The things grandma says. But I mean really this extends to: the things people say. When grandma says yes but Ryan it’s time you get a better paying job, you’re a lawyer, you need to make more money, I laugh and shrug it off because she’s grandma. And this grandma gets a pass because grandma is my mom’s mom, and you can hear mom’s voice in grandma’s voice—the resonant positivity, the glow of a woman who’s survived (my mom had this glow of smile, co-workers and customers at Barnes and Noble where my mom worked frequently commented on her smile), and grandma gets a pass because she’s antiqued from a different generation where upward mobility and gender roles and yada yada. But mostly, I give her a pass because like a didgeridoo is supposed to vibrate the air all around the player and the listener, grandma’s voice fills up my earbud headphones with good juju as I’m chit chatting with her on my drive home from place A to place B this past weekend.
She said Ryan you’ve got get a real job because I told her I was working at a coffeeshop and when she said that’s it I said well I’ve applied for this communications director position at this protect the river nonprofit. I could hear the quiet disappointment in her pause. My point in all this is that people say things and sometimes you give them the benefit of the doubt and sometimes you get hotheaded and defensive and you’ll them to eat a bag of shit with a plastic spork.
I gave grandma a pass but the cymbal of same was still struck in my cerebral brain, and the vibrations went unnoticed for a while but now that Kate is out at Uncle Mike and Sheila’s and the house is quiet and the carrot muffins are cooling and the roasted tomato sauce is cooling and the leftover pulled chicken meatballs are in the frig getting ready for a pre-dinner heat-up, I’m just simmering on whatever my monkey mind grabs at. And grandma is grabbed.
Inevitably, grandma becomes a voice in my head. And even though I love love love my grandma, almost as much as I love love love my mom, the voice gets coded as YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. That said, there is an opponent, gloved up, doing the Rocky Balboa pre-fight warmup (meaning he’s just standing there, staring) in the opposite corner of the ring. This is the voice of Alt Dad supporter and Ry Ry supporters like my dad, continuously, and folks like Mary Jo Schaab, of late. Both entities get mentally distilled into: IT’S FINE. YOU’RE DOING FINE. IN FACT, YOU’RE FUCKING AWESOME. KEEP KICKING!
The problem is Sunday at 4:47 PM. The space between these two voices opens up, parts the ocean like the Red Sea, sucks the moisture out of the sand. And I start picking at myself.
I’m very content with my lifestyle. By lifestyle I mean my hour-to-hour arrangement of activities. This includes leisure, employment, family time, exercise, eating. Everything. I remember the first spring when Kate and I first met, we went for walks at night, and we both complained about our jobs so much we had to start telling each other not to complain so much, that our walks were becoming a toxic venting session about workplace politics and corporate bullshit and lazy coworkers and the shit that is minimal wage and blah blah blah. Work sucked and during our free time off the clock, we were too quickly and quicksandly becoming wounded whiners.
Fast forward, I’m working 15ish hours a week at a coffeeshop. I’m searching for college teaching job and other part time jobs that would allow me to flex my writing muscle. I’ve simmering in the kitchen—concocting new and exciting recipes like carrot muffins and vegan cashew ice cream. I’m learning about acupuncture and qi gong. I’m practicing yoga and running and swimming. I’m rehabilitating a torn something idk either MCL or meniscus (is that the same?) in my knee. I’m dissolving into Lake Harriet. I’m studying my ego, training myself to be selfless or more selfless and a better father, husband, spouse, partner, self, version of me. I’m content, but by virtue of only working 15ish hours a week, I feel like I’m culturally unacceptable. An unproductive member of society, or at least an underproductive member of society and therefore I feel personally like I’m not up to snuff. I could pick up more shifts, and honestly, I feel like I’d have a certain shield against the bulk of society who is spending their precious time at work during the daytimes of Monday to Friday. It’s not that I’m lazy. It’s that I fill the majority of my time in ways that aren’t paid by an employer.
Human, person, citizen, employee. They’re different concepts, aren’t they?
I’ve also been researching Andrew Yang and his explanation of Universal Basic Income, which I won’t go into here, but if you’re interested check out Sam Harris’s podcast entitled Waking Up and listen to the Yang episode.
Why want a job when studies show that most jobs (defined technically: over half) are so repetitive that they’re capable of being entirely automated by AI, and likely will within the next 10-15 years. And that’s estimating conservatively.
Like I said, I have no doubt that grandma loves me. But I also have no doubt that the things we say ripple outward. I think this is a worthwhile observation. Even little things. They grow and build and sink down into the soil and they become bedrock and foundation and down the road, in the fifth or sixth round of the fight, they inform how we feel, and how we’re punching.
What’s the upshot? And does the one-line closer avoid glittery Hallmark simplifications?
Do you. Do you. Do you. Do you.
In the end, I think that’s what it comes down to. Self-honesty.