Yeah, Work Is Work, But What Else Might It Be?

img_0784I have written many times about the tension between having a day job and wanting to pursue my writing and healing live full time.

Green as a Granny Smith apple, I look to the bloggers and friends who can dedicate all of their time to their creative pursuits. I wish constantly for the financial freedom or the artistic warriors’ courage that allows them to refuse the constraints of the nine to five.

I shadowbox with guilt that my work ethic isn’t strong enough, that I should knuckle down and realize I wasn’t born independently wealthy and that I love this new house and have to earn the salary to pay for my piece of it.

At the same time I try to sort out the root my aversion to my job. Is going to a temple of knowledge every day and being paid for my pains actually painful or is it just an amplified version of the drama everyone experiences on Monday mornings? What if my soul is trying to tell me that I must do something else? What if I just don’t realize how good my job could actually be?

These are all still rhetorical questions, because I sure as heck don’t have any of the answers to them. Yet.

One thing I have sorted out, however, is helping me find new peace with my job as I continue to show up there each day. It sprang from a great deal of soul searching I did over my vacation when I started to realize how worried I was about returning to work.

I have been afraid to either like my job or give it my best effort because it might lead to contentment.

Huh?

You see, I worried that if I was content in my work, the Universe might start to think that all I could do was take care of the logistics of a college library and design a few publications and manage a few budgets. The Universe (or God or my boss or myself) might start getting the idea that this life was ok for me and I could quit striving for that elusive something better. Even worse, I feared that that “something better” might stop trying to find me.

And so, I offered about 42% of my energy and attention to 40+ hours of my week. Somehow, I still expected to come home and switch into being able to give 110% of myself to writing and healing and loving my husband.

img_0788But, there is this thing called inertia. It the law that says that an object (or a redhead woman) is most likely to persist in a given state once she is already hanging out there. I am not sure what sort of magic I thought might happen during the commute home, but I guess I was hoping All Things Considered offered the alchemical secret of turning disaffected, scattered working girl into inspired, focused epiphany girl in the span of a thirty minute drive.

And so, I still have absolutely no idea if I am supposed to work toward escaping the relatively safe and predictable world of a salaried, benefit laden job in higher education (not that anything is all that stable these days) or if I am supposed to take all those risks and step into a “career” of my own creation. But, at least I am coming to understand the law of physics in my professional and creative lives and have stopped believing that I can make gold from the ashes of an unlived day.

I am dedicating myself to my job anew, and daring myself to look at every task and every person with fresh eyes. I am willing to risk offering all of myself to my position for the hours that I am paid to do so. Heck, if I do that maybe I can stop blogging about work on my own time!

What are your strategies for getting through the workday? Do you have this sense of tension too?

Those of you freed souls that we office-dwellers envy – what is it like on the other side? Any secrets you’d like to share with the class?

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9 thoughts on “Yeah, Work Is Work, But What Else Might It Be?

  1. blisschick January 7, 2009 / 10:26 pm

    The biggest hint to me about your situation is that you spend a lot of energy trying to talk yourself into being grateful for your job.

    A job like yours is an extra tricky one, because, yes, working in a library is “good” work.

    I had a friend make this distinction one time: money and big houses are not, in themselves, “bad” things, but it is what we are willing to exchange for them.

    I think there are plenty of people out there who do work we might find…taxing, and they do it happily and they love the monetary compensation and all the perks and they are content.

    Content being the key word. They don’t question their station in life. They don’t angst.

    I feel like I’ve written this before…

    But you…you are a different sort, aren’t you, Marisa? Your SOUL hungers for MORE out of life, and though your body enjoys the comforts, your soul is aching for challenge and risk and thus serious, intense, enlightening, painful, awesome growth.

    Just some thoughts.

  2. Ruaidhri January 8, 2009 / 10:33 am

    Work ethic?

    You don’t need a work ethic. What about a play ethic?

  3. gladdoggett January 8, 2009 / 10:57 am

    For a very long time, I felt the gnawing feeling you describe. My job was fine, I was content, but my soul yearned for more. I never felt completely happy and at peace. I constantly asked myself – “Am I supposed to be doing something bigger? better? significant?”

    I was never at peace. So when the opportunity came to quit and start over, I leapt without looking for a net.

    It’s been about 18 months since I left my job. In that time, I’ve gone through my savings, I’ve been depressed, I’ve wept, I’ve been bored. I’ve spent hours wondering what’s next … Lots of growth and growing pains. BUT, I am finally at a place where I know peace. It’s been difficult and money is tight, but I don’t regret it.

    I am ready to re-enter the world of work, but with a new direction,new attitude, with new goals. A refreshed, better version of me is emerging from the ashes. But getting here was not easy.

  4. Danny Lucas January 8, 2009 / 3:20 pm

    Two job offers came in simultaneously….in the midst of a dreaded recession.

