Friday, May 07, 2010

A Good Work Ethic

There are ants in the toilet bowl. In search of water, perhaps. I wonder that they go there. They come by night and by the morning’s first flush they are drowned. They float like so many specks of black fluff on the surface of the water until the day’s toilet use gets rid of them altogether. The following morning the process starts again, and a new batch arrives.

Ants often appear at the turn of seasons, when the rain begins. I imagine their nests have been flooded and they come inside for drier quarters. Why then make their home in the base of a toilet bowl?

I do not understand ant behaviour. I do not understand my own behaviour either.

So often I find myself wishing that something good would happen, as if I need an external jolt to shock me out of my current state. A sort of non-electric ECT.

The other day I tried to talk to my youngest daughter about her state of mind, which she reassured me was fine. She was just having trouble adjusting to the demands of her final years at school. She would learn to adjust, she told me, and then asked why I had been so gloomy of late.

Gloomy was her word and I pondered on this. I have not felt myself to be particularly gloomy. Despite the generally pessimistic tenor of my blog posts, I am a cheerful person; at least this is how I see myself. Optimistic, one who looks on the bright side, nicknamed Pollyanna by my analyst years ago for my tendency to see things in a positive light. How then could I be gloomy?

Maybe, I thought, I have not been making such an effort these days to hide my dissatisfactions. No longer do I pretend not to mind such inevitable frustrations as housework. No longer am I so bright and cheerful about all the things that need fixing, the things my family look for from me. I grumble more. I am less forthcoming. I groan. I grizzle.

A friend had asked my daughter, if she could have her wish come true, what would she want most of all.
‘A good work ethic,’ she said.
Her friend was surprised. ‘Most people want money.’

A good work ethic, my daughter’s wish. I ponder on this. Perhaps that is what I am missing of late. I have not lost it in relation to my professional work, that remains, but I have lost momentum as regards my thesis and my enthusiasm wanes.

My daughter is confident she will develop a good work ethic. I have only to find mine again and all will be well.

‘Autobiographers lead perilous lives’, writes Paul John Eakin. They smash up against the rocks of non-compromise, their own and other people’s interpretations of what they have written. Shipwrecked on the judgments of others, all the autobiographer can salvage from what can sometimes feel like a volley of criticism, is the knowledge that she tried her best to communicate an experience – her experience – and that although others might see things differently, she is not her writing, nor is hers the only perspective. Her writing is but one aspect of her and it changes.

My husband has just walked in with a new wind and waterproof jacket to wear while riding his bike. It is bright canary yellow.
‘Excellent, ‘I say, ‘people will see you coming.’
This slick will keep him safe. It will keep out the wind, keep off the rain and make him such a target that it might keep others on the road out of his way.

If only the autobiographer could clothe herself in such a jacket. If only I could find better protection from the elements. Instead I am like those ants it seems. I keep reaching towards the perilous toilet waters for a drink only to be flushed away next time someone else needs to use the toilet.
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