2000-11-26Journeys - Motivation.
I'll Finish That Tomorrow
it's taken me two days to mull this over and make myself sit down at the keyboard. sad, isn't it? or maybe just blindingly appropriate.
what motivates me? loyalty, pleasure and guilt. pure and simple, it comes down to one of those every time. the things i never even question, just do, are powered by loyalty, to friends and family. the things i have to do are driven by guilt. duty, lightly disguised, can appear as guilt. or maybe it's guilt in dress-up clothes, masquerading as duty. hard to tell. the things i want to do are propelled by pleasure - the desire for some mental or physical satisfaction. there are, of course, a myriad of other things that may appear as motivations - pride, envy, fear - but in one way or another, they can all be reduced to these three.
my family and my friends mean the world to me. in ways both good and bad, they have helped make me who i am, and help me become who i want to be. i wouldn't trade them for anything. i would walk over hot coals for them (well, at least in concept). if any one of my friends or family needs something, there is no second thought. the answer is always yes. and i don't mean little things like running to the store for a quart of milk (altho most often the answer to that is yes, too). i've helped friends move at the drop of a hat, made midnight runs to fix the fuse box, given them a place to live and fed them, answered the phone at 2 in the morning and just listened, planned suprise parties for that special day, cooked a Valentine's dinner for two, and sometimes just stepped back and let them learn despite the urge to protect them. please understand - i don't see myself as any kind of saint or martyr. these small efforts actually seem like a very minor drop in the bucket. but i do what i can for those i love.
pleasure is a little trickier, because the motivation sometimes outpaces the return. i will go to extravagant lengths for relationships. there are obvious hurdles i'll leap - i've walked thru snowstorms, rented a car and driven all day, worked all day in the kitchen cooking a gourmet dinner, spent my last dime on flowers or cards or lingerie. more interestingly, the motivation can push you in some unexpected directions. i've remade myself emotionally for someone (several someones, actually) because sex is twinned with relationships and acceptance. the immediate payback of satisfying love-making sometimes obscures the fact that what i really crave is the knowledge that i fit, that there is someone with whom i don't need to prove myself. to that end, i've been the sweet little girl who never argues, the perfect daughter-in-law, the always-available mistress... none of which reflect the whole me, just a part of me. the motivation these days takes the form of self-examination, and earning the pleasure of being comfortable living in my own skin. patience is a hard task master, but worth it.
pleasure isn't always such a complicated motivator. i love making people happy, giving and suprising. it could be as simple as holding the door for the woman behind me, or telling a co-worker how flattering that sweater is on them. it does sometimes get a little out of hand, like the annual Christmas cookie bake-off. i really enjoy baking, and for at least the last seven years, i've made cookies for my friends. it started small - i made rolled sugar cookies for my dad. somehow, it's blossomed into an event. i generally make about eight or 10 different recipes, and usually throw in a batch of toffee or chocolate dipped fruit for good measure. it was supposed to help me save money on presents... and that's gone by the wayside. 8) it's more than worth all the planning and work, tho. my landlord stopped by one year to fix a wiring problem, and was delighted to get a few chocolate cherry swirls fresh out of the oven. i even made doggie cookies last year, so that sophie wouldn't feel left out. the best is sending off boxes of cookies to the other side of the country, and getting a phone call or card a few days later.
and then there's guilt. this one is what's made me drag my feet about writing. maybe guilt is too harsh a word; maybe necessity is the right one. but guilt is the word that came to mind first, and i've left it at that, because i want to push myself to understand why that was the word that jumped out.
i go to work every day because i have to. it's what puts money in the bank and kitty kibble on the table. sometimes there's satisfaction in doing the job well, but mostly it's just a thing that has to be done. and i've felt for a long time that i really should have a different job. when i tell you i just got my ten-year service award, you'll see how well that little venture has gone. poking around the idea a little bit, it comes to me that i feel i should have a different job, something more high-profile, something meaningful, because i believe my parents want that for me. they have always wanted me to do my best. that drove me to do a lot of things - get a job as early as i could, earn high marks in AP classes, be the leader in whatever i did, get into an Ivy college. but once i got to college, things changed; i did well, but being the best wasn't paramount to me. and after i graduated and moved to Boston, things changed even more. i spent a lot of time going thru the motions of trying to find that next job, of buying What Color is Your Parachute? every year and completing the exercises that were supposed to help me 'find myself', of updating the resumè every six months. but the motivation was never really there. what i thought was a desire to win, to be the best, has perhaps just always been the desire to please my parents and the fear of feeling guilty that i disappointed them. as i've built my own life, and my relationship with my parents has changed, the guilt has taken a back seat. it's less of a stumbling block, less of a motivator these days.
reading back over this, i realize that perhaps i was a little too flip in summing up my motivators as loyalty, pleasure and guilt. well, not flip - they are real forces in my life. but i'm starting to see a common thread to what i've written. the one thing that drives me these days, more than anything, is the desire to be true to myself. that desire has helped me find the balance i have today, and pushes me to keep working on it.