A Right to (my) Work

“Are you working?”

I get asked that a lot, whether in the form of that specific question or one of its many variations. Sometimes the wording is roundabout: “What are you up to?” Sometimes it is more blunt: “Do you have a job yet?”

However it is asked, I feel a sense of American shame flowing from my philosophy-with-distinction-graduate head down to my supporting-Homo-Erectus-life-for-43-years feet. My eyes go to the floor, forced down by my overwhelming sense of failure. I have no choice but to answer; the question compels me to answer.
And being indoctrinated as I am in good capitalist citizen dogma, I answer it in the only way that I know how: I lie about it.

“Not at this time” is my most frequent lie. And it is a lie.

For I am working all the time.

I am obsessive-compulsive about my work; that is, about my art. I usually write seven days a week and days that I don’t I’m a wreck: there are just too many damn stories pushing against my skull for me to move a day closer to death without creating some pages.

Gary has severe health problems, so I’ve taken on the bulk of our household responsibilities. I don’t begrudge this, as that’s what spouses do for one another. Oh, wait, our government doesn’t think of us as spouses, so I guess I should say instead that that’s what people in loving relationships do for one another. I spend a goodly chunk of time working on daily to-do’s.

My own health isn’t great. It’s better than Gary’s, but it still frustrates me, there being so much in life I want to accomplish before I fertilize the ground. I work hard to do what I can when I can. If idle hands are the Devil’s workshop, then my hands are the Divine’s playground.

But none of the above matters with regard to the holy are you working question. No one cares about my art, my health, or my life.

What the askers really want to know is how well I am circulating In God We Trust paper.

“Not very well right now,” I’d have to say to that question, and that wouldn’t be a lie. “But I’m working on it,” I could add and it still wouldn’t be a lie, because I work all the time. But it is only a partial truth, because I know my work won’t be considered real work until it makes money.

Until then, I’m just a lazy, no-account bum who does nothing and amounts to nothing.