What’s Going On?

by

Warning: this post isn’t about anything in particular, and it’s definitely not (directly) about politics.

It’s just my guilt post for not having been around much lately. Oh, I have been around, in the sense that I check the blog almost every day. And in the sense that each morning I check my usual suspects for topics that might make good posts.

Every time I come up empty.

On the one hand, I am really happy with my life. (This despite the fact that my beloved cat Simon passed away suddenly last week, which was devastating). But I also feel very walled off from the world, by choice, but this leaves me nothing to contribute here.

I do feel like a bad person about this, and maybe I have a biological excuse or maybe I don’t, but I just don’t give a damn what’s going on in Iraq, in the Scooter Libby trial, in the 2008 presidential race, or in Congress. I could really not care less. Those things have nothing to do with me or my life. In the same way, I am utterly disinterested in work except for the righteous indignation that my employers keep us feeling, well, pretty much every day. The whole thought of caring about anything outside my own home, family, and close friends is exhausting. I just don’t have anything to give to that right now. I don’t know if I ever will again.

I do still read the New York Times (well, I scan the headlines anyway) and of course watch the Daily Show, so I have a basic understanding of what’s going on and if something major happens I’ll be apprised of it. But I feel like the stage of my life where I was passionate and fired up about things is over. Now, my baby’s kicks are just a million times more interesting than what Hillary said about Obama this week. In a way, it’s sad, because my youthful idealism is gone (didn’t take long, did it?). I no longer have faith that there’s much if anything that I can do to change the world other than doing my own small part by raising my children to be good people and setting a good example for others around me in my own life.

This goes hand in hand with my complete loss of interest in having a “career,” whatever that even means. I feel like I was sold a bill of goods that work is supposed to be a great source of personal fulfillment. It took me almost six years of working to realize that this is, for the vast majority of people, a big lie. Work is a means to an end, not an end in itself. People who want careers seem to, almost without exception, want them for self-aggrandizement even if their articulated reasons are altruistic. This goes for all politicians and high-profile activists even in causes I believe in. Especially living in D.C., I feel aberrant for just wanting to be an average person with an average life.

One small anecdote from my office: our office manager said to one of the associates, who is a real clotheshorse and dresses very nicely all the time, that she was the only one of us who came to work “looking like a lawyer every day” and that she (the office manager) was going to suggest to the partners that all the attorneys be required to wear suits every day. I found that so offensive that I now find it difficult to be polite to this woman. (For the record, I wear jeans every day that I don’t have a deposition, meeting with opposing counsel, or court hearing). I hate suits and have never felt comfortable in them — I feel like a little girl playing dress-up. I realized the other day that the reason I hate suits so much is that for me, wearing one is making a statement that I think I’m someone important. Because I don’t think I am someone important and find all of that kind of posturing and formality to be tiresome and pointless, I prefer to dress like who I am.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense or not, but I thought I’d at least try to give an explanation for my long absence. I’m still here, I just don’t know if I have anything meaningful to contribute.

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17 Responses to “What’s Going On?”

  1. Sandi Says:

    And, embarrassed silence. This is my other issue with the blog — I love you guys, but you are guys, and there’s a barrier there that I can’t seem to cross. I never had any male friends in my life, all the men I’ve ever been close to there was something more there on one side or the other. The truth is that we just aren’t concerned about the same things. That’s partly because I’m also the only non-religious person here, so I’m shut out of all of those conversations. But the things that seem relevant to me aren’t relevant to a lot of you. I guess it’s a stage of life thing and doesn’t mean that anyone is right or wrong, but it does feel isolating.

  2. Michael Lasley Says:

    I really like this post, Sandi. I think that personal things are *much* more interesting than the political (unless you’re a true postmodernist and equate the two). I’d be much more interested in the baby-kicking, as well.

    I think you point to something very important here. It’s hard to sustain idealism for an extended period of time. For me, it just feels so hopeless after a while — it drives me crazy if I focus on it too much.

