Pollyanna and the Question of Work

Lyda here. I’m hoping the Bard will forgive me for this one. It started with this article, titled “What Should I Do With My Life?” I blame the rest on the fact that I’m re-reading Hamlet yet again. (The Shakespeare quotes are all from Hamlet. The distortions are my own. The Rumi quotes can be found here.)

To work, or not to work? Ah, that’s the question. But really, the question for most of us is, what work shall I do?

For in this doing of work, what dreams may come? What dreams may die? Must give us pause.

Why do people continue to do jobs they despise, and ignore the quiet pleadings of their souls? Why do I?

Certainly there is the need to survive, to provide for oneself and one’s family. Certainly many people have no choice, or very limited choices, and many more feel they have no choice. The choice between a horrible soul-sucking job and no job at all – well, bring on the soul-sucking, we say.

But what about when there are choices? What about when we do have options? Why do we continue to have basically the same job, the same boss, the same coworkers? The names have changed, the commute is different, but there is a sameness to it all. Maybe I need to watch “What the Bleep Do We Know?” again.

If we create our own reality as the movie suggests…

If, as Shakespeare said, “There is nothing good nor bad, but thinking makes it so,” then why don’t we create joyful work?

I can create joyful work. I just don’t seem to be very consistent at it.

My first work was in the theater, working with my family and friends. It was hard and exhausting and exhilerating and incredible. I learned and stretched and tried and failed and got right back up again. I loved it with a passion that burned fierce and bright. It was almost completely unpaid, and it was joyful.

In high school, I ran the school newspaper as managing editor my senior year. I was passionate and excited and driven. Joyful.

Right out of college, I stumbled into working at a preschool in the afternoons. And it was glorious. I loved my work; I couldn’t believe I got paid to tell stories and sing songs, to play with children and paint and mud. I was paid little in money but with wealth beyond measure, paid a million times a day in spontaneous sticky hugs, in laughter, in eyes shining with delight. I loved my job, and it became my passion, my life work, my career.

In each case, slowly, for a million reasons and none, the joy evaporated. Eventually, mourning and bitter, I left.

And then I become a mother, and my whole life changed. And my marriage ended, and my life changed again. For right or wrong, my son was my passion, my work, my joy. That place where I went each weekday to sit at a desk and use a computer was only so I could feed and clothe and shelter him. Work was a necessary evil, marking the dull hours until I could be with my son.

My work as a parent is not done; perhaps in some ways it will never be done. The joy and the terror has not gone out of this work. But I now see the time, not long away, when he will head off into his own dreams.

Right now, work is a necessary, fairly comfortable place where I pass time until I can work on my dreams, when I can be who I really am. Writer. Artist. Teacher. Earth mother. It has taken me most of my life to remember that is who I really am.

So whither me? Where is my joy now? Why do I now sit in a cubicle in doing a job that bores me, in conditions that often irritate and dishearten me? Other than the access to the Cosmic Innernetting, I mean.

Why don’t I have joyful work now?

Perhaps, in general, for most people with options, there is a belief that this is what they know and thus all there is. Perhaps most people don’t believe that work can be, should be joy.

But not me.

I remember joy.

Perhaps for me – and perhaps for others too – the problem is my dread of “the undiscover’d country.”

The undiscovered country of my own soul, of my own heart. 

Is this that which “makes us rather bear those ills we have, than fly to others that we know naught of?”

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought;
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard, their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
(Hamlet, Act III, scene i)

What enterprises of great pith and moment does your soul cry out for?

Rumi said, “Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.”

But often we overrule our heart. Sometimes the heart only whispers. We have to be still and concentrate to hear it.

Mine whispers: Write. Create. Teach. Learn.

Rumi also said, “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”

And I am heading there, one shaky step at a time.

Writing this blog. Writing a column for Awareness Magazine. Creating by playing with fiber and paint and photographs and wood. Teaching an occasional workshop. Going for my masters degree. All steps toward that place my heart whispers about.

Boldly going where I have not gone before.

The undiscovered country of myself.

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