Service or Sacrifice

The cause does not require me to sacrifice myself.
— Zainab Salbi

Oh, my heart. Sometimes it is so hard to remember that I don’t need to struggle to be in service.

Even as I write this I know that part of me believes that and part of me doesn’t. There is a sort of strict, no b.s., non-empathetic worker part of me that says “you get what you earn” and “sometimes that involves suffering or compromising.” This part feels guilty when I’m not working full-plus time in a job that I hate. When I don’t have every nook and cranny of my schedule booked and aligned with my goals or when I’m asking for my work to be better. It thinks that doing the things I don’t want to do is a temporary choice to suck it up so I can get to where I want to be- moving my chess pieces strategically, you know? And after that, I get to be happy— but way after earning my keep.

It makes sense on the one hand, and to me, even saying I want or deserve more comes from a place of privilege, but oof. I know that flowers don’t grow from barren land. They need nutrition, soil, seeds—and sunshine. When we sacrifice our oomph, our zest, our color, the whole reason why we are doing what we are doing, even if in service of our dreams, we are sadly missing the mark. Trying to manifest something from a place of dis-ease will either work against us or just feel shitty. And for what?

Why can’t we work hard but also enjoy and feel sustained by the work? There’s a difference between maintaining great focus, power, will, enthusiasm, and effort versus sacrificing our contentment, energy, time, values, and soul doing something that isn’t right or isn’t nourishing us. Work that drains our essence and causes us to feel unwell or restless or too stressed or underappreciated is a problem. It is a problem that we cannot completely avoid, but we can keep our eye on it—we can stare it down in the mirror when we need to or tell the truth when our loved ones say “hey, how’s work?”
I really feel that life is too short to spend time in ways that we don’t want to. There is a pang of knowing when I hear the teachers and leaders that I look up to say “go! be free! be happy! don’t waste another moment in a place you don’t want to be!” And I’ve seen the look of relief and grief when I tell my clients and students to do the same thing. I understand that it’s difficult. That we can’t just drop things and find something else out of thin air. I understand it takes time, figuring out, re-configuring, waiting, seeing, trying- and all that is part of what I believe needs to happen. That we must simply listen to ourselves. Hear our loved ones, help them, hypothesize, problem solve, support each other no matter what. With grace, with curiosity, with ease, with creativity.

May we all commit to search for more when we need to while being grateful for what we have? To hear our hearts’ calling for something, someone or somewhere else? Even if we end up standing exactly where we are at the end of it, our feet will feel a whole lot better because we were offered a seat.

With love and humility,