Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Go ahead: call me a Sisy

Today's lesson: Greek mythology. I know--what? But bear with me. I've been thinking about Sisyphus, the king condemned to roll a boulder all the way to the top of a hill, only to watch it roll right back down to the bottom. Again and again, up and then down, for eternity.

Any guess as to how I'm feeling today?

It's not just today, though, but lately. It seems I've had my share of moments recently that make me feel as if I'm performing the same tasks over and over again, with little to no change, with no satisfying or meaningful results, without anything to show for it in the end.

If there was a Greek myth about a woman pounding herself in the head with a hammer over and over, I might have chosen that one.

The boulders I'm rolling are secondary, since I'm more concerned with my actions. After all, we can't often control the boulders. Push one to the top, and it's going to roll to the bottom. I'm choosing to push. I'm choosing an object over whose essential shape I have no control. I'm choosing this object, pushing it up, over and over again, to watch it do what it was bound to do. Who's the real fool?

But leaving it at the bottom: is that acceptance, or indifference? Is it giving in, or giving up? Because I don't want to give up. I hate to give up. I like to believe that things will change, hopefully for the better, and that each failure is a chance to start believe that things will be different the next time around. I have to believe that maybe Sisyphus felt that way too, that hopeful moment when he reached the apex that maybe this time, the boulder would balance on end, and he'd be free.

It's a lot of effort, though. A lot of repetitive effort. A lot of energy lost with the effort. A lot of lost energy that might be better spent on things that were a little less likely to dissatisfy. But is that selfishness--to want to focus more on the positive, satisfying experiences--or just plain smarts?

So if I don't want to give up the challenge, then my mind turns to the transformation of the boulder. I can't help but be reminded of Shel Silverstein's sequel, The Missing Piece Meets the Big O (sorry for the Silverstein kick). Short and sweet, the missing piece transforms his shape by sheer effort, turning from a triangle to a circle by wearing down his edges as he flips over and over, finally becoming the circle he always wanted to be.

Right: change the boulder. Give it a lip so it no longer rolls. Heck, turn it into a chair and take in the view from the top.

But that's not easy either. And that, in most cases, requires a spirit of transformation in the object to be transformed. And a slightly egocentric belief on my behalf that I know how to make the boulder better than it already is.

Some things are just boulders. And some efforts always futile. So press on or give up? Transform or accept? I want to always be the optimist, but it's hard, sometimes. Optimists have feelings too.


Melissa said...

I guess for me, it depends what will happen if I ignore the boulder. And whether that particular boulder is my own personal responsibility, or is shared. And whether the other person is doing their half of the pushing.

Or...can I buy organizational furniture to store the boulder until I want to deal with it again? Because that's always a nice solution, but doesn't work well if the "boulder" is actually an "interpersonal dilemma." Just saying.

feistywon said...

I know as a fellow stay at home, a lot of my daily work is repetitive and never ending, like the wash. That is my current boulder, no matter how often I do it, there's more to fold, more to wash, and overflowing hampers. My thought on pushing boulders uphill is that I do it consistently so when that inevitable day comes and I just can't face one more load today, I feel as though I've earned the right to say "Screw it!" and leave boulder pushing for the next day. Even responsible people need to cut themselves some slack!