Friday, July 11, 2008

Push Pull

Hurry up

It only takes seconds to establish a few pertinent facts about the man at the counter.

1. He wants someone, anyone to hear his complaint about a bad landlord.
2. He's the kind of guy who hates trouble but finds it everywhere. The dejected slump of his shoulders suggests that he expects to lose. Again.
3. His complaint has nothing to do with the Registry of Joint Stock Companies.
4. In spite of number 3, he isn't planning to vacate the premises anytime soon.

The clerk is kind. She doesn't rush him. Her answers are quiet, respectful. I imagine that simply talking to her, even though it won't solve the problem - will restore a little of his sense of dignity.

Two of us are waiting our turn. The man next to me, sporting full sleeve tattoos and a profusion of dreadlocks down to his waist, is slouched bonelessly in his chair. He's following the exchange at the desk with easy interest. Then there's me - perched on the edge of my seat like a runner waiting for the starting pistol, spine rigid, teeth clamped in frustration, checking my watch a little too often and exhaling pointedly.

Mars and Saturn, the push-forward & hold-back planets, are conducting battle in the territory of my natal Mars. Every push is met with equal-force resistance. The civil war in my head projects itself to the outer world. It's 95F in the office and so much hotter on the bus one particular day, that the driver succumbs to heat stroke half-way home. We passengers pile onto the steaming concrete to wait another half hour for a replacement bus. An ambulance comes and goes.There is no shade. Hurry up and wait.

Business documents, mailed to me weeks ago, vanish in some Canada Post limbo. Hurry up and wait.

I'm angry. I'm desperate.I wonder at the fact that I haven't yet ground my teeth to veritable stubs.

At this moment, I recall with hallucinatory clarity how it feels to have the grace and patience of that government clerk. But I can't get there.

The evening before: why hurry?

I've stopped for one whole night. Every other evening this week, I've made the base for a new bracelet. I'm going at it like it's the Olympics of beading and I'm going for gold. What I'm actually trying to do is get out of the day job for real. Another year? Can I save enough? Can I sell enough? Teach enough?

I'm far past my best-before date at the day job. If my attitude assumed material form, it would match the potentially deadly science fiction growths forming inside tupperware containers at the back of my fridge. My boss of 18 years, the saving grace of my department, retired early. Now, I can't decide whether "utterly dysfunctional" or "toxic" best describes the atmosphere.

Added aggravation: my unit of the union is owed five years back pay and although there are now five administrators, fund raisers or administrative assistants for every staff member on the ground, the employer seems curiously uninterested in negotiating in any meaningful way with people who actually keep the place running, day-to day.

Work days, I greet the mornings with feelings of dread and battle my way up to resigned stoicism. Walking a picket line has become one of my more joyful fantasies. Really.

On this, my one night off, I'm angry and I want to stop being angry. I'm scared and I want to stop being scared. I feel utterly disconnected and alone. I'm fighting for survival with no help coming. I'm so tired, so very tired of the long, long hours and the constant feeling that I have to apologize for my self-imposed work schedule. I try to hide my desperation because I don't think anyone understands it. I'm tired of that, too. I realize, in the way I often realize a thing days and days before it leaves the uselessly abstract territory of my brain and makes its way to my heart or gut, that although all the work issues are problems, they are not the problem.

The problem is never out there. Wait for those kind of problems to stop and you'll die waiting - probably sooner than necessary. I know that in my brain. I am waiting for it to reach my gut, where it will cause a meaningful shift. Let go.

Let go, my brain orders my brain - which is like the police ordering an investigation of the police.

It'll take the time it takes. Hurry hurry hurry up. And wait.