Sunday, December 29, 2013

Irresponsible Me: The Labor of Not Working

When I was still a boy you didn’t get a Social Security number until you went to work. I was twelve years old when I got mine. It was a summer job, in an office, where I was what was then called an "office boy." I did whatever the office manager or the secretary or the boss needed me to do. I remember little of that job, except one day when the owner of the business said I was a CW: a Conscientious Worker. I don’t fully recall why he said it, but I remember the words. And I have tried to live up to them ever since.

It is now winter, and another year is ending in a few days, and I’m still working. Lately, though, I have been irresponsible. I have put aside things that need doing, such as finishing a manuscript so that it will be ready for publication, and taking time to repair things I need, but that aren’t working at the moment. But then, neither am I. And it is a strange feeling.

Feeling irresponsible and being irresponsible are, I’m certain, two different things, but lately they have been converging, and I’m not sure I’m as disturbed by that as I should be. Or used to be. Am I still a "CW?" Is it important that I be one? I don’t have a "day job" anymore. Haven’t for some years. Fortune and a modicum of planning made that possible. Fortune because years earlier I made a decision to stay with an organization and the people in it, gradually building the wherewithal to retire; able to not work if I didn’t want to. I thought that would be what I would do. I described my plans then as buying a country store in a remote part of the world, where I could sit on the porch and rock and watch the world go by. And when customers stopped, I could get up, go inside - - - and walk on out the back door where I would have another rocking chair.

I never went into the store business, and in fact I have never sat down to rock. Instead I simply continued what I had been doing for all those years since college (and before). I have worked: often for clients, but over the last ten years, mostly for myself. Writing is a solitary way of working, and it suits me well. Until now.

A few weeks ago, looking over unpublished and unfinished stories, I thought that it was time to stop. Time to gather those together and either finish or burn them, and then I could sit back and just rock.

The other day, driving back to the mountain, I suddenly saw/heard/felt a new story. It came nearly fully developed and energized, from beginning to end, the way most of my writing has. I sat down this morning and sketched out the plot, even developed some of the characters, and felt vaguely uncomfortable: I had new work to do, as well as old work to finish. Stories don’t stop just because I want them to.

Maybe all of that sort-of-guilt was just the let down into winter, and I’m not ready to burn it all just yet. Anyway there are too many words yet to be written for me to simply close the book.

So much for irresponsible me!

Happy New Year.

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