I began working for wages forty-one years ago. I’ve been a table busser, dishwasher, waitress, short-order cook, golf course attendant, grocery stocker, real estate agent, grocery clerk, bartender, orchard worker, counselor, secretary, bus driver, activity programmer, fundraiser, organizer, and caregiver. I keep the roof over my head and food in my body, and I buy nice pens and hoard paper. It’s been an interesting career.
Before I ever had a job, my father passed along to me his view of work.
“Anyone who works at a job they don’t like is an idiot. There are hundreds of jobs out there, so why do one you don’t like?” Okay, this was in the Sixty’s, and he was a drop-out from his gray-flannel generation. Today, we work where we can. But at fifteen, I took his advice to heart. After all, the man was a genius, or so he said.
Because my main work is writing, I’ve been free to lead an interesting life, traveling sideways through it rather than looking up some ladder or following prescribed paths to goals. I’ve ended up here, caregiving and writing, finally settled after a lifetime of adventure. I’ve arrived with a treasure, the honed version of my father’s advice, which I apply to everything – work, play, and people.
Whatever I do, or whoever I do it with, if it is not absolutely delightful, I will not do it again. Friends who know I’m not into poetry will probably want to point out that that sentence could perhaps be parsed into a poem.
My work life lately passes for delightful. Just enough, not too much. Having a say in the business, having great co-workers. And the clients! The dancer, the writer, the actress. I am honored to serve these artists. Then, once a week, I have a date with a dog lover, whom my dog loves, and we three delight in each other for three hours. Clients who are almost neighbors, clients who are old friends. A mother-daughter household that mirrors my daughter-mother homelife. My bookend ladies, for whom I clean, once or twice a month, generationally indentical in the habits of their lives, and yet one is staunchly Republican and the other a dedicated Democratic. They both amuse me, respect me, and educate me. Several wise and silly ninety-year olds. They keep me young.
When there are so many people who need companions and helpers, (“allies,” as one of the artists has named my role), why would I work for anyone who is less than absolutely delightful, or who thinks I’m not a delight, myself? Here and there, I might spend a few hours with someone who is only barely delightful, to earn a coin to buy a fantastic new pen (or laptop), but otherwise I’m sticking to my to my hard-earned self-counsel. This pretty much means I won’t be writing any more poems.
Whatever I do,
with whomever I do it,
if I’m not absolutely delighted,
I will not, not, NOT! do it again.