Doing the work
All different kinds of labor
A note as usual: reminder to open this long e-mail in a new tab or in your browser if possible to read it in its entirety!
Hiiiiiiii !!!! (This is Sophie)
Here we are almost to April! Weeeeeee finally!! Tbh I’m happy that March is almost over. Long month. Warmth ahead!! : - D
A couple weeks ago I showed up to work a little more tired than usual. (Re: last newsletter, staying up too late when there’s opportunity for joy)
For those who don’t know, one of my jobs right now is working a couple days a week at a coffee shop/bakery—which I LOVE!!! So anyways, a couple weeks ago I was working on putting some pastries in boxes for customers who ordered them ahead of time, as one does. (Note for context: we select tickets from a chronological line-up of orders, pack them up and organize them inside our bakery, which isn’t opened up inside yet, so when customers arrive we can bring them out. Ok, anyways) I was tired, which isn’t necessarily a great excuse for anything, but I went to pull one of the many order receipts that morning to pack up, and unconsciously took one that was for one pastry rather than say, six pastries to pack up. One of my coworkers noticed this, and promptly called me out in front of everyone for picking an “easier” order to pack, therefore potentially leaving someone else to pack up the heftier order. Uhhhhh embarrassing!!!! I can’t deny that I unconsciously… did do this, so I guess it technically was on purpose. I think I just figured to start with the easier order, was, well, quicker, and easier. Then I’d work my way up to the more complex orders. That’s how my brain organized the tasks I needed to do. But, to my coworker, working alongside me, I’d chosen the easier path to their detriment. And it’s true, I did! Which would affect others working alongside me if I was cutting corners, because I don’t live inside a vacuum.
This anecdote itself, while fairly inconsequential in the grand scheme of, really, anything, did spark a thought that I’ve been marinating on in the past couple of weeks. But what about the concept of “doing the work” in general? Doing the capital “W”—WORK! Whether physical or emotional, labor exists. It’s complex, tied into capitalism, how we deal with others in relationships, friendships, to support ourselves. If you have read any of our past newsletters, you know I am a sucker for homework and the euphoria of achievement, I think I get a masochistic enjoyment out of doing the “work”, sometimes, if I feel like it leads to self-empowerment/ “growth”/at worst, praise from authority??? Yeah
So, moving on, I semi-recently had a big, giant, heart-fills-up-your-whole-body crush situation that sort of… abruptly ended, leaving me reeling. Quite honestly, I’ve been feeling the pain of a mini-heartbreak. Yeah, another very typical Life Disappointment™ we all encounter. What can best be interpreted by my worst self as a near-miss at love/less melodramatically, by my therapist as an empowering stepping stone in my journey of “figuring out what I’m looking for in a relationship”. I’ll spare you the pity party here lol, ok, I'm on the way back up!
Anyhow, I was lamenting to my therapist about my great disappointment, the pain I felt at not being able to hang out with this person because we aren’t compatible for a number of reasons.
“WHYYYY do I have to do the work??? Why do some people DO the work and are GROWING and changing and others don’t??? Why don’t I get to be shitty…and not know myself???” I cried, having created an alternate universe in my mind, one in which not doing the emotional “work” of knowing oneself leads oneself to a pain-free, obliviously spacey life. (Oh, also I kind of resent how that sentiment sounded after I typed it out, but I have to be honest I did say that because I was SAD.)
The point I’m getting at here is that we exist in communities, relating and connecting to each other all the time in our interactions, and it’s an inescapable fact of life that in dealing with others, our actions do affect others. I’ve been confused enough before about my own feelings that I’ve surely hurt others in the process and it didn’t feel great for me, either. Um, probably even recently.
Anyhow, I’m really trying not to sound like I’m taking a condescending stance here that I have done ALL the work. That simply doesn’t exist to me! In my situation, I think the concept of having much different “work” to do than someone I wanted to connect with → rendered the situation void→ left me feeling a little heartbroken. This is how I logically map things out in my head, at least.
So, again bringing me to the questions: What do we miss out on when we don’t do the “work”??? How do we know when we are doing it right?? And furthermore, what exactly is the ‘work’ we’re talking about here? Well, I think that in this situation, I’m talking about inner emotional work. I’m not sure how to know if it’s going well, but my therapist tells me I’m doing it, and I do know I’ve had to deal with some difficult situations that I feel I have been able to see clearly for the first time in my life. I’m trying to be so real with myself, there’s definitely more for me to do, and everyone’s “work” definitely isn’t the same.
My overarching takeaway is to be continued, because these questions aren’t rhetorical; I’m leaving it open-ended here. I can say, the goal for me personally has always been and always will be grasping for self-awareness. To Keep Moving is really the only option we have here. And I don’t want to take the easy route, for life’s sake!! For experience’s sake!! Yolo
Whew!! Ok it feels intensely cathartic to share this stuff with y’all through this newsletter, so if you made it this far, thank you? This felt mushy! If you’re still interested in these concepts, or you love self-help, like me…
I came upon this quote by Heather Havrilesky, who writes the “ask polly” column and found it particularly salient.
If you want to love and be loved, the very best thing you can do is to stop looking for feedback from others about how lovable or shameful you are, and build your own religion around how you deserve love and respect and you’re going to circumnavigate shame at every turn. The pain of heartbreak isn’t actually so terrible, once you subtract shame from the picture…
…I believe in love. If you do too, then feel that and live it and talk about it and never, ever be ashamed of it. This world needs us. If you have the courage to stand up for love, to give your love generously, to lead by example, to throw your love out there without worrying about who loves you back, then do that. Let someone else hang back and feel ashamed. That’s not you. You greet the sky with open arms. You embrace whatever comes next. That’s how love finds you.
