Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The shifting sense of work

Do you ever perform the work you spent decades refining your skills to do, and think, "I am so done with this?"

Today I taught a workshop in a luxurious venue, to a small group of hard-working, intelligent people. So that's as good as it gets. It left me gutted; my facilitation work always has. Pour myself out, receive them, and crawl into bed by 9 pm.
At 60, my relationship to work has shifted. Work no longer defines me or offers hurdles to clear.

Even this spent, partly wishing I would never do this again, work feels different.

When I was 20 I read a well-known passage from The Prophet,
"Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy."

Then I got all corporate and rolled my eyes at this hippie dippy crap. But I'm back, weirdly, in my 19-year-old head space (remember that idiom?).

I have affection for the people I work with, whether for a day or a year. I'm grateful to contribute. Hmmm, a well-paid contribution, my conscience adds.


This reconnection with the spiritual dimension of work comes late, catches me by surprise... though the stamina to give and give simply isn't there.


The "legacy movement" is pure ego, abhorrent to me- the idea that you must make your indelible mark by leaving something behind. At the same time, I'm capable of giving more, in a connected, personal way, than at 30 or 40- maybe even 50.


I'm losing my thread here, rambling and drained. But while it's soaking into my bones, I wanted to capture some of the odd mixture of exhilaration, exhaustion and sense of completion I feel about this late-career phase.

Ever work at your desk till the end of a business day (in a place with "office hours"), then know you could leave, but choose not to? That strange lifting of anticipation: suddenly it's your choice?

I see the end of in sight, the end of both employment and over another hill, of life. This vista shifts my awareness.

4 comments:

Julianne said...

I am feeling so done with motherhood right now. I have a 16 year old that hates school and thus is making life difficult every day. After 27 years, I am worn out from taking care of others with no reciprocation.

I have considered parenting my career. I have put 100% of my energy and effort into it, so I am feeling a sense of failure right now.

I am ready for some me time. I turned 50 and I decided that I was going to do just what pleased me. So now I am trying to find some fulfillment outside the family. It's difficult when you don't have a purpose.

btw: I absolutely love "The Prophet". Kahlil Gibran was so wise.

La Belette Rouge said...

I went to grad school to do what I do when I was in my early 30's---so it is my second career. My work feels like a calling and I cannot imagine ever feeling done with it. In time that may change.

My father used to tell me to never do anything just for money. He said that with his mouth and with his life he said something altogether different. I am lucky that what I do I feel so privileged and honoured to do I should pay my clients.

I think the hippie dippy crap is right. And, it sounds like you are ready to find away to shift your work into something that fills that need. Sounds kind of exciting to me.

materfamilias said...

I left a comment earlier, but it's been electronically gobbled by some cyber-critter! Just wanted to see that I found this particular post even more thoughtful, inspired, and inspiring, than your usual wonderful writing. Despite, or because of, your exhaustion, the Muse is clearly with you -- I love your clear-eyed reflection on what matters at this stage of life, this "other hill" we're climbing over (rather than becoming over "the" hill). I've been thinking about this very issue lately and hope to answer your post more completely when I have time (right now, my paid work is getting in the way!)

Duchesse said...

Julianne: Taking care of others with no reciprocation drains and dispirits; so hope you find some pursuits you enjoy.

Belette: Like what I do, so am not searching for a career change. Have had my own business for 20 years so will likely just reduce the hours.

ma: I'll be interested in what you say, whether as a comment or your own post!