DAYJOBS AND DAYDREAMS
“If you love your work, you will never work a day in your life.”
“Find whatever it is that makes you lose all track of time. This is the work you should be doing.”
That’s what they say, whoever “they” are.
I believe these to be true, but most of us are still calling it work—at least some of the time.
I have a love/hate/love relationship with my work, and love always wins. Almost every day, I have the opportunity, the privilege to try to make a difference in someone’s life, and most days, I think I can say I have at least given them a small sliver of hope; a tiny measure of joy.
I am a speech-language pathologist, a.k.a. a speech therapist. I work primarily with adults after a stroke, head injury, brain tumor, diagnosed with a progressive neurological disease such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, as well as multiple other diagnoses.
I love the fact that I can help them to return to a higher level of function, even if it is not where they once were. I love that I can help them regain their ability to engage with their loved ones and the rest of the world through communication. I get to help them improve their swallow function—an ability that is often affected by any of the diagnoses I work with. In the happiest of endings, I help them return to eating and drinking again after being fed through a stomach tube, and re-engage them with their world.
But there are no guarantees. Many times I can’t make a difference, and the sickness and the sadness override my love for my work. The system I work within plays a part too. Some days I feel defeated.
Then, someone tells me they couldn’t have made it without me, and I love my work again.
Love always wins.
I engage in my own kind of therapy. I stumbled upon it accidentally when a friend talked me into doing a project with her. Much like my life after loss, and my patients after illness, I take broken and random things and try to make them beautiful again, albeit in a different way than they were before.
The above project is the largest one I have ever completed; it is in my (overachieving) husband’s garden. Have you ever been in garden that needed to be swept? He tiled it when he was bored, but I digress…
When I am working on projects such as this one, the handles on the clock spin, and I am totally unaware. Much like when I am writing. Chronological time goes out the window, and I am in the zone; in the flow.
If I could just find a way to make these pursuits pay the bills. I do get paid for a few writing gigs, and that is sweet. The thought of leaving my career behind, however, is bittersweet. Twenty-three years as a speech pathologist (SLP) have wormed their way into the annals of The Loves of My Life, and while I think I could call myself a writer/artist instead of an SLP, I just might miss it a little too much. My daydream of walking away from it all when the sickness, sadness and the system overcome my passion may not be ready to come to fruition just yet.
So, I keep doing it on the side. I keep nourishing the need, writing and creating. Like this project I made for Suzanne to welcome her to my small city almost a year ago:
One of her friends she left behind saw it and loved it, so I made one for her. Let me preface that with this picture:
This brings me to Suzanne’s story. While she works with money, she maintains the daydream of leaving it all behind. In my estimation, her sense of humor is waiting to take her places, just not quite sure yet where.
Her friend has yet to see this piece, but Suzanne wanted to continue the theme.
Time stopped for me until I was finished; hours had passed. I delight in turning broken pieces, old jewelry, tchotchkes, bottle caps and repurposed finds into a new creation, specially tailored to the recipient.
Much like writing, it moves me to a higher plane. And I want to stay there. I do get paid for it, but it’s not in the currency I need to pay the bills. I get paid with a sense of satisfaction, a feeling that I have tapped into a well that will feed and nourish my heart and soul if I simply keep revisiting it, keep doing the work.
Suzanne has some unique talents—too many to list.
Her sense of humor should be apparent in the “You’re dead to me” theme, which was a standard exchange between her and her friend, carried to the extreme on going-away cakes and art projects. She could perhaps parlay this talent onto a stage somewhere, but she has yet to find that route.
Among the others I can write about include an extremely satisfying and incredible ability to put together jigsaw puzzles. She has been known to start one like this with 1000 pieces at the beginning of the day,
and have it done by the end of the day. She delights in this pursuit, and if only she could find a way to get paid in the kind of money she handles every day…
Then there is the Big Dream. The Dream that she has recently brought to my attention, the Dream that likely cannot be fulfilled in our small city in this landlocked area.
She wants to be a mermaid. There are such professional incarnations in large cities in tourist aquariums, but to that end, she has not exactly had a professional background that would lend itself to that, say, as an expert swimmer with extensive experience in holding her breath.
Still, her Dream persists, as evidenced by the fact that she has yet to remove the necklace she got in Florida. And if her pursuit of this dream would allow her to lounge about on the beach in the sun and sand all day, that might just be close enough.
