Monday, March 29, 2010

Always playing

"I work very hard, but I'm lazy."--Justine Frischmann (Elastica), "Waking Up"
"Work, work all week long/Punchin’ that clock from dusk till dawn/Countin’ the days till Friday night/That’s when all the conditions are right/For a good time/I need a good time."--Alan Jackson, "Good Time"

I don't really want to talk about the uncontrolled crane in Manhattan this weekend or the Moscow subway bombing this morning. So I won't. I've been beaten to those topics anyway.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about work and leisure and my relationship with both. I've been praised by several people lately because I know how to have fun. I've also been criticized by a couple of people because of the ways I have fun.

"You two are always playing!" That is what my grandmother told me, in a snide voice, Sunday afternoon. She called me Saturday afternoon, too, but we were playing street hockey and I decided to let it go to voice mail. I told her this when she asked why I didn't call back. "Street hockey? You know you're in your thirties now, right?"
"So are a lot of professional hockey players. And race car drivers." She's also a NASCAR fan, and was also disappointed that Martinsville got rained out yesterday.
"But you aren't a professional athlete."
"[L'Ailee] is, technically speaking. Her whole job is working out." She teaches martial arts, gymnastics, and when she has to, aerobics. "It just seemed wrong to her that we were sitting on our butts watching hockey players run around ragged. She figured we needed to sweat a little in between games."
"Well, maybe, but..."
"It was so much fun. I got two goals and two assists!"
She sighed, thoroughly exasperated, then tried to get some gossip about my brother and SIL out of me. I further exasperated her by being an absolute brick wall about that. We talked about racing a little bit, and I told her how I'm voting for Juan Pablo Montoya to get into the All-Star Race because I think he's hot. (That's not the only reason, but it helps, a lot.) She doesn't like Montoya because he's from Colombia. TTG, she decided she needed to go after that.

Most of my maternal relatives, except for my brother, are just exceptionally good at getting to me. You can see that in the last post, about my mom and politics, too. I wish they weren't, and I know at least intellectually that it's me and my reactions that I have to control, not them. I have always regarded family as an important thing, and I keep taking calls because I don't want to cut them out completely. I don't like having avoidance as my only option. I believe with all my heart that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. Ancestral reverence is part of my spiritual practice as a Pagan, and I believe that includes giving respect to my living ancestors. But as I once told a spiritual mentor of mine, "The living ones are sooo haaaard!" She fell over laughing at that. She said she'd heard other people say similar things, and it was hard for her, too.

Knowing intellectually why people and their words can hurt doesn't necessarily stop the pain, any more than knowing intellectually that a chainsaw will hurt you if you aim it wrong will stop the bleeding when you do. Neither L'Ailee nor I are "always playing" by any stretch. In her thirties, L'Ailee is limber and damn near hyperactive. She loves her job, and it pays better than other things she's tried. She's thinking about what she'll do when she can't exercise for a living anymore, but she takes care of herself so that day doesn't come too quickly. She believes the maxim, attributed to Confucius, that "if you do what you love, you will never work another day in your life." (Of course, some days are challenging for her.) I have a clerical position that can be interesting, challenging, maddening, and/or boring depending on the hour. Last week was a very busy and challenging one for me, and I'm allowed to chat and surf the Web on boring days so I'm available for those days that'll make me nostalgic for boredom. I have an interior decorating certification, but that work comes in trickles because I'm a newbie with no fashionable connections in a bad economy. I need that clerical job. I'm really grateful I have it.

At home, we still work. We divide labor on a "what is important to whom" basis. The kitchen and bathroom are mine, dusting and bed-making are hers. I cut out coupons and do most of the grocery shopping because I have a good eye for bargains when it comes to food. She balances our checkbooks because she's awesome at math and I'm numeric-dyslexic. I do all the cooking, but she chops vegetables and fruit for me. We take turns cleaning up after our cats. She sews, and I recondition cheap and free-to-me furniture into something interesting, and we help our friends' kids with their homework. My paternal grandfather used to say that money isn't the only thing we have to spend. Time is also a currency. His wife, my step-grandmother, would add that you can spend your money to save time, or spend your time to save money. I think of that when L'Ailee sews herself a designer knockoff or I soak dried beans in the Crock-Pot.

But growing up, I was branded as "lazy" by my maternal relatives, no matter how much housework I did and how many hours I spent looking after my younger brother, my cousins, and neighbors' children. I did the chores I was asked to do, the way I was asked to do them, and no more. I enjoyed learning, but not school. From the time I was in elementary school, I figured I'd put in my legally-required six hours a day, five days a week plus homework, and that was that. My mother was active in many after-school activities; to her chagrin, I regarded those as being for suckers. (I did join Bible Club in my sophomore year because I was searching spiritually and ended up taking on more of a leadership role. I was also persuaded to join Debate Club as a junior, and said "yes" to my teacher because I enjoyed the class and needed something for my college application.)

