Inner conflict and the self-employed

by Kathryn Craft

Might we not say to the confused voices which sometimes arise from the depths of our being, Ladies, be so kind as to speak only four at a time?

~Anne-Sophie Swetchine

The above quote, prominently displayed on the bulletin board beside my computer, suggests that I constantly suffer from the very thing I seek out in my characters: inner conflict.

I suppose it’s a right brain-left brain thing. As it so happens, both sides of my brain fight for prominence. Left-brained me—lets call her “L”— is constantly putting new programs in place to re-organize, compartmentalize, and otherwise tame my unruly life so that I can make good use of my time. L is the boss. She scribbles all over my planner. She is an unflagging optimist with a get ‘er done bent.

Card sharp

Card sharp (Photo credit: totallyfred)

Right-brained me is innately improvisational and her antics are most entertaining. When L dictates that we go to the gym every morning, alternating upper and lower body workouts with an all-aerobics day thrown in for good measure, R says, “But you can’t make me.” Some days L gets a workout just chasing R around the room. She isn’t evil—she may go along with L for a couple of days to make nice—but then she’s madly reshuffling the schedule and saying, “Pick a card, any card.”

Problem is, R is a real charmer. She’ll say something like, “I’ll just write this blog first thing while I’m fresh and work out later.” Why do we believe her? We have never yet convinced her to make good on her suggestion to go to the gym once her head is inside a project.

If you’ve thought such tugs of war between employer and employee are only staged on the corporate campus, welcome to my head.

I wish I could report that after thirty years of practice I have trumped “The Man” by creating for myself an anxiety-free work environment, but that would be a lie. L schedules meetings, R gets lost in the flow of writing and misses them. L decides I’ve consumed enough calories for the day, R celebrates another two thousand words with a beer and buttered popcorn. L says to record my life before forgetting its rich detail and R demands time away from the computer to go out and live it. L says turn around editing clients faster so you can make more money, R says she. Can’t. Rush. And performance reviews? Pfft. The IRS deals the cards on that one. Tax time is sobering for the self-employed. Yes, valid deductions are great, but it does nothing for L or R to see all their tussles add up to so little on the bottom line.

On my bulletin board, pinned beside the opening quote, is a full-page photograph from O Magazine, April 2003, titled “The Idea is Balance.” It offers a profile view of an empty wooden chair—and improbably perched upon its back is a peacock, its long feathers hanging on a heavy diagonal toward the ground. The chair may tip, the peacock may fall, but in this moment the pair is caught in a moment of calm. Finding the quiet, while knowing the stakes—that seems to be my greatest ongoing challenge.

The neat thing about this photo, though, is that both the chair and the peacock are facing the same way. I never realized that until I wrote this post. That’s the same way with L and R. They may have different strengths, and different ways of going about things, but they have no doubt that they’re playing for team Kathryn, and that they’re both desperately needed.

K: Well done, team.

R: Let’s go celebrate with an ice cream sundae!

L: But it’s only 8 a.m. and I have you scheduled for another 2,000 words…

(Okay, ’fess up—I can’t be the only one. In what ways does the struggle for balance manifest in your life?)

A fun test to see if you are more right- or left-brained. Can you see the dancer turning to her left? I can’t.

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