Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sorting Nails and the Meaning of Life

I was at work last week, my “day” job as it were, and I came to a realization. I was sorting nails at the back till—desolate territory in this big box franchise—when the seeds of this revelation germinated. It happened rather innocuously: a coworker, relatively new and somewhat standoffish, walked by.  In an attempt to connect I shook my head in mock despair and said: here I am, 52 years old and sorting nails. I expected a sympathetic reply to the tune of: I hear ya or don’t I know it; but instead he gave me a short moralizing comment about how everything is good as long as you have your health. It pissed me off. Royally. I held my anger and replied: I would have to debate that everything is good and besides, we all need some space to complain. Then it was his turn to shake his head as he wandered off.

It irritated me for several hours afterward. How dare he shoot me down when I was just trying to connect? What gall to shame me with his holier than thou preaching? I know health is important, I know my concerns are petty but jeeeeezzzz, can’t I want more? And later I got even angrier because I had been feeling sorry for myself and he called me on it.

A few days later I was mulling over the whole scene and realized that not only had he got it wrong but I did too. Yes, good health, space to vent and wanting more are all good and fine. Even self pity has its place. What is more important, however, is finding joy in who we are and what we do. 

I’ve blogged much about this necessary evil I call my day job.(See May-August 2012).  I’ve written of what  I’ve learned about myself and the colourful characters I've met; the laughter I've shared with my co-workers and profound moments I’ve experienced with customers. On the other side I’ve described how frustrating and, at times, even humiliating it can be: the poor wages and rude behaviours; the meeting of old friends and even worse, old clients. I’ve written about my commitment to being present to the hundreds of people that pass my till and how difficult it is in achieving that goal and how certain parts of myself have been revealed and how it has given me transient shame. Coming back to menial labour at this stage in life gives me nothing, I have come to conclude, if not new perspectives to ponder, space to grow and fodder for writing. I feel I am a better person because of this job.

That said, am I happy? 

Yes. In working at the low end of the career spectrum I find I still like myself: what I do for a living, or at least my most visible way of making money, does not affect who I am at the core. I am still Jo-Ann. Moreover, working part-time at a low responsibility job gives me space and time to develop my passions: my BodyMind therapeutic practice and my writing. I have time to create, to volunteer, to read or to just sit and do nothing if that is my desire. I live what I like to call the artist’s life. I am not raking it in but my inner life is joyfully abundant. I do not like my job, per se, but I like what it gives me: time, space and money, however minimal, to do what I want.

And sorting nails? Even that has its joy. I got paid to meditate for several hours with minimal interruptions. What more could I ask for?

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