent universe

The funny thing about violence – violence isn’t funny, I think, but somehow the sentence just started that way – the funny thing is how quickly everything changes. One minute I am walking down the street in the sun and air among other human beings and the next I am in a sewer fathoms below, in the dark, and all I can remember doing was walking.

The funny thing is that you’re suddenly in an alternate universe or the sewer analogy but wherever the hell you are it isn’t quite right, it isn’t reality, and somehow no one seems to understand the urgency, the terror, the chokey weird feeling of not being physically safe anymore. The police have these sad, understanding and exhausted eyes that make them look just like bloodhounds, and nice normal people have a tendency to exclaim “That’s crazy!” and follow it quickly with “Tell me more!”

I kept having this fantasy the whole time that someone, anyone, would put a hand on my shoulder and ask me if I were okay, and I could take a long, deep breath and feel a little better, because someone was – oh, I don’t know, reaching to me from the universe I had just inhabited. It wasn’t a fleshed-out fantasy because I knew it wouldn’t happen.

It didn’t.

A lot of people asked, of course. They wanted details, they were surprised it wasn’t at all related to men or romance, as if that’s the only kind of ugly that ever reaches out to touch women; slap-happy boyfriends, jilted stalkers, abusive husbands. But the hand on the shoulder, the kind tone of voice – I’ve seen it before, a long time ago, and it hurts like the memory of a bruise.

“That sounds horrible!” She exclaimed, leaning an elbow on the counter as if it were second nature. “Yes, it is. That’s why I try to keep my mind off it.” She nodded. “No wonder! The strain you’re under must be incredible!” I nodded, pressed my lips together. “Hey – ” she shifted forward. “Your eyes look so sad. Since when are your eyes so sad?”

“Oh, I don’t know, since it all started I suppose. Yes, everyone has commented.”

“So it’s not just me that has noticed. Oh, what will you do?”

I glared at her, said very slowly, “I’m trying not to talk about it, at all. I came here to relax. And let my mind feed on other things.” She nodded, and I turned back to what was in front of me. In a minute she will go away, I told myself. I am going to browse the fuck out of these friendship bracelets and I will forget all else.

“Are you going to get one for a friend?” She asked, lifting herself off the counter. “I might,” I answered, beginning to feel the absorption in the incredible shininess in front of me take hold. “You’re going to give it to her tonight?” She asked softly. “Maybe tomorrow,” I murmured. Purple is a colour very easily done wrong, I thought. There’s good purple and then there’re the purple dolphins at Walmart and that’s another thing entirely.

“So you’re still going out with friends?” I made a noise of assent. “Where are you going to go?” I shrugged. “We usually just eat and talk or coffee and talk. No big deal.”

“What are the names of the restaurants you go to? Like the names and the neighborhood.” Suddenly I felt a little cold, and turned to look her full in the face. “Why do you ask that?” I asked her quietly. She jumped back. “Well fine, I mean if you’re embarrassed to let me know how you spend your time then well whatever.”

The next day, over coffee I told Vicki what had happened. “What a weirdo. Don’t go back there,” she told me, removing two unground coffee beans from her drink with a shrug. “I don’t know dude,” I said, leaning back in my chair. “Maybe like, when she’s not there?” She set the beans down gently on a napkin, as if they were set aside for later use. Then she looked up at me and shook her head. “This is the same woman who wanted to know if your hair was naturally that colour and what brand of mascara you used and where you lived and if you had seen that boy you mentioned was hot one day and she’s never forgotten a single detail of your life, has she?”

“No. She remembers as if she were keeping notes.”

“So no, I don’t care what the prices are like, she’s the owner, never go back.”

“Do you ever wonder how many people we know are just, like, drifters? Not completely sane and with all sorts of horrible back stories but you can hide it in a big city, and they do, and we never know, unless our lives intersect too deeply and then very suddenly we’re in what feels like a parallel world?”

She pursed her lips to answer, but we simulataneously caught sight of a little girl running seemingly towards us in a frilly little dress, with a perfect little bob, running and dancing and twirling. She couldn’t have been over four. I began to smile until I saw her face.

It was red and crumpled in tears, even as her tiny body kept moving cheerfully.

‘always’

“Isolde, what the hell is that?” I pointed at the white bag on my bed. “What’s what?” She answered cheerfully, coming in to look at whatever it was. She was wearing one of my hats and pulling on a pair of my gloves. She followed my gaze. “What? Afraid I’ll stretch them?”
“I am and you will. Please take them off before it takes and remove your parcel from my bed.” She snorted. “You’re so uptight. You could buy more gloves.” Not really, I thought.

“Anyway it’s not my ‘parcel’, it’s your bag. Your present,” she said with a smile. This will either be terribly good or terribly bad. Wait, what’s the etymology on terrible again? Ran briefly through my mind. I opened the bag. “What did you fit in an iPad box, Isolde?” I secretly felt a little bitter. I don’t even go to that store – what would the point be? “An iPad . . . ” she twisted her head sideways, widened her eyes. There’s a catch, there’s some horrible catch –

There it lay, brand new and shiny. “This looks like yours,” I said at length, and she turned away slightly. “And that’s because it is yours, isn’t it? Isolde, why would you do that? Are you giving it to me, is it beyond repair, what are you doing?” She rolled her eyes, walked up to me, and flipped it over. “Read it,” she said flatly.

‘RJ, Isolde, Always’

“Oh shit,” I groaned.

dreams

The line between my sleeping life and waking life is not as clearly delineated as I would wish it to be – which is to say that, among other things, my dreams are of work and are entirely too vivid. Not vivid in the sense of colour-drenched watercolours, like some dreams are, but vivid in that they are perfectly plausible extensions of my waking life.

A little too plausible; I find myself carrying out actions I was assigned in real life and by now you know where this is going. Need to fill out that time sheet? Dream-me did it in like, five dream minutes. Need to get food colouring for the epic sugar cookie day? Dream-me is giving you a thumbs up.

And while this sort of thing might make charming blog fodder and lead to pithy hipster discussions (“It’s as if part of yourself wants to start fulfilling what only you can give yourself.”), in the throat-clearing real world it would only net me really suspicious side glares, at best.

hair

“I don’t know why everyone talks about your hair,” Marina’s new assistant told me. “It isn’t really that thick.” I nodded, fascinated by the salon’s backlog of Japanese magazines. “Sure. Lots of hairs are thicker.” She pulled it taut. “Like, all my cousins have thicker hair than this,”

“Okay,” I said, because I didn’t know what else to say. “It isn’t really that shiny, is it?” She asked, frowning behind her glasses. I shrugged. “Maybe, um, not?”

“No it isn’t shiny. And it isn’t thick. Or long. Like everyone in this salon was all ‘Oh look at Lola’s hair,’ and I was all ‘You think that’s good? You haven’t seen much hair.’ ”

I wish I could say that I said something to her, that I didn’t just stare with widened eyes for a second, shocked, thinking I am not misinterpreting this, am I? I am pretty sure that I am not misinterpreting this and that there are a limited number of interpretations and I think I’m getting the point. But all I did was look down at the magazine, while my mind turned itself on its tail, and everyone I told the story to scolded me and told me what I should have said, should have done. Didn’t do.