We hugged as we said our good wishes and I watched him from the bedroom window as he departed on Thursday. He has been slowing down recently, his back buckling from the pressures of life, the lies of people and the lingering thoughts of death. He ambled away to his car carrying his white cloths for his walk towards God and I retreated into my writing corner, cushioned by the week ahead of me with a rush of fondness for my yearly accounts. The end of year has always made me want to erase the last week of the calendar, so I can allow my soul to circumambulate. It has become a yearly practice, the annual pilgrimage of my soul.
Pilgrimage comes from the Latin peregrinus, or foreigner. Originally denoting a person who is “from abroad” it slowly became the word for a religious and spiritual journey we undertake. I am a convert to the practice that our soul is better off when we recognize and reorganize it. My husband and I have seen the world together, but we still need our annual pilgrimage alone. We reset the compass, jiggle our boundaries and sit with some truth that has pushed itself forward. Pilgrimage is when we are no longer foreign to ourselves but come home to who we are.
Pilgrimage requires traveling, or does it? When you travel across borders a thousand miles, you are stretched. When you make your pilgrimage by withdrawing in to your own life, you are deepened. Both essential for taking stock and moving forward with intent.
There are topics I circumambulate every year. Work is one of them and of course, there is WORK and there is w…o…r…k. The poet, Blake calls work a firm persuasion, when what we do is good for ourselves and for the world at the same time. Not for one or the other but both and at the same time. That persuasion cannot sustain itself unless it has a fire at its centre, an underlying force that allows us to see the wider, grander horizon. Most of us know the feeling when we start something with eagerness and full engagement, be it our work in the office or at home. Then one grey morning we just walk in feeling bored, spent, used and secretly thinking of other things we would rather do.
Because there is WORK and there is w…o…r…k. WORK is the big, loud job title we carry around so daintily, the title that pays our bills and comes with 360 assessments, appraisals, managerial feedbacks and the shiny shoes in the grand office. Dinners at the weekdays when we smugly tell others what we do for living when, in fact, that is what we do for dying. The emptiness and the dry greyness in the eye says it better than I can with words.
Then there is w…o…r…k. This humbler and softer pace, the slow and conscious creation of our lives, the love we pour into our next project we did not anticipate but landed on our lap or our families. The gentleness we weave into our conversations, the way we structure our days. This is the work of those who serve others without recognition and hashtags. The work that goes deeper than the London underground system and needs no loudspeakers. When we focus on our w…o…r…k. we understand that we cannot do our WORK without our w…o…r…k. We must see the broad horizons to make sense of why we do what we are paid for. Our w…o…r…k. is hard-won, it comes slowly and in an intimate way we can only realize when we are not blinded by ego, glitter or the fake façade of fame.
May every be the year when we find our w…o…r…k. in the world.