Identity crisis in the works

I’m like Ward Cleaver on steroids.

Ward Cleaver (played by Hugh Beaumont), for those unfamiliar, was the archetypal figurehead in the 1950’s show Leave It to Beaver, starring the Cleaver family — Ward, June and two rascally sons, Wally and Beaver.

They were the all-American family.

Of course no family life was that upbeat. That feel good. That warm and friendly and affable where everyone likes one another and no one’s killing anyone and disturbances are mild and resolvable in 30 minutes.

Ward would leave his house each morning with briefcase in hand and a parting peck on June’s check. Good lord, what father really did that?!?!

He’d spend the day at a white-collar job that was never disclosed. It apparently involved writing reports and sales meetings and the occasional deal and a secretary named Grace.

In the evening he’d return chipper and happy to be home. Talk about an award-winning performance! And what mother greeted her husband with a mild manner and good-natured smile?! Certainly none I knew.

Ward was the sole worker of the family — lie!! (In mine, children were workers and personal slaves, the women too.) Ward's role was clear and his job defined: Have a job. Go to work.

That’s me, with a gender switch.

I barely recognize myself when I'm not working. If I don't have a job to go to — even one I detest, which is most prior to this last one — I don't know what to do. I go nuts. I'm not myself. Or at least the self I was trained and programmed to be. I'm lost. I get bored. Lonely. Restless. Confused. Dangerously depressed, distressed, disoriented and discombobulated.

I couldn't be a kept woman; it'd be torture.  And if I won the lottery, a lottery I don't play so chances are none to slim unless I pick up a winning ticket from a parking lot, it'd take me at least a year, at least, of not working at some job and intensive therapy to ease out of that slavedriven Arbeit Macht Frei consciousness I was born into and into a more balanced flowing concept of work. Not to mention that guilt alone would prevent me from adopting a life of leisure.

Herr Vater baggage aside — much as possible at this juncture — I still see the genuine part in me that loves work and needs to work. I inherently and profoundly understand, embrace and exemplify the work ethic. To an extreme degree, granted, but I'm working on that and nothing brings it to the forefront more than being unemployed.

I need to be productive. To contribute. To carry my own weight and maintain a fierce independence and self-reliance that were both beaten into me and are genuine aspects of my character.

Unemployment therefore rankles, even repulses me. Don't get me wrong, I'm deeply grateful that it is there in a time of genuine need. Between living on the streets and unemployment, I choose the latter.

It's no way to live though. Not a lasting lifestyle. Or an escape clause from work and responsibility. God I'm a pathetic excuse for an American.

So, you know how people introduce themselves at AA meetings? Hi. My name is ______. And I'm an alcoholic.

That's me, with a tweaking. My name is Waterbaby. And I'm a workaholic.

Or Ward Cleaver on steroids, as the metaphorical (brief)case may be.

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