Work Ethic

I find it hard to shake off. It’s inbred in me, where from exactly I am not sure. My father didn’t have it. He worked hard when he had to but not otherwise. He enjoyed leisure, and didn’t appear to feel any guilt at doing so. My mother worked hard, sometimes willingly, sometimes not, but she also yielded uncomplainingly to the times, later on in her life, when little was asked of her. I feel better about myself when I am working hard. I like to feel used up, useful and worthy. Yes, work makes me feel worthy, worth my salt. Though that too has stresses when you start to investigate whether the work you do is worthwhile, useful and most importantly good enough. He is more sanguine than I. He too doesn’t fight leisure. He believes he has earnt it. It is his. Work doesn’t define him, as I think it defines me. I do battle with myself over this. Always. Always have. I know that there is a better way of living. That is, to do the work when it is there and to rest and observe the gentle continuum of life when it isn’t. I woke at odds with myself, a residue from yesterday’s inner fighting. I work all the time, though the work is most often domestic work. He would say that is work all the same, and it is, but it doesn’t give me (or at least I don’t allow it to give me) a good sense of self. I think of others working harder than me, all the time knowing how pernicious such a way of thinking can be. I do not know how others live their lives, not truly, and if I did that is their life, their choices, as this life and these choices are mine. We must follow different paths. Why can’t you just be? he asks. A good question. Because, I want to say, and sometimes do, I don’t know how to be without doing. And what am I if I am not doing? A nothing? A space, a vacancy, of no use. Try just being loving, a voice told me this morning. Just try loving. That’s all. Let that be the motivation behind everything you do, not an ego-boost, or money-spinner, or even a domestic imperative. Just make every action a loving one. Let that be the reason and you will feel differently. I promise.

I shall give it a try.

A few couples canoodled in the dark as I walked past. They stood in doorways and under street lamps. I stepped out into the road so as not to disturb them. One man leant against a wall talking to a girl, his right leg was bent and raised up behind him. Along Llanbadarn Road I watched as a girl got out of a taxi. She was large with immense thighs that were revealed in their full glory beneath an extremely short, figure-hugging dress. She walked the path to her door unsteadily and I observed as she first tapped on a window then struggled to get her key in the door. The taxi driver waited too. Why? Perhaps she didn’t have enough cash in her purse, or maybe he was being paternal and checking to see she got in safe. Their experience of the night is so different to mine.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.