10 April 2014

"yer heart's desire."

I don't know why, but no matter how sick or sad I feel some days, I can't bring myself to leave work. I don't consider myself a workaholic at all; I'll honestly say that on some days, I just phone it in — figuratively.

There are days when I wake up and don't want to get out of bed, but somehow, I find myself on my feet anyway, making breakfast, getting dressed, and grumbling but, eventually, finding myself on the road and then at my desk. I completely understand the feelings people have when they decide to call in sick when they aren't or drop everything and head on the next bus to the beach. But I just find myself unable to do the same thing, no matter how much I want to.

A few years ago, I saw this interview with Hugh Laurie. Jay Leno asks Mr. Laurie if he had fun hosting Saturday Night Live, and Mr. Laurie says:

Where I was brought up, sort of fairly strict Presbyterian household, fun was viewed with suspicion. Fun was not a good thing. Pleasure was a questionable goal. It stayed with me. I don't see fun as a goal ... I think I may actually be incapable of having fun. So when I went there, and people said, 'Oh, you know, just have fun!', to me, it's like saying, 'Just have a baby!' It's that ridiculous. I'm just sort of not put together that way.

Later in the interview, he goes back to it, when he's asked about people saying he's difficult to work with:

I suppose I have this, somewhere in my head, I have this idea that if a thing is pleasurable, it can't be any good.

The interview is really funny, maybe especially because Mr. Laurie doesn't smile much in it.

In another interview, he says:

I had some pretty bleak times, dark days when it seemed like there was no escape. And having a very Presbyterian work ethic, I was determined never to be late, not to miss a single day's filming. You wouldn't catch me phoning in to say, 'I think I may be coming down with the flu'.

But there were times when I'd think, 'If I were just to have an accident on the way to the studio and win a couple of days off to recover, how brilliant would that be?'

So when I beat myself up about turning down something good because of work, I think of Hugh Laurie, and I wonder about how this kind of thinking got wired into me, too.

And then I think of my dad and those years that he was in that one department where you had to drop everything if the plant needed you. I remember my mom telling me and my brothers that it was Dad's job that let us live in our house and have food on the table, etc. I also remember seeing that other kids' dads got to come home Saturday afternoon, and mine didn't. I remember that one Father's Day I walked out of church and cried in the car because it was time to honor the dads, and he wasn't there for me to honor with the ribbon or the mug or whatever it was the church had come up with for us kids.

But mind you, the whole time I was crying, I was also lecturing myself about being a melodramatic baby. I did used to be a big crybaby, and I think people at school knew this and would make me cry on purpose. So some part of me saw crying not just as an expression of weakness but as an invitation for others to pick on that weakness.

Maybe I deserve to cry, I told myself in the car that day. Maybe crying is for wusses, I also told myself.

My dad showed up, still in his uniform, while I was still in the car. He was smiling when I hugged him. But, I felt extremely embarrassed.

Anyway, enough of the trip down backstory lane; I'm at ~700 words now and still haven't gotten to the good part of this post.

I've been stuck in a no-fun holding pattern for the past eight or nine months, and it's been, well, no fun. I told myself I couldn't have certain things I wanted because it was not a good time. Friends, family, and Cris complained that my job took me away from them. I had to tell myself, it's your job that lets you pay your rent and bills, have food on the table, have something maybe impressive to put on that grad school application, and have bosses who can give you references for said application. I told my loved ones, "Well, it's work."

I tried telling myself not to want things because it would just set me up for the disappointment of having to turn them down. The problem is, I hadn't recognized that telling yourself not to want things doesn't actually stop you from wanting them. You think you're doing the Christian self-denial thing or the Buddhist shunning-desires thing (take your pick). But, it's impossible to drain yourself of your wants. The wants don't go away — you can either act on them or change them; it's denying that they're there that makes them stronger.

You want to know what it gets you, denying your wants because you think you shouldn't have fun right now? Tonight, my family is flying to Europe without me. I could have gone with them, and all I would have spent would have been for personal stuff, like meals and souvenirs. Who turns down a semi-free trip to Europe because of work? This idiot, that's who: the one who didn't ask for leave because she told herself she wasn't allowed to want it.

This great epiphany came at around 1 AM as I cried my eyes out — for the first time in ages, I might add — because my plans with Cris for a consuelo trip to Pinatubo fell through. After months of telling myself I couldn't have what I wanted, I acknowledged that I wanted this little thing, and disappointment had immediately swooped in.

It wasn't just the disappointment, though, it was the disappointment on top of knowing that my family was about to leave, and I would be left behind because of my own quote-unquote work ethic, which nobody in today's world gets a cookie for, really.

I can't live like this (I told myself); I can't not want things. To want is to live, because you act or you change — and, goddammit, you actually have fun sometimes. I'm not having any fun; I'm just becoming sadder and more isolated the more I try to want less.

I'm done. I don't want to wait anymore.

The other day, I got some news that I'd been waiting for. I told my dad, and he offered to loan me the money I'd need, "if this is yer heart's desire."

(Another reason I still value work ethic: it's helped get my dad to where he is, able to fund family trips to Europe and offer to finance heart's desires.)

It's a cheesy phrase, often used at my old church as a euphemism when people pray for someone to make the singles not-single. But, I've taken hold of it. I cup it in my hands like a secret and relish knowing that, yes, I have it, and I'm allowed to have it, a "heart's desire" — something to live for.

01 April 2014


I flew home last weekend to see Mon graduate from high school.

I have so many hopes for my youngest brother as he gets ready for college and so many fears, too.

He never did get grades as high as mine at school, but his social skills are lightyears ahead of mine — he'll be high-fiving the school janitors one day and walking the GM's daughter home another. He's handled a breakup with a maturity I didn't gain until much later. He's witty, which means he's smart; he speaks well, he's learned to cook much sooner than I did, and the girls and the boys all seem to love him. I think this will do more for him and his future than his report cards ever will.

And yet, all this is why I'm a little afraid. I mean, you remember being 16 or 17 and feeling bigger and stronger than anything, and you remember the times life proved you wrong afterward. You always look back on them with bittersweet gratitude — thanks to that, I know better, but shit! if that didn't hurt.

I played photographer at the ceremony last Friday, and this is my favorite shot of Mon. He's just received his diploma and is confidently walking forward to take a bow. This is the boy who wants to do both college and culinary school and who says the college thing he looks most forward to is meeting new people. He wears T-shirts with Bible verses on them to church and helps man the sound booth. He loves pizza and video games. His drum skills are killer.

Of course, in entries like these, I'm expected to tell you that this is also the boy whose stroller I used to push, or that I was the first person to see him sit up by himself (it was in his crib, and he was wearing a blue-and-green striped shirt). But I decided to stop addressing him as Momon a year or so ago; today, I'm talking about Mon. I'm long past waxing nostalgic about the little boy he used to be and more interested in the young man he's becoming.

All I want is some kind of assurance — and all I can ever really hope for is — that he'll always have a reason to smile the way he does in this picture.