Today’s Coffee: Papua New Guinea
This morning I went to the school festival of a high-schooler in our youth group. I had tea (as in tea ceremony), ate a bunch of stuff, and saw some class performances. Surprisingly enough, boys as well as girls participated in choreographed dance routines. I can’t imagine American high school boys doing that… and probably not too many girls, either, for that matter. I hear we have a number of popular boy bands to thank (?) for this phenomenon.
I returned home to find Keith hard at work with his Japanese teacher (affectionately known as Gan-chan-sensei) on his sermon for tomorrow. There was a time when Keith tried to finish sermons a week in advance to have ample time for checking. Last Sunday, Keith had to take a major Japanese language exam, so the several weeks before that he spent in frantic study mode, with no time even to think about impending sermon. The sermon is finished; he just sent it off to Takahashi-sensei for final checking. Next is practice.
With Keith being busy (and tired), it’s part of my “job” to feed him and to make sure the house is a hospitable place for him to work, and for any guests who come, such as Gan-chan-sensei. (I’ve actually toyed with the idea of writing on this subject for a while now, but I didn’t really know how to write, and anything I tried to write came out wrong. There are a lot of threads to this flow of thought and a lot of fears and mixed feelings.)
I realized, not too long ago, during another time when Keith was really busy and tired, that if I didn’t clean the house, it wasn’t going to get cleaned. I realized that I am not “entitled” to having a clean house without putting in any effort. Both of us were expecting the other to do the housework; the diffusion of responsibility had to stop. So… I resolved to quit bugging Keith to do housework—when he helps out, I can be pleasantly surprised, rather than being upset when I feel like he’s not pulling his weight. This is about my attitude towards housework, not about how much Keith does. I resolved to do the housework cheerfully… but sometimes my resolution wavers. (Part of me wants to shout, “This was a practical decision! We are an egalitarian household!”)
On the other hand, if I consider housework to be part of my “job,” since we work at home and entertain colleagues and friends there, I feel bad that there are other working people, especially women, who come home tired from “work” and have to do the housework on top of all that. And is it really “work” if I mess up the kitchen with one of my crazy (technically unnecessary) cooking projects and then have to spend the time cleaning up after myself? Or should I call it “study”?
And then the rest of my time I spend attending church meetings and events, preparing for those meetings and events, practicing my instruments, and attending lessons and tea ceremony classes. With the exception of Takahashi-sensei, the others attending the meetings are there in their precious free time; some of them have very busy schedules at work. Music and lessons are also things other people do in their free time. “Do what you love, love what you do,” right? From the outside it might look like I’m living a Gen-Y paradise, that I do nothing but indulge in my hobbies and call it work, yet it is work, I have to do it, and it makes me tired, often with nothing to show for it. (On that note, pulling weeds and cleaning the house have a certain feel-good factor to them.)
I can’t say how many times someone has told me how lucky I am to do what I love. Most, I think, are referring to my cello career, although this could just as well refer to my missionary career—I get to read the Bible with friends, after all! I have also met lots of people who wonder why I get paid to do a job that I like.
Sometimes I like playing cello, and sometimes (often for long periods of time) I feel burned out, and I wish I had picked a “normal” job. I have to practice my instruments every day, whether I want to or not. Sometimes I really don’t want to practice, but I know from experience that “cramming” for concerts is not a good idea, so I practice anyway.
Sometimes I think it would be really nice to have someone else define what my “work” is and when I will do it—and then pay me overtime when I work more than 40 hours a week. I have no idea how many hours I work, because I’m not even sure which hours I would count.
Rather than using “do what you love, love what you do” or “follow your dreams” or some other cliché from a high school graduation speech to describe my attitude towards my work, I would say that God gave me these skills and the motivation to learn and grow as a musician and a missionary, so I want to use these gifts for his glory. This conviction gives me the motivation to keep practicing when I don’t want to, to persevere through culture shock and disappointments and exhaustion, to keep loving the work that everyone thinks I’m supposed to love. (I do love it, most of the time.)
Maybe I’m trying to defend my lifestyle; after all, here I am having my leisurely weekly blog time with coffee—I do this to communicate with friends and supporters, and simply because it’s good for my spiritual life. But I’m still trying to figure this whole “work” thing out for myself. I live in a country that is obsessed with work, so I suppose it’s appropriate that I give this a lot of serious thought. Please pray with me for a balanced life of work and rest, and for me to use my time wisely, for God’s glory.