I was thinking last night about a job I am taking on, a family history manuscript, handwritten. It will be my job to type it.
As I considered taking the job, I considered The Market. I asked the internet what it would tolerate. I came up with a rate. I linked it to my time.
As I lay in bed last night, I considered my life. My throat tightened. I will never get that time back. I thought. I should have asked for more.
"What is your time worth?" I asked myself.
It is worth everything and nothing.
I never know what potential miracles a minute holds.
In taking on work, I trust clients with my nascent miracles.
That can be scary.
And yet, we are always trusting each other with our miracles.
The choices of others significantly affect our lives.
Job-ness is just negotiated interdependence.
Talking about money can throw us into a zero-sum fear spiral where we need to risk a limited resource (time or money) to protect other limited resources. In that moment, we face loss, waste, the potential of squandering our one wild and precious life, and our stories about how those things are bad.
On my best days, I am able to resolve those stories. To have faith that loss is both impossible and inevitable.
In the words of my friend with a passion for compost, "Waste has value."
In the words of a beloved science teacher, "Mass, matter and energy are neither created nor destroyed."
In my words, "We are connected to a story greater, and plot holes have purpose."
As I lay in bed last night, I realized, the question is one of longing.
You have time. I have time. What do we want to do with it?
How will we know? How will we cope when we don't?
We'll think and feel, and do our best to sort uncertainties.
Think about a situation that made you feel a way you wanted to feel.
What was that like?
For me, it's warm. Energized. Spacious. Attentive.
A favorite art piece of mine by Chloë Bass asks "How much of love is attention?"
A lot of it, I'd wager.
I might add, "How much of work is about wanting to pay attention?"
(Sidebar: It's super interesting that we say "pay" attention.)
In other words, "How much of our work is about love?"
This may sound squishy to you, perhaps. A little woo. That is fine.
There are many people who will ask you to pay you for their time, and leave it at that.
I prefer the following situation:
A business-like, "How much will you do this for?" becomes a reverent, "What do we each desire right now?"
With a follow-up question, "Can money (which, best I can tell, is crystalized desire) close the gap between those longings?"
And if so, "How do we build an agreement where we can navigate the uncertainties of proceeding?"
While we can't offer each other perfection or certainty,
We can offer each other clarity and kindness,
And a chance to move toward our desires.
If this ring trues for you, please run with it.
If you'd like to, please let me know how it goes!
This page will send me an email (and send you a really friendly autoresponder).
With care and gratitude,
If you have time, there's more commentary below the break. <3
P.S. This is a spiritual stance. It is also an intensely practical one.
Wants can, and often will, be deeply worldly:
We want to be able to pay our bills.
We want to feel good about ourselves in a world that equates value with financial productivity.
We want to have someone clean our kitchens when we're done cooking and it's a total mess and we're tired. (No? Just me? :P)
Those kinds of things can be wants. They are still in service to the bigger story, far as I can tell.
P.P.S. I think sometimes, and maybe you'll relate to this, that I'm not doing enough.
That if I'm not doing morally unimpeachable work, and doing it for "good money," that people will vote me off the proverbial island for not working harder, or better. So, rather than hooking up my cart to the horse of what I really want, I sprint away from that fear. Not a sustainable game plan. It's been a recipe for feverish hustles for worthiness, followed by repeated burnout. That painful cycle has taught me to (more often) summon my courage, settle into my faith, and go looking for cleaner-burning desire.
Part of me wishes I'd realized all of this earlier.
Part of me wishes I could work this way all the dang time.
And the rest of me trusts timing and knows that the challenges brought the lessons.
For anyone who is up for a commentary on achievement and schoolishness:
My vocational landscape has shifted vastly in the past months, (as have many of yours, probably) and while my financial reserves have given me runway to work without pay for parts of this time, I am not immune to the message that account balances are the grade-book of adulthood. I'm a recovering A-Student.
My truer self says "Everything is fine. Just let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."
My schoolish self says, "This is the paradigm in which we exist, and I want to succeed!"
And sometimes the schoolish self wins, and I walk away from my heart to go rack up another empty A+ by meeting someone else's expectations.
I am trying to run on cleaner desire.
Now for the food metaphor. Ask anyone. They'll tell ya. I love a good food metaphor.
It's like when I cooked quinoa without rinsing it. Bitter.
I thought I didn't like quinoa.
Working for money has tasted similarly bitter.
Then I had a desire to eat less meat, which fueled my courage to try again, faith driven by an Internet's worth of people who like the stuff.
I rinsed it until the water ran clear, and it was nutritious, and tasted pretty good.
Saponin, which makes quinoa taste bitter, has a purpose. It protects the quinoa plant as it grows, allows it to drop seeds, allows it to survive insects and go on to nourish people.
Fear has a purpose. It protects us as we grow, allowing us to try things and protecting us in our vulnerable moments so we can gain the insights we need without risking too much.
I'm on a mission to rinse the quinoa of my work life.
I've grown my capacities. It's time to harvest. And time to eat.
Time to acknowledge the fear, and let it dissolve.
Time to acknowledge the love, and let it nourish me.
Time to watch them both collaborate with longing and make life more beautiful.