Friday, March 24, 2017

A Change is as Good as a Rest

When I finished my obligatory year of indentured servitude with the company that had acquired Chowhound (long, surreal, hilarious story starts here), after having spent eight years slogging to manage the overgrown web community that had taken over my life, and which itself was launched in a state of exhaustion after an impossibly ambitious book project, I figured I'd need to really take things super easy for a while.

I discovered that no length of inactivity is sufficient. Lying in a hammock feels good, and I'm all for it. But we are not video game characters, so hammock-lying does not actually recharge our power levels. It doesn't work like that! Recharging's a myth! I spent a few years trying to recharge, and it never happened. It was only when I returned to doing stuff (e.g. writing this Slog, restoring my trombone technique, and various other quests and projects) that I began to finally recover.

Inactivity is not salve, nor is hard work detrimental. Anyone who makes a habit of trying hard - who commits - can testify that therein lies the greatest human satisfaction. How the hell did we ever suppose that trying less was a route to anything good?

I really know what I'm talking about here, having ample experience both with demoralized exhaustion and with prolonged efforts to "rest". Here's the short version (which I'm told is a cliché, though no one ever told me):
"A change is as good as a rest."
I've been smarter this time. Having recently finished the two year build of an ambitious new project that was every bit as taxing as Chowhound (and which launches shortly), I've been working with an Ecuadorian construction crew in the South Bronx. I paint ceilings with a 15 foot roller, and I’m told that I'm really fast. My friends think I've gone bonkers, but, even on cold days (there’s no heat at the job sites) it’s the perfect antidote to sending 150 emails/day, haggling with techies, and sweating over promotional copy. And $75 pays for like three dinners!

Two weeks on a nice beach wouldn’t change a damn thing. Recharging's a myth! But, exhausted though a day of this labor leaves me, it's just what I need. I look forward to the jobs. A change is as good as a rest!

Plus, I get to reply to snobs who ask what I've been doing by saying "Oh, I've been doing some painting," then blithely explain as they shrink with Dumontian horror. They figure I've degenerated into sordidness, while I figure they, despite their superiority, likely wolf down handfuls of daily Prozac.

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