For me, "real life" began when all my mother's stupid knickknacks were finally dusted, when the final bell rang its sweet song, when I was finally FREE. Free to do what? To dance, to swim in the pool (never for some stupid team), to read, to write stories, to watch movies, to spray-paint a garage-sale find, to just *be*. My brother was very similar in that way. One of our favorite stories happened when he was 8 years old. He loved to play sandlot baseball in our apartment complex with his friends. So our mother thought he'd enjoy playing Little League at the nearby park. When she pulled into the park to sign him up, he burst into tears. He pleaded, "Mom, what did I do? I promise I'll never do it again. Please, don't make me play Little League!" Mom was dumbfounded. "Baseball's fun, but Little League has rules!" he tried to explain. "They make you wear *uniforms*. The coach makes you pay attention. You have to play ball with kids you hate because their parents signed them up, too." I understood him completely. We're both glad we have each other.

As an adult, I am definitely far more of a "work to live" type than a "live to work." (Sometimes I wonder how different it'll be if I ever get to make a living doing nothing but interior decorating and/or writing, but I'm not there yet.) I still put in my time, do what I'm told, and leave it all behind when I clock out. "Yabba dabba DOO!" I make damn sure that I'm back from lunch on time because I don't want to be that 75-minute lunch hour woman who nobody likes. However, a couple early-morning swims and lunchtime belly-dancing classes a week help keep me sane, as does eating outdoors. My "real life" begins on the bus home to Brooklyn, while I text or read a book. I actually love using my bus time to read. It takes me back to when I was a girl, in a good way. I cook, play with the cats, play around online, fix a cocktail, flip on the game, and talk with my wife. I live for the weekends. I love to play hostess, though people put what they can in a hat (usually about $5, still cheaper than any sports bar here) to subsidize it. I love surfing when I can and the occasional night out at a club. I love the return of street hockey in between the events we want to watch, and love L'Ailee for suggesting it.

I have had to learn that I'm okay being a leisurely, work-to-live person. This doesn't make me better or worse than anyone else. The world couldn't run without the live-to-work types. The world needs people who flourish in uniforms playing by rules. That said, I'll bet the likes of Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell and Benjamin Franklin had *fun* thinking up things that would change the world, and hardly felt like they were working at all as the hours slipped away.

I know my cousins will fondly remember the times L'Ailee taught them martial arts moves and we shot BBs at cans with them. Our friend A.'s ambitious 9-year-old daughter, who is serious about wanting to be the first woman to win the Stanley Cup, is glad to have adults in her life who are willing to help her see if she can replicate her favorite players' highlight-reel goals. My neighbors are always happy when I feel like using up the fruit in the community farmers' box in pies. Our friends have formed unlikely friendships with each other in our home. As we give ourselves good memories, L'Ailee and I help create good memories for others, too. One day, maybe I can convince certain people in my life that this is a source of pride, not shame.

Anyway, it really was cool when L'Ailee and I kept scoring off each others' shots this past weekend.

Links, if you can stand to read more:

I've always thought Sinead O'Connor was sexy as hell; her takedown of the Catholic Church in the Washington Post op-ed page confirmed it.

Everyone on Twitter today, it seemed, had fun with the revelation that members of the Republican National Committee spent $2,000 at a bondage-themed strip club. My favorite tweet was, "Bondage stripclub was honest mistake - RNC is looking for a new congressional whip."

Y'all know I wouldn't even *think* about Glenn Beck, except that too many of my maternal relatives love him. (Reminds self, "I respect my living ancestors...") Anyway, the bastard went to my alma mater to kick off his speaking tour this weekend. Will Bunch's account struck me as painfully familiar.

How cell phones are revolutionizing North Korea

Finally, for other hockey fans, I learned about a new (to me) blog satirizing targets in the NHL that richly deserve it called Intent to Blow.


BostonPobble said...

Ah...our families. A friend of mine once told me "the reason they can push our buttons so well is because they helped create them in the first place." As for the work ethic thing, it's part of the Puritan standard that came over with the Mayflower. Just one more reason to be aware how different the country would be if we'd been founded by Pagans looking for religious freedoms instead. ;)

Glad you and your brother have each other.

Snooker said...

With only brief periods of craziness I've been a work to live person all of my working life. For me, it simply makes sense. Until someone decides to pay me for watching movies, I'm stuck with an office job I only slightly enjoy.
My wife on the other hand is one of those freaks who seeks out work... often basically living for her work. I'll never understand it.