    I wear my pjs to work unless I’m actually teaching or have meetings. Actually, I usually wear my pjs anyway and change into “real” clothes that I keep in my office. You need to move to California. No one even thinks this is odd. My Dean, for instance, saw me the other day and I quickly explained, “I’m not teaching today.” He just laughed and said, hey, you’re in California.

  3. DeJon Redd Says:

    Sandi…

    Given the circumstances in which I find myself, I though your honesty was one of the most refreshing things I’ve read in a while.

    I’ll balk at saying too much more, but I had to say thanks for laying it out there. I admire and respect your intestinal fortitude.

    DeJon

  4. Terry Austin Says:

    Same here.

    I don’t think you have a thing to apologize for.

    It sounds to me like your priorities are shifting a bit. Sorry if this sounds trite and cliche’, but the looming reality of becoming a parent will really readjust your worldview.

  5. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Is that a good thing?

    In some ways, probably. In others, probably not. Either way, it seems to me natural that you would feel some dislocation as your life makes this transition — your old concerns getting displaced by new ones, and a certain hint of mourning for the old ones.

    Politics is (“are?” I’m never sure on that one) what I talk about because it strikes me as something that matters; it’s an expression of concern for something larger than — people other than — myself. I don’t have a family competing for/displacing/offering another means of expressing those concerns, so politics (and other things) is where they go.

    IOW, I generally haven’t commented on your recently more personal posts because I quite literally have nothing to say on the subject of family-making. That part of human life hasn’t intersected with mine. I don’t know anything about it. I’ve got nothing to offer to the conversation.

    So, even in this probably crusty-seeming Housefly’s case, silence doesn’t reflect a sense of, “I wish she wouldn’t post about that stuff here — this isn’t the place for it.” It just reflects a lack of anything to say. Much, I gather, as you find is now the case for you on political subjects.

    You’re right that, even in the case of the best causes, self-aggrandizement is at the center of much — even most, probably nearly all — political culture. However, it is equally at the center of much — even most — parenting culture. I say that not as a poke in your eye, but to call attention to the fact that every area of life, no matter how well intentioned, will become about self if we aren’t thoroughly ruthless with ourselves.

    If we are ruthless, and only if we are, any area of life can truly be about something larger than, someone other than, just ourselves; politics as well as parenting.

  6. Al Sturgeon Says:

    It was good to hear from you, Sandi (btw, I was out most of yesterday, so I didn’t read your post until late last night). You mean you aren’t interested in the All-Time Gold Glove Team either? 🙂

    To tell the truth, I haven’t had many Houseflies inspirations recently either. The “War & Peace” updates were mostly because I didn’t know what else to write about – but I’m glad I did. I really love interacting with all you guys over anything. Heck, you’re all my friends!

    Maybe we should make a formal declaration that “anything” is blogworthy in case there’s a stigma somewhere that we should only submit certain “types” of posts.

    If everyone will keep that in mind when I post something stupid…

  7. Sandi Says:

    Thanks for your thoughts. I am definitely aware of my priorities shifting (presumably) in response to the looming reality of parenthood. But I think that deciding to become a parent for me was at least in part a symptom of my growing disillusionment with my work. Not that I wouldn’t have had children anyway, but I think the sense of urgency I had about doing it was that I saw it as an escape route from an attitude about work common here that I neither understand nor approve of. If you have children, you have an excuse for work not being the center of your life. You’re still looked down upon, of course — these fools see having children as a luxury or perhaps a hobby rather than as a part of life that most people want to and will experience.

    Different people have different primary reasons for having children. None of them are particularly altruistic, no matter what people tell themselves. They are certainly about the self. But since there’s no such thing as pure altruism (i.e., the good things we do for others we do because they make us feel good too), it’s not among the worst of selfish things to do. In my humble estimation.

    I guess right now I’m trying to sort out my feelings about work (if you couldn’t tell) in a place and time where how I feel is considered deviant. I’ve locked myself into something that I don’t want by having gone to law school, a mistake I definitely wouldn’t make again. And of course on top of that I’m letting down women everywhere (according to Linda Hirshman and her ilk) by having these feelings. What do you make of my desperate desire to be average? Is it low self-esteem or just humility?

