Wednesday, May 11, 2011

be a bad worker

Lately, I've been getting fed up with the stress of being me. Being me means my mood is almost solely tied to how well my work is going. If my clients are happy, work is shipping on time, orders are fast and furious, kilns are firing the way they are supposed to fire, production is snappy, new work is in the pipeline, then happiness is mine. From that list, the convergence of all of them happening is about once a month for approximately 3 minutes. Basically, I have it all set up so satisfaction is almost impossible and I'm always wrestling with this demon who is telling me if I just work harder, try harder, maybe everything will finally come together in the way I think it should.

I've had to admit to myself that I am a workaholic. I resist that word because it seems like a word that would apply to somebody else doing different kind of work. But if I take some of the classic symptoms of alcoholism and apply them to work, it's hard to deny that I have a work problem. For example:
  • I minimize how much time I actually spend working, the way an alcoholic minimizes how much he drinks.
  • I don't count certain types of work as work, like listing stuff on etsy or cleaning my studio, the way an alcoholic may say that beer isn't really alcohol.
  • I hide work, like snapping my computer shut and pretend like I was in the middle of doing something else when my husband walks into the room, and we all know alcoholics hide booze.
  • And then the classic: does work make your home life unhappy? Yes, yes, and yes. My husband is an independent soul who doesn't allow me to dictate the mood at home, but there's no doubt I undermine his pleasure in life when I come home and whine about work, or worse, cry because the stress is getting to me.

It was suggested to me by my friend Jack, who is similarly driven-- actually, I am surrounded by these types, now that I think about it--is rather than work so hard at being good, apply myself to being bad. Be a slacker. Say "no" to clients. Be late to meetings. Blow off emails. Spend all day making something ridiculous instead of filling orders. And do it all without a single apology. I was laughing so hysterically when he was making these suggestions to me, tears were rolling out of my eyes. He was making a larger point about Americans working too hard in general, and how the culture of being "busy" and driven all the time is killing us and making life difficult to enjoy. "We all need to learn how to be bad workers." is how he summed up his theory.

It's an indication of how deeply ingrained the American hard work ethic is in me when these suggestions make me almost hysterical with laughter and seem about as realistic as walking on water or setting myself on fire. However, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed that these measures could actually be therapeutic, and maybe being a bad worker would be like taking some vitamins. Maybe I don't have to do all of them at once, but I could try a few of them and see if the studio collapses or my head explodes. So if you are wondering where your order is or why I haven't responded to your email, you'll know I'm taking my medicine!