It is my ardent hope that you are tucked beneath your doona, safe from the horror of news media. Stay there, please. Do the sensible thing and remain in bed sobbing at the thought of a present world gone particularly batty and don’t think for a minute that I’m going to disturb you this week with details of current events. Okay, excepting very brief details of one: Kevin Rudd is in a mood.
Last weekend in a Brisbane address, the former PM counselled his young comrades that political life will sometimes, “turn to shit”. He may have been referring to the recent refusal of the current PM to put him up for the very nice job of UN Secretary-General. He may have been referring to any one of several moments in his dizzying time as party leader. He may have just been trying to make a useful point to the ALP kids assembled that at some point or another, their future as effective policy makers would end up in a pile of poop.
Whatever the case, K-Ru didn’t seem upbeat. In fact, he seemed critically disappointed.
Now, any of us who has ever had a workplace failure, which is to say any of us who ever entered a workplace, can feel the guy. All labour, even that of being a Labor prime minister, has its setbacks. There are days and nights for all of us that are consumed by problems at work, and there are few adults of my acquaintance who haven’t been once awake at 4AM unable to think about anything but that douche-lord of a colleague who did that douche-lord thing.
It’s quite a skill not taking the misery of your work home with you, or taking it to a meeting of Young Labor, Kev. It’s a real achievement to unlock a way to cope that doesn’t involve making you more miserable. Many people drink plonk to cope. Many more watch reality TV shows, often also while downing plonk. Some try reading about current events, but as we have established, this is no good route to relaxation. All of this stuff gives you a hangover, which you then take to work and, well, you know: Rinse and Repeat.
It’s quite a skill not taking the misery of your work home with you, or taking it to a meeting of Young Labor, Kev.
It’s at this point, I give both you and Kev some guidance. And in so doing, I admit that I haven’t really perfected this work off-switch myself. Frankly, my private work-related anger belongs in a cage fight, and I sincerely hope that no one who knows me even a little learns that I have offered this advice, because they will, quite rightly, say, “Helen. What the HELL are you doing schooling people about how to be calm?!”
Well, the thing is, I have downsized from Donald Trump levels of fury and closer to a Kevin Rudd style. And if a cranky lady like me can improve her post-work mood, you can, too. You’ve just got to believe me when I tell you: gardening.
I understand that you may have no dirt in which to garden, have an aversion to dirt or find yourself wanting to throw dirt at me for making such a foolish suggestion. It doesn’t have to be gardening, okay? The thing that will deliver you from the insanity of work just has to be in the family of frustrating enterprise of which gardening is a member.
Relatives include: fishing, crochet or baking things that have a good chance of falling flat in the oven. Woodwork is another good one, as are oil painting, meat curing (just don’t eat the stuff) and cheese making (ditto).
I am a regular and an ambitious gardener, but I am also committed to the failure this hobby demands.
It is very powerful and liberating to fail on your own terms and gardening, as any truthful gardener will admit, involves a great deal of failure. Gardening is, in fact, failure and weeds, interrupted by the occasional emergence of a pretty or an edible plant. I am a regular and an ambitious gardener, but I am also committed to the failure this hobby demands. When I fail to produce something in the garden, which is all the time, this is my very own lack of success.
Empowerment through failure is what has attracted my father to fishing for decades. The man has caught, maybe, one dozen fish, seven of which regulation obliged him to throw back in the sea. Crochet is impossible for all but the most dexterous persons. Woodwork is actual torture and choux pastry has a very good rate of disappointment. Fail better, like the Irish guy says. And, fail for no one but yourself.
Failing for an employer is very stressful. It’s also, as we know, inevitable. Failing selfishly, on the other hand, can remind you, most especially if you are failing with your hands and materials, that things turning to poop is okay.