The Grindstone.

I am constantly besieged with the need for productivity.  I become anxious if I have time that is not being spent in a way that is somehow productive.  I keep telling myself that I should take time to relax, but when I try to just sit and watch television or read, I feel as though I have to be doing something else at the same time.  I’ve tried to set aside time each day to be quiet time, when I can just sit.  Usually this time is spent either making lists in my head of what I need to do once this time is up, or sleeping.

It’s just that I feel guilt and shame about wasted time.  I think of television watching as being wasted time; video game time is wasted time; even driving is wasted time.  At least on the bus I can take notes, make lists, think about things, listen to things, research things… even knit if nothing else.  When I wake up in the morning, I look back at the last five or six hours and I think to myself, what could I have accomplished with that time if I didn’t have to sleep?

This is one of the things I really like about being in a relationship… supporting a relationship and a partner is a project!  So I can spend time with the person that I’m in a relationship, and it lets the pressure off a little bit.  Unfortunately I don’t have a great temperament for relationships.  I’ve had two of them, and wasn’t really enjoying either of them all that much.  I clung to them because they gave me a feeling of relief from my brain.

I also feel obligated to try to pay attention to my friends when I’m hanging out with them, so social time is an absolute must for me.  It also gives me a break.  I had a moment a few years ago when I realized that I really needed to spend effort on maintaining my friendships, if for no other reason than that I would need that connection someday.  I love my friends and they deserve my time and energy anyway, but it’s difficult to make new connections, so from a purely practical standpoint, maintaining these existing connections is really important.

It’s not all bad.  There’s a feeling of exhilaration that you feel when you accomplish something worthwhile with my brain.  It’s wonderful, a feeling of wonder and internal quiet that is worth every sleepless night and every hour of frustration.  But there are also times when I work fiercely and doggedly at pointless things, for no other reason than that I am stalled on my current projects but I can’t just… sit and do nothing.  I feel galled by those hours that have effort poured into them and produce nothing of value.

I was listening to an interview on the Nerdist with Joss Whedon, and I’m not a fan of everything that he does, for sure.  In fact with the exception of some of Buffy and all of Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog, I’m hard-pressed to think of things he’s done that I do like.  But in response to a question as to whether being a workaholic is related to running from something in one’s personal life, he said the following:

“Um, yeah, I’m definitely running from something, I’m sort of a horrible person and I don’t like to dwell on that… uh, I don’t really like stuff and then I’m going to die, so uh there’s a lot of stuff I could just not get into, so maybe I’ll work.”

This is a concise and wonderfully plainspoken way to describe this situation, and though I’m not strictly speaking a fan of his work, the things he has to say in interviews could definitely make me a fan of him.

I think and feel terrible things.  I don’t think they’re any worse than the sorts of things other people think and feel, but our very highly aspirational culture doesn’t really provide us with a way to deal with these things other than guilt and shame.  I know the horror is normal.  It’s just difficult to make sense of it in the context of modern western society.

When I am creating something, I am adding value to the world,  I am counter-balancing all of my bile and hate and savagery by tempering it into something beautiful.  Some of us just have a bit more bile and hate and savagery than other people do.  So we have to work more.  And all that hate and bile and savagery actually gives us a heightened ability to touch the human soul.  So we do.

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