I’m obsessed with this idea of living by giving your love out generously, and not worrying too much about who loves you back. These words are kind of what I’ve been trying to articulate recently, too!
Hey! This week, I’d recommend:
This quote by my girl Susan Sontag:
“Time does not give one much leeway: it thrusts us forward from behind, blows us through the narrow funnel of the present into the future. But space is broad, teeming with possibilities, positions, intersections, passages, detours, U-turns, dead ends, one-way streets.” - Susan Sontag
This gradient creator I found! So easy to use and makes fun images with different colors. I’ve been enjoying this! The simple things..
The book, “Girls Can Kiss Now” by Jill Gutowitz. I’ve followed her on Twitter for a while and picked up this book on a whim...if you love pop culture/essays/queer lit/all of the above READ IT! It’s so funny and well-written and earnest!! Wow!
This song has been HITTING me in the deepest early 2000s spot of my heart!!!! IF YOU FEEL IT YOU FEEL IT!!
Love always, and especially today,
Happy Spring everybody!
Lol jess, this is exactly how I see you … - S
My favorite 6th grade teacher was the woman who led our American History class. She had shoulder-length dark blonde hair that was starting to gray and was also the first person I ever witnessed wearing a Canadian tuxedo. I don’t remember her name but I do remember that she was the type of teacher that really enjoyed teaching, and on the first day of school she led our class in a sequential memory exercise using the Tommy Tutone song, “867-5309/Jenny”. Cut to spring of that same year and we’re learning about the Industrial Revolution. Children take their seats and teacher stands at the front of the room holding a line drawing of Snoopy that our class will replicate as an assembly line – one person is in charge of drawing the nose, passes to the person next to them who draws the left ear, etc. Things are going smoothly enough until a boom box starts blasting sounds of steam and clanging metal and teacher shouts “faster, faster!” as she blows into a whistle that has manifested out of thin air and it’s starting to feel like maybe my parents should have signed a consent form for this.
I’ve spent the last 3 years working in various sectors of Corporate America, at places where employees are to exemplify their company’s ‘core values’ that they put in the sales pitch decks to shop around to potential clients. These values will almost always follow the formula of 2 buzz words, 1 modifier + 1 noun, results in phrases like “proactive adaptability” or “collaborative self-growth” and and a result have tainted words like empathy, curiosity, knowledge, etc. “Intellectual Curiosity” encourages one to naturally seek knowledge and opportunities for learning, because the knowledge of the employee becomes the knowledge of the company – as an entity the company is something that does not feel or care or act, and to be anything at all it must rely on the mind and body of the worker. I’m saying all of this to contextualize my present relationship with a “growth mindset”, which is edging closer to disenchantment as time goes on, because in the most intense moments of this work experience it felt as though my curiosity and objectives were no longer truly my own.
I hope that this writing does not come across as anti-curiousity or in opposition of learning (JESus lol) because I hold these principles so close to my heart. But what I don’t believe in–at least in this present moment–is the requirement of purpose, or a linear pathway of work. I guess because this is happening regardless of my intent? I think that life happens in a straight line and the growth is guaranteed, so sometimes things like self-help feel as though they’re commodifying what already exists as an integral part of the human experience? There’s a well-reviewed book in this category called How To Do The Work, and the cover promises that one will “RECOGNIZE YOUR PATTERNS, HEAL FROM YOUR PAST, + CREATE YOURSELF”. I haven’t read it so I can’t speak to its contents or writing, but the mere existence of this material—a guide to ‘creating myself’—feels in-genuine, or perhaps just out of line with my own beliefs. I start to get uneasy when things talk about being as it if it were a project.
In an interview from 1997, Agnes Martin says “the worst thing you can think about when you’re working is yourself. I have sometimes, in my mind, put myself ahead of my work and have suffered in consequence…I thought me, me and I suffered and the work suffered and for that I suffered more”. She was talking about painting but I think its application can be much broader. Even if the work is work on myself, work for myself, I can think of it as separate from my own being as an entity all on its own. Like I’m generating material to be placed back into the world’s communal circulation. Like if my work is to be a better friend it’s so that I can send the kindness out into the general flow of life, and then it’s not mine but everybody’s to pull from. And if my work is to learn from hurt, it’s not to protect myself from future pain–this is impossible–but to better avoid causing hurt myself–sometimes possible. You know? YOu know????
This one’s hard for me because I feel like I’m right on the brink of fully wrapping my head around this thought. I know it’s there but the edges are fuzzy. Hopefully you’re looking ahead to warmer weather, wherever you are! Bright skies ahead.
More Good Stuff
✎ Lately my favorite thing to do on the internet is get lost in Wikipedia Portals, described by the site as pages that “complement main topics in Wikipedia, and expound upon topics by introducing the reader to key articles, images, and categories that further describe the subject and its related topics.” Each portal has a randomized article from within its respective topic, selected images, “good” articles, etc. I’ve been reading lots of amazing content like this page on Israeli breakfast and learning new words like foodways (“the cultural, social, and economic practices relating to the production and consumption of food”). Here’s a few portal highlights to start:
✎ Les Blank’s Gap-Toothed Women which I watched on ᵗʰᵉ ᶜʳᶦᵗᵉʳᶦᵒⁿ ᶜʰᵃⁿⁿᵉˡ and made me smile because the whole time I’m thinking ‘where the heck does he find these people’ who are all so weird in the best way and realizing that everyone is this way when you talk to them for long enough —— only a 30 minute run time for those of you that want to Feel Good.
✎ New Charli XCX which hits and made me feel productive at work this morning.
✎ Watching Kath & Kim on Netflix