    One carried prestige and a great salary. The headhunter was sure I would take this (his payment would be enormous; far less on the other).

    But I met the other and talked.

    “I want to meet someone anywhere who is doing this job and see their day.”
    “Sure”, he said as he handed me a number to call with a fellow 300 miles away.

    “The call included “Let’s spend a day together”. We did.

    The freedom had an appeal.
    The money at the first job appealed too.

    I met again with job number two interviewer.
    “What are we talking about in compensation?”, I inquired, as I already knew what was in my pocket at the other.

    “We will pay you precisely what you are worth…..to the PENNY!”, he replied.

    My response?
    “No one ever gave me that much money!”.
    He laughed his head off at that.

    It was straight commission, no benefits, no car, no office, just train you and off you go.
    Totally independent contractor.

    The first offer was guaranteed salary, car, benefits that no longer exist in America, peer envy, and more.

    But I looked at the faces of those working the first job. I met them, but WATCHED their expressions when they thought I was not looking.
    Empty souls walking around.

    The second job had only one person to view. I travelled the 300 miles, met him, listened to what he liked and disliked. He was an old hand at the job. We met a Tuesday, since by then, he had built his worklife to working Tuesday and Thursday only. Meanwhile, he was putting his second child through college, and doing what I liked to do on many of the off days…..fishing!

    I took the second job.
    They required I PAY the headhunter fee….imagine that. Few people lasted and the fee to rehire was great to them.

    I parried, “If I last one year, will you reimburse me the fee in total?”

    “Sure”, was the confident reply.
    He never expected to pay up, but did wholeheartedly one year later when I reminded him of the statement.

    Working on your own is much harder than working for somebody else. But, you enjoy the companionship of the greatest boss in the world….yourself!

    The job grows like making a snowman. You roll and roll a lemon sized ball into a grapefruit size, into a basketball size, and it takes forever. A few more rolls and BAM…..it is huge.

    I determined my goal at the job was one thing. I met many, many, many people each day, week, month, year, decade. It was my intention that every person had worth; and before I left them….no matter if they were janitor or CEO…I would do my best to be the brightest moment in their day… a thought or memory they could later recall and enjoy.

    I wanted to elevate the spirit of every person I met, no matter how small an increment that would be.

    I recall grown men crying with their head on their desk to me.
    They could not do that at home!
    Their company was no more, and it made them feel, a person, no more.

    A customer would call, drive 25 miles to my house, and exclaim:
    “Hey Danny, I just made some rye bread and know you love this so I brought a loaf for you”. He sat down on my couch and we gabbed all evening. (I could hear in those days; no longer.)

    The people I met day to day became life long friends….genuinely.

    One man took a job in Michigan after being my customer 5 years.
    He called me late one night to talk. All he wanted was someone to talk to about his pending divorce.
    I hadn’t seen him in years!

    A maintenance fellow used to insist on taking me to lunch….on his yacht!

    The world is filled with exciting people with enormously glorious stories to tell. They need someone to truly listen. They need someone to love and accept them, precisely as they are.

    BE that person at your current job.
    630,000 people do not report to work today, but DID in December, only a week ago.
    Another 500,000 were let go in November. These are perilous times.

    But then, when I chose to go on the road less travelled, we were in the worst recession to that time…since the depression too.

    I still receive cards from retired customers. “Hey Danny, Here I am at the Grand Canyon. It is everything you said”.
    (I used to live in Phoenix and drive north to the canyon each weekend, about 3 hours drive with a stop in Sedona or Flagstaff.)

    If I had to do it all over, I would advise “Do not accumulate stuff”. You have to de-accumulate later. (That includes big houses).
    Invest in people.
    Earn dividends in their hearts.
    Pray for the person you just left, and then pray for the person you are about to see next.

    Pray for the drivers on the road all around you, their families, their needs, their safety.

    Everyday of life becomes a blessing, to those who take the time to be a blessing, to others.

    PS. One pregnancy changes all the plans for life again. If you do not have a baby in your family yet, you will find that somehow, you come up with the time to meet all their needs.
    Well then, come up with that time NOW, to meet the needs of folks all around you.
    The job, is just a vehicle, to put you in the midst of people who need you.

  5. Nita January 8, 2009 / 5:35 pm

    Dear Marisa,

    Yes, I recognize these musings at a very personal level. I can only speak to my experience and thought I would humbly share a couple of them in hindsight, now that I am full time into my work of service and that (blessedly) it does sustain me.

    I once had 4 jobs to support what I “really” longed to do in the world. For quite sometime I held some resentment that I had to do this and meditated strongly on what was “wrong” with my alignment with the universe.

    Looking back, I smile at myself. Yes, there were things that needed to shift within me. But I could have never forced them or forced time. I needed the organic, natural process of these questionings. “Real or mundane life” gave me preparation for healing work that needed to happen within and now informs my work in ways I would have never, ever imagined. It was important for me to be “ripe” when I went full time into my path. It was important for me to be sustained (yes, financially) by my path. I cannot give freely to students if my consciousness is constantly in survival mode. AND it was important for me to take risks in the midst of all of this. To just DO IT at some level and fly by the seat of my pants and trust that I knew enough.

