Everyone just working for the weekend

I’ve been thinking about different modes of work, lately. Before S. and I went out of town, a lot of frustration was building up on both of our ends in terms of work, the work we do to earn a living, the work we do for personal fulfillment and the work maintaining our household entails. S. works during the day, goes to law school at night, and is part of both law review and moot court. Between work meetings, parties, school meetings and study groups he is rarely able to contribute to the household work. Quite frankly, he leaves something of a storm in his wake. Mostly I don’t mind this, being something of a control freak, but recently, during the job change and trying to do my own writing I spouted some badly-formed feminist language at him, along the lines of “I am trying to write, and I have to do it around working hours, too, and the household work is just.not.equitably.distributed.”

To his credit, S. agreed but admitted he didn’t really know what he could do about it. And while some of my closer friends are appalled by this (he should clean! It’s his house too! Hang him, hang him high!) I don’t feel anger or resentment towards him…I feel…like quitting the life we’ve started here. Oh, I don’t want S. to drop out of school and I don’t want to stop working…I don’t have much of the escapist in me at all, but once he graduates I think I would like to withdraw from the way I see our lives heading and find a way to balance the work we need to do, the work we want to do, and the work of a household.

Certainly there are a lot of folks out there who could tell me to relax…that so and so can go without a wedding present and clogged air filters never hurt anybody, but that advice cuts across the core of who I am and isn’t helpful. I buy wedding presents. I write thank you notes. I grocery shop because if I didn’t, S. never would and we would eat cheeseburgers and pizza and cookies. I believe in the healing power of green vegetables.

Ever since I left Pittsburgh I’ve found myself feeling envious of my brother and his girlfriend, which feels weird…I’m not particularly jealous of other people, being of the “my life is all gravy and grasshoppers” lot. D. co-owns an Italian restaurant and his girlfriend waitresses there. She used to have an office job but she quit because “it was too, too awful.” Currently they live above the restaurant but are hoping to get a rehabilitation loan for one of the crumbling old bungalows in the neighborhood and together they will restore the house, camping out in the living room in sleeping bags. To me, this all seems terribly romantic.

Of course, I recognize they work over eighty hours a week. For them, there is no weekend excursion to shop and eat and play together. They don’t have health insurance. The safety nets S. and I have set up for ourselves, like retirement accounts and Christmas clubs and primary care physicians, are luxuries they would probably like to have. And I can’t imagine for one instant either S. or I sleeping on the floor of a cold old home with years of work before us. It isn’t who we are, innately. But sometimes part of me wishes I didn’t want to write, that S. didn’t want to save the world from environmental destruction, that we could spend our days together, endlessly.

It’s the work that gets to us, after all. The work we do to support ourselves, and the work we both do in our off hours, to achieve our dreams, to say nothing of the laundry and dentist appointments and car maintenance. The work we do to achieve our dreams sometimes feels like an awful lot and I want to shout “Stop this train, I want to get off!”

Last night at dinner K. asked me if I had any big reflections on turning 30, since she would miss the blog posts while she’s in Uganda (working for the betterment of others). Mostly, I told her, I’m happy and not too obsessed with my upcoming birthday, but what I do feel is an overwhelming urge to simplify wherever possible. While friends of mine are buying homes and better cars and planning elaborate vacations, I feel nothing so strongly as the desire to rid myself of everything getting in the way of the peace I sense as a possibility. I want to stop measuring myself against others and work not for the accumulation of things and instead work for the joy of working. I once imagined myself with a beautiful house with a lush garden and beautiful place settings for guests to dine on luscious meals I would prepare for them. Now, I think if I had to mow the grass instead of working on my novel tonight, I would end up crying in the bathroom again. Fortunately, I don’t have to make that choice.

With all of this work, I guess what S. and I are striving for is balance. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about balance quite a bit in Eat, Pray, Love – and she manages to find a delicate balance between her competing desires. I think everybody has competing desires to be the kind of person they can feel comfortable being – for me, shedding the expectations I always had…of being someone important (and by this I mean, like, a political pundit or president), with a grand home and sparkling social life and instead practicing gratefulness for all I do have, good friends to share dinners with, joy in my job and joy in my writing, seems critical. I hope that if S. and I both follow our inner-most callings – his to effect environmental changes and mine to write, the other things that muddy our waters will fall away.

At (nearly) 30 – I want less than I did at 20, and I’m looking gleefully forward to the next decade, with this realization under my belt. It feels like the whole wide world is open to us, now. And in the mean time, tonight I don’t think I’ll change the laundry, but I will pick up my contact prescription. That feels like an okay balance to me.

Postscript – it’s snowing outside. It is April and it is snowing. There are no words.

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7 Responses to Everyone just working for the weekend

  1. nicolemarie says:

    I really enjoyed this post. I get it. It makes complete sense.

    I hope that you are able to find the *right* balance for you. And when you do…be sure to share it with the rest of us, okay?

  2. Emily says:

    It all sounds so, so familiar. (When Bob was at seminary, and we had two “homes” to maintain, he was mostly way too busy to do anything except dishes, so most of it fell to me). Right now, it’s much better, because we’re back to one home, and Bob is around 24-7. I, too, am hoping for a simplified life and am eager to get rid of many things (I’m hoping this will happen as we are going to have to be moving as soon as he gets a job). If our church doesn’t come with a manse (heavenly idea, because then the yard work doesn’t fall to us), I’m going to be keeping my eye out for the most low-mainenance home we can find.

  3. Katie says:

    I hope I have the same perspective on turning 30. I always say this, but in a lot of ways your life is determined by the perspective you choose to hold. I love the idea of turning 30 being more promising than turning 20. I mean, why not?!

  4. Dorothy W. says:

    I enjoyed this post a lot. One of the chief requirements I have when it comes to a job is that it not take up too much of my time — I’ve decided that while I do have some career ambitions, I enjoy the things I do in my free time just too much to sacrifice them for work. For me, life is so much more than work.

  5. Nicole, trust me – if I find the balance I will share it with the WORLD.
    Emily, I keep forgetting you’ll be moving soon! A manse would be perfect, wouldn’t it?
    Katie – trust me -turning 30 is WAY better than 20. I promise.
    Dorothy – I think I’m leaning towards your way of thinking on this subject…my job needs to not take up as much of time time. Life is about so much more than earning a living!

  6. litlove says:

    I’ve noticed that as I’ve got older, it’s all been about trying to find a way to stop accumulating stuff – tasks, responsibilities, demands, etc, and simplifying life. I fondly like to think it might mean I’m growing up, not just growing older. I think you are one hundred percent right, Courtney, to want to do things just for the joy of them, rather than as a means to an end. That strikes me as the life-enhancing philosophy.

  7. Dave says:

    That,s it just be like me!
    One day youe 20 the next your 55.
    the only thing i reall have is in my hart,
    live your life. im not saying don,t work.
    just don,t make work your life
    talking to my gram at 92, she told me yesterday i was only a little girl. live life love frends and family.
    and try to give more then you get
    My spelling is for shit. but I just want to tell you young people. make every day your last.
    try to love more about others
    It took me 55 years to start.
    for all i know this could be the last thing i put to paper. findernefarmer1@wmconnect.com
    Im Dave

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