“So what are you up to these days?”
It’s a question that fills me with dread. No one really wants to hear about how it’s all I can do to make it from one end of the day to the other without having to change my clothes. Keeping up with a toddler and a career feels like two full-time jobs, and yet when I’m faced with the above question I find myself scrambling to say somthing that doesn’t feel pitiable. I talk about the job I just completed, the CD that came out three months ago, the shows that I’ve been writing and re-writing for months. Having spent ten years in NY and now two more in Hollywood, I am pretty good at spin.
But the truth is, I know all of us who free-lance are filled with horror at the idea that we’re not doing enough. We’re not working hard enough, we’re not getting enough credit, we should have more shows on our resumes and more hits on our websites.
I had a composition professor in college who had ordered personalized pencils that were inscribed to say “You should be composing now.” I was as torn back then as I am now. He was absolutely right. I should be composing now. But I also should be spending more time with my family. And exercising for an hour each day. And reading more books. And keeping up with the news — especially the news of my industry. Not to mention the fact that I’ve always wanted to be fluent in another language. And to take voice lessons. And to play the piano for leisure instead of just for work. And I have all this great kitchen equipment; I really should cook more often. And buy food at the farmer’s market. And stay in touch with my friends who live far away. And conserve energy. And floss.
You people with actual jobs, how on earth do you do it?
We’ve had a lot of family stresses around here this week, but like my friend Seth Rudetsky writes in his blog, I know that ours are luxury problems. We have friends and family with actual problems — health crises, failing marriages, jobs in jeopardy. I have nothing like that to complain about, and I am extremely grateful. But in lieu of such a grand worry on my plate, I am filled to overflowing with petty worries and pedantic anxieties. I can’t believe how many times a day I wash dishes. No matter how many hours I spend responding to email, I invariably forget to deal with something that will have unfortunate consequences the next day. Today, while I was trying desperately to finish something on my computer, my daughter decided to write on the wall with a crayon. That’s what I get for not paying attention to everything at once.
When you’re functioning in the world of luxury problems (overcommitted, overextended, overwhelmed), you’re only one step away from the kind of frustration that can completely wipe you out. It’s nine pm, you’ve finally gotten to a point where you can stop and have some dinner. There’s nothing in the house so you order takeout. You and your husband request a salad and two entrees, and when the food comes, nearly forty-five minutes after you phoned in the order, you pay the nice delivery man and send him on his way. Only ten minutes later, when you’re plating the food and looking forward to sitting down for your first moment of quiet in a week, do you realize they’ve forgotten to include your entree. It’s not that there’s NO recourse. It’s that at this point nothing will make you happy. Even if the restaurant recognizes the mistake and offers to send another perfectly lovely delivery boy over with your entree, your night is ruined. They can’t give you two hours of your life back. You’re furious, and I call it the anger of no recourse.
It’s the anger that builds when you’re stuck on hold and you have no option but simply to wait for someone to tell you the piece of information you need to get on with your life. It’s the even bigger anger that comes when you’ve already been on hold for ten minutes and you finally get a person who tells you he’s transferring you to another department, and he disconnects you. But mostly, it’s the anger that comes when you’re doing everything exactly right, treating people with respect and giving them all the benefits of the doubt, and they screw you over anyway.
I didn’t mean for this blog to be so filled with bile, but in writing about my work, I suppose sometimes I have to write about how impossible it is to do my work. I know you all have the same petty frustrations in your own lives and you’ll be happy when I stop writing about mine. Things should be better tomorrow. I have five hours set aside for writing, and there’s a pencil on my piano that says, “You should be composing now.” What could possibly get in my way?