A Relevant Question

Before the Storm

Once a month I spend a full day in a class out in the Greenlake area. Today, as I drove toward the lake, I was overwhelmed by the intensity of the colors in the sky and the sharpness of every detail against the darkness of the water. The softness that I think of as characteristic of winter scenes around here was gone. On an impulse, I drove into a parking area, got out, and walked to the lake with my camera in hand to take in the last rays of sun. After weeks of unseasonable warmth, the bite in the March air was refreshing.

Within half an hour of shooting this image, I was driving home in something like a hail/snow storm. Truly. I got on I-5 headed south at about 6:30. Traffic was moving smoothly for a change. A few minutes later, several bits of what I thought was debris hit my windshield. All of a sudden, traffic stopped. A wall of white icy stuff had descended. I was on the phone with the home front and they could hear the hail hitting the car. By the time I’d gone 100 yards on the freeway, little white balls had almost obscured the pavement. After a few minutes, cars started moving again at a crawl. What I thought was going to be a quick drive home turned into a rather lengthy one. The strangest thing was that as I drove through the Arboretum, the white stuff stopped. By the time I exited the Arboretum, the road was dry.

An hour later, I had to head back that direction and there was no sign of the storm that had blown through. It was as if it had never happened. I was taking Robby to get a little help recovering from a “too much soccer” injury last week and we had time to talk in the car. The one thing I miss when my teenagers get their driver’s license is the time to talk in the car. All those years of sports and activities result in a lot of car time and I always had a pretty good idea what was “up” in the various departments of their lives. They start driving themselves right about the time they want and need more space and distance, so the lack of conversation time in the car is particularly noticeable.

This evening, however, with the weather as crazy as it was, and the fact that he was going to someone new, we were both happy to have me drive and him be the passenger. On the way home, he started telling me about a conversation they had been having in school today about the question, “what do you do?” and how people sometimes answer the question with a statement that begins with, “Oh, I’m just…” One of the teachers noted that a generation ago, that statement was most often finished with the words, “… a housewife.” He said that now, women don’t answer that question in the same way even if they are stay-at-home moms. Most often, they will preface it with an explanation of why they have chosen to be home with their children, such as “well, I have a PhD in psychology, but I’m currently staying at home with my children.” So, have we made progress or not? Is the feeling behind the statement the same? One statement, with the qualifier “just”, makes me cringe. The other, however, isn’t much better. Neither says, “the work I do is of critical, priceless value.” One says “I have no value.” the other, well, maybe its an improvement, but it still implies that what “I do” has less value than what “I” was trained to do. And what does that say about the value I place on “I”? Since beginning the writing of this blog, I have, as noted, discovered that more than just stay-at-home moms cringe at the posing of this question.

I told Robby about what I was writing last night; about my thought that the real problem lies in the implication underlying the question, “what are you worth?” as judged by someone else’s standard, rather than by one’s own internal compass; this being compounded by the lack of respect and appreciation we have in our culture for actually using our own intuition and internal guidance system. He was psyched to go to class tomorrow and share “his” insights. I asked him if he was going to say anything about the fact that his mother writes a blog called “What do you do? …” He said no.

I think he’s got a head start on the classroom dialogue. He’s been listening to me opine on this topic for long enough that he was one of my biggest supporters about starting the blog. Maybe he thought that if I wrote about it, he’d be off the hook. Apparently its catching up with him from another direction!


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