    Eventually, as I took more risk, valued my worth more, the other stuff dissolved. I do only one thing now. I am totally responsible for it. It is still scary. It is totally fulfilling. and other times I still want to run.

    How did I get through the times and places I felt I didn’t truly want to be? I breathed. I did “research” on the behaviour of all those around me. I sat in awareness and observed. I held a lovely little secret of who I really was and what I really wanted to be doing. I also felt deeply my frustration,discontent, and confusion. I let the inherent energy of these motivations move me.

    I hear in your words that you are already on your path. You are already a healer. I feel that it is your sincere desire and yearning to fill that desire that will bring forth the form. More and more and more until it is all flushed out and sparkling. It is already created within you-create a space for others to come and drink from your well.

  6. Tess January 9, 2009 / 9:28 am

    Great post, made me think a bit about my own attitude to my day job, which is part-time and which I am trying not to feel contempt for.

  7. RetroBerry January 10, 2009 / 1:36 pm

    Marisa–

    I have been reading since just before the holidays and loving this work of yours. I relate to so much of what you say and honour your journey. Thank you for that (for this).

    As for Work, I was asked this question by a dear friend of mine yesterday. He just turned 50 and has been searching for a loooong time. I said that I related to him because for so long I felt exactly like him—lost, forgotten, confused, missing out on what I felt so strongly inside I was meant to be doing, but was clearly too daft to figure out so I could do it.

    Somehow in the course of the last few years, I have left pieces of that feeling behind. It comes and goes still, but that gnawing hunger has, mercifully, receded into a state of knowing the existence of right timing and a bigger plan that I see so little.

    My friend asked me for “my secret” as if there was one or as if I actually know when things shifted. I told him two things, which I realized in hindsight were just one thing: TRUST.

    I trust that what I am doing, who I am doing it with, and the way I am feeling ARE the very things that will take me where I next need to go, to ask the questions I need to ask. I trust I will know the moment for action and that I will make those moves as required. I trust that even if I mess it up entirely, read the signals of the universe poorly, get over-zealous and act impulsively, don’t act because I’m afraid, oversleep and miss the call, or any of a million other things that could affect the outcome, I still trust that I will be shown another way that I can learn, heal, grow, love, and be of service.

    Trust in ‘letting go and letting God,’ as they say. Handing things over to the Universe to sort out. Finding a balance between my belief in destiny and my belief in my own powers of creation. Most of all, I think, I try to remind myself that this life and all the stuff that tangles me up in it isn’t a problem to be solved. That so-called ‘right’ answers are plentiful and that there are very few ‘wrong’ answers, and even they are fairly insignificant in the big scheme of things.

    That’s it. I shan’t pontificate further here. I love these questions and I have lived exploring them. They are beautiful and more peaceful than they seem on the surface. In the end, it is enough to have paid attention and made an effort.

    😀

  8. donna January 10, 2009 / 2:49 pm

    Funny, I have a friend who would kill to be a college librarian… ;^)

    • girlwhocriedepiphany January 15, 2009 / 8:24 am

      My deepest thanks to all who shared their thoughts on work and the insights into this little soul of mine. I have been so busy at work – even though it is winter break – that I have not even had time to remember to be discontent. I do love that feeling – the feeling that the work is plentiful enough to consume me for 8 hours each day, but not so overwhelming I feel at sea when I get home. That said, I find myself talking more and more about my healing practice and the related business venture I am becoming involved in. I think that I might be telling the Universe that I want something else, something more, huh?

      Dear Bliss – You know my soul so well – but that you knew that too, didn’t you? 🙂

      Dear GladDog, Thanks so much for your candor – it is so important to remember freedom has its drawbacks too. I am so glad that you are finding a path that works for you.

      Dear Danny, I love putting together your story in the tales you tell here and on BlissChick’s blog. Your wisdom is always so welcome and makes me look at things in a new way. And you are very wise to speak directly to my thoughts on the child(ren) we will eventually bring into this world. Thanks as ever.

      Dear Nita, Everything has its season doesn’t it? It is amazing to recognize the process that is being worked through you, the sense that some of the drudge work that seems so hateful is all part of the process of becoming. I am so glad that you can dedicate yourself to your passion more fully now.

      Dear RetroBerry, Welcome! That dance of trust is so essential and so elusive, but that makes it all the more vital, yes? What a great way to look at problems and right and wrong answers. You are so… right!

      Dear Donna, Grass is always greener, right? I know, I certainly shake myself often saying “this is not a coal mine, this is not a soulless law firm or investment bank. You have BOOKS!”

      Thanks and blessings to all,
      Marisa

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