June 30, 2016

Month in, month out, I kept plugging away, showing up, trying not to hash over the past nor lose myself in worries about the future. Staying in the moment this way, I had learned (from some of those wise friends!) was the only thing that quelled my fretfulness.

Then came a turning point. I was unexpectedly blessed with three glorious hours of solitude in my house. (With five of us here on topsy-turvy schedule, there is almost always someone else around.) I gave myself the gift of an extra cup of coffee, some Tai Chi breathing and meditation, and as long as I needed to write in my journal. I took as a starting point a line from the day’s reading of Simple Abundance, “If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?”

Now, over the years I’ve developed a little trick in my journal that might seem a bit weird but really works for me. I believe that we all have a source of great wisdom deep inside ourselves; it’s the voice I strive to hear when I try to get quiet. And when I write in my journal, I ask questions of this source, then just put my pen back on the paper and let the answers come. I think of this as a way to have a dialogue with my Higher Power. That morning, for the umpteenth time, I wrote, “What is my right work?”

The answer came—for the umpteenth time, I’m sure, but this time I heard it, in plain, simple, even corny terms that could penetrate my overwrought brain. “You are doing it. Your right work is to live in the love and the light, and share it when you can and only when you can. Spend time in places where love is a priority. And when you go where love isn’t everyone’s conscious priority, let it still be yours. Share the love. That’s your job today.”

This time, those basic words got through to me. I saw that I do have a job to do, a role to play, and that for now anyway, my work is much bigger and more subtle than commuting to an office and collecting a steady paycheck. And, for the first time in my life, I was deeply confident that I would be taken care of, that I was safe, that all I had to do was face each day and do the best I can and the rest would take care of itself.

The two-year anniversary of the layoff is on the horizon, and I still don’t have a so-called real job. I’m still bumping along from interview to interview and project to project. I still worry about money sometimes. But somehow the bills are getting paid and I’m not popping awake at night in fear. And I’m stronger for having faced my demons: I’ve had to become more flexible and adaptable, more accepting of each day as it comes.

These days, I’m no longer thinking about a job as a sort of garment to put on every morning so I can face the world. Now I see that my real work is much more about who I am, wherever I am, whoever I’m with, than what I do from nine to five. I remember to count among my important work all the help I give to newcomers in my peer-support group. I look for opportunities to smile and say an extra-kind hello—to the gas station attendant, the grocery store clerk, the neighbor passing by.

I’ve (mostly) stopped yelling at God to serve up my right work as if he were a slow waiter and I a demanding customer. Sure, I sometimes still long for clarity—a solid, clear sense of obvious purpose and mission that the world values, or at least a regular routine that I don’t have to create on my own. But the angst of the last few months is mostly gone, leaving behind a gift: I have become more patient, more sensitive and kind, to others and to myself. And I have come to understand that if I focus on making a life, making a living takes care of itself.