Work is Where We Can Break Ourselves

via David Whyte in his well-known work, Crossing the Unknown Sea:

Work is difficulty and drama, a high-stakes game in which our identity, our self-esteem and our ability to provide are mixed inside us in volatile, sometimes explosive ways…

Work is where we can make ourselves; work is where we can break ourselves.

If you’ve never read Whyte’s book it’s something that I would highly consider picking up – you’ll find a lot to love and a lot to think about as he explores the relationship between who we are as people and the work that we do that can/may/will define us, give us purpose, and create identity.

His use of the term “volatile” is appropriate for many of us and for me in particular (I think often of the term “ricochet” as well). There are some days where our work is obvious, valued, and purpose-driven and so we think, for a brief moment, that our very lives have the same depth and expanse of meaning.

And then, there are other days (perhaps in the very same day) where our work is not so obvious, misunderstood, and bordering the pointless. Consequently, we believe that our identities are aligned, without merit, and that life is a meaningless set of actions and reactions.

This isn’t abnormal for me; anytime there is an extended break from “work” (i.e holiday) I get fidgety, listless, and find myself wondering what to do with myself. I have a hard time taking time to break from the usual. Much of who I am is what I do.

This constant act of creation and un-creation, construction and destruction, is hard on the body, mind, and spirit. Repair is needed and the quality of one’s system of repair can make all the difference.