This week was work. I know this is will be the norm for the next stretch of weeks. This just has to be regular life until there’s one more person added back to our camp staff, and that takes time. Plunged into these situations you know you will be doing more than usual and it may be awhile. I do not worship work. I am not one who feels like I thrive in times like this. I like to balance work and rest, and try to always remember that work isn’t life, remembering that phrase, “we mostly work to live, until we live to work.” But, I can work. I can work most people under the table.
During the day I typically listen to podcasts over music, but this week I cranked out a lot of rap while trying to produce on the keyboard. While trying to get out a lot of contracts and emails, while trying to get payroll under control, I blasted Run the Jewels through my earbuds. Run the Jewels is a rap duo made up of Killer Mike and El-P. The music is angry, talking about pretty dark situations and dark reactions to those situations. I definitely don’t know first-hand what they are talking about. I’m a middle-class, 30-something white guy, so to claim this as my music would make me a bit of a poser. Still, this music does speak to me. I am compelled by what they are saying, and it does make me feel something. And, the music itself is bangin. It’s the kind of music you need to hear when you want to puff your chest up a little, when you stare real deep into something and pound out some serious I-don’t-care-about-anything kind of work.
At night, I cranked Earl Sweatshirt while I was working on the laptop at my kitchen table. I felt like I was sitting on a couch with him bobbing my head, even though I know we don’t have the same issues. I feel a kindred restlessness that I pick up in his music, and that restlessness pushes me in a way I feel like I need right now.
I called my dad and talked to him about payroll, because he’s run a successful business for about 30 years. I called wanted advice on what to consider when thinking about employees, payroll, striking up the right balance. I think,
though, more than anything I really just wanted to talk to my dad–to be able share that I was seeing this side of life I realize he’s done for decades. To let him know I was doing this, to get to have that conversation with him and hear that he’d been there. I asked for advice, but what I probably needed most was a man-to-man conversation with my dad.
I spent a lot of late nights trying to make sure I got this stuff right. I was leaving the office well after most everyone was asleep, because this seems to me like the one new responsibility I can’t get wrong. I want to do right by my staff above nearly everything else. That kind of consistent, sustained work is draining. You go stumbling out of the office in the middle of the night, the stars bright, the frogs croaking, most everything else quiet. There’s this feeling you are closing things down, you’re looking out for everyone asleep. It’s a burden with weight, to be certain, but it’s an honorable one too. I’m doing this out of love, and I hope that shows through.
On Wednesday I got to take the day off. My little brother through marriage, Andrew, was visiting with his girlfriend Beth. Allyson had an afternoon training to go to, so I volunteered to take them site-seeing at Oceanside and Cape Meares. I got to play tour guide, showing the couple Oregon’s largest Sitka Spruce, the 300 ft cliff views of the Pacific, and the shortest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. While we were at the lighthouse, I got a call from my sister telling me my nephew Elliot wanted to show me how he’d learned to tie his shoes. I could see and hear them on Skype, but they couldn’t see me. I’m amazed by how much they’ve grown every time I see them. That day I had some great moments pulling me out of a glassy eyed obsession with holding things down at work.
There was a strong wind that day–one that howls through trees and whips them around. One that churns up sand on the beach and stings your bare legs as it flies by. Andrew, Beth, and I stopped at the Oceanside beach. A rocky mountain that jutted out into the surf had a tunnel blasted through it that you could pass through. It was dark, damp, and funneled the wind straight through. It felt like we were traveling to another world, moving towards a small light at the end. We couldn’t yet see what was on the other side, but we stumbled through with a curiosity full of energy and wonder. We emerged to a smaller beach with little caves and rock formations to climb on. Still, that wind was strong, ever present. The wind was, at times, something to marvel at and, at other times, something to take shelter from.
I would return too quickly from our adventures and have to leave the rest of the tour-guiding to Allyson. There was still much camp work to do, and that won’t go away. But thankfully, I know how to work. I’m normally not the most skilled. I’m not always the most fun. I’ve got to ask a lot of questions sometimes. But I got stamina. I don’t wear out easy. I was born into it. My dad helped build a business from the ground, when he had never done it before. He did it, and my family is comfortable now because of it. I’ve heard stories of my great-grandfather, a scrawny, short man who worked for the L & N Railroad. I’ve heard stories of him carrying more railroad ties, hammering more steel than men twice his size. I can work. It’s in my blood. It’s one of my big gifts to give.
Later on, after we had talked, I got a text from my dad:
There are going to be days you are overwhelmed. Prioritize, get things done one at a time. Stop when you need to and clear your mind. Maybe take a short walk among those giant trees down the road you love. Or just sit quietly with your wife maybe at the beach. You will get it done though sometimes it seems impossible. Don’t let it get to you. Allow help. Love you. I know what you are going through, and I know you can handle it.
I’ll take that, pop the earbuds back on, lean in, and stare straight ahead. There’s a lot that’s wrong out there. There’s a lot that needs to be built back up. I am tired, but I am restless too. A lotta work to be done. But, I know where I came from, and I know what I can do. Listen to the music in my ears, thumping in my body, the blood that came down the line from strong men and women who made me.
I can work.
Oh yeah, I can work.