That Family Work Ethic

There are certain traits associated with the paternal side of my DNA. Stubborn. Funny. Resourceful. Fond of the drink. Great dancers.

Unbeatable work ethic.

It’s that work ethic that is legend. We don’t call in. We show up every day we’re scheduled, we do our job (and sometimes other people’s jobs), we do them well, and you can always count on us. While that is admirable to an extent, it has gotten me into trouble on occasion and caused an internal conflict I’ve only recently come to resolve.

I have my family’s work ethic. I show up every day I’m scheduled. In the past, I’ve gone to work sick and hurt. My record of not calling lasted for years and was only recently broken because my upper back went out. I couldn’t even stand up and there was no way I could put on a bra, but I was still looking for a way to go to work.

You would think that this sort of work ethic would make working forty hours a week no problem.

And yet!

I’ve worked full-time in multiple jobs and somehow in my younger years it was easier to bear. I guess because I was still riding high on the idea that it was what I was supposed to do. Make a living until I could find something better. And then make a living doing that. The goal, of course, was to be a responsible adult.

Which turns out to be something I’m not interested in.

I was unemployed when I began my third go-round at community college. I ended up going back to Walmart for the third time about a year later, but this time, I chose to work only part-time because of school. It was the first time I’d worked part-time since I was in high school and it turned out that I really liked it. I liked that I only worked four days a week and that I had fewer responsibilities than the full-timers. For the first time since I started working above the table, I wasn’t striving to get a promotion or be in charge or take on more responsibility. I went to work, did my job, and went home. And when I predictably dropped out of community college again, I kept my part-time schedule, this time because I had decided to get serious about my writing career and wanted that time to write.

The job I had after I got blackballed from Walmart was last full-time job I’ve had and I hated it. I hated the job and I hated being there 40 hours a week. I didn’t last a year.

At one point I held three part-time gigs at once and somehow I like it better than working 40 hours a week at one gig.

I’ve had the part-time library gig for over three years now. It’s hard to reconcile my famous family work ethic with my unwillingness to work full-time. Yes, I’m still serious about my writing career and have branched out to podcasting, and yes, I bust my ass at my library gig, showing up every day and putting in the effort, but my “real” job is still considered less real because it’s only part-time.

Can I still say I have my family’s work ethic?

Well, yeah. Because I realized that my work ethic happens to take after my Great-Uncle Junior’s.

Uncle Junior, like his brothers, was a working fool when he worked. He busted his ass when he worked. It’s just that he felt he should only work as much as he had to. “They can’t eat ya” is a family motto where bills are concerned and so long as his were paid, he was good. Sure, he lived in a bus by the river at one time, but that was because he wanted to, not necessarily because he had to.

As it turns out, I’m the same way. I only want to work as much as I have to and I have shaped my life to allow for that. Yeah, it’s not ideal and there are ways in which I’m hoping to improve it. I consider it my version of living in a bus down by the river. But until I can only work as much as I have to by writing alone, this is how I’m rolling.

Family work ethic intact.

Those Pesky Shoulds

ThinkingWhenever I get a little bit of free time, my mind is filled with things that I should be doing instead of not doing anything important or, laws forbid, relaxing.

I should work on that bag I started as a way to keep me occupied during afternoon kid minding.

I should do a few more lessons on Duolingo.

I should do more work on whatever writing project I’m doing even if I’ve already hit my daily To Do List demand.

This blog post is a should. I had some free time this afternoon. I did a few extra Duolingo lessons. Then I still had some time. So instead of enjoying the fact that I don’t have to make dinner this evening and resting up some before I go to work tonight, I’m writing this blog post. And after I’m done writing this, I’ll do my workout, and probably try to get a couple more chapters on A Tale of Two Lady Killers revised before I leave for floorset.

You see, so long as there are things I should be doing, then I’m always going to feel like a lazy bum if I’m not doing them when I have the time.

I already feel like a slacker, like I don’t work hard enough or have enough to do. I feel like I haven’t earned any downtime or free time or relaxation time. So I SHOULD be doing something productive. I should be working out or writing or sewing or working or SOMETHING.

Those shoulds are so pesky. They make me feel guilty every time I decide to take ten minutes to play a game or check Twitter. Because I SHOULD be doing something else. I’m wasting time.

I don’t relax. I waste time. At least that’s what the shoulds in my brain make me think. And so I go to bed feeling guilty often because I wasted time watching reruns of F Troop and The Rifleman instead of doing more exercises or writing more words or curing cancer or whatever else I should be doing.

It’s something I try to work on, but it isn’t easy for me. I envy people who can do nothing and not feel bad about it. I spent a day in bed with a really nasty headache last week and felt like a bum because I barely got one page written before I gave up on trying to be productive. Even a headache doesn’t quiet those shoulds in my brain.

Because I should have been doing something else.

For me, to not do anything is an act of rebellion because I don’t feel like I’ve earned it. Even when I complete my To  Do list for the day, I didn’t earn it. I’ll never earn it and I know it. There’s always one more thing I should be doing before I can relax.

Ooh, that reminds me! I need to wrap up this post.

There’s something else I should be doing.


English: the lazy barnstar. created to award m...

My mother used to tell me all the time how lazy I was. It rated right up there with selfish and stealing as an unforgivable sin. I hated it when she called me lazy. There are so many implications in that word, all of them negative, and none of them that I wanted to apply to me.

But now that I’m older, I admit it. I suffer from extreme bouts of laziness at times.

There are some days when I’m absolutely unstoppable. I start early and check off my To Do list in short order, no matter how difficult. I get everything done before noon and then celebrate with reruns and Internet porn all afternoon.

And then there are days when I am so filled with don’t-want-to that I’m still working at nine o’clock at night because I refuse to leave a To Do list unfinished. The effort that it takes just to get started is more than I want to expend, even though I know that once I get going, I’ll get it all done in no time.

It is laziness, I know. Don’t-want-to laziness that I’ve carried with me all of my life. In my head, all of the projects seem bigger and harder than they really are. I think about how much I don’t feel like doing something and so I put it off until I can’t put it off any more. And then when I finally get around to doing whatever it is, I get it done in less time and usually with less difficulty than I imagined and I kick myself in the ass for not getting it done and over with sooner.

For example, I need to do my taxes. But I don’t feeeeeel like it. I know it’s not difficult. I know it’d probably only take me 20-30 minutes to get it all done. My taxes have never been that complicated. I might as well just get it done and over with.

But, like I said. I don’t feeeeeel like it.

That feeling rules me sometimes. That kind of laziness. I don’t feel like it so I don’t. Sometimes I make myself. Sometimes I don’t have a choice. But, if I have a choice, then I’ll make the choice to put it off.

So, yeah, my mother was right. I am lazy. I’ll probably always be lazy.

But so long as I have those excellent productive days, I’ll keep breaking even.

Even when I don’t feeeeeel like it.