Saturday, May 29, 2010


Work - to do something that requires physical or mental effort. 

Work has gotten a bad rap.  It is said that 'hard toil' (a.k.a. work) was one of the terrible things that came out of Pandora's box.  As the world prides itself in increased efficiency, the notion of 'hard work' seems to be akin to 'inefficient'.  Blue collar jobs, and jobs that require physical effort are seen as substandard in some way, commanding less respect, and often, less pay, than their paper pushing, weaker cousins.  The market is taken over with products that make whatever we are doing easier.  The person that is caught warming up their dinner on the stove is looked at incredulously.  While I agree with the idea of 'working smart', it doesn't have to be in contrast to 'work hard'.

Recently, I was sharing with a friend my enthusiasm about someday purchasing an iPad (since it is no-where in the current budget but I really want one!).  He commented that I am a contradiction.  On the one hand, I prepare most of the food for my family myself, buy real food in the supermarket (the stuff we can pronounce), hate video games and don't let the children know they exist, teach the children hand crafts as a part of school and other, earthy, homesteading type of things.  On the other hand, we have 4 computers at home, various other internet ready gadgets, I prefer to drive than walk, I don't want to do my own gardening but would love it if someone who has figured out how not to kill plants did it for me.  I don't see any contradiction.  I like efficiency.  Preparing my own food is more efficient than being sick all the time. Using an iPad would be more efficient than cajoling old Susan (she is apparently resting right now, since I can only turn her on in safe mode) or fiesty, tempermental Wanda (running on Vista...need I say more?)

Why Work?
In physics, motion is observed by looking at the distance an object is shifted by within a certain time period.  The object needs some kind of force applied to it.  That force is called work! (Pardon my mangling of the physics!)  For the purpose of illustration, let's say the goal you have set for your career or your new decoration project is clear.  You know what you want to do, you know the resources you will need.  You know when you want to be finished by.  The work needed is what will move you from the state of your career or home at this current time t1 to the state you want your home or career to be in at the future time t2.  Time will pass, but things won't change without work, either yours or someone elses.

Is this the right work?
"Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress." - Alfred Montapert.

When we are really clear on what we want and when we want it,  it's much easier to figure out the right kind of work, and to evaluate the work as you go along.  I heard a saying once, that anything worth doing is worth doing the hard way.  I think though, that we have an internal measure of what is too much effort for a particular task.  In other words, I want goal A enough to extend effort A1, but not any more.   So if goal A is something I really want, but am not prepared to extend any more than effort  A1 on it, perhaps the work needs to be re-worked. Perhaps that is a case for increasing efficiency with a new strategy.

Sometimes this sign that we are expending too much effort gives us the false idea that the road we are on is somehow invalid.  "This must be the wrong vocation for me, it's such hard work!" or "This relationship isn't right for me, it's too much work".  But is it something that you really want?  If it is, perhaps taking time to really magnify the value of this outcome will help us see the value of the effort we expend.  People tell me that they wouldn't homeschool their kids, though they really want to, because it's too hard.  I'm going to direct them to Teflon's post yesterday.  Let's figure out what we want, stand behind our wants in huge ways, then work at it.  That might mean a little sweat, or a lot of sweat.  It may mean combining the sweat with creative thinking.

Relationship Work
I grew up around people on average 10 years older than I was. It was a great privilege to get some snapshots into life 10 years ahead. I was most attuned to the dynamics of friendships, family relationships and intimate partnerships. I saw stuff I liked and stuff I didn't like. One thing I realized is that having the intimate realtionship you want takes work. It takes mental and physical effort, effort that's worthwhile and valuable if you are working towards the relationship you want.  What kinds of relationships do you want? 

Some of the relationships I saw were closed, difficult to see into. The people always wore the 'Things are perfect' mask. I saw neither the work, nor the value of the work. It was like looking at a shadow in dim light. You can't see anything definitive. Everything is blurry. I have a friend whose parents fit that description. He was startled when he got married and had some high volume, differences of opinion with his wife. He had not seen that with his parents, had no friends who had let him that far into their relationships, had no conflict resolution, active listening skills.  Learning to work through the various challenges felt like too much work.  I'm so glad for people in my life who allowed me to watch them figure their stuff out.  I want my relationships to be open so that others can see what they want and don't want, and figure out their own path/work.

I remembered looking at Demi Moore's body in G.I. Jane and thinking, I really want to look like that!  I figured that it took some effort.  Given that I haven't been extending the effort, I was lying.  I don't really want to look like that.  One day, I might really want it, though...  I can decide in a second!  Then I'll do the work!  So will you.

1 comment:

  1. Faith, wonderful post! Thank you.

    One of the ideas that jumped out at me is this: the feeling of work is often simply a side-effect of difference between expectation and reality; it's not absolute. When we expect something to be really easy or to take no time at all, then even a little time and effort can feel like a lot of work. I know a lot of people for whom many things come quite easily; and yet, there are some things they just won't try simply because they don't come immediately. I think your "high-volume difference of opinion" is a great example of reality and expectation colliding.

    A second thing that occurs to me is that work is best when the work itself becomes the goal. I've got to the point where I love mowing the lawn and washing dishes. It just feels really good. Iris sometime wakes up in the early morning to the sound of me walking around the kitchen looking for something to clean. Go figure.

    The third thing is that we often don't realize that many tasks go from work to not work if we pay attention and allow them to. What starts as hard and challenging becomes effortless and easy when we let ourselves get better.

    Thank you for yet another great post!


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