A Thing Worth Doing

I must have heard the saying young. “A thing worth doing is worth doing well.” Being an average first born, full of rigid idealistic perfectionism, I thought this was an excellent saying, and strove mightily.

The trouble is, I got older, and met people who were better than me at everything. Well, no one person was better than me at everything I do. But there are better cooks. Better self-hair-do-ers. Better writers. Better violinists. Oh god. The violinists that are out there.

I was a violinist in training. I had huge aspirations. Confronted with so many violinists who were so much better than me, I quailed. I was doing a worthy thing, and I wasn’t doing it very well at all. I was solid, very solid, at a regional level. But I was at camps with internationally awesome rock star violin gods, and I lost my nerve.

A few years later, I quit. I  couldn’t play well enough to meet my own (semi-arbitrary) expectations. No matter that I had personal evidence that practice improves the situation. I didn’t have the guts to face the personal failure, so I quit.

But then I got older, had some kids, faced down the shocking levels of daily failure that motherhood brings. A lot of things worth doing weren’t getting done at all. So I started doing the worthy things halfway, half-assed, halfhearted. Sometimes, weeping.

But the worthy things are getting done. And that is better. So I say to you, a thing worth doing is worth doing badly. It’s worth doing with a tear and a sigh.

It’s worth failing.

A thing worth doing is a thing worth doing.

So yesterday, I opened my case, and apologized to my violin, and tried again. Godspeed in your journey, dear reader. Do the worthy thing.

 

Levertov Week: To the Muse

To the Muse

I have heard it said,
and by a wise man,
that you are not one who comes and goes

but having chosen
you remain in your human house,
and walk

in its garden for air and the delights
of weather and seasons.

Who builds
a good fire in his hearth
shall find you at it
with shining eyes and a ready tongue.

Who shares
even water and dry bread with you
will not eat without joy

and wife or husband
who does not lock the door of the marriage
against you, finds you

not as unwelcome third in the room, but as
the light of the moon on flesh and hair.

He told me, that wise man,
that when it seemed the house was
empty of you,

the fire crackling for no one,
the bread hard to swallow in solitude,
the gardens a tedious maze,

you were not gone away
but hiding yourself in secret rooms.
The house is no cottage, it seems,

it has stairways, corridors, cellars,
a tower perhaps,
unknown to the host.

The host, the housekeeper, it is
who fails you.  He had forgotten

to make room for you at the hearth
or set a place for you at the table
or leave the doors unlocked for you.

Noticing you are not there
(when did he last see you?)
he cries out you are faithless,

have failed him,
writes you stormy letters demanding you return
it is intolerable

to maintain this great barracks without your presence,
it is too big, it is too small, the walls
menace him, the fire smokes

and gives off no heat.  But to what address
can he mail the letters?
And all the while

you are indwelling,
a gold ring lost in the house.
A gold ring lost in the house.
You are in the house!

Then what to do to find the room where you are?
Deep cave of obsidian glowing with red, with green, with black light,
high room in the lost tower where you sit spinning,

crack in the floor where the gold ring
waits to be found?

                                No more rage but a calm face,
trim the fire, lay the table, find some
flowers for it: is that the way?
Be ready with quick sight to catch
a gleam between the floorboards,

there, where he had looked
a thousand times and seen nothing?
                                              Light of the house,

the wise man spoke
words of comfort.  You are near,
perhaps you are sleeping and don’t hear.

Not even a wise man
can say, do thus and thus, that presence
will be restored.
                            Perhaps

a becoming aware a door is swinging, as if
someone had passed through the room a moment ago – perhaps
looking down, the sight
of the ring back on its finger?

 
How heartening this is, even though inspiration is never guaranteed.  Keep turning ideas over in your head, and beauty in your eyes, and words in your mouth.  Go about your day, keep at your work, show up on time and make sure the muse knows where to find you: thread-worn but intact advice.

It reassures me in other directions as well.  “When it seemed…the fire [was] crackling for no one, / the bread hard to swallow in solitude, / the gardens a tedious maze,” the muse is still there.  When I am only writing to myself, when I set out my thoughts and no one engages with them, that act of utterance remains needful for me and beneficial to all conversations that come later.

The conceit of the soul-house, particularly the difficulty of maintaining the ‘great barracks’ without assistance, rather reminds me of David Wilcox’s “That’s What the Lonely is For.”  In both cases, one finds that the house is more extensive than anticipated: initially inconvenient, but not without design.

Should you be seeking a muse to sing to you, I hope you find that ring on your own finger.

A Few of My *~Absolute Favorite~* Things

It being the Monday after Daylight Savings Time starts, I think it’s fair to say that work  weighs even heavier than normal on company employees today.

