Reasons to go to Work :
1. I love my work (even when it’s frustrating, tiring, tedious – yes, it can be that too!). This makes me fortunate, I know. But one of the reasons I love my work is that I make it. The last time someone gave me a job I hadn’t created or devised for myself was about ten years ago. And even then, it was a brief, freelance contract. I love my work AND I have to make my work now so that I have more work later. This has been my truth for about the past thirty years. This means keeping on working.
2. I’m freelance. That means, as I’m pretty sure we’ve discussed here before, no sick pay, no compassionate leave, no holiday pay, no pension. Being freelance is great, it also means I need to keep working, and keep making work, to have money to pay bills.
3. When you go to work, amazing things happen. This is the amazing thing that happened when I went to work last Friday.
Today, in getting to a meeting, I bumped into someone I never bump into. She told me positive and hopeful stories about a friend who’d had a similar surgery to me. I need to hear those stories right now, the skin on my new breast is both bloody & blistered, AND feels like leather, and and it hurts. Lots of me hurts. It’s good to hear positive stories. When I got to the meeting that was work, a Fun Palaces meeting with two strangers who are interested in doing a Brilliant Thing with us, one of the people I was meeting not only told me she’d had the same surgery, but that she’d had it as a recurrence. Skin does different things when you have this surgery after radiotherapy, different to how non-radiotherapied skin behaves. Arm and shoulder mobility is affected differently second time round. I have read about other people’s experiences in my late-night, worried, internet trawls, but not met someone who could speak about it to me. It really helped. We didn’t know this about each other before we met. It makes a difference.
4. There is not a line between what I do and who I am. All of my work – theatre, directing, writing, Fun Palaces is of and in me. I can’t clock off, nor do I want to. And if I were to clock off, to just sit at home and be the sick me (because I am in pain and it is keeping me awake and it does hurt), then what’s left? JUST sick me. Right now, I have the option to be working me or sick me. I know many people who are in far worse situations and have no choice but to only be the sick, the patient, the in-pain part of themselves. While I have this option, I am taking it.
5. Also, rest doesn’t work. Yesterday afternoon, after our annual Shaky Isles Open Space year-planning day, I came home and had a nap. It was a good nap. I liked it. It was the first nap I’ve had since surgery. But this is what naps do to me when I am fully well – they keep me awake all night. It would appear naps do the same when I’m not fighting fit as well. I was up between 2.30am and 4.30am today. I don’t think I’ll bother with another nap.
I appreciate the concern, of course I do. I’m very happy and grateful when people make it easier for me by coming to me for meetings, or calling me instead of me having to go to them, or working around my hospital appointments, or stretching deadlines (though we freelancers understand this means stretching getting-paid times too!). It’s great getting cups of tea made and all the lovely friends who’ve made food so we don’t have to are wonderful and kind and we needed it and appreciate it.
But I can’t stop doing what I do – making work, loving making work – because what I do is who I am. And the whole point of getting the cancer carved out of my flesh was so I don’t have to stop being. Given the effort it’s taking to stay alive, not being me while I stay alive would be a bit daft, no?