Kolay gelsin: On the hard work of deciding what’s the hardest work

Waking up this morning, I took a peek at today’s writing prompt from Blogher’s December NaBloPoMo challenge before I even got out of bed, and upon reading it, proceeded to burrow under the covers in protest.  Karagöz, the trickster puppet extraordinaire, was having none of it, and proceeded to lift up the cream-colored matelasse coverlet and screeched it into my general direction, over and over again:  

What do you think would be the hardest job for you to do? C’mon, kolay gelsin,” he said impishly, using the common, respectful Turkish term one uses to greet someone as they are working (“may your work go well”).

It was lovely and warm under the covers, and I wanted to stay there, in the mellow orange bliss of closed eyes and head under feather pillow.  I could *almost* drown out Karagöz and his agent provocateur behavior of the moment.  Most of all, however, I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t want to work on that question.

It has taken me the day of pushing the question to the back burner of the hotel stove that is my mind – it’s a 20 burner stove on most days.  This meant that I also pushed back my writing practice time, as Natalie Goldberg calls it, that enforced freewriting that needs to happen each day of your life, to develop good writing skills.  And this is a large part of what this blog is – a topical “writing practice,” with posts written quickly without much editing.

And so here it was 8:30 p.m. and I was back in bed, eating an orange that M.  very gallantly had peeled for me, and delivered right under the covers.  And suddenly, there was a glowing light in the comforting dark, tight space of my sheets and blankets, a orb-like golden glow that suddenly revealed Perihan Hanım, my fairy Godmother puppet.  She hasn’t been around in a long time.  She usually shows up when I really need her most.

“You are struggling with this very good question, dear, because that is the big question in your life right now – how and whether to continue the hard work of living and breathing academia – and still caring for your self and your family.  And of all days, this magic 12-12-12 day is the right day to begin to face it.  Clearly, the hardest work is deciding what’s hardest in your current work – and how you want to re-negociate your relationship with it.”

“Mmmm, yes, Perihan Hanım, you are right, and this is true.”

And before I knew it, she had disappeared, and I had some answers to today’s prompt in the form of puppets screaming out options like crazed bidders at some auction for very precious objects – and I suppose I am entering some sort of auction for the next part of life, with all of the tos and fros, ups and downs.  And here is what the raggle-taggle band of puppets had to say:

Kenne, the Queen of Manners and Maven of the Maintenance of Ladylike Behavior was the loudest, and most shrill of the bidders: “M’lady, you must admit, the hardest work for you would be that of members of the “Elite Turkish Housewives Club” as Natalie Sayin refers to it.  Your cleaning skills, while very good, are not utilized enough.  You are too busy with the work in the outside world to tend to your home – but I can see that tending to your home alone would be very hard work for you indeed, especially with no children, a shame, really.”

Safiye Rakkase, the vainglorious dancing girl puppet, was next in the loudness factor “…well I was going to say the hardest job for you would be a dancer, as you have two left feet unless dancing along to hard core punk music in which case it makes sense – but I will instead add to Kenne’s assessment – your wardrobe is SO lacking in all the fine brands (did you know that your sister in law scoffs at your clothing in Turkish, knowing you won’t understand?), that you really, really, really don’t belong in the “Elite Turkish Housewives Club,” you know, like your sister in law? She may not clean her own house or cook her own food, but she is resplendent in PradaMissoniDolce & Gabbana and so much more…your hardest job would be affording to join her club…I wouldn’t mind being in that club, as I love clothes, but I can see that’s not your cup of tea – that would be the hardest job for you, I agree, a stay at home wife, as you would die of boredom.”

And on and on they went, those crazy puppets, bidding up this and that – everything from garbage collector (because you would throw up at the smell even though you believe no work is beneath you) to florist salesperson (both for the stinky flower buckets and because you’ve done it, and the customers were terrible) and beyond.

And then, there was a very quiet duo of voices, speaking in unison.  It was the best of friends, Yehuda Rebbe, the Globalized, Jewish wise man puppet and Hacivad Bey, the Sufi elder puppet.

“M’lady, you know in your heart of hearts what the answer to this question is, this question about what is the hardest work. If you stop and listen you will hear it, it has been with you all along – and it is what you are starting to realize.”

And as they quietly spoke this truth in unison, a hush swept across the animated troupe as they all turned to me, all of us illuminated in orange light.

And it was silent as squeezing orange oil out of discarded peels.

And it was warm under those covers with all of those puppets, as warm as the smell of oranges in heavy sunshine.

And so I sat up, and emerged into the dim light of night, but the moon peeked through the curtains at me.

And as that moon looked my way, I realized that I knew exactly what it was – a conglomerate of evils that compose the structure of the hardest work which I have been doing all along – and which has been making me sick.  The hardest work for me to do is to a) take care of myself physically; b) create reasonable expectations for myself instead of gerbil-wheel-like running to meet others’ real or imagined expectations and c) let myself “feel just right” in my work and workplace – or make it so that I do.

And as I sat with those words reverberating around my head, the dog jumped on the bed to congratulate me (he can hear and understand the puppets) and my husband stopped in just to deliver a kiss, and a reminder that he loved me no matter what.  My heart felt as happy as a garden bursting with fern fronds ready to come out in spring, and that’s an unusual feeling for me.

And I know for certain now, that the way will become clear, and while it is not the Heathen Pilgrim’s brave walking journey across Turkey, I must stay on my path, which apparently starts with knowing that which is hardest, which I am only now starting to find.

Liz Cameron Www.slowly-by-slowly.com

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