choked by the pink collar

Emotional Labour. A friend introduced this term to me a while back, during a time I was employed in a job I wasn’t happy in. Well, some days I was happy. Other days – most days – I was miserable, drained, and frustrated. The constant back-and-forth in my experience – the love/hate relationship with my work and what I felt it demanded of me every day – resulted in what could aptly be described as ’emotional labor’.

I’d been performing the same type of job for years, albeit in different environments, and I was finding it increasingly hard to continue the same routine. Every day my head would battle my heart in a ‘should I stay or should I go’ debate.

I left that job a few weeks ago. I was passionate about the vision of the organization, but that wasn’t enough.

It’s not the first time I’ve quit my job; and in previous instances, I’ve eventually returned to the same type of environment. And I understand why.

Through conversations with friends and loved ones, I know that so many of us have incredibly wonderful interests and desires, innovative business ideas that we know would fill our spirits and benefit the world around us. We want to feel that our work has meaning, and brings our particular vision of beauty to this planet.

We know the old structures are crumbling. We are aware of the early conditioning and mass programming that keeps us repeating the same patterns, and we work to shift that. But transformation doesn’t happen overnight. And in the meantime, there are bills to pay.

Things have changed so much in one generation, and the world today is very different from that of our parents. What is true security, in these times?

After the novelty of each new workspace wore off, I realized how bored I was. I also found myself straining to be nice all the time. Being ‘nice’ wasn’t in my job description, of course; but given the roles I was in, it was the underlying expectation.

Women often find themselves doing ‘pink collar’ work – jobs that are service-oriented and call for a perpetually pleasant and accommodating demeanour. For a long time I prided myself on being these things. Now I realize how unnatural this is. Sitting in front of a computer screen, indoors, under fluorescent lights, supporting people doing the work they are passionate about…it had taken an energetic and physical toll.

So many of us sense there must be something more. There is a heightened sense of urgency.

For the unfulfilled among us – it is our responsibility to step out of our secure, familiar ways and create the new. We already know this. It requires courage, entering discomfort zones, finding those whose vision aligns with ours, and trusting the universe. Easier said than done, maybe. But imperative, definitely.

It’s not frivolous to want joyful work. If consciousness is evolving and a new paradigm is emerging in all this chaos, it makes sense that all our creations, including our work, would align with this energy. In most of my conversations, a meaningful career has far less to do with individual wants and desires, and more about making the human experience better for all.

The un-learning and deconstructing of the past is important. So is patience and self-compassion. I don’t have any how-to’s or solid next steps. I only know that every minute is precious, and I must get these words out.

success is in the heart

For the first time in my life, I have a job where people don’t say, “You’re capable of so much more.” After years of working in more junior roles at the same organization, a few months ago I accepted a management position in a field I’m passionate about. Finally, I thought. For the first time, I can be proud of what I do. I have my own office filled with plants and books – and business cards! I don’t have to explain my career choices anymore.

And yet, something feels off.

In my previous position, a colleague once said to me: “You don’t seem particularly career driven.” I don’t think this was meant offensively, but I was slightly triggered and pondered her words for some time after.

The fact is, she was right. When it came to a day job, I never wanted the responsibility that came with senior level roles. I was always content to serve in a more support-type capacity, because I didn’t want to carry home any unnecessary stress. I liked being behind the scenes. I took pride in doing a good job, and I could forget about work at the end of the day.

For the most part, I was always motivated by something else, something much deeper for me. It was a personal, inner – spiritual – search. This occupied most of my energy, and that was hard (and often pointless) to explain to those who were more outwardly focused and who questioned why I didn’t challenge myself more, work-wise.

Fundamentally, I also never cared about title and prestige. It was an interesting paradox to feel triggered by the opinions of those around me, yet know deep in my heart that it ultimately means nothing. I understood I was so much more than my career.

Now here I am poised for change yet again, and I ask myself (yet again): what do I really want? Can I feel and follow the beat of my own drum, unplugging from others’ notions of what ‘success’ looks like? Seeds have been planted, and movement in a new direction is imminent. This involves leaving the company I’ve been with for many years and starting over in a new organization.

As I previously wrote, my home environment is changing too. In these times of upheaval all around, some of us are moving back to our roots (as the wonderful Laura mentions in her comment on my post). I’ve been spending time in the very neighbourhood I grew up in and, more than ever, it feels like home.

