I see myself as a voodoo doll, tied with knotty twines. Work and its frustrations are a knot. My morale isn't high and I'm frank about it. What can I do to improve your morale? my boss asks. (It's a curious question when you think about it; I do my work and do it well, above what is asked for, so what matters my morale? Yes, academics will point to relationships with productivity but in my corporation's business control, segregated, global bureaucracy, productivity is measured by schedules and I'm always ahead of schedule.) Nothing that I know, thanks. The job has little challenge, less satisfaction, and even less to look forward to. That's what happens when the company's vision is transformed to the bottom line of dollar and cents. Doesn't do much for your motivation when you're in the trenches.
They enjoy calling us a team, and of course, we're part of individual teams, but that's a bemusing proposal. A team implies a sense of identity, goals and objectives -- scoring a touchdown, bringing a product to market, rescuing a person. All is concrete and your role and responsibilities are known and respected. This is a business. My skills are fungible. If their bottom line dictates, I'll be gone in 30 days.
Of course writing is a knot, probably the largest. It's the writing knot that started my thinking this morning. Having written several large chunks of story yesterday and today, over four thousand words, I'm pleased with how the story was realized and told, what's to be told next. I enjoy the characters' growth and their private agendas and histories, how they've reacted to the same situation in different ways, but that they did so without me forcing them. I just watched and listened, recording what they saw, thought and did. Those sort of writing experiences lift me. I soar over the day, eager for the next piece, ready to return to it, reluctant to stop.
But reality's mundanities must be addressed. Shopping, the sprinkler risers, spackling, caulking all await. They're another knot. Don't much enjoy them and don't know if they're meant to be enjoyed. Must just do them and move on. But there's satisfaction when they're done, and the mood lifts.
There is the mood lifter, accomplishment. Getting something done, whether it's a good work-out or hike, pages, paragraphs, lines in a novel or short story, cutting and trimming the grass and yard until it acquires park-like appearance.
Reading a good book or essay lifts me. Read again Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" and thought about the points made and references over a glass of port as the sun set. Reading Mankell's "Dogs of Riga" and really enjoying it, along with McMurtry's "Paradise". Some people affect my mood. Friends blow in and enhance my mood with a few quips, jokes and laughs. The cats leap onto my lap, kneed it and purr with green adoring eyes and lift my mood. The Steelers win and lift my mood. A cup of coffee or tea lifts my mood as does a nice brew, something of the ale or bitters sort, good wine, and port (but not whiskey, which has the capacity to transform me into a berserker). Selling a story lifts my mood, as does good feedback.
Politics are a big knot, as is stress. The two are twins since politics affect my world and yet I can do little about it. Protest, write letters and essays, sign petitions, vote, go to meetings. Just like the job. I'm supposed to have a place at the table and care but so little of what I do has an impact.
So its back to writing where at least I amass pages. Nothing lifts my mood like these moments I now experience, sitting in the coffee shop, typing my novel, thinking about the places, characters and plot while cars and people pass under the sunny blue and white sky outside the window. I'd like to stay here forever, just doing this, but all this sitting makes my butt ache.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com