There’s no room

She sat there, listless, yawning, waiting for her daughter’s violin class to end.  Her eyes were unfocused and there were bags under her eyes.  She seemed incapable of taking another step.  She could have curled up and taken a nap right there on the carpet of the waiting room.

I commented on her tiredness, told her she looked ready for bed.  I was waiting for her daughter’s class to end as well because my own class started next.  On Tuesdays I do have an elevated level of stress because I need to time things perfectly: leave work at a certain hour, catch a certain bus, pray for flowing traffic etc.  But I wouldn’t dream of giving up my violin classes because of this.  In fact if my class was two hours long instead of 30 minutes, even if it started at 8 PM and ended at 10 PM,  I would still love it.  I would prefer it longer.  It’s the only time of the day when I am doing something good, something that enriches my life, something that is so far removed from what I do to earn a living.

Our conversation went on.  We started talking about Route 206 and how clogged it got during rush hour because of all the construction and the long stretches of one-lane traffic.  I experience Route 206 on Friday nights or Saturday mornings when I go for my Hindustani classical vocal lessons.  I told her my reasons for traveling on this route on certain days.  That’s when she told me how impressed she was with my efforts at taking classes, my desire to learn new things.  She said it wasn’t possible for her to absorb anything new at all at this point in life.  She said there was no room.  She said she was crazed enough at work and all she wanted was to relax with a glass of wine after work and not do another thing that involved getting off the couch.  Just bringing her daughter to violin and soccer and basketball was an immense strain.

I told her I would get crazed if all I was doing was my work, that moving numbers around in spreadsheets would cause early brain death for me if that was all I did with my time.  I mentioned I would be bored out of my mind if I wasn’t finding ways to learn new things.  I said that it was difficult for me to find inspiration in number crunching.  She said her work inspired her everyday.  That there were new challenges everyday.  Each work day was different for her, there were new problems to solve, new opportunities to explore creativity, to get absorbed in her work, creativity was rewarded, employers cared.

Hmm…so where before I was feeling mildly superior for having interests outside of work and the energy to explore them after a fourteen hour long day, now she had swiftly turned the tables and backed me into a corner, forcing me to the recurrent exploration of the “where did I go wrong” theme.  How did all my choices lead me to a place where all I do is move numbers around? Why am I so singularly incapable of finding something exciting to do to keep body and soul together in fine functioning order, without craving newness? I click open all my files, review everything I have on my plate a million times, trying to find something new, something exciting, a different way of doing something, some way to find enchantment and contentment in what I do and I continue to draw blanks.

If a hammer is all that is “officially sanctioned” to perform all necessary tasks in my role then all my problems do take on the morphology of a nail.  I am not allowed to stray.  I am not allowed to emerge from my straitjacket.  So I stay put.  I smile and take pleasure from the wide-eyed looks of wonder that I get when people say things like, “Wow how do you do it? I couldn’t.”

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