Last week was a fairly stressful week, for reasons that don't bear going into. And of course, whenever I get stressed out, I break out like I'm 13, and huddle under the covers with good book. If I were given a spirit guide, it would probably be the ostrich. Sure, I can take the heat, or the freezing cold, eat iron, or elude lions. But when it's all over and done with, just let me shut out the world for a bit and bury my head in the sand.
And that's precisely what I did all weekend. I read, watched movies with Liontamer, cooked dinner, and played online scrabble. It was delicious being so isolated from the world for three days, neglecting all the things I need to do, should be doing to fully embrace sloth. Despite my best efforts, I feel a little guilty about it. I should have done something...even if it was just the dishes. Which makes me wonder: Why should I feel guilty about doing nothing? It's not as if I'm doing nothing while our country is invaded or while a dictatorship is raiding homes. I'm doing nothing in my safe, isolated, suburban community. I'm doing nothing and it has no greater ramifications than a sink full of dirty dishes and a pile of laundry on the floor.
And somehow, doing nothing, even for a weekend, feels to me like being nothing. I had this conversation a few weeks ago with a friend. I tried explaining why I cannot feel worthy unless I am doing something worthy.
I do not want to disappear into suburbia, a frozen face in a yearbook at an antique store, a name on a synagogue register. Perhaps I will be loved, but will I be remembered after all who known me are gone? If I am not then, does my life matter now?
It is a sad irony that I, a woman who works every day to help others understand why its so important that we all cherish and value the inherent dignity and worth of every person, must go out and acquire self-worth.
Maybe I am this way because I come from a broken home where I believed I had to be good and pretty to be loved by my father, and later Stepfather. Or, it could be that I simply struggle to accept my life as it is, now that the days of childhood dreaming are over. I cannot be anything I want to be with loans to pay and real world responsibilities. I've seen too many people more talented than me, luckier than me, hungrier than me. They will be the leaders of my generation, not I. And looking more broadly, perhaps I can blame the American work ethic, which asks people to rejoice at having the longest hours and least amount of vacation days of any industrialized country.....because busy hands make us closer to G-d.
And so, I negotiate with myself. I find solace in knowing the stories of those less fortunate than me, and being a force to help them, no matter how small. I swallow the jealousy I feel when I meet beautiful, smart women, who seem to have it all, and think to myself that maybe they aren't really that nice, or that pretty or that talented. I carry small hope in my heart that maybe one day, I will write a book that people will love and be inspired by and will make them remember me forever.
Around this time I started thinking about when I have been happiest in my life and it has always been when I travel. Although not doing anything for anyone but myself, whenever I'm in a new place or culture, I never question my worth....I like being who I am. I don't mind being jet-lagged, getting blisters on my feet from too much walking, and waking up early every morning of my vacation. I wouldn't even trade my situation for Angelina Jolie's.
After much soul searching I realized that maybe the old adage is right-Idle hands make the Devil's work. With too little on my plate, I begin to get grouchy and drink too much Diet Coke and think too much about my life and allow all the nasty parts of my personality to indulge themselves in a bacchanalia of self-deprecation, anger, jealousy, and selfishness. It isn't doing things that makes me feel worth, its making a life for myself that I feel is worth living. It's removing myself from a funk by filling it with things that have no time for the maudlin.
So, I've decided to try to create a little cheap adventure for myself. I'm making a commitment to go on photography expeditions twice a month to someplace new in the area and to try my hand at a new skill...furniture refinishing. Why furniture? I've always liked furniture design and I enjoy painting...and I have a really ugly inherited dining room set that I'd like to work my way up to making something I could sell eventually. So, today, I drove with Liontamer out to an antique store I've driven past every day for months now and wanted to visit. I purchased for $10, a wooden captain's chair that has much of its varnish stripped already. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it after I remove the rest of the varnish and sand it down, but I am excited to see what I can do with it. And of course, I will share this epic battle with the rest of you.