With the upcoming event “Work on Work”, and lots of work in my life lately, (a great deal of it aggravating in nature), I am back to pondering the whole “artistic life/work life” integration scheme I wrote about some months ago. As I was showering off copious work stress sweat this evening, I thought, “I’m not doing such a great job with this whole integration thing.” Then I thought, “Well, hell, Typist, did you expect it to be easy? You are Way Too Idealistic.” Then I realized this idea that I am Way Too Idealistic was drilled into my head since I was wee one. That thought doesn’t actually belong to me, it was just injected into me so often it created a stubborn neural pathway like an errant record groove, so now whenever I start to have any visionary ideas for my life, it repeats in my head with a mopey, Eeyore-like lethargy.
The question is, what is “too” idealistic? When is gratitude not a spiritual practice, but bludgeon to keep one from real fulfillment, or a roadblock to seeking a more satisfying life? (And how self-involved is it to want "fulfillment" anyway when the Middle East is on the brink and children are dying of malnutrition every day?) Do I make everything in my life—my writing, my job, my relationships--harder than they need to be because I believe life is supposed to be grim and difficult? Am I afraid of being happy, so I trap myself in situations where nothing can ever be fully satisfying; where I am bound never to meet my potential in either my artistic life or my work life? Or is all of this just the idle fretting of a naturally melancholic mind?
As an attempt at a little integration exercise, right here, right now--I am going to do something that I learned in a recent management class, and discipline myself to look at observable facts. Looking at facts is not my forte, being a poet and fiction writer and a generally overly-imaginative person whose emotional life tends to actually be my reality. I wonder what looking at facts will do to calm my inner turmoil, (or increase it.) So, here we go:
Work/Artistic Life Integration Fact #1: My third poetry chapbook—about work—has not been picked up for publication and has been rejected four times so far. (Writing potential?)
Work/ Artistic Life Integration Fact #2: My recent fiction was picked up. (Writing potential?)
Work/ Artistic Life Integration Fact #3: I just pulled off a big event at work that received a very positive response from the majority of participants. (Work potential!)
Work/ Artistic Life Integration Fact #4: I may have an opportunity to bring writing into my work life by creating a poetry program for patients in our waiting rooms.
Work/ Artistic Life Integration Fact #5: I am getting some writing done every week, consistently.
Work/ Artistic Life Integration Fact #6: Many of my ideas for that writing are inspired from my day job.
Work/ Artistic Life Integration Fact #7: I am often fatigued due to work, making it difficult to write.
Work/ Artistic Life Integration Fact #8: I am often saddened by the lack of time to write. (Sadness is a fact, right?)
Work/ Artistic Life Integration Fact #9: My day job is important to my development as a person.
Work/ Artistic Life Integration Fact #10: Developing as a person is a key factor in developing as a writer, and developing as a writer is important to me.
Looking at these ten facts collectively does nothing to calm my inner turmoil; it just confuses me all the more. But it’s the path I walk right now, in all of its maddening, contradictory richness, and maybe in the end, the trick isn’t in obsessing over the perfect alchemy of integration, but in exploring the gift of the paradox.