Gag me with a pain.

My home page on my computer is Google.  One of the gadgets I have on that page is the French Audio Word of the Day.  It's a little game I play, seeing if I know the word in English, and then trying to pronounce it before I hit the button that lets the lady in the computer say the word or phrase.  Four years of French in high school and some at college were not a total waste.  Mostly, but not totally.

Today's word was 'le gagne pain'.  Not only could I not say it, I had no idea what it meant. It's pronounced 'le gang pan', accent on gang.  It means job.  I almost chuckled.  When I saw what it meant and what it looked like, the French words morphed into English words as  'gag me, pain'.

Ever since I was a teenager, I've worked to define work.  My mom didn't work outside the home. Instead she slaved at home with 4 kids and a fairly demanding husband.  It turns out my dad hated his job, thus lived for the weekends, which for the most part involved boats, body surfing, or board surfing.  A good life for a batch of kids, who had no clue about what their dad did the other five days of the week.  Due to a variety of circumstances, he was able to retire at the young age of 49, with two young sons still at home. 

I started working as soon as I could get a permit, 15 1/2 years old.  And I've never stopped.  I wasn't forced into it, I just wanted to work.  I saw how dysfunctional (not a word back then), teen-age job environments were.  But more than that, how whacked the environments were for the adults that ran them!

Somewhere in my junior year of high school, my folks told me they wouldn't send me to college because my three younger brothers needed it more than me.  It was that simple.  Ut-oh. Plan A was not to be.  Better come up with a Plan B.    

Education comes in many ways.  One is via the school of hard knocks.  It's a fine and well-recognized institution and when it appears on a resume it usually says 'experience'.  Another way is to just try stuff.  And then try more.  Another is to develop a gift or talent, which is good but I was not aware of any gift or talent I had. 

As I worked through what I should do, I realized I needed a reality check about how I viewed work.  Was it going to be like my dad - suffering commutes to LA, 7am-7pm daily, giving up five days of the week for two?  Was it going to be attending school without purpose but getting something done and living at home?

The biggest ah-ha was realizing that when I thought of work, every word associated with it was negative.  I actually made a list, a long list, of them.  Some I recall were: job, chore, boredom, effort, bland, dumb, wasted time, un-purposed, ineffective, un-stimulating,  un-rewarding, routine.  Not too good, eh?

Maybe I'd find rewarding work if I first started living the qualities that I wanted expressed in my life and then bring them to the employment party.  Qualities like productive, fun, challenging, learning, thoughtful, flexible, dedicated, changing, adventuresome, inside, outside.  That sounded like good work to me.  If I lived those qualities they'd  find a place and/or be in demand in my life. 

I found out I like being in charge of my time and my work.  I like being accountable.  I like challenges.  I like finding or being part of solutions.  I don't like 'normal'.  I like making up my job.

When Carl and I got married at relatively young ages, we agreed that being mediocre would not be acceptable.  We'd rather be under the middle, than stuck in it.  We discovered we were the world's worst employees.

He had dreams to realize.  I bought into that completely.  Yet he did the same for me as, as I discovered who I was, and what I could do, breaking through the self-imposed roles and limits of life, and not being afraid of making shifts when necessary.  One day he said to me 'Will you give up your mother?!"  Aahhh, permission to not be the perfect homemaker, and know that even with kids we could do it differently but still get 'it' done.

What a thrill to be able to see that over the decades work has been and continues to be a diverse pleasure, sometimes a pain, sometimes offering up situations that may make one want to gag.  And mediocre has never ever been in the equation.

And the other thing I found out?  The same way of thinking about qualities in life, does a pretty good job of finding a life partner!

Live richly,



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