Gail’s middle name is Jean, and she will easily answer to “Mean Gail Jean,” even though she is far from mean. Which, is doubly ironic because she has a dream that would paint her as a true meanie.
Recall from Love of Labor, Labor of Love on September 3rd, that Gail is already a workhorse. Her primary day job is that of an office manager for a chiropractor, as well as several other side jobs.
Gail has had a long-standing pipe dream; a Big Idea: she wants to have her own place, likely to be called Mean Gail Jean’s. Against her nature, she would actually be mean to the customers–all in fun, of course, insulting them in whatever way possible. She is living out part of her dream now as a bartender/cook in an historic building, a former opera house-turned pub. To my knowledge, she doesn’t purposely insult anyone.
Apparently, there is a restaurant chain that has pioneered the market on this idea, so the road is paved for her. Hers, however, would likely include an obligatory hug from Mean Gail Jean as the customer leaves, just to show them she really does love them.
She loves people, and I’m not just saying that. She loves to interact with, talk to, engage with relate to people. Which is why she has an alternate idea. Her other nickname, rhyming with Gail, is Whale. “Whalin’ Gail’s” would be a bar and grill that provides all the fun and games adults once enjoyed as kids:
*dance music from the 70’s and 80’s at all times, including The Bee Gees, John Mellencamp and all manner of big hair bands that she loves to listen to on satellite radio.
She would like either of these ideas to come to fruition in Colorado or Florida. Florida, of course, would be closer to Suzanne as she lays on the beach and/or swims about in the ocean with her big tail fin.
Yesterday, Gail brought her road show in my direction. She also has a flair for repurposing, and she traveled to Abilene, my Someplace Special (September 10th) to exhibit her work in a vintage craft fair with her sidekick, Sylvia, as well as many other women-and men–who are living their Dream.
My home is adorned with many of these pieces that are made primarily from antique ceiling tin and second-hand wood. She and Sylvia become treasure hunters from time to time, scavenging abandoned buildings (with permission, of course). They, too, take something broken and random and make it into something beautiful.
And, to add to my collection, I picked up a few more from the show yesterday:
Working for a living is a beautiful and honorable thing. Except when it gets in the way of living. Most of us have been through times in our lives where we need to take stock of where we are, where we have been, and where we are going. These times often happen during a crisis, often born out of tragedy.
“They” say you shouldn’t make major life changes in the first year after losing a loved one. Well, losing two loved ones in one moment prompted some serious reconsideration on our parts, and they likely haven’t lost two loved ones in the same moment.
Gail, realizing life is indeed too short, closed the doors to her donut shop of seven-plus years about seven months after that day. She doesn’t regret it.
Suzanne’s only child, at age 12, spent the after-school hours with her grandparents. She suddenly had nowhere to go, and no one to help her through those tough few hours every day, let alone the entire day. Suzanne took a year off from her banking job and worked in the school as a para-educator to help them both adjust to not seeing our parents every day. She then went back to her banking position.
It took me several years, but I broke out on my own. I serve in a contract/private capacity now, as opposed to an employee. I am a woman of my own mind, so I love it here.
My mind, however, once played a trick on me. A good trick, a favor; it gave me a gift. Exactly one year before Mom and Dad died, I had a “career” position in the lone hospital in our small city. It was a great job, and I enjoyed it.
Something, however, nagged at me. The little voice inside begged me to move on, to find something else. The only reasonable alternative I could see at that time was to enter the regional nursing home circuit, and that didn’t seem all that reasonable. The pay was a bit better, but the hours weren’t guaranteed, there would be a lot of travel, and the progress, if there was much, would be significantly less than in the rehabilitation setting I was in that brought me so much fulfillment.
The voice persisted, so I finally listened.
The eleven-or-so nursing homes I covered included the one in my parents’ small town. It was 87 miles from my home, and while I didn’t go there on a regular basis, I did perhaps log 15 visits there that year.
Every time I went there, I stopped to see Mom and Dad—at least for a short visit, sometimes lunch.
I got to see them that many more times in their last year, and I am forever grateful that I chose to listen to that little voice. It was the voice of wisdom, and it knew what I needed, long before I did.
Mom and Dad instilled in each one of us the power to believe in ourselves, including our dreams.
Dream on, sisters. Keep working hard until we all find whatever it is we’re looking for.
That’s what Mom and Dad wanted for us.
Gail, Suzanne and I believe that laughter together brings our dreams a little closer…