How much of living is just plain drudgery? This question was forefront in my mind as I, squeezed into my daughter’s desk, sat through another 2 hour meeting at the school.
Now don’t get me wrong- this meeting was nowhere near as painful as those of yesteryear. It involved a few students from my daughter’s class presenting the research they had done for their class trip. Still, transportation had to be hashed out. People had to give their opinion. My butt was asleep and I was hungry and every fibre in my being was yelling at me to get up and just walk out. But I didn’t. Why? Because it is just one more task that I have to do.
How often have I told myself in these last few years that if I could just get through this day, this week, this month, it will all be okay? That I just have to put my head down, place my feet firmly on the ground, and trudge ahead in an almost zen-like resignation?
Too many. Or is it? Has the human condition ever been better? No- at least not for us first world folk living above the poverty line. We have more time saving devices than ever before. I no longer have to get my water from the village well, nor do I have to stoke up a good sized fire in the stove before being able to cook something. There are no chamber pots to empty, no animals to feed (except for a psychotic turtle- but he can go for days without eating).
So what the hell is my problem?
Although I like my work a lot, it involves some pretty mind-numbing tasks. On any given day, I have about a bazillion other things that I would either rather do or have to do and yet find myself at my job at the designated time, doing work that is not, at first glance, meaningful or advancing the cause of civilization in any way.
And I am a librarian. Some would say the guardian of civilization (but not me- that sounds pompous).
Sometimes it is hard to see the big picture amid the shelving and the cataloguing and the berating young girls for late books.
I often find myself thinking of Mrs. Dalloway, and the painful minutiae that made up her day. Then I think of my mental list, of the countless little tasks that I have to do that take up most of my brainpower, and it is no wonder I feel like an unthinking automaton, unable to give you a good account of any important issue that doesn’t revolve around better school lunch making strategies or what to eat for dinner (I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about groceries). And I wonder if I am going to turn out like one of those middle-aged women I know who appear flaky and unable to complete a single thought on their own, one of those women who just seem to give up after a certain point.
I am worried that I spend too much time thinking about the minutia of daily life and not on the big picture. I am worried that my time is going to run out and one day soon I am going to find that I am an old lady whose only accomplishment was keeping her children alive and relatively well fed. And why? Because I succumbed to the drudgery. Because I never took a step outside of the daily grind and took a look at the landscape. Because I was to busy gulping down coffee on the way to yet another task, to sit down and smell the freakin’ proverbial flowers.
On a lark, I googled the “drudgery of daily life”.
Here are a couple of results:
Then again, maybe it would behoove me to take a nihilistic view of drudgery. You know- “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” type thing. Maybe the drudgery is there to serve as a sort of life-wallpaper, a bland, matte eggshell that will nicely emphasize all the moments of joy and pain, the non-drudgery moments..