Now that I have challenged myself to carefully consider the topic of “work” as part of December’s NaBloPoMo, two of the primary metaphorical puppets that have inhabited my mind for some years now are popping up once again in earnest. I think they are bubbling up with a geyser-like fury because the BlogHer writing prompt of the day is “how hard do you think you work?”
Regular readers will recall that on occasion, two or more of my mental puppets get into what I have dubbed “a puppet battle” (you can click here to read all posts categorized as such) and there is no more fierce a battle than the one in which the Write-a-matrix and Hacıyatmaz (Hah-juh-yacht-maz) are engaged in. It may be an eternal battle, but I hope it will just subside into the occasional debate/skirmish that dissolves with subtle mediation.
Now, one of my Moms, who is likely reading this post, has told me that she worries about these Karagöz puppets in my head, with all of their battles. She wants me to feel whole, not so fragmented. Of course, I can understand and appreciate this loving concern. My take on it is that this puppet exploration is a natural and healthy part of the process of figuring things out that must be named and recognized before moving on. She’ll likely sigh, maybe shake her head, and chalk it up to personality differences, but the puppets and I are asking her to please not worry, I am on the right path, and it is a healthy one. Let me encourage her to listen to the other puppets in the Karagöz puppet troupe, who have different stakes in my brain, heart and soul.
Those puppets are reminding me that Hacıyatmaz and the Write-a-matrix are located in only one side of my self – they are not in my whole self. Hacivad Bey reminds me that Hacıyatmaz (named for a Turkish children’s toy that has a roly poly bottom and never stops rocking, albeit gently) was sent by the rest of the puppets to tango with the whip-cracker herself, that Write-a-matrix. You know, fighting fire with fire, and all that. To bring you up to speed, the Write-a-matrix was the dominatrix-type who had me by the throat, publishing scads of articles for tenure…too many articles compared to what secured what I now know to be the bittersweet brass ring for my colleagues.
Ignoring all that noise from the Write-a-matrix, Hacıyatmaz stayed true to his mission, to shock me back into some better balance. As a result, he decided to affix me with the creative writing bug with as much energy as I had devoted to my academic research. Not a perfect approach in the larger scheme of things as for a stretch I was throwing myself into both, but that approach did engage the part of me that was caught up in the frenzy that is the Write-a-matrix – and made it take notice. As it turns out, it took about a year, my Dad’s passing – and a rotator cuff injury on my writing side to wake me up from the madness. I need time for my own writing work – and my academic work.
So, as I leave my Write-a-matrix in the corner and head upstairs into a more healthy, but uncharted territory, I agree that it is time for more balance (can you hear the cheers and huzzahs of the puppet troupe?). Hacıyatmaz is smiling now, but the rhythm of his roly-poly-ness is steady. You see, has been patiently waiting for me since the 6th grade, when I turned down the special art/writing curriculum as the cool kids made too much fun of me already – why be a bullied artsy geek, I reasoned without a second glance. I could just lift that young girl up and shake her senseless, I am so disappointed in her for that. Hacıyatmaz has a lot of compassion for her, it seems, and just stuck around, almost imperceptibly, rolling back and forth in the corner. He doesn’t speak, he just rolls, functioning as some sort of Buddhist metronome from which I should take my cue.
Seeing me write all this, the Write-a-matrix screeches in a banshee-like wail and claws at the walls. It is beyond painful to watch, hear and write about. That poor Write-a-matrix, she cannot bear this utter *failure* on the loss of additions to “what’s in the publishing pipeline” writing front. She tells me I have yet to publish in the journals with the highest “impact factor” using more advanced statistical analyses. She tells me I am an academic nobody who has wasted my training, my potential. For her, existence itself equals an unhealthy all-or-nothing approach to one tiny sliver of what life can be vis-à-vis making a contribution to the world. She is upset beyond red, puffy-faced bitter rage, as she is realizing that I now know I only need her in moderation, such as on a deadline, not all the time. She is also horrified to hear that I am no longer trying to make my parents proud by amassing an academic publishing record akin to their own, regardless of impact factors and fancy statistics. But more than anything, the Write-a-matrix is also afraid of what is lurking behind all of that whip-cracking workaholism that needs tending to, but that is another story altogether.
So as the Write-a-matrix retreats in despair and Hacıyatmaz rolls steadily along, I am reminded of a playground fixture I saw in my childhood – it was something in between a carnival tilt-a-whirl and a see-saw, and it required all the kids playing on it to balance just so in order to keep the spinning up at a fun – and reasonable rate. That’s how I will approach the work of writing from now on.
It’s a new world out here.