I once worked with a woman who had two names. One was for work and one was for home. While her given name was very floral and feminine, her chosen professional name was positively…feral.
I completely understood this compartmentalization, and I did a similar thing myself. While I did not change my name, I definitely hung up a lot of myself with my coat when I got to work. I left a lot of my soul behind. And I liked it that way. If I only put my spirit back on when I got home, I figured, it would have less work residue on it, and I could get back to the business of being myself.
I had a lot of fear of making the jump into working for myself. It wasn’t just the fear of failing financially. It was also the fact that I was considering making a career of two things that currently provided me refuge from work – yoga and massage. If things I considered sacred now provided a paycheck, wouldn’t they become sullied?
The opposite turned out to be true. Rather than my passions becoming sullied by money, my new work made money more sacred.
In Buddhism, it’s called Right Livelihood, and I understand it as making a living while causing the least harm possible, including harm to ourselves. And although I didn’t see it that way at the time, spending a 40 hour workweek with my soul hanging in the pocket of my coat did cause me harm. I began to dread going to work, not because the work was difficult, but because the feeling I imposed on myself while there hollowed me out.
I work harder now than I ever did when I worked for someone else. In fact, it’s hard to tell now when I am NOT at work, my work and life are sometimes so seamless. But while it’s sometimes hard that my work bleeds into my play, the flip side of that is amazing – sometimes my work feels a lot like play, too.
Tonight I am meeting with my dear friends Tami and Michelle. These meetings began with a Vision Mapping Party inspired by Gwen Bell. They evolved into Book of Me parties, inspired by Havi’s The Fluent Self. The Book of Me is a great example of how I have integrated my life. In the past, my work projects and my personal ones would be kept very separate. But now they are all mushed together, kept in one large three ring binder with “Madeleine Michele Lohman – The Manual” on the cover.
Here’s what I like about no longer being able to conveniently separate work and personal goals: it makes me more accountable to what I truly believe in. My Book of Me is arranged quarterly. I have three simple goals that I hope reflect what I value in life. For Spring they were: 1. Breathe 2. Nourish relationships 3. Let things go.
Then, when I plan out daily practices and projects, both work and personal, I have to consider: does this relate to my overall goals? And if not, how can I adjust it to be more in line with what I really value?
The Book of Me parties are evolving again. We are offering each other more and more professional support, as Michelle births her new website (get on the list here!) and Tami considers moving her blog to its own domain name, and I nurse my little baby blog and ponder what’s next. What’s wonderful is to be working with people who value authenticity in their own work, and demand the same from you.
I do not mean to imply that you have to be your own boss to work authentically, or have a job that sounds kind of groovy to find Right Livelihood. Were I to return to any of my old jobs (and believe me, I do sometimes fantasize about this, luxurious fantasies full of lunch breaks and health insurance and PTO…) I would not approach them the same. I would bring my Book of Me and my questions and my practices along with me. All work is sacred, it’s just in the approach.
I also can’t say I have let go of compartmentalization entirely. While “Good Time Maddie” might go dancing on the weekend, it’s “Madeleine” who shows up to teach yoga the next morning. Trust me, you wouldn’t want that other one leading your class. And who I am in the privacy of my own home? Well, that’s still none of your beeswax.