The Carpenter and I have very different careers and as such, we have different definitions of the word “work.”
It’s a good thing we respect each other’s skill sets. It is equally beneficial that my spouse, who is also my muse, has a sense of humour.
The Carpenter’s work day requires strenuous physical activity in every kind of weather, and what’s worse: a whole lot of arithmetic. His self-expression is the ability to use curse words in a variety of dialects to reflect the multi-cultural world of concrete construction.
My job requires me to sit still and focus in silence. Granted, sometimes that focus is on the way the sun shines through my window, but hey, that is a writer’s inspiration. No math required. Concentrate (squirrel!). Creativity is the muscle I exercise.
Oddly enough, both the Carpenter and I chose professions where our work makes us tense, but yet, we relax by doing some form of that very work. For instance, the Carpenter is happiest when he is building something, or equally joyful when demolishing it (he loves to bust stuff up). When the weekends arrive, don’t even try to negotiate going anywhere beyond the hardware store or beer store, because weekends are not social times in this man’s world. He has work to do and only two days to do it, don’t you know? Right. Noted.
He needs to be outside and he needs to be busy. It doesn’t mean he’ll finish anything he starts, you understand, but it does mean he’s always moving. Me? Not so much. I relax – I mean work – by writing or reading. Research and development. No sweat required.
One of the smartest investments I made last year was a laptop computer, allowing me to work virtually anywhere. I have worked in my car while attending my son’s baseball practice. I have written copy in the waiting room at medical appointments. I have drafted this column from the comfort of my bed. But my favourite place to work from May to September is on my back patio. On any given weekend, it has the best view: the Carpenter doing manual labour, usually in a tool belt. Talk about inspiration. I love my job.
I’m not sure he would share my enthusiasm, because nobody really likes to be watched while they work. But I am quiet. I simply observe. I am aware that my opinion is not warranted unless I intend to grab a shovel and help. Yeah, not happening. It’s not my fault my work doesn’t require heavy lifting, hammering or digging. Contemplation is hard work, you know. Sure, he works up a sweat, but I’m writing, so yeah, technically, I am working every bit as hard.
If I felt guilty, if this whole work definition conundrum weighed heavily on my conscious, all I would have to do is suggest we trade jobs. I do offer to help the Carpenter with his projects. He rolls his eyes, chuckles and says “go write.” See? It’s his idea. Now imagine if I handed him a laptop and said, “write me a story and put some emotions into it; express yourself.” By the time he found the power button for the laptop, the deadline would pass.
Relationships are about balance. He inspires my work; I leave him alone to do his. It works.