I'd like to open this entry with a disclaimer: I have no objections to working outside the home. In fact, I believe I'd be bored and rather miserable as a stay-at-home. I have always felt that I need to contribute to the world at large, and I invested a great deal into getting a college degree so I could do just that. So to start, I don't mind working. The issue is balancing it with having a life. Because jobs take up an awful lot of your life, and you have to set boundaries with how much of your life you want to give to your work - much like everything else.
I never wanted my job to be the core of my life. There are a lot of people out there that are defined by their work, and I've known all along that I don't want to be one of them. To me, I have a job to serve my life. It's how I channel my knowledge, experience and skills to the world, and in return it financially supports my life. That's it. It's not who I am. It's not my sole purpose in life. It's not the whole of my existence. It's one part of my life, one part of the whole that makes me.
The challenge is keeping it one part of life because work, much like everything else, wants to be the center. The fact that it's our financial foundation is a binding factor that makes work one of the "immovable objects" in our lives, and the trick is how to keep reshaping that object into something that helps rather than hurts. Our personal lives change over time and so do our jobs - even if you work in the same place throughout your career, I can guarentee that the job itself will change as time goes on. Duties come and go, and more is always added. I can attest to this by experience. I've been working in the same job for over thirteen years, but it most certainly IS NOT the job I was hired to do. It bears absolutely no resembelance to what it was the first day I walked in. It's even been reclassified twice to accomodate for the drastic changes over the years. Likewise, my personal life has drastically changed in those years as well. And the ongoing challenge is how to keep work in balance in your life with both are constantly changing forces.
It's tough, and it's something that constantly has to be managed. I've had to make a lot of adjustments in the past three years alone, as my job duties quadrupled at the same time that my in-laws moved to town and my writing started to get published more widely. In fact, I was under a therapist for a year to help me manage all of the changes sweeping through my life. It would have been nice if all of these things could have happened, say, over the space of five years - but it was more like five months. I made it, but I'm not afraid that I'm still on that curve of balancing my changed work situation and my changed life situation. That is, in fact, part of what spurred my resolution to work on the issue of balance. It was realizing that while the major adjustments are done (and have been for a while), some tweaking to the details needs to happen. In fact, tweaking is something that probably needs to be done, well, more frequently than I have.
I think the big thing for me right now is balancing my increased work duties with my writing. I could easily stay glued behind a computer all my waking hours between the job, then coming home to work on writing promotion and working on new projects to keep my writing in motion. While I love my writing, I realized it had elevated itself to "work" in my life, and I always said that when it was more labor than enjoyment, it was time to make some adjustments. I can't and won't work 100% of the time. I want free time with Rick and the birds, with family and friends, with occasional volunteer projects at church, or with hobbies or just being lazy, and I will have it. I need time off, and I believe that getting sick with that virus before the holidays was the wake up call that made me realize I spend too much time working and not enough time taking care of myself: spiritually, mentally, physically, or emotionally. I have a full life and that's fine, but I need to get it in order and make sure there's a place for everything - and especially a space for taking care of myself, which I neglected to an almost dangerous place a few weeks ago. I really downplayed that here and in my social media posts, but the truth is that I was a bigger wreck than I let on, and it downright scared me. I was ill and distressed to the point of being almost non-functional for about 36 hours. Not long, but long enough to get through. It was time to heal more than my body. My mind and soul needed healing too.
Thankfully, I had some time off for the holidays to take stock of how to do this, and the work-life issue was primary amongst my concerns. I can't change my job, but I can look for ways to get better organized and to get things done better and more efficiently. As for my writing, I looked into some publicity options that included writing more articles and short stories, which allows me to continue producing new work that gains publicity for my published books. It's channeling into doing more of what I love, which is creating new work. It takes the "work" out of the writing and puts it back in the place of being "fun." And that's what it's all about: being entertaining and fun for me and my readers.
I think we all get knocked off kilter every now and then, and it seems that the work-life balance is usually where it's most likely to happen. We just have to stop and take stock every now and then to make sure we're keeping work in it's proper place in our life, and not letting it morph or grow into a trap. Because when we feel trapped, that's when it's gotten too far out of balance. I'm happy to report that I do feel much better and I continue to heal from my illness of a few weeks ago. There are still some struggles, but I take it a day at a time and I believe I'm finding a better way to have my life with all the joy and fullness I'm meant to have.
That's all today. Take care. I hope you have a great week.
Who are you? I think that’s one of the hardest questions we face, and the reason is that the answer is always in motion. Every experience we have, every role that we play, every life lesson that we face, all contribute to who we are. Identity is something that is always in motion because as life changes, we change with it. Our capacity to grow and learn is what makes us able to adapt to the world around us and to evolve, both as a society and as individuals. Unfortunately, this capacity also means that we must constantly reconcile ourselves to the world we live in – and frankly, that can be exhausting.
The good news is that there are some constants in this ever changing world. The situations we face and the roles we play do impact who we are, but the core of our being – our soul – doesn’t change. Each and every one of us was uniquely and wonderfully made to serve purpose in life. Notice that I keep this general for a reason. While we may have one overriding purpose that’s our “main mission” in life, I believe that each season of life has a purpose within that mission. You may be a child, spouse, parent, colleague, and friend. Each of these roles are separate with their own unique purpose, but all of those roles contribute to how you are as a whole human being. If any of you were to walk into my church or workplace, I would expect that you’d be able to say “yes, that’s Sherri the Writer” because you know the core of who I am through my writing and can see it in other roles I serve.
