The Hard Work Begins

by Jun 16, 2013Gallery

“If you’re not feeling overwhelmed, you’re not doing it right.”

So says the teacher of the solo performance class I finally had the guts to sign up for.

This has been a week spent, stumped, frustrated, and struggling — and loving it. I cringe when I hear people extolling the virtues of “hard work.” This week’s plod has helped me understand why: the phrase has been usurped.

The hard work of this piece consists of pushing against the perceived limits of my skills, talents, and endurance. It includes enduring the frustration and discomfort of settling into that zone between those perceived limits and whatever the real ones might be.

The liberating thing, though, is that this hard work isn’t many of the things often called hard work, the artifacts of awful school and job dynamics that have tainted our feelings towards work itself:

* Social display: face time and the like

* Obedience: submission to people who have the power to waste the time of their underlings

* Going through the motions: dutifully performing tasks that fail to produce results

* Narrative of sacrifice: living out the ritual that people who sleep, work out, and have adequate social lives are “losers”

As I stood on the stage, spotlight on me, my piece looking like Charlie Brown’s pathetic Christmas tree, I felt a glimmer of hope. Is work — real, hard work — the key to leaving the rest of that c*** behind?

Barbara Ruth Saunders is a writer, editor, and writing coach.