The invisible hand
At the Capitol where I work, there is always student artwork hanging on the walls. This month, the walls were lined with colorful plaster masks molded from the students’ faces. Judging from the molds, the artists were probably about 10 years old, and they like colors.
I’m sure there was something profound about the project, but most kids, it seemed, became enamored with glitter.
But there was one particular mask that caught my eye. It was, it seems, a girl with chubby cheeks and a large forehead. She painted her face black, but covered her mouth with sheets of construction paper. And in her eye socket, she painted a shiny, impenetrable hue that made the face look soulless. I thought about why she would create such a mask. Next to the face, there was a little notecard with an explanation of her mask.
But, thing is, I never read it.
I used to go through my days looking for things to write about. I’d see something interesting, like a stray red balloon, and I’d wonder where it came from. But it has become increasingly harder to let my mind wander where it may go. There seems to be an invisible hand pushing me from behind, encouraging me to forge forward without pondering the existence of the mysterious mask in the hallway. Occasionally that hand stops pushing, like late at night when the hand is resting and I can sneak a few moments without it. But it seems ever present, and recently I’ve tried to find ways to escape its hold.
One thing I’ve started doing is taking time to eat lunch. I read during lunch. I tell the invisible hand that it’s what I’m supposed to be doing, and it leaves me alone for a brief period of time. But shortly after lunch, I walk down the hallway where the mysterious mask resides, and each time I walk by I have the urge to read the notecard next to it. But the inertia of the invisible hand seems to build up during moments of rest and thrust me forward after the lunch break.
It occurs to me that I need to rid myself of this pressure — this need to produce, this thirst for progress. I always think to myself that, one day, I will have a routine where that invisible hand will not be the sole motivator for getting me out of bed. But it seems that it still is.
A co-worker recently asked me why I start my days so early, and I told him something about having time at the end of the day to do what I want. I think the truth, though, is that I wake up feeling the invisible hand pushing at my back, and the sooner I can tire it out, the sooner I can have my life to myself.