Living in a Turkish-American marriage, there are some differences that are glaringly garish, more that subtle, a few that are barely perceptible and some that really creep up on you over time. As my theme of the month is “work,” due to my participation in Blogher‘s NaBloPoMo, a discussion of how work is perceived in my own relationship seems appropriate to share.
As a couple thrown together from Eastern and Western traditions, work is often an area in which we clash. M., who is much more of a bohemian and easygoing person than I, loves his work more than anything – and after 8 hours – comes home – and that’s that. He is a curator in a museum that is a particularly healthy workplace, if you ask me. The culture of work in that place, I believe, supports what M. knows about the value of balancing work and rest time – as his rest time is when his true work begins, as he is also a working artist. Lately, he has been in the throes of recalibration – as he has perhaps adopted too much of a work ethic on the volunteer front – and needs to step back. But unlike me, he knows it when he sees it. Would that I were that way.
I, on the other hand, well, it’s not that easy. It is likely that I make nothing easy on myself as I come from the Yankee work ethic tradition that has rushed vs. trickled down from generation to generation. I feel guilty if I am not working or doing something useful. This tendency has been cemented in my psyche by choosing to work first in social services for years (where workaholism is the only way to get impossible tasks even partway done) and then to choose academia. Ah, academia, the land of no rest, knots in your stomach and a constant “somewhere else to be, something else to do,” type of feeling. I know that my e-friend over at Turklish is wrestling with the same things (you should check out her blog here, she is marrying a Turkish man and moving to Turkey soon – while doing graduate work). With my need-to-prove-my-worth work ethic and my Yankee roots, I think I am doomed.
Hacivad Bey, the learned Sufi elder puppet who has been observing and facilitating this whole work meditation, steps in at this moment. “This, m’lady,” he says softly, “is the reason you met and married M. So different from you he is, you are bound to have to take another good look at yourself and decide what is, and what is not healthy.”
And then, without further ado, he unfurls a soft and worn scroll of parchment in front of my eyes, and it reads:
“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do” – Rumi
Almost imperceptibly, he whispers this to me – “Figuring this out now, M’lady, is your task. It’s time to get well again” And it becomes clear to me that I have a lot to learn about the Eastern approach when it comes to balance – and determining what it is that I will do.