Working for the Muse, not the Man

Well, I did it again. I didn’t go to work. Again. I could have left this part out, hid it like I hid myself from my office. I could have maintained the validity of the positive note that ended my last post, excusing my truancy as just another blip in the road. But this wouldn’t have felt right, a lie is a lie if by omission or otherwise.

So here I stand Judge, and I admit I am guilty. Guilty of skipping work, of playing hooky. Not even giving the courtesy of calling in sick, I simply just never showed up. What kind of jury would not vote unanimously to fire me now?

Let me, if I may though, state my case. No, not excuses (ain’t nobody got time for that), just to explain. I didn’t go to work because I was hungover. Okay, that’s an excuse, sorry, the reason I didn’t go to work was because I was scared. Scared of doing, for once, the right thing.  I have always had a little voice in my head, it originates from my gut, travels past my heart and sits behind my ear. And it whispers, “Don’t eat anymore you’re already full,” or “If you drink one more shot that’s going to be the end of you,” or “Put the Netflix down, and go for a run” and so on and so forth. I hate this voice, I love this voice.

All the times in my life when I have been proud of myself are when I was strong enough to heed its call. When, in a moment, the end goal felt more important than an instance of gratification, the conviction that I could work for something more. Those moments, though they exist, are still few and far in between. No matter how good I can feel, something larger and darker always threatens to take hold, rising over the voice, drowns it out whole, “You don’t feel good today, due to all fault of your own, so skip work and get nothing else done either.”  Sabotage then defeat, sabotage then defeat, this cycle has become all too familiar to me.

“the Master Fear, the Mother of all Fears. Fear That We Will Succeed.”                                                                                                     – Steven Pressfield

Working for the Man was no walk in the park. Waking up early, showing up rain or snow, chained to a desk for hours, all under the omnipresence of the almighty Boss, holding the Fates’ thread of your (work) life in balance. The consequences that comes with failing the Man are tangible, concrete, and socially terrifying. Getting fired, written up, publicly shamed in an office of your peers, things to get anyone up off their death bed and back in to work. Something that which the work that lights my soul on fire is still struggling to accomplish.

You wouldn’t give beer to an alcoholic, or a gun to a psychotic (unless you’re the States), giving self-employment to one without self-control is also quite idiotic. Working for the Muse is not easy, but it’s lifesaving. It is everything in your insides breathing a sigh of relief, finally, leaving you centered and at peace. But also lost and at sea, the wind and the waves blowing you this way and that, no compass nor direction to lead, you are hopelessly beholden to your surroundings to tell you where to go.

Because you don’t have a clue in hell, no path to aim for, only the thought that today, like on every day, you are going to have to fight to stay afloat. And that’s all you can do, because for days and days on end you will have nothing to look at except sea, and it all looks deliriously the same stretching in all directions one great big similar, blue. It gets so familiar that you can’t even tell if you’re moving at all anymore. Through it all you have to keep reminding yourself to paddle, to work, that eventually you will end up getting somewhere, but the only real victories you can count on are every day you don’t die from drowning.

That’s a whole heck of a lot less motivating than a promotion, or your name under Employee of the Month. No more short term gratifications, no more superficial road markers telling you that you are progressing on any imaginary career path. This is open water baby, and you chose it. So now you have to live by the only gratification and punishment that this kind of life affords you, that is to show up every day, work, to either drown or live to work another day. That is what the voice in your head is telling you, that is what your boss, the Muse, wants from you, and that is who you will listen to. That is the only voice you will answer to. Capiche?

“The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”                                                                                                                     – Steven Pressfield 

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