Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Conversation Chronicles: From My Birthday Dinner

dad: so i have little joke for you. i just remember it.

me: ok.

dad: it’s from Benny Hill. i was watching it long time ago, old show.

me: i know that show. i used to watch it with you when i was little. i don’t think i understood it at the time.

dad: oh, good. but you understand it now?

me: yeah, pretty sure i do now.

dad: ok, so Benny is in bed with his old wife after seeing young girls in the little skirts. you know how he chase girls. and he look at his wife all sad and say mean to her, “goodnight, mother of three.” and she look at him and say, “goodnight, father of one.” get it?

me: i think i do. very nice, pops.

dad: ok, so now let’s toast to your birthday.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Joy of Work

as a general rule, i don’t talk about work here beyond confirming the fact that i am working. the reason for this is because talking about work is boring, yet i don’t have much else to talk about right now. it’s been nothing but work nonstop, which is not meant to sound like a complaint. in fact, i’ll confess that work for me has been gangbusters lately. (and now that i’ve committed these words to the unforgiving internet, the great hand of a telecom satellite will reach down from outer space to smite me.) 

to start, there is the simple fact that i’m gainfully employed by a day job i don’t hate and a boss i really love, which i’m eternally grateful for in this age where people are hurting for work. then there are the many freelance projects i’ve been commissioned to complete, which include two magazines (i’ll discuss those in a future post) and work for my other standing clients such as UCLA and Cedars-Sinai. 

i also am working on a couple of book projects, one of my own making (also to be discussed in a future post) and another by a client who just hired me to edit his self-help book. so yes, it’s raining work, hallelujah. thanks be to god, allah, buddha, moses, gandhi, bob marley and the dali laima. good looking out, guys.

what’s troubling me about all this abundance is how it’s affecting my free time, which is clearly in short supply, though that’s not even the issue. the issue is that the free time i do have i don’t seem to want anymore. what is that about?

i can see it happening a little more every day — this metamorphosis into a workaholic. like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, i’m witnessing myself change, with scales popping up where there was once skin and my antennae growing longer each week, more attuned now to finding work as though it were food.

in a sense it is food, as i have plenty of bills to pay and will have more once my roommate moves out at the end of the month and construction on the deck begins. so the paychecks will find a new home lining every pocket except my own. i also made a resolution to cut my construction debt in half by the end of the year and, at the six-month mark, i’m on track with that goal.

so money is part of it but not the whole part as i can probably work less and still get by. it’s just that i can’t stop working, even when it’s OK to stop, like at night when it’s time to sleep and not check your iphone constantly and without cause. i also probably don’t need to live in front of my computer the way i do, with email, facebook and dropbox windows always open. i could probably give myself a break here and there, maybe take a walk around the block, but it never happens.

when i do leave the house for an event or a meal with friends, i feel anxious to get home and am too often overcome with the desire to reach for my phone. in an effort to force myself to “relax goddamnit” (my latest mantra), i got a massage a few weeks ago but could barely enjoy it. the masseuse seemed to be taking too long, way longer than the 60 minutes we had scheduled, i was sure of it.

i also feel like i talk too fast nowadays and in a way that’s all business. conversations with me need to have a point, particularly an endpoint so i can hang up and return to my work. i have trouble sleeping through the night, my mind jumpy with my to do list, which i keep in a running email i send to myself daily, resending as new items are added and completed items are removed. 

the bright side of all this effort is that my shit is getting done on time. deadlines are met, results are delivered. i am an efficiency machine. it’s the type of busy where there won’t be time later so it must get done now. and i get it done and redone and overdone and superdone. and then i do some more. 

and when there’s nothing left to do, i drive myself crazy with thoughts about how i could have done it better. but here’s the kicker: those thoughts don’t center on my work as much as they do on the rest of my life. it’s mostly memory-lane stuff , involving the people, places and things of my past. i’ll fixate on my (perceived) missteps, telling myself i should have stayed in San Francisco after college instead of moving back to LA. i’ll wonder why i didn’t trust my gut when it told me that last guy was not a keeper. i’ll beat myself up for working for others instead of working on my own writing. 

maybe that’s why work feels so welcome lately: it’s the one place where i feel competent. even when i do make a mistake there, i never obsess over it. i simply shake it off and keep moving forward. it’s the same approach i’ve taken with everything in my life, i suppose. yet i’ll ruminate on my life’s mistakes — endlessly, needlessly, constantly — long after the time to change anything has passed. 

of course, i know no one gets to play a perfect game, that we all make mistakes and learn from them, grow stronger and become who we are today, blah, blah, blah. i know this shit. and that’s what’s troubling: i should know better. still, there’s no off switch, nothing to shut out this internal melodrama and self-obsession that’s making me feel like a teenager. work is my only reprieve.

of course, there are worse addictions to have, some i’ve likely had before, including an addiction to nicotine. and while it’s easy to think that my love for work is just the latest manifestation of an addictive personality, i know this isn’t the case with my personality because if it were, i would have gotten addicted to every drug i tried in college, of which there were many. but none really stuck besides cigarettes (at least not for the long term).

and that’s my hope here — that all of this will be short-lived. my birthday is fast approaching, bringing the coulda-shoulda-woulda blues with it as it has in years past. i don’t doubt that this has been playing a big part in the mental mind-fuck i’ve been giving myself. but my birthday will soon pass along with the rest of 2012, which will be characterized as the year of “the crazy to do list” for me. and when it’s done, i hope i can look back on the great projects i completed fondly while no doubt struggling with some new preoccupation.