We live on a little farm. As you walk or drive on our road to the house, you have to cross a creek over tiny wooden bridge that’s bordered by big fir trees and cottonwoods growing close to the creek.
It is said that hundreds of years ago the pioneers brought English ivy to our Pacific Northwest and since then it has smothered our native vegetation. Ivy, this fast growing “little house of horrors” plant (for those of you that remember the play with the man-eating plant), can take down the tallest trees with its climbing ability and weight. And you can never really pull out all its roots; it resists herbicides; and it NEVER DIES.
Why am I talking about ivy, you ask? I walk a path around the farm as my four-times-a-week exercise (so that I can eat more). And as I notice the ivy making its diligent progress climbing up all the trees around the creek, I know that I have work to do and my task is getting more and more urgent. The work is to control the ivy by cutting a four-foot girdle of space in the jacket of ivy growing up the trees. That space eliminates water from the ivy roots to the ivy growing up the tree…and kills it.
My task, involving climbing, slipping, pulling, scraping, scratching, and hacking woody ivy vines, is now urgent because if the ivy pulls a tree down across the little bridge, we can’t get to or from our house. Getting to the grocery store is in peril…I don’t have enough Cheese Curls to survive being stranded.
So I have work to do! And “work” is not a good word for me.
I’ve long recognized that redefining that word “work” is an important tactic for me as I break patterns and habits of thinking and acting that no longer serve me. I can create affirmations: “work is beautiful, work is wonderful….” Hmmm, that definitely doesn’t do it for me! I can appreciate and believe the concept but it doesn’t bring me to the eagerness-to-do-it feeling that I need to tackle and even start the job. I’d rather watch TV and eat those Cheese Curls.
The profit motive does seem to work for me…especially as I reflect that feelings are profitable. Feelings are the prizes. It’s the feeling of happiness or joy or satisfaction or exhilaration or excitement or pleasure that is the prize that really underpins vacations, clothes, cars, iPhones, boats, movies, restaurants, and on and on.
I envy those people who learned early or were taught and modeled that work feels good, something to look forward to. I envy those people who learned to seek tasks to be done like adventures. Work was hard, never-ending, a punishment. Work conjures a bad feeling anchoring a bad memory. And if you didn’t do work right it was an even worse feeling and a worse memory.
We humans are feeling-seeking and feeling-avoiding animals. Every memory is anchored by a feeling that we’ve either sought or sought to avoid.
So what feelings can I notice and understand to re-understand work? Pride, satisfaction, and validation are pleasant feelings. I would like them. They are profits. Maybe there are more enjoyable feelings that I can sense and remember and align with work.
When I think about it, there’s the feeling of hope in every task attempted and hope seems like a pretty big profit to earn. Equating work with hope, the ultimate state of optimism…jackpot!
"the rest of the story"...
Ivy slashed on the trees by the bridge. Die you fiend! Die!