When WORK is Not Really WORK

by Jim Gleason, heart transplant recipient 10/19/94

Every day, millions of people around the world "go off to work." I have been fortunate enough in my lifetime to have spent several extended periods (often years on end...) when I can honestly say that this common "work" experience has been so pleasant that there must be yet another word to describe the experience. In this short piece I would like to share my insights and propose another word to use that will distinguish between these two very different types of life experiences. Your thoughts and input are most appreciated since this is truly a "work in progress" and will undergo many revisions before it is clear enough for the average "worker" to understand the concepts I am trying to share. It is hoped that, once understood, these concepts could be a driving force in allowing people to shift their "working" life into one better described by some other word - a word I am asking you, the reader, to help develop.

Work! What thoughts come to mind when we use that word? "Work" in the thesaurus is synonymous with words like: labor - drudgery - toil - grind - exertion - moil ("moil" is one I'll have to go look up) and these synonyms bring out some of the difference I am talking about. While work is honorable, most people see it in a negative light, something they "have to" do, a necessary evil that fills up too much of their lives between times of pleasure (i.e., weekends and vacations) and doing what they would really like to do. Terms like "Blue Monday," the middle day of the work week referred to as "hump day," while Friday is "TGIF" ("Thank God It's Friday") all further support this all too common attitude of desire to avoid the activity that typically takes up 40 or more hours of our life every week. What a shame to see so much life-time sacrificed for the sake of the ever too short weekend.

Each of us has many natural talents, interests, skills that, if properly channeled, could produce not only the benefits associated with "working" - i.e., financial rewards, creature comforts, affirmation of our self-worth, etc. - but also the added benefit of not being such a drag on our natural desire to "live and enjoy life." Just look at our editor in retirement, uncle Bill, and the many talents and interests he has devoted himself to over the past two years. Truly he is "working" harder than he did prior to retirement in areas we never even knew he had talents - i.e., carpentry, writing, gardening, baby sitting, just to name a few.. If we could "work" in harmony with these natural internal interests, such activity would be more like fun and what we often call "play." What word can we associate with this harmony with one's nature? Someone has suggested "endeavor." That's a good term, but it doesn't go far enough in my mind. See the hobbyist "working" in their favorite rose garden - is this person "working" in their garden? I think not. They are "playing" in their garden, no? The problem with "play" is we associate it with being frivolous and not stepping up to our responsibilities in life - again, a negative connotation that I don't associate with the process we're trying to describe here. How about Betsy and her painting and beautiful craft work - or Jay and her hours of counted cross-stitching - grandmom and her books, maintaining her library of hundreds of titles (amid the teddy bear collection - the hours put in on the family newsletter? How about the many hours of loving care everyone works so hard at with caring for Ceil? No, they all will readily tell you honestly that this is not work - this is love!

At yet another level, is the arduous effort and long hours Mother Theresa spends with the sick and poor of her beloved India properly described as "work?" No, this is a labor of love - but the word "labor," of and by itself, doesn't convey the essential difference either, does it? What word shall we use?

How about the scientist who spends days and nights without sleep engrossed in cancer research so driven that he/she doesn't notice the passage of time? Is this effort properly described as "work?" What of the person so deeply involved in their own business, again as a labor of love - i.e., like the artist working on their personal "Sistine Chapel" - what word can we use to distinguish this activity from the "work" everyone else associates with such long hours and hard labor?

Is the lover preparing a special romantic dinner for his intended "working in the kitchen?"

"Help me find a word to describe this definitely different kind of work, please!"

This is how the original article ended and was shared with many friends. The suggestions came in - some very creative ideas like: "Laver" from "Labor and Love," and "Fraber" from "Fruits of Labor," to mention a few. We had some interesting discussions - but nothing really seemed to hit the mark - until a close friend in Albany, NY reacted immediately with the most insightful answer of all: recreation - but she added the re-focused pronunciation of the word by saying: "re-creation" and explained that when a person is working in the manner I had described they are re-creating themselves!

WOW!! That was it. What a perfect word. Just think about it. When we work on something that is out of harmony with our natural self we get tired because of the tremendous drain on our energy. But when we "work" in true harmony with ourselves, one doesn't get tired - rather we feel "great" and typically can extend our "working" hours well beyond the norm. Yes, we sweat and huff & puff, but we feel re-energized when finished. We have truly re-created ourselves in this endeavor, right? Do you agree that this is the best word to describe my concept? If not, offer yet a better one.

Meanwhile, Karen Pass - I think you have found the word I was searching for - and you did it so easily - working in harmony with your inner self, naturally! Thanks!

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