Sunday, June 14, 2009

Working Hard or Hardly Working?

It's at times like these that I realize that I've spent far too much time around old codgers who speak in cliches. Because I can't think about working hard without the accompanying "or hardly working? Hyuck, hyuck." It occupies the same mental geography as "hot enough for you?" and the answer to the question "is today Sunday?" (which is, of course, "all day!"). I'll just put on my sans-a-belt pants now and call it a day.

The point of this meandering, however, is that I've been rethinking my attitude towards work. In part because I've just spent the last week and a half putting in a goodly number of 10 hour days of manual labor getting our house ready to go on the market. Which, as my friend likes to say, sucks donkey balls. I painted, I cleaned, I painted, I moved stuff around, I found clever hiding places for all kinds of crap, I packed and moved stuff to friends' garages and basements, etc., etc., etc. Then I've meticulously maintained the cleanliness and uncluttered nature of our house for the last 4 days that the house has had showings. Much of this has been a solo effort, too, because Senor Fluff was away at a conference. Let's just say this for the record: it's been a long time since I've had sweat running in my eyes inside the house. This morning, I crawled out of an upstairs window onto the roof of my house with a broom to sweep up a pile of vegetal detritus because the realtor noted that the guy coming today asked specifically about the age of the asphalt. I've got some nasty form of tennis elbow from painting trim and windows. I've taken to wiping my cats' feet with a wet paper towel to prevent them from tracking litter dust across the tile floor.

Aside from my whining here (and internally), I've spent much of my time reflecting on my relationship to hard work. It occurs to me that for the majority of the last four years (give or take), I've been half-assing a lot of things. Class prep, research projects, home improvement. You name it. I have any number of reasons for this: I'm tired; I hate everyone, and particularly the person the work might benefit; hard work without a definitive payoff is akin to pouring sand down a rat hole. This last one is a particularly powerful rationale for me. I'm seriously unwilling to do something unless the payoff is clear, reliable, and valuable. But how often does that happen, really? And what the hell am I doing if I'm not working hard? (Lamenting the sad mis-use of Isaac Mizrahi on The Fashion Show for one, but that's a different story.)

So putting the house on the market has been a new experiment in hard work. There's a payoff, sure, but it's far from guaranteed, and at best it's going to be very probably a long, drawn-out ordeal. I'm hoping that by reminding myself what it is to work hard on the house without a definitive reward is to acquire some inspiration to work hard on my research. Meanwhile, my inner old man tells me that this is character-building. And wonders if it's hot enough for you?


Friday, June 05, 2009


Well, the 'rents touched down, and I took a few days to travel with them. Things were, as usual, not nearly as bad as I expected they might be. Part of it, I think, was having the ability to identify the source of my animus toward my step-father, so thank you, blog! The other part was probably due to the fact that I consciously told myself, over and over again, that the number of vacations that I have left with my parents is probably limited. They're not geezers or infirm, or anything, but I couldn't help but notice the ways that they're slowing down a tiny bit, need more bathroom breaks. That realization became my mantra when, for instance, we drove across an entire island at 30 miles an hour and read every business and street sign aloud, a la Rainman.

If anything, what I discovered on this trip was that my parents and I share a fundamental habit of mind: thinking that each of us knows best. I, for instance, kept trying to tell them that I didn't want to hit the highway during rush hour near a major city renowned for it's insane drivers. "How bad can it be?" Oh, I don't know...multiple people driving on the shoulder like it's a lane bad? Meanwhile, my stepfather barked at us for taking out a map on a walk to try to assess the best way of getting to our dinner location. "People will know you're not from around here!" He's not wrong, of course, but we happened to be in a suburb of the city where kids routinely pay $50,000 a year to go to college. If someone's going to be mugged (which isn't likely), it's not going to be us in our schlubby clothes. And finally, my mother refuses to take any money and gets all aggressive about it. We're all right, all the time. Except when we're not.

But now I'm home! Glorious home! Let the fantasy summer begin! Oh, except that while I was on vacation with my parents, I sorta bought a house. And now I have a month to sell mine. And it has to go on the market next week.

If you need me, I'll be in a frenzy of painting, cleaning. decluttering, putting on switchplates, painting, gardening, painting, and moving furniture. Keep your fingers crossed...

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