Enthralled

Canberra, Floristry, Work

I am having another bout of career angst. No, angst is too dramatic.  Maybe just plain old anxiety.  Of course it’s Monday, where many of us face the prospect of a week doing something that we really don’t find enthralling.

I use the word ‘enthralling’ deliberately. It’s an interesting word, one that has largely changed in its use between now and the early examples from the 1600s given by the Oxford Dictionary.  Originally, it meant ‘To reduce to the condition of a thrall; to hold in thrall; to enslave, bring into bondage; to ‘enslave’ mentally or morally.’  Its meaning has been extended in a more positive direction, as in ‘Now chiefly, to captivate, hold spellbound, by pleasing qualities’.

I think most of us would like to wake up on Monday morning and feel enthralled by the prospect of going to work.

A few weeks ago I had to take time off work because I had reinjured my back.  Unable to sit, my physio encouraged me to take gentle walks. I headed off to the Botanic Gardens with my ipad.  With great care and with lots of rest stops, I made it round the main path loop.  The rest stops coincided with photo opportunities, as I stopped to admire the winter flowers that I found.  In retrospect, I realise that I was enthralled.  Despite the pain, and the freezing temperatures, I was still enthralled.  It was wonderful!  As the poet, Mary Oliver, says:

“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

Here I am, telling about it.

From left, the wonderfully floriferous grevillea called ‘Lady O’, the prostrate form of Acacia baileyana, Banksia spinulosa var. neoanglica and a Geraldton wax called ‘Cascade Brook’.  I am definitely going to try and find ‘Cascade Brook’ for the new native bed that I am hoping to construct over the summer.  Lady O is pretty easy to find in Canberra nurseries, as everyone seems to appreciate how reliable she is, great flowers, bird attracting in winter and frost hardy.  I had her in my last garden and would definitely make space for her, even though she may not be a great choice for the vase.  I wasn’t interested in floristy previously so I never thought to cut her.  I think for my next arrangement I might try a banksia.  I am not particularly confident on how or even what I should do, but you have to learn by doing with floristry.  I still have a branch of this amazing something from the Protea family that I bought last week to make a birthday arrangement for a friend.  It has a seductive silky texture and combined perfectly with the apricot spray roses.

How do I find that same sense of delight and enthrallment in my working life that I get from writing about plants and flowers?  From arranging them and growing them.  The obvious answer would be to retrain in horticulture.  But not with a back injury and my cancer producing skin.  Retrain as a florist?  Well yes, but I can’t afford to live on a shade over the minimum wage, certainly not in this town.  I met a florist recently and she says she gets paid $19 an hour, or $39 520, assuming a forty hour week.  The Canberra Times (26 June, 2015) noted that ‘The average income of a full-time ACT worker is about $90,000 a year – a smidge above what a typical APS level 6 public servant earns. (And, in Canberra, more public servants are employed at executive level 1 than APS6)’.  Just for the record, my academic job is well below the average…

Still trying to figure out how to translate that sense of astonishment and communication into a career I can live with, and afford.  If you have suggestions, let me know!

Allergic to work???

Adoption, Cancer, Diabetes, emotions, Family, Uncategorized, Work

I think I am allergic to work.  No, seriously.

I have spent the entire day forcing myself to pay attention, with my eyes skittering off the page like a toddler on too much red cordial.  The trouble is, this is the latest of a long line of jobs I have loathed.  My first job was when I was in high school.  That was decades ago.  I still feel exactly the same about work as I did then.  It’s tedious, exhausting, unrewarding and generally, a crapulous experience.  Hence, my conclusion.  I think I am allergic to work.  We’ve certainly had enough people over the centuries praising it as virtuous, character building,  blah de fucking blah.  But I have to ask myself, are they perhaps not shouting a little too loud?  It certainly seems like it to me.

It’s hard to avoid the modern rhetoric about the importance of work and career.  Indeed, I am conscious of the fact of the ongoing struggle of some women to even be able to participate in the workforce on anything like equal grounds.  I feel churlish about complaining about my lot, which has a window that opens, a door that shuts and plenty of freedom and flexibility.

Not enough freedom and flexibility, however, to be able to run with my essence.  I woke up this morning feeling like shit, and didn’t want to leave the house.  It’s nearly the end of the day, I still feel like shit and I want to be at home.  In bed.  With the cat. Period.  But I am not in any position to honour these feelings, to give them space and work with them.  One of the lessons of that I think we all need to learn is to honour our emotions, however challenging or difficult they are.  I have known too many who haven’t and in the process tend to have had more trouble, both within their own lives and with others, as a result.  Maybe if I’d stayed at home and accepted how I felt, I might have gotten through it quicker, and then when I got to the office, I’d have been ready to actually do some work.  But I’ve not been able to achieve a thing, because the urkness inside still wants its day.  So, end result is that I still feel like shit and I’ve also achieved nothing.

I do have good reason to feel this way.  My mother does indeed have cancer, in addition to heart disease and diabetes.  I’m crapping on the universe for giving me two mothers with cancer to deal with.  Such a lucky little adoptee.  But even despite this profoundly good reason for wanting to crawl under the doona and NOT COME OUT EVER AGAIN, I feel the same about work.  I felt like this before I got the news about my mother.  It has just made me feel my feelings about it even more strongly.

I wonder how many people would genuinely continue to go to their job if they didn’t need the money to pay the bills and feed themselves and their family if they have one?  Would you still do what you do if you didn’t get paid?  My answer is no.

Yet, if you were to consider my CV, you might think that it couldn’t possibly have been all that bad.  Maybe it wasn’t.  I certainly have met lots of kind, intelligent and wonderful people, some of whom have been become treasured friends.  I’ve found that I get to spend perhaps half an hour a day enjoying the company of my colleagues, and the remaining majority of the hours I’m locked to a computer screen.   Some of my work may possibly contribute to making the world a better place.  Emphasis on possibly.  Certainly that was my intent but you have no guarantees.  Did I enjoy the processes of work? No, not really.  Not enough to counter the depression and the exhaustion.  Am I in the wrong job?  Clearly the answer is yes.  What worries me is that there is no right job.  And that I have to show up here, day after day for at least the next two decades.

Oh happy thought.