  8. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Hey Sandi, I just think you’re smart enough to get off the little wheel that spins round and round in the cage earlier than most. Seems like you’ve determined that success must be spelled differently…

    And I agree completely that folks don’t have kids for altruistic reasons.

    Sorry to cut the comment short, but my kid has to go to school! 🙂

  9. juvenal_urbino Says:

    It doesn’t sound to me like you’re trying to be average, Sandi. It sounds like you’re trying to have a balanced life.

  10. Whitney Says:

    Sandi,

    You’re NOT letting down women everywhere. You’re letting down women who’ve refused to acknowledge that there actually may be “something else” out there beside trying to always make it in a “man’s world” (Whatever that means.) I don’t think there’s anything more feminine than being a mother. People who look down on that–I feel sorry for them. Don’t beat yourself up. Feel good about wanting to be a good mother; about wanting to make your child’s life wonderful–and about your ability to prepare your child for the difficulties ahead–with experience to help you.

    I love working. I love being a professional. If and when I ever do get pregnant, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if my love for my work takes a huge backseat.

    Oh–I was going to comment sooner, but was out on the East coast with Joe and had a bad connection. By the way, I still regularly read, too. Just don’t always have anything meaningful to add and like to hear you all chatter, so keep my mouth shut. Not that much of what I add is all that meaningful anyway….

  11. Whitney Says:

    By the way, I just saw a headline on MSNBC.com that said: “Americans Hate Their Jobs More Than Ever: Do You?”

    seemed kind of fitting

  12. Al Sturgeon Says:

    I liked my job yesterday. Today was okay. It varies.

    Hey Whitney!!! Great to hear your typing voice again!!!

    And I liked Juvenal’s thought: balanced, not average. That’s good.

  13. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I like my job very nearly every day, but I don’t define myself by it. I have other interests & pursuits that make up who I am much more than my job does.

    That’s what gets lost sight of too often, I think. Especially in professions like law. If you define yourself by your job, then sure, you’re going to be willing to devote your life to it; and you’ll probably have difficulty understanding people who don’t and therefore aren’t.

  14. Michael Lasley Says:

    Great to hear from you Whitney.

    Sandi — I think you have a point about the activists, as well. And one that’s not discussed much within activist circles. Both about the altruistic part of their goals and the way in boxes people into roles in life (like women *have* to be “successful” lawyers or corporate leaders or whatever field) at the expense of family or self.

  15. Michael Lasley Says:

    And the talk of being defined by your profession reminds me of a line in a really crummy short story I wrote a few years ago. A kid who was always being asked what he was going to be when he grew up reflected that “he didn’t want to be whatever it is that he does.”

    Yes. I just quoted myself. I’m a bit full of myself.

  16. juvenal_urbino Says:

    But are you defined by yourself?

  17. Sandi Says:

    My comment about letting other women down was definitely sarcastic — I completely disagree with those who believe that women need to be working in order to be good feminists. I think it way too unquestioningly accepts the idea of paid work as the end-all be-all and is also too uncritical of capitalism for my taste. I also notice that it is inevitably academics who say that everyone should have meaningful work — I was a research asst. for a law professor for whom that is her central idea. She always got offended when people would ask her if scrubbing toilets or dishing up fast food was supposed to be spiritually fulfilling. Which points up the fact that it’s an incredibly classist argument that work should be a source of fulfillment.

    I’m not really the feminine sort, so I don’t know how that’s going to affect my parenting abilities, but I definitely think that for both David and myself, being a good parent is always going to come first and work somewhere down the list (maybe not even in the top 5). I also feel sorry for people who don’t feel that way — and for their children.

    What I have seen since I started working is that people in my profession seem to have a real ego problem. They have this desire for people to think they are important and powerful. One of my bosses in particular is a real media whore, if I may use that phrase. I find it so embarrassing that I feel sorry for him, as his desire to be well-known is so obvious. All of that strikes me as incredibly immature, like something that I used to feel when I was in college but that I’ve long since grown beyond.

    Okay, I’m officially babbling now.

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