Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Work of a Lifetime

I've written about work and keeping busy before, but it seems to, like history, keep repeating itself every day.

Customers that come into the store where I work all have work lives that wrap around them like clothes. Sometimes its invisible, but most of the time it's clear ... not necessarily what they do, but how they do it, and how passionately they do it.

A friend of mine at work that recently retired always worked quickly, efficiently and with great attention to detail. She's busier than ever. She and I sometimes had a quick chat (no time to dawdle and talk at work!) about the work we had at home and how it never seemed to get done. Even with her day job behind her, she never gets done with all the things she wants to accomplish. I know it'll be the same for me. There's always something else that I'd like to achieve, whether it's to move the appliances and scrub the entire kitchen floor, weed out an ornamental garden bed, rough in another book cover, or finish the front porch (argh, there's so much to do!!) When my friend shops she's a woman on a mission. She's got to get back to work. Time is slippery, and we all have only so much.

But not everyone's life is like that. People shuffle in, bored, and roam the aisles looking for something to divert themselves. Sometimes it's just that they're exhausted and shopping is a vacation from the daily slog. But that in and of itself is telling. They slog, not just one day but every day. I have a beloved customer that always teases me when he comes in. He never seems to find anything to do. He shops out of boredom, often more than once a day, and more often than not leaves without getting anything because he can't find anything he wants. He's my opposite.

There are shopping explorers where everything is an adventure and fun and they're looking for something new to add to their homes or their hobby stuff. There are distracted people who can't pull their gazes away from their telephones or their conversations long enough to notice what they're doing. People who devote the vast majority of their time interacting with their children. People who come in with children and spend the vast majority of their time ignoring them or demanding that the children behave in such a way that they're easier to ignore.

It's just one shopping trip, but it's one of many that build into a pattern. I see the same people every day, week, month and watch them build this pattern. It's just one hour, of one day, of a lifetime. But the days form an architecture. Brick by brick, everyone builds their lives, and it's amazing and humbling to notice the ones that live in stark, empty rooms that they circle in restlessly with little to do, and those that have tidy homes and tidy gardens where they find enjoyment in the art and order, and those that beat trails through jungles, and those that build villages, or huge cities with all that they do and create ....

We are all of us, every day, contributing to the work of a lifetime, a masterpiece. It's not always beautiful or awe-inspiring, but it is who we are. Some feel like they're forced, some choose what they do, but we all do it just by managing our days. I find that endlessly fascinating.

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