Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Blue Leather Seats and Somewhere over the Mountains…

The latest trend in things is to change them – change them faster than you can adapt to them, faster than you can actually keep up with them, faster than any human could hope to aspire to be a force that is proactive to embracing them - that’s what we like, change – things tend to get a standard flavor of peanut butter and jelly day in and day out unless we repackage it and label it something different. I don’t know why we are taught or are innately susceptible to enjoy changes – even slight ones – why we are constantly seeking some sense of newness that aspires us to a different greatness.

Think about it for a while – just ponder what changes we want to see – we want seasons, we want buffets of different food, we want new authors with new slants – reading or studying or simply being in the same place makes most of us stagnant and tired – I actually tried, just for a half an hour, to focus on one simple thing – I tried to focus on the positive aspects of work – not just my job, or your job, or better jobs, but the work that we all do as a general sense of the term. Granted, there are less desirable jobs than others, there are better paying jobs than others, there are jobs with different perks and pleasures – but the bottom line is that we, as a nation and a people that builds itself on its work – all focus on the things that we must do – not on the thing that it is we would do without the work – we all get tired, we all have families and friends, we all have our work – and aside from my sincere attempt below to spend half an hour contemplating life without meaningful work – and my mind wandered off to the newest iPOD downloads or the bands playing at next month’s concert – it wanted to change – because it had been trained to accept all change as stimulus and good…enough philosophy, now just plain writing about work.

Dressing in a plumbers outfit that was about two sizes too large, and pinned together at the waist to hold them from dropping to my knees is the first thing I remember about real work – hot summer florida days and waking up at 6:30 am – getting ready to go into the field in a real truck for the first time with a shovel, a knowledge of plumbing about as extensive as my knowledge of nuclear physics, and nothing more than a promise to make $3.00 per hour – cash. Now what was the basis of the motivation and excitement behind that feeling and desire – was it the cash, the job itself? I can’t think that any of that had anything to do with my desire to get up in the morning and go deal with shit (literally) all summer long. It was the feeling that I was a part of something larger – that I was contributing to something bigger and more important than I, that I was, simply put, doing what we humans are genetically programmed to do – work. There was nothing glamorous about that first job – replacing sewer pipes and wallowing in a hole filled with things that I care not describe were not the draw – but every evening, after stripping off those smelly dirty clothes and letting the hot shower run over my sore shovel trained shoulders – I cannot remember feeling that it was not satisfying. Waking up in the dark and pulling on sweat drawn leather boots and stiff cotton work clothes never was something to complain about – I knew I had a hole to dig, I knew by the end of the day it would be deeper, or wider, or longer, or whatever it was supposed to be – but in all honesty, cannot remember a time when it was not fulfilling. We all grow up, we all find new passions and downfalls where we spend our energy, and I, somewhat unaware of it, have forgotten those rewards that work give. The first blister on your hands after putting in a deck or a fence or a swing set for the kids. The first rush to the face when your spreadsheet works or your publication is accepted, or you lay on the floor and soak in the freshly painted walls. The sense of achievement that is there when you see your ideas and thoughts and passion become a reality. These are all internally derived things – they are within each of us, for the most part, until, somehow they become less than that – they become something that we need to “change” –

I spent most of the thirty minutes reflecting on where I am now – conference rooms and excel spreadsheets and team meetings and the normal trappings of a finance guy – and that same need for change started making my mind race in some Pavlov described reaction, and I wondered where that came from – who planted that first seed, or did it fall like some pine seed in a wind of self-doubt, and did I let it grow into unhappiness – perhaps the latter is true, and in that simple meditation today, I resolved to fetter out the underbrush, and see what could become of the thoughts of accepting work for what it used to be – fulfilling and complete – with little need for change, and more need for simple pleasure of knowing that I met a goal – and have more to meet.

The displeasure of walking into an office blackens some of the days that we have to file into where we go – some of us do a very good routine of consistent self rationalization, saying to ourselves, borrowing from Jim Morrison – everything must be this way, and we make it through the days. That is not what I want to feel, nor do I want to feel the anger that my own complacency creates – anger about a system or a process I don’t control – but inevitably rely upon for my livelihood is comparable to asking a dying man if he could change something in his life, what would that be – obviously, it would be more life – but he does not control that – nor does it matter.

Today, I walked out of that meeting knowing that I was rewarded, for the first time in quite some time, with the realization that I had contributed something meaningful to a group – I am not sure what that product was, or where it was headed, but I know that I led a personal internal effort to not leave it by the wayside and let it handle itself – it was odd, I went into the room with the idea that I would make it through the meeting, produce the widget, and move on – but I left today with a sense that there are bigger things that cause me to work – it is my need to work – to bury food for the winter, build the dam across the creek, to grow. For the first time in six years, I actually had a hard copy paycheck handed to me, and for the first time in a long time, it was a physical reminder that there was food for my children and warm clothes and vacations and safety – handed to me – and that although I received it from my company – I received in return for something I gave to them – work.

It is never easy to leave someone you love every ten days, it is not easy to fall asleep alone the majority of the time, it is not easy to spend dinners with the television as your companion, but obviously, it is better than not being given the opportunity to succeed. My life, although one, right now, made of a semi-comfortable blue leather seat somewhere over Colorado whirly birding through the air at 520 miles per hour, is not what I imagined it to be, but I can say that it is what I designed it to be – and for that, my resolute temper crawls back in embarrassment as I wonder why the anger and bitterness about the results of my designs. Why the feeling of pointlessness, why the doubt – because of change, because of the dream that we were all given that if we did all of these things right, then all of the other things would happen, and all that we wanted would be the result – that is an illusion for simple minds – that reality is that we should go back to the first day we walked on to the job site, with a shovel in hand, and were told to dig – not asked how to dig, not asked to dig better, but just to dig – and to go back to when that was enough – knowing that you had, and you would, wake up again, and work.

I am not going to apologize for writing prose – even the biggest sarcastic asshole (at times) may have some piece of literary function that just needs to be said.


No comments: