Better than salt money

Work like you were living in the early days of a better nation

Perception

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It seems I have an odd idea of what it is to be “productive” in a day.  I’m making a stir fry for supper. I made rice this afternoon, so it would have time to dry out some.  I blanched some carrots, so they would cook well. I soaked some <I>wakame</i> in vinegar and water to provide some counterpoints.  I also moved the potted <i>etrogim</i> outside, pruned the grapevine, repotted a gardenia; potted up some basil and oregano, rearranged the last of the disordered shelves from Passover and lopped enough forsythia to fill a pair of 60 gallon trash cans. I also started some stock, and washed the dishes from last night and this morning.

Then I said I’d been lazy, because I didn’t make it to the store to get some asparagus and bok choi.

In the shower I was thinking about why it is that not getting to the bodega caused me to, honestly, consider I’d been lazy.  MBF says that because I can get so much done in a day, I tend to valorise getting more done.  For my birthday one year Maia got me a book. The title is something like, “Advice for Men Who do Too Much”.  I can’t say I took it as well as I might.  It was nice, but I confess I saw it as a semi-critical comment on my not getting enough of the right sorts of things done.

Which is a failure on my part.  I see myself that way (and perceive others as seeing me that way) all together too much.  It’s not that I think I don’t get things done, it’s that there are some things I see as essential for the day to be done properly. It probably comes of being criticized for that sort of thing.  It didn’t matter that I’d turned a couple of cu. yds. of earth for the garden if I’d failed to get the carpet vacuumed, or the dishes done, or some other; fairly trivial thing.

So the measure of productive/not lazy isn’t so much the quantity of work which is done, so much as it is that certain; specific, and fairly visible, things were achieved.  What’s horrid about this is that many of those “failures” both make me defensive, and are completely personal.  No one at home thinks that a lack of bok choi is going to ruin dinner, but I still feel I have failed at the deeds of the day.

Not today, not really, but in general.  I have the sense that something I did, which wasn’t getting bok choi, was undeserved, wasted, a pointless distraction from what I ought to have gotten done.  It’s my internalisation of the Puritan Work Ethic.

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One thought on “Perception

  1. I, by contrast, am NOT and never have been a productive person, but I have the same thing. To the extent that currently (underemployed, not as physically active as I ought to be, and on the way back up from a severe depressive episode) I am keeping a daily log of exercise and “other productive activity”–paid work or otherwise, outside my usual household share–as a way of convincing myself that I’m worth the space I’m taking up in the family and on the planet.

    On the one hand, yes, it’s sad that vacuuming and spot-cleaning the carpet and 30 minutes on the Wii Fit is all I’ve got with which to validate my existence for another day. But on the other hand, I could have spent that time eating junk food and crying. Not without precedent.

    “You do what you can with what you have,” as my parents used to say. And I’ve decided kicking myself doesn’t count as exercise.

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