Monday, September 5, 2011

Questions for your Labour/Labor Day

Happy Labour Day?

What is your work?

I often ask myself that question.

Is it what I am paid to do:
sermons, Sunday services, weddings, funerals, pastoral visiting, meetings,  study groups, working with children, youth and seniors?  
Much of this work happens behind the scenes: reading, research, imagining, writing, and visits/conversations which are held in confidence.  

This is work I really love- although it is not the sum total of what I love.. 
 It does not say everything that needs to be said about me or my life-purpose.

What about your paid work, if any?

Because I work in a low-budget, non-profit organization, I also do many secretarial and administrative tasks, unnoticed unless undone or done imperfectly:
emailing, organizing, arranging for the use of the church building, answering random phone calls, sorting mail, keeping records, photocopying, maintaining Facebook pages, helping to maintain websites and blogs, and a host of other tiny bits and pieces . 

Now I have 4 hours of paid administrative support from a wonderful woman who can do these tasks far more efficiently than I.
But  , like many so-called professionals, I still have to do a lot of administrative tasks,
for which I have no great aptitude or inclination.  

Many of us in creative, educational or caring professions have to do more and more management and administration.
Those tasks are time-consuming and painstaking.
They have to be done "right".
Spurts of creativity don't help one bit. 

And so I seem to use more and more work time on tasks for which I lack any great aptitude.
I become anxious because I  know I am not good at them and am afraid of making mistakes.
And I am not supposed to be anxious, because my job is to be  a "non-anxious presence".

What about your paid work?
What part of it do you really love?
What part of it is stuff for which you don't feel gifted, for which you never consciously signed up?
Do the "have-tos" detract from what your work is really about?

But then there's unpaid work.  We all have it unless we have full-time homemakers at our disposal or can pay for household staff!

You know the work : dishes, laundry, garbage, food preparation,  bill-paying, car maintenance, updating necessary wardrobe items, house-cleaning, yard work, and so on into infinity.  Of course, if you have animals, children or other dependents , this work increases exponentially!

This "unpaid" work consumes many hours: hours we would  rather use for rest, recreation, conversation, creative pursuits.

One way around it is, if you can, to pay for some help with housework, lawn care, and yard work. I have done this as long as I have lived in a house and worked full time.  I live in houses provided by the church, with more lawn and driveway than I would personally choose. Happily sometimes the church has helped pay for the maintenance of said lawn and driveway!.

But I see a day coming when I can no longer afford household help.  Many of you cannot afford it now.  So then the unpaid work is ours and ours alone.

I try, when I remember, to make my unpaid work into a spiritual practice.  I can do it contemplatively, rather than just looking forward to it being over.

 I can and do give thanks:
for good food,
for a home in a safe neighbourhood,,
for indoor plumbing that makes dishes and laundry more fun,
for the ability, creaky knees and all , to do my housework,
for the wonderful modern convenience of paying bills online,
for the inspiration of my favourite radio programmes which accompany all my work,
and of course, for my beloved cats, who are the reason why I have to clean litterboxes!
If you are busy because of children,  you can give thanks for the gift of your beloved children too.

But still my necessary work , paid or unpaid, easily crowds out the  deeper , more interesting questions:

Such as:
what am I in this world to do?
 What is the meaning and purpose of my life? 
Where do I feel energy?
 Where is spirit prompting me? 
Where do I find joy?

Frederick Buechner , and then Parker Palmer, ask: "Where does your deepest desire connect with the world's deepest need"?

That is a good question.

How would you answer it?

Happy Labour/Labor Day!

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