I am bone-tired. My body, exhausted from working, which is on many days, and for hours and hours and hours– sitting and writing and concentration. And my mind is tired. I had brokered a deal whereby I could generally, except when something urgent was happening, not work on Fridays–so I could spend time at my daughter’s school and get her after school, but it turns out there has been something urgent every Friday but one Friday since I started.
Yesterday I went into the office and worked and when I was sort of closing in on the end point, I realized had another big writing project due. So I went to the office of my boss next door and started to cry– “I have this wonderful 10-year-old daughter, she is my priority and I have to have more time with her.” She pulled out kleenex and told me to close the door and listened to me. Then I left and picked up my daughter and brought her back to work.
I was so, so happy to see her. We stopped at a great downtown professional art supply store and at a food cart for a hot dog and then I brought her back to the office and stayed there and worked with her until 8:00 p.m. It helps a lot that I work in an absolutely beautiful building with a beautiful view out the window. It helps a lot that because I work in a legislative office I have a small 13-inch tv with cable in my office. Having my young girl come and sit in an office and watch me work for hours goes completely against my ideas about what a young person should get to do after sitting in school all day and against what a young one should do and get and have with a parent after that long day at school. It is completely contrary to what I want to do with her. Still, I realized yesterday that we had an especially sweet and close time together and it was a good thing for both of us. I loved going to work with my father when I was young, but by the time I was 10 I pretty much didn’t get to do that anymore. For her to see me and be with me and my colleagues at work. For me to have her with me even though I wasn’t playing with her, I was working. Hard. And I love what I do and she gets to see that.
I have probably never, ever worked this hard at a job, except in the first years of my work at the HIV Clinic where I worked in the 90’s and on through 2004. In those first years we published a 300-page AIDS Advocacy Manual which we, the legal staff with caseloads and two legal clinics to run and other responsibilities, wrote and edited annually. At that time, the world, in terms of AIDS and the law– was changing so fast it was a big project, re-writing and researching things that had changed year by year. Then we decided it was just too much to do on top of our caseloads and my boss contracted with an editor.
The other hardest job I’ve ever done was when I first graduated from college, I worked full-time as a daycare teacher. I worked with young people 1-2 years old and then later we had a mixed group of 1-4 year olds. I had to be at work at 7:00 a.m. and I was living and working in Madison, Wisconsin and for many of those months it was winter. It was cold, with a capital C and dark with a capital D when I’d leave for work. The work with young people was tiring because it was both physical– very. And it was work that demanded your mind– all those interested and busy and demanding young minds wanted a working mind in return. So it was non-stop physical and non-stop attention, and when I came home at about 3:30– I’d just lay down on our couch in the living room and sleep a deep and heavy sleep– for two hours before I could stand and do anything. Bone tired.
But I love this job– for many reasons. The writing I get to do and increasingly the thinking. The breadth of the job and doing work that is rooted in my own geography, my community, the issues of the day in the place where I live. And as I get to know him better and better, the legislator I work for– who often stands against easy, angry opinion and does the right thing. Right now we are fighting hard to see if we can prevail against a tide of welfare cuts — the latest attempt to vilify poor people and to “balance” a budget if you can call a government budget that is so punitive “balanced”. There is more, but it is daylight now and a beautiful spring day this Saturday morning and I need to go and get out with that daughter I love– in her last weeks of 10-ness and move my body and breathe fresh air before it turns to the time I have to go back to work.