The Tango Cure

I hate it when there is something on my mind, something I really need to convey - but I can't get at it for some reason. The idea is too tangled in other things.

I had another 3 nights in a row of tango. How I love the weekend. A weekend of music and friends and the comfort of connection. Yet, just as I get back into the tango groove, I'm facing another work week. A coworker asked me a few weeks ago, why I dance tango - why tango in particular. I was exhausted and stressed, so I answered only half thinking, "to feel human". My answer was met with a knowing nod. To be treated like a human being. To be allowed to treat other people as human beings.

A little context . . .

Last week's university newspaper finally confirmed what most of us on campus already knew - even more cuts are coming. With that another round of "please write down how you spend your work day. How much time do you allot for each task you are required to do? Would you say that your department is efficient in meeting it's objectives?" Another round of 'justify your job' informal assessments. I think this makes the 3rd or 4th round of such requests for reports this year. Every round is slightly more menacing and patronizing than the last. We are already "lay-off refugees" taking on more work as there are fewer and fewer of us to do it. Each round of layoffs/re-orgs/consolidations gets justified with, 'see, if we can do the work with so few people, we were obviously over-staffed. There was fat to be cut.' Never mind that, as Tom Waits put it, we're smoking our people to the filter.
We're doing our work in ever increasing isolation from each other. Empty chairs, empty desks, empty rooms. Attached to our workstations, to our job titles, to each of us - a number that feels constantly in question. How much are we worth? What is the most we can be expected to do, for the least amount of money and benefits. How much can we take before we would rather go unemployed than face another work day.

The truth is we'll continue to take it, and the powers that be know it. There's nowhere to go and too much uncertainty in the job market to take the risk. We'll take the patronizing "justify your job" email requests, the decreased benefits, the critical eye of our senior management, and the short-tempered treatment from students and parents who are forced to wait in longer lines, at counters with fewer people. We have to take it. We can't grab a couple of beers and escape out of an emergency exit like the now famous flight attendant, Steven Slater. And we don't really want to. We want to like what we do - and the people we do it for. We want to feel connected to our jobs, to our customers, to our coworkers.

Tango as antidote . .

Well, only sort of. Tango can't fix the work situation. But it can, at least for a little time, change the way I face it - how I react to it. Where it would be easier to withdraw than connect - I catch myself. I try a little harder to stay open. To be present. To connect rather than retreat. There's no instant gratification like there is so often in tango. But three nights of tango can give me enough to see me through another week.


Mark Word said...

Yes... not an addiction but a cure. This is so true. It only becomes an "escape" and feels like an addiction when our cure needs to be multimodal -- perhaps a broadened base of friends, a good therapist, a visit to a spiritual place, meditation, maybe anti-depressants or a glass of merlot even. We've had this discussion before, without words and during a tango walk, right?

Game Cat said...

I agree with what you said about tango....."to feel human".

All the tango songs are about powerful and complex emotions, often contrary - loneliness, melancholy, longing, hope, love - and only humans have them. Other animals have feelings too, but they are simple ones like anger, fear, pain, pleasure.

Apologies if you've heard me say this elsewhere before. I'm getting old, so I thought I'd better say it again ;-)

Btw, re the job cuts, hang in there!

Blog Nguyễn Vũ said...

I agree with what you said about tango....."to feel human". "ban co the vao day choi game flash"

Anonymous said...

Check out this wonderful film called: 'TO DANCE AGAIN: PARKINSON'S MEETS TANGO'

What a story!