My son and I were just driving down the road listening to my most embarrassing show tunes playlist. (Don’t be so shocked. You know you have one too.) And I don’t even know why it’s embarrassing—musicals are the shit—but for some reason, I always decrease the volume when I’m rolling with the windows down because I’m afraid someone else will hear me belting out “Just Around the River Bend”. I really don’t want anyone else to hear that. But honestly, no one else cares. They don’t want to hear what I’m playing period, even if it’s the most popular song in the world, because it’s not their choice of music. I can respect that. God knows I don’t want to hear them blasting Jay-Z. Because by Playboy standards I’m a hundred years old. And I don’t care for Jay-Z.
As we listened to this incredible playlist (which is made up of more than just Disney tunes, I might add), the song “Be Italian” by Fergie from the movie Nine came on. I don’t know any of the words other than… “Be Italian”. And I will sing them all damn day because they’re so catchy. But I’m pretty sure the gist of the song is to embrace your sexuality and use it. However, since I only know those two words by heart, I hear them over and over in my head and I think, “I’d make a terrible Italian.” Not because I don’t know how to embrace my sexuality (or use it for that matter), but because Italians are all about la dolce vita. The sweet life. I can imagine it. I dream about it. But I don’t do the sweet life. Not as well as I would like, and definitely not as well as an Italian. Why? Because I’m a tried and true American workaholic.
Which also makes me a terrible Millennial.
I should have been a man in the 1950’s. I would have kicked ass. I would have made a great Mad Man (Men? Men Man?) I’d be that guy drinking scotch at noon in my starched suit who’s more at home at the office than at home.
I don’t exactly know why I am the way that I am. Then again, as my son says, “Oh, wait a second!” Yes I do. My dad was a workaholic. And I hated that about him. Not because I felt like he was a bad man, but because he was the best man and I wanted more time with him. So when I first entered the workplace at fifteen as a—wait for it—movie theater concession stand girl, I was the best shister you’d ever seen. I called in sick at least once a week to stay home and watch ER reruns. (Don’t judge me. I had priorities, okay?) Somehow I didn’t get fired. Probably because everyone else called in to watch ER reruns too. Or maybe because they were hungover from the night before, but I was a young Christian girl who didn’t know anything about that.
A couple years later, I got hired at THE BEST Italian restaurant in the world, and the woman who helped me land the job looked me square in the eye—and I’m pretty sure she also poked me in the clavicle with her finger—and said, “Unless you’re on your death bed, you don’t call in sick here. You don’t skip work. If you’re on the schedule, you show up. No excuses. We’re a family, and we depend on each other.” Which makes her sound like a hard ass, but she wasn’t. She spent her off-hours with her kids singing to the Beach Boys and memorizing Shrek 2, which pretty much made her the greatest person in the world. (Miss you, Kim.) Despite her fun-loving self, she managed to put the fear of God into me. And you know, I never did call in sick to that job, unless I was certain I was next to dying, and I worked there on and off for several years. It was one of the best jobs I ever had.
Combined with my father’s example, I realized that work wasn’t so bad. In fact, if you did enough of it, you could make decent money. Personally, I felt better about myself when I did a good job. I liked being punctual. I liked being dependable. And I liked that tired feeling in my feet at the end of a long day. When I sat down, it felt like I had earned it. Resting had never felt so sweet.
I’m a creative person, but I like structure. That’s probably why I don’t understand most contemporary art. I’m an old-fashioned realism kind of gal. Then again, I never got more than a high school diploma, so maybe I’m just not sophisticated. But because of my love for structure, I have a hard time relaxing before 8 pm. If the sun is up, it means I must be producing. I’ve been a “stay-at-home” mom for almost three years, and I still can’t stop working. Probably because I’ve discovered exactly what I’m passionate about.
If I’m not creating, I’m grumpy AF. You can ask my husband. (But please don’t. I’d hate to put him in that position.) I constantly have to be working on something, or else I feel useless, stagnant, bored as hell, worthless, ugly, fat… all the bad things. And yet when I have a project, I’m daydreamy… and neurotic. I’m frantic to get it done, even when it’s a huge commitment and I should be pacing myself. I lay awake at night thinking about it. I pretend to be listening when someone (my husband) is talking to me, but really I’m thinking about It. The big I-T.
I guess, either way, no matter what I’m doing, I am just a crazy person. The only difference between when I’m busy and when I’m not is this: happiness. I am so insanely happy when I’m creating. Every time, it’s like falling in love. That’s the only thing I can compare it to. Whether it’s a drawing, or a story, or a song I’m learning on the piano. I’m entirely focused. I’m enthralled. I can’t get enough until I’ve seen the whole thing through. And even then I want to check in from time to time. “Hey, how are you? I’ve been thinking about you. You look good. Remember all those memories we made?” I guess that’s why I’m addicted. Creating is, in its own way, a euphoric experience.
I’d probably work well into the night if I was a night owl. Unfortunately, my eyes quit working around 8 pm. No matter how much overtime I promise them, they always go home, make tea, snuggle into their oversized pajamas and watch 30 Rock. Also, I’m a morning person, so even if I could motivate my eyes to work till 4 AM, my body clock would still chime at 7 and demand coffee. And I would say to my body clock, “You know, I should really catch up on my sleep.” And it would reply, “Give me coffee or I will punch you in the face.” Needless to say, my body clock always wins.
I’m still learning how to relax. Unless I’m on a plane or a cruise ship, it’s really difficult. I feel antsy. Guilty. I really, really don’t like wasting time. My husband is constantly reminding me to take a break. Without him, I’d probably run myself ragged.
However, I do think my motivation is a good thing. I just have to remember to control it rather than the other way around. At the end of my life, I’d like to be remembered as a great wife, mother, and friend, and secondly for the contributions I made to the world. Italians seem to have their priorities straight. Not only are they very family-oriented—they also gave us tiramisu.