Monday, July 26, 2010

Ignorant bliss

I found a poem, written by my grandmother (unless she plagiarized, which wouldn't entirely shock me), among some dusty old things the other day. Gramma was a fierce Baptist, president of the Christian Women's Temperance Union in Montreal during the war years, a lover of KitKats, an habitual returner of purchased merchandise, and a truly difficult person to be related to much of the time. She was a great gramma, though: always with the marshmallow bananas and the Wink and home-made fries during sleepovers. She wrote fan mail to products--and in return was sent new Hush Puppies, boxes of chocolate bars, hand cream, and dish soap. To her, the word "Christian" was the opposite of the following:
--New Brunswick (long story)
--doing what you want
--sleeping in on Sunday

Just by way of explaining this work of art, is all (click on the image so you can read it):

I have so many reactions to this thing. Pity, pique, amusement, jealousy. I think it's an interesting glimpse of the fear that lots of women--then and now--encounter(ed) when even thinking about how to balance work and family. Will I lose everything that makes me happy? Will I be useful? Will I have half of a career and half of a home life? I'm looking at my desk right now, covered as it is with fish crackers, Lego, a kid's asthma inhaler, WALL-E and handwritten pleas for escape/pardon from the penitent convict in the bedroom next door--as well as invoices, a printer, dictionaries, inspiration decks, three phones, Adobe InDesign CS4 for Dummies. Sometimes when I worry about having it all, I just look at my work space to see that the problem might be having it all in one smallish place.

My office makes me crazy and frustrated--who on EARTH could find anything in here, who could concentrate on a client call with a flatulent coonhound and a snotty-nosed kid standing three feet away the whole time, who could somehow put in an 8-hour day when parents and in-laws think that working at home means "working" at home?

And yet. And yet: what could I give up? None of it. I could no more unplug from this house and its rhythms for a job downtown than I could stop working altogether and retreat to my "sunny kitchen." My gramma wouldn't recognize this woman's life. "Women's lib" has brought us so much that we couldn't have dreamed of, both good and not-so-good. My gramma didn't want to be free of her predetermined role in the world--it scared the bejeezus out of her, although she wouldn't have put it like that. My freedom is a total mess, it falls off bookshelves, stays dirty in the kitchen sink for two days, lurks underfoot, has a Club Penguin screensaver, uses scenarios derived from The Clone Wars in client meetings, stays up late almost every night to meet work deadlines, dresses primarily in soft cotton sweatshirts ad drives a station wagon to meetings that on a hot day reeks of wet dog and melted oreo Blizzard. It's not exactly ignorant, but, you know, it's not far from bliss.

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