Friday, June 7, 2013

Of goodwill and privilege

On my bulletin board

It's pouring and thundering in New York City today, courtesy of the outer bands of tropical storm Andrea to our south. I lay in bed this morning, cosy in the storm-dark room, the rain pattering on the window air conditioning unit, and I played with the notion of just staying under my fluffy green comforter all day. I was alone in the house, my husband and daughter having flown away to Toronto last night to attend the wedding of one of my husband's cousins. I wanted to go, I had planned to go, but when we finally looked up the cost of tickets, I swallowed hard and allowed the long stream of stories to be edited this week, every one of them passing through me, to assume some importance.

Now, sitting at my desk on this rainy Friday morning, I'm secretly piqued by the coworkers who did take the day off. I could have been with my husband and daughter in attendance at a wedding instead of here in the office, keeping their copy rolling along. One colleague is trying to give me instructions remotely as if I'm her secretary, counting on me to once again cover the work she should have taken care of before she left. Tone is everything in a business communication. I am declining to do her work for her this time, because she's starting to make this a habit, and more to the point, she didn't ask nicely. Her email was a multi-step command, not even a thank you before her name. People do not like to feel used. I do not like to feel used. I sent her back an email saying, "These details will need to be handled by you on Monday. Thank you." As snarky as that sounds, trust me, I was being restrained. Her story is weeks late, with stray details everywhere, and the goodwill bank is severely overdrawn.

Still, I need to get real where the pique is concerned. There was no one but me ordering the priorities, and it just seemed to me that the priority now is paying for my daughter's fall semester of college. In any case, there is something to be said for wandering around your house knowing no one is coming for two whole days. You don't have to make yourself presentable for the stream of friends of your children arriving at your door. You can eat bruschetta and fennel soup for dinner and watch House Hunters International for a long as you please, imagining life in any number of far flung places, enjoying the fact that your mundane New York City apartment would be just as unfamiliar and therefore exotic to someone from Umbria or Denmark or Morocco. Watching an episode set in England with my son recently, I was intrigued by his observation that compared to the friends he visited in England a year ago, our apartment was large and sunny. Americans, he opined, live with more space than we realize and we take it for granted. He's right. I think of our apartment as tiny, and the clutter currently taking it over does nothing to dissuade me from that notion. Yet compared to so many, we have everything we need.

I was thinking of this from the back seat of a cab as I traveled to work. We drove past stately buildings on Riverside Drive, the abodes of the wealthy. My children went to school with some of their children, so I have been inside some of those houses. They are astonishing really, something out of a high-end home decor magazine, but I was thinking this morning how it's all relative, how I grew up in Jamaica in what would have been considered a rather grand home by some of my friends. I can see that now, but at the time I took it for granted. I lay reading on my bed with the breeze coming through a door open to my own little patio, and I never questioned my privilege. 

It's another kind of privilege to be alone for a night or two, knowing that my beloveds will be home soon. So what if I have to take out the trash because my husband's not there to do it. This and laundry are the two household tasks I most eschew, although I'm not so keen on cooking or clearing the dishwasher either. The truth is, I'm fairly useless as a housewife, though I do pack the dishwasher like a Tetris master and tidy up and put things in their place semi-obsessively. 

It's sort of eye-opening how quickly one can get out of the habit of daily blog writing. I haven't posted all week. I've been hanging out with my husband and daughter. I actually hate leaving my girl in the mornings to go to work.  Silly, right? She's just so delicious to be around, her spirit so amused and forgiving and light. A couple of days ago,  when I left for work, she was still in the boxers and tee-shirt she'd slept in, wrapped in her sleeping bag that she uses as a blanket, fingers tapping out a food gadget review on her laptop. Reruns of Sex and the City were playing on the TV, and she looked up occasionally to commiserate with Carrie Bradshaw and her trio of friends. As I kissed the top of her head goodbye I wished I could have stayed home all day with her and just had away-from-the-world girl time.

Well, this was a ramble. 


  1. And a beautiful and interesting ramble at that. Good for you for putting your foot down with your co-worker. I did that too this week in telling client I could not get him a proposal until Monday because every time I'm asked I drop everything and get it to them promptly and being nice and trying to meet their every need has never paid off, not one iota and I'm tired of it. Lying in a bed for a day reading and watching mindless TV sounds divine. Sweet Jo

  2. Affluence is certainly relative. I was watching HGTV the other day, and a stay-at-home mother of one had a meltdown because helping her husband decide which of (three) million-dollar homes to purchase while taking care of her little girl was too overwhelming. I'm thinking, what the heck, lady! Just the same, someone without clean drinking water would say the same thing about me when I complain about the grocery store being out of some delicacy I want. We're pitiful sometimes, aren't we? Enjoy your down time, and good for you for drawing the line with old girl.

  3. Not a ramble at all Angella it is lovely and true and that feeling of being rain shrouded or snuggling deeper in bed after the alarm goes off and good on you for giving the woman who should have come in a wee bite. I know this feeling too the savage tone of the workplace.

  4. Good job you've put your foot down with that colleague. One of the reasons I enjoy reading here is because you enjoy your kids and family and friends so much. Enjoy the weekend.

  5. I agree, a lovely ramble.
    I am struggling with feeling used. It is not pretty. Your solution was appropriate and skillful. I am striving for the same.
    Enjoy your quiet alone time!

  6. Love your "ramble"! What a great response to your co-worker.

  7. So many things caught my eyes on this awesome post:
    "These details will need to be handled by you on Monday. Thank you." Yes!!!! I feel like stomping my feet and lifting my arms up in the air. How many times have I struggled to say this. So happy you 'handled' it. And her.
    Also, I too love staying in my house, which is a brand new feeling. And yes, Americans have plenty more living space than many other countries have visited. Except for the islands or North Africa.
    And I love that you're enjoying your daughter being home so much. How wonderful that she herself seems to enjoy it as much.
    Many hugs!

  8. I agree with the other commenters -- it was good you set limits with that coworker. Sometimes people need to work on basic e-mail courtesy, not to mention workplace responsibility.

    It's natural you would miss your family, but I bet this time will do you good. It's always nice to eat bruschetta and fennel soup and just inhabit your own head for a while!

  9. I love when you write of time spent with your children -- your pleasure and contentment. I thought this a lovely post --

  10. But a nice ramble though...the ability to just say no is learned and after you do it a couple of times it becomes easier. Keeping it short and sweet like you did is the best.

  11. I love spending time alone, it feeds the soul. It sounds like you have a nice little pocket of me time so enjoy it. Too bad work had to interrupt it.

  12. I have to echo the comments of those who came before me ... it's a lovely ramble. I've been away from reading my favorites for a while and I'm really enjoying catching up with your post. I feel as if we've just had a cup of coffee and a nice chat. I love it when you share about work and family. I enjoy hearing bits about work and how you handle things as it gives me a bigger sense of your daily life. Thanks for this one.