I know this is confusing, and we could ponder on that particular point for a long time. Suffice it to say that for the purposes of this entry, I am addressing that “core self,” which is who you are as a unique human being. It’s
your soul. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people that don’t dig deep enough within themselves to know who they are at this level. Maybe it’s because it’s too exhausting, or confusing, or maybe they found something that frightened them, but for whatever reason many people abandon that search for authenticity and simply conform to what the world wants them to be in each role in life. While this may work on the surface (and is certainly good enough for day to day life), in reality it means that you never really connect with the people around you or the world you live in. After all, how can other people know you if you don’t know yourself? And how are they supposed to trust what they don’t know? So they go through the motions of life as a shell of a person, never fully experiencing life or the joy that we’re supposed to have in being who we are and serving the scared missions set before us. In fact, the sacred is removed, turning it all into drudgery and labor.
Folks, this isn’t the way we’re meant to live. Yes, it can be frightening to delve within ourselves to search for our authenticity. You might find things you don’t expect; things in direct contradiction to what you want to believe about yourself. Or you might find something socially unacceptable or embarrassing. It’s ok. You have the power of the Holy Spirit working within you, and It can show you how these things fit into who you are as the unique creation you are meant to be. It can show you what you have for a reason and what you could stand to fix here or tweak there. None of us are perfect, but the perfection of the Spirit can show you how to use what you’ve got to be who you are and to contribute to your place in the world.
The key to happiness isn’t fame, or wealth, or status. It’s finding contentment with who you are as a unique individual. That’s the only way you can find your purpose. That’s the only way to form genuine relationships with a solid foundation. That’s the only way that happiness will come.
So, how do you find your authentic self? It’s best to start at the beginning – and that is the foundation of it all.
Next Time: Jesus – My Savior, My Friend.
I had an epiphany in the church cemetery in December 2010 that changed my view on life.
I wasn't sure why I went out there that day. I ran an errand before work, and was strongly prompted to see where my grandparents were buried. I haven't been out there since Granddaddy died in October 1989, but I felt like I needed to go out there then to deal with some emotional issues before I could really move on.
So there I was on a cold, windy day. I overshot the row, so I had to walk to their plot. As I got to that place, I realized something: Despite over 20 years of history, I had nothing to say. I stood there with the weight of two major life changes that had recently started a new season in my life and for all the months of wishing they were here to give me advice - nothing.
I felt like a moron, standing there in a ridiculous looking hat with my work ID flapping in the breeze until traffic noise from the nearby highway snapped me out of my blank mind. That's when it hit me: Of course there was nothing to say here. Everybody in this place had completed their journey! This was no longer their world. They had passed their trials, had served their purpose in the world, and now had their reward. I and I alone was responsible for leaving this place and resuming my place in that world, to serve my purpose and to complete the mission the Lord sent me to serve.
That alone was a profound insight. It's what happened next that really nailed it.
As I walked back to my car, I realized that I parked next to where my great-great grandparents were buried. I looked down as I hit the "unlock" button on my car to see my great-great-grandmother's epitapth, which read: A GOOD AND FAITHFUL HELPMEET.
Something inside me snapped. I realized that I would one day lie in this place - and I expect the world to know more about me than that when I'm gone! "Oh hell no," I said to the wind, "I better leave behind more than that. I'm not a sidekick!"
I couldn't believe that an entire lifetime was summed up in a sentence that was nothing more than a passing tribute to her supporting role to helping my great-great grandfather in his efforts as the first pastor of our church, and his other endeavors. Who was she? How did she do it? What were her passions? What kind of personality did she have? We'll never know. Heck, I didn't even know her name until that moment.
At that, I left. It was cold, and windy. I was wearing a really stupid hat. And I realized I had stuff to do.
Now, I fully realize that women in the 18th century were largely defined by fathers, husbands and the men in their life. My point is twofold: First, it isn't like that anymore, and I think it's a pity that their identities are lost. Sure I accept my role as my husband's "helpmeet," but I'm also a unique individual and I have my own way of doing all things, be they God-given missions of my own or supporting others in their God-give missions. Second, I hate to say it but most people do still define themselves by others. They get so wrapped up in roles and relationships that they loose sight of who they are at their very core - the place in the center of their soul where the Lord made them a unique and wonderful creation. And they do it willingly to fit in with societal norms.
My purpose in this blog series is not to buck any systems, or to lash out against conformity. My purpose is to share this epiphany with you and to tell you the powerful truth I learned in the Mt. Tabor Lutheran Church cemetery that day: That we are all uniquelly and wonderfully made, and our ultimate purpose is to be the person God made us to be so we can serve the purpose He sent us to serve in this world. We shouldn't fear or deny who we are because everything God makes is good. That includes us. We need to embrace our authenticity and take our place now. Others might be able to do what we do, but they can't do it the way we can. God sent you to do what you're purposed to do because you have a way that nobody else that has ever, does, or will live can do it. We need to learn to accept ourselves and embrace what makes us unique!
Why? Because this is our world. All those who have gone before have served their purpose. Those ahead of us have not come to their time yet. lt's our world, right now, because the Lord has ordained it for us. We need to find our purpose. We need to own it. We need to make sure that the world knows we're here and that our presence makes a difference. Because that is, after all, why God sent us.
When I die, I want my epitapth to read "It's your world now. Go do stuff." Maybe that epiphany will spread. Maybe it will inspire the future. But that's yet to come. It's my time now, and I have to own it.
Because I have stuff to do. And so do you. Now let's get out there and own this world!
Next time: Who Are You? Devine Purpose, Authentic Soul.