Work Your Hard


                                                                                    by Neal Lemery

(Published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, 3/11/2023)

Sometimes, it seems easy to skip over the hard stuff, to ignore the “to do” list, those nagging chores and obligations, and go do something else, anything else.  

I’m full of excuses.  Yesterday, I got most of that chore stuff done. Most of the “to do” list is done, it’s not my night to cook dinner so I can take it easy.  I deserve some time off. I’m retired so I don’t have to do that.  I need a break.  I did a lot yesterday so I can goof off today.  I need some thinking time.  I’m waiting for a new idea. 

That’s not due until next week.  I can slack off.  I’m waiting for someone else to do what they need to do first. 

That’s an impressive list of excuses.  I should keep that around. It might come in handy. 

Yet things crop up.  Situations come up demanding a response, an action, and I usually bite on that.  The old work ethic kicks in and I start to feel responsible again, accountable for what I did today.  

Yesterday, a friend sent me a blog post they had crafted.  It was compelling, moving, and completely caught me off guard.  The ideas, the sentiment touched my heart, and I wept. Should I respond?  How could I not?

I had a mission now, a purpose to my day.  I had thought what I had already done in the day had been enough, that there were enough check offs on the to do list to merit a “well done today”, a day that was purposeful, and now I could just float.

But, no, my friend had to send me that amazing piece of writing, and stir me up.  I had to respond in my own words.  The topic provoked a long time story in my own life.  I needed to write my own story on the topic. And, I realized it was now the time.  I couldn’t be putting it off, because my friend was calling me out, daring me to respond, to react, to put my long-simmering jumble of thoughts into action, into something I needed to express. 

Not that my friend was nagging me.  They are not a nagger.  They lead their life by example, by “showing, not telling”, living the writer’s creed of “show, don’t tell”, the core of good writing.  They’d be offended if I said that they made me sit down and work on the story I needed to tell, to find the right words, and to actually commit thought to what needs to go on paper, or in a computer file.  

If there’s a nagger in my life, it is likely me.  I can be a strict taskmaster.

I sat down and did the work.  It was easier than I thought. I realized that my brain had been working on this for a while, that it was half-written by the time I created a computer file and started to type.  I dove in, slipping into that creative space where time warps and bends, the blinders go on, and I ease into my own little world. 

In such times, the magic comes, and whatever conscious filter I might employ to fine tune and craft my ideas becomes blocked, and what is truth and what I really need to say emerges.  Writers can call that their Muse, and writing becomes a metaphysical, spiritual experience.  I move into the “zone”. 

That was my destiny yesterday, and I was doing the work that truly needed to be done.  Later, I emerged, genuinely surprised and pleased with the project, with my work.  My soul had done some hard work, and I half expected to see bloody fingers and crying eyes. 

This morning, I read my work again, and was pleased.  It was good work, long overdue, and much needed by me.  I had been able to write what I had been struggling with in how to tell this story, for many months. Well, to be truthful, for it was a story of family life and family secrets, and how I needed to respond to all that over much of my life.  It was a long overdue storytelling.  

My blogger friend had suggested a place for such stories, and I followed their lead, sending my work to a place where it might do some good, to help others understand and to heal their own wounds.  

The day turned into a wondrous productive day, and something came of it that was unexpected, and worthy of a useful, meaningful, and beautiful day, no excuses needed.


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