That being said, the following lyrics are not really about my job.  But they might well apply to your job.

With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, as well as any children or readers with a more sensitive conscience than mine.  This post contains somewhat strong language, along with a sarcastic refrain, and you may wish to cease reading here.

For anyone else, join me in song:

Meaningless meetings that swallow up mornings
Random-ass deadlines that come without warning
Waiting for Red Bull to give me its wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Idiot systems for logging my hours
Longing for co-worker-Force-choking powers
Clawing my face off each time the phone rings,
Just a few more of my favorite things

Lead gave no feedback regarding my graphics
Please just accept that I’m not telepathic
Dreading each comment the editor brings
These are a few of my favorite things

When I’m crying in the bathroom,
When it’s all quite shit,
I think about nothing but our health insurance
So that I don’t up and quit

Clients: I can’t care enough to go woo them
Tasks went undone since no one said to do them
Tripped up by all these invisible strings
Just a few more of my favorite things

Failure of process: it’s sadly systemic
Nit-picking needlessly: also endemic
Waiting for 5 when the quitting bell rings,
These are a few of my favorite things

Training is but a disorderly jumble
One day I’ll choke as I swallow my grumble
Praying for patience before my fist swings,
These are a few of my favorite things…

Paycheck is smaller than what we agreed on
Tired of having my dignity peed on
Straining to bear Fortune’s arrows and slings
These are a few of my favorite things

When I’m crying in frustration,
When it’s all quite shit,
I simply remember my comp’ny insurance
So that I don’t up and quit!

In Which There is Guising

My workplace is quite spirited at present!

From the look of things, we were really concerned about the possibility of being bothered by the Aos Sí at work today.  Or perhaps we wanted to placate some demon or other such that it would not disrupt the harvest?

No idea.  If that last one was the idea behind dressing up at work today, it has backfired tremendously: we were a good two hours into the work day before anyone besides Paul did any work.

Zorro Zorro and Garth Paul Bunyan
Zorro, Garth from Wayne’s World, and Paul Bunyan: keeping evil at bay with sword, drumsticks, and axe

Mephistopheles Greg the Stormtrooper
Then I suppose we have the contingent of those who would imitate the wicked!!  Insert attorney jokes here.Group shotPaul is the Green Monster, which is sort of along the lines of metaphorical costumery.  Sort of like that time when Melpomene dressed as “the wine-dark seas” and her friend “the rosy-fingered dawn,” but less epic.Bigger group shotLet’s see…Zorro, Clone trooper, Garth, a witch, Midshipman Millington, baseball player who has tragically left her gloves at home, Trinity from The Matrix, the ghost of Halloweens past, two of Los Tres Amigos, Paul Bunyan, Mephistopheles, and another witch.

It may not protect us from fraudulent invoices, mistaken mailings, and silly phone calls, but who can say what vexations these guises have kept at bay?

In any case, I feel that we’ve been suitably primed for our new firm picture.

Tuesday with Thalia: She’s. Back.

Well hello, friends!

I’ve discovered the secret to getting things done. It’s not going to make you happy, because it is the same thing that your mama has been saying, but it does work. Have a schedule, give it a chance to settle, and you will find you have lots of time, get lots done and suddenly find that you are oddly full of ideas. Turns out, work does preceed inspiration. It’s very peculiar, and it’s only a step or two ahead, but it is actually true. Start doing the drudge work around you, and I bet within 45 minutes or so, you’ll have a brilliant idea. (or at least an idea…) Lots of people have remarked about this, actually. Agatha Christie said that she got her best ideas while washing dishes. Stravinsky said right out that work doesn’t just help inspiration, it breeds it. (Oh, stop whining. My pronouns arn’t that tangled. Former/Latter. It/It. Work/Inspiration.)

I have now too many ideas to share all today, so I am reinstating my Tuesday with Thalia posts so that I can schedule my ideas. Otherwise I know they’ll slip away! So today, since I’m talking up work and inspiration, I decided I would share with you a 30 minute lecture on creativity. It’s tremendously insightful. When I tell you that it is given by John Cleese, you will recognize your old friend the Dead Parrot. So clearly it is creative! But I urge you to spend the 30 minutes and listen to this lecture. It is broad enough in its spectrum to speak to every possible discipline and art. What I gained from it two weeks ago may not be what will strike you. Please do watch it for yourself. (and oh, enjoy the subtitles.)

(“Ipswich. Bolton. It’s a pun. No, it’s a palindrome.” ”  No, that’s not possible. The palindrome of Bolton is Notlob.”)

Go forth. Work. Think. Create!