Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Zen of Kites, My New French-Style Work Ethic, Novel Time Warps, and Annoying Double Standards

Last weekend, Mr. Typist and I biffed off to Ocean Shores, using our anniversary as an excuse to fly kites on the beach. I chose a tie-dyed hippie kite, and Mr. Typist chose a black Jolly Roger kite. I wasn’t much into to flying kites as a kid, but as an adult I now appreciate the Zen-like joy inherent in this utterly frivolous pursuit: The moment the kite catches the air and lifts off, the sense of both complete freedom and complete safety, and the beauty of a thing specifically designed to do nothing but leap into the wind and flap there in all of its colorful glory. You can’t really appreciate flying a kite until life has kicked your ass to a bloody pulp. Only then do you get it. Only then do you really understand what’s going on when you look up and the loud, audacious piece of nylon cloth you own is fluttering a mile above you in the brilliant sky, totally itself, totally useless, and totally at one with the elements.

Also, we went bowling and watched cable. It was awesome. Except that when we got back, we had to deal with our traumatized cats, who were cruelly left alone with roughly eight pounds of gourmet food and about as much water, plus their entire arsenal of catnip-laced toys, for all of 48 hours. You would have thought we'd dumped them in a scorpion-infested ditch covered in barbed wire, the way they acted.

May has been a month of Many Days Away From Work. I was at a conference in early May (still technically work, but not “work-work”), then a four-day weekend for my anniversary, and now the Memorial Day weekend. I’m enjoying this French-like approach to industry; taking lots of days off and not actively courting a heart attack on a daily basis as per the usual American standard. With all of this time off, I made pretty good progress on my novel, but I recently realized that my poor sense of linear time has bled over into novel-world, where a short conversation started in the sunny afternoon somehow ends in a rainy evening, the season changes from summer to winter at a whim, and there can magically be three weekends in a single week! I put up a post on my writing site asking for help with my constant time-warp issues, and I got some great advice. I’m vacillating about downloading Scrivener, but they have a free trial, and I think I might give it a try. I’ve only got one hundred pages to the finish line before the first draft is done, and I could use any help I can get at this point. This “writing a whole entire book” stuff is hard.

I’ve discussed my struggles here previously with weaning myself off of my news-feed sites, and I’ve come to a jittery half-measure in only reading Vox, which does a great job of boiling news stories down into understandable bite-size pieces. The most recent article I read there was about the firing of Jill Abramson, which made me mad. Look, it may be true that she’s an obnoxious, divisive blowhard—I really don’t know—but the whole thing irks me a bit because I get really mad about differences in standards for men and women in the workplace. Men can be aggressive and decisive and “tough”, even ruthless, without penalty, but when a woman expresses the same qualities, she’s a bitch and she has to go. I’m not personally worried for Jill—she made half a million dollars a year; she’ll be fine—but the whole thing leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. And I’m a traditionally “soft, feminine” type who has chosen a typically “soft”, touchy-feely field to work in. But that doesn’t mean I’m not required to make some very tough decisions during my work day. Working in human services is not for the faint of heart. 

I balance on a knife-edge of constantly expressing compassion and being a good listening ear, and having to be an all-out warrior for my people—all while smiling in a pleasing manner and proving that I value relationships. So I get a little bit sensitive about the penalties exacted on women for expressing the same qualities as the men who are lauded for them. Bah, whatever. I’m hereby enacting “Bring Your Kite to Work Day”, and when these things start to upset me, you will see a tie-dyed piece of triangular nylon dancing above my workplace, thumbing its flappy plasticine nose at oppressive double standards.

--Kristen McHenry

No comments: