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Sunday Stories: Work Hygiene

Let me make this about me. I am, after all, too tired to make it about anything else. And I do want to write, if only to give me the comfort of at least thinking I am trying to stick to my plan.  These three sentences kind of sum me up, I guess. That – and the fact that I will nonetheless write more sentences.

Here goes.

I have three kids whom I love dearly and one wife who loves me dearly. In fact all of the loving dearly is reciprocal which is making us into something like a living pentagram – moderation in a divine proportion. We are such a closely knit family unit that most of us feel suffocated most of the time. My wife and I sometimes wonder whether any of us will ever be able to escape the close knitting which is a good thing as far as I and my wife are concerned but not such a good thing as far as the kids are concerned. We think, and then we try to chase them out of the house once in a while, and then we realize both of us are trying, and constantly failing, at being control freaks

I don’t have a lot of friends and, as far as I know, no real enemies. People just don’t like to be around me for a long time. I always seem to give them the sense that I feel smarter than they are. And, excepting my family members who are unpredictable and therefore interesting in an enduring way, I do feel smarter than them. I do get bored with them. I do grow impatient. They grow uneasy. Neither feels a need to invest more time and that is that.

As far as enemies are concerned: I am at the same time too bored and too proud to pick fights. My family says I am a manipulator and if they say so it will be so. Nevertheless, I genuinely cannot stand seeing people being stressed out so, as far as I am involved, I will adapt and let it go or go elsewhere where I am least no longer a factor in their stress.

Which point brings me to my stress. I cannot say I have a lot of it. All the stress I have is in balancing between aspiration and moderation. I was raised to be all about the latter but cannot live without the former. Call it a serious design flaw. At one point in time I invented the concept ‘work hygiene’ for myself. It consisted in basically not working half of the time. It was a good thing for my work hygiene that most of my working life there was a thing called the internet. It allowed me the continuous alternation between aspiring to become known on the internet and maintaining ambition with respect to my day job; this without changing the way I sat at my desk.

So, yes, I am a fraud which is maybe the reason why I try to carefully guard my anonymity on the internet.

But I grow bored easily so I got bored of work hygiene and hedging my bets. Actually I just got bored of hedging my bets. I decided to cut work for periods of 3-6 months in which periods I wrote a book that wasn’t any good and that I cannot be bothered to make any better, let alone spend time convincing others to get it to a stage where it could be published. Then I tried some more work hygiene and I failed again. Now I just work during the day and switch off evenings and week-ends, where I try to find time to write things like this lacking the conviction to really care how it comes out.

The thing is that working hard – in the sense of thinking hard, I simply can’t do long hours because my body can’t take any physical stress, one plane is enough to mess up a whole month – is robbing me from the inspiration to even want to write, or read, or think about anything else than The Project. It seems like after all I either have to abandon aspiration (and take up fishing, or further perfect my sports watching skills, or attend more cultural events, or whatever people invent to pass time just to get from one time stamp to the next) or abandon moderation (and go for The Project, risk making enemies, or whatever people think it takes to ‘deserve’ success; to become a ‘man of merit’).

I cannot decide one way or the other. I feel caught between a boring place and a place of terror. What would help is that it would be accepted a man can take his own life when he has made his mind up good and well that this is the only way out of a dilemma. If that option would actually be open I maybe might think about it less. Now I feel somewhat caged and the cage being a pleasant environment it’s not a bad place at all except that it feels like a room without an exit.

So, dear readers, tell me, what should it be: aspiration or moderation? Or did I miss an exit which is less drama queen and more of an ‘OK, let’s try this for a change’. It’s not like I’ll be around for 44 more years.


August 26, 2012 - Posted by | Sunday Stories |


  1. I’m struggling with a similar dilemma, but my desire to aspire doesn’t really affect my work. It just bugs the hell out of me that I’ve let my ideas for a book or two languish for so long.

    Comment by mattintoledo | August 27, 2012

  2. Well, I’m happy I wrote a book. Crappy and unpublished as it may be, it has the virtue of existence.

    Josh is right of course (great song by the way) but my problem is that I am both ambitious and moderate but rarely both at the same time. Or, strike that, I just rarely feel content with the balance. I guess I’ll just have to live with it.

    Comment by Guido Nius | August 28, 2012

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