"What you weave is what you wear" - John Trudell
How we live matters. Today I am settled in for a long day of work. Yesterday I started around noon and finished up around two in the morning. Today will probably be similar. I have several projects going simultaneously, building a freelance portfolio, working on a novel, and designing an e-course, In the Details: Dwelling In the Epicenter of Beauty.
Work has been a shifting and multi-faceted endeavor over the last several months, and the concept of right livelihood has been one that I have been contemplating a lot lately. What exactly does that mean? I think each person has to define it for themselves.
Obviously, everyone needs work that provides at least enough income to provide them with the basics of survival. We all have the right to food, shelter, and other necessities. Because I have children, I will do damn near anything (as long as it is legal and ethical) as a way to provide those things, and I have gladly and gratefully taken jobs in the past that were never a part of my dream scenario. You do whatever you have to do, and while you are doing it you can always take steps to move towards something more fulfilling.
Until January I was doing work that I loved, and providing for my family's basic needs and some fun little extras here and there. Life took some unexpected turns, and due to unanticipated events, there was a period of a few months where it wasn't possible for me to work at all. I'm not even going to front, I found it terrifying. After a time, I also found it soul crushing. Aside from money issues, which were bleak, I like working.
Beyond the very important goal of providing for my family, to me right livelihood means:
1. Doing no harm. I would not consider a job that causes harm to people or the environment.
2. Working with integrity. I won't sell a product or service I know is crap, lie, take advantage of vulnerable people, or step on anyone else to get ahead.
3. Contributing something of value. If I am not forwarding something I believe to be useful, beautiful, or preferably, both, it feels pointless.
Over the last couple of weeks my situation has shifted again. My life is no longer in a place where I am unable to work, but it also isn't where it was before. I can finally get back to work, but I can't go back to working outside the home at this time. My presence is needed here, and even though it doesn't pay, this is my first and most important work.
The other thing I have had to consider is that my hours of availabilty vary drastically, which rules out a lot of more traditional work from home jobs. I can easily fit forty or more hours of work into my week, but one day I may have to work for two hours, pause for several minutes or several hours, work for an hour more, and then stop. The next day I may be able to work for sixteen hours, only pausing to pee or scarf down some food.
In other words, it was time to get really creative, really fast. What appears to be a hindrance at first glance can sometimes turn out to be a blessing in disguise. As I brainstormed possible ways to engage in right livelihood under these extenuating circumstances I can't change, the answers arrived in a flood of clarity.
I had always wanted to write for a living, and I have always enjoyed helping people love their lives a little more. I like working weird hours, often in the middle of the night. Although I have dabbled in these sorts of endeavors over the years, I mostly wrote them off as impractical, something to play with when my kids are grown and out of the house, after I had retired from my "real" job.
But when you run out of options, you also run out of excuses. In the midst of what had felt like this area of my life falling apart, the vision started coming together. Funny enough, I looked for other, more practical options. There weren't any. It is kind of a riot, but I was actually forced into trying my hand at making a living doing what I love.
I am doing my best to be impeccable with both my intentions and my work. I know for certain that Trudell is right. We do end up wearing what we weave. Sometimes for the rest of our lives. I want to be sure it looks good.
What are you weaving right now? Does it fit? Does it feel right? Will you be proud to wear it? Life is too short for anything less.