For so many years, I wanted to live anywhere but there. I had visions of starting life over in a foreign country where I knew no one and had no shackles of the past. And now, the place I grew up is the only place I want to be. I’m seeing my childhood, and the awesome beauty that surrounded me, with new and appreciative eyes.

In a way, it feels like rewriting time and history.

My friends laugh at me for moving and changing jobs so much. And yes, I am feeling a bit exhausted and want some stability. But then, is anything really stable these days? Can we accept that flux is the new norm? Though this little birdy is looking for a place to nest, she will always be grateful for the ability to fly to new surroundings and expand her horizons.

For now, my new direction feels good and as long as I trust my heart and intuition, I can’t go wrong.

keeping my words sacred

A couple of nights ago I went to a book launch party at the invite of a dear friend who wrote one of the chapters.  The book, The Thought That Changed My Life, features 52 authors recounting, as you might imagine, the one thought that changed their lives.  I have not yet read the book but after hearing some of the authors speak I am really looking forward to doing so (I got a free copy, yay!), as it was hugely inspiring and gave me further insight into the power of the mind, words, and thoughts.

As I have been writing about in this blog, a couple of months ago I decided to leave my job and I will be wrapping it up in the coming months.  As yet, there is no real plan in place.  I’ve realized in this process that I have to be very discerning as to who I reveal this information to.  Some people are highly supportive and excited for me, while others can’t imagine leaving a job without having something else solidified to take its place.  The latter group would probably feel it’s unwise and impractical – not to mention scary – to do such a thing.

There seems to be a general feeling among my circle of friends that the old way of doing things doesn’t work anymore, but the new way hasn’t fully formed yet.  This can lend to a sense of self-doubt about our decisions to leave jobs or cities that aren’t resonating with us anymore.  Which brings me back to my point about being discerning about who I share my intentions with.  I can be quite susceptible to the fears and doubts of others, which of course have nothing to do with me – unless I internalize them as my own. (Then again, in some cases it could be that I’m projecting my own self-doubt onto others, and interpreting their reactions through that highly questionable filter.)

The funny thing is, I often know better – I find myself sharing my thoughts and words with people who I know will not be supportive or encouraging, and who would not do the same themselves.  Why do I set myself up for that?  Many people will not take a risk or step into the unknown.  And there’s nothing really wrong with that – everyone has their own unique circumstances – but I always feel slightly bad after such an interaction.  Not ‘guilty’ bad; more that I’ve diluted something that is precious and sacred.  That I’ve wasted my words…words which represent the energy of what’s going on in my heart.   And then I have to get myself to a place where I feel ‘right’ and centred again.

crystal in sand in varkala beach, india

crystal in sand in varkala beach, india

I want to me more conscious and respectful of my desires, and speak of them only with people and in situations where they will be nourished.  I want to treat them with more care and reverence.

I’m in transition: experiencing a tenuous, raw space between my head and my heart, and I need to do all that I can do to move in the direction of my heart. So that living from there feels more natural.

The trouble is, the heart’s signs aren’t as easy to read when one has been living in their head for most of their life!  Thus I really appreciated being among such an inspiring group of people at the book launch.  I shared with a few of them where I’m at in my life, and I received nothing but support in my decision and ability to say ‘I don’t know what’s around the corner, but I know I can’t do this anymore’.  One of the authors asked what my dream in life is – something I’ve been asked numerous times before, always to space out and stammer something about not knowing, usually with a slight deer-caught-in-headlights expression.  I found myself about to do that again, but paused to think about how I really wanted to respond to that.

It is time that I let myself fully dream.  There’s always been a hesitancy with the dreaming…do i dare?…I hold my breath, and don’t allow it fully into my being.  So it doesn’t have a chance to make itself known to me, let alone express itself.

My head (and body) has long echoed with all the people and voices and social constructs and mass thought-forms that tell me why I can’t have, and live, my dream (and their reasons are endless).  But that’s ok and I’ve learned that resisting those voices doesn’t work for me.  My friend Sadee Whip mentioned the idea of spaciousness a few weeks ago, and I’ve been contemplating and feeling it ever since – that my true, essential nature wants to expand to include new ways of being, rather than use its energy to resist the old ways (and thus constrict myself).

So that’s the thought that’s currently changing my life.  I’m allowed to dream, with no limits to my imagination, and open myself up to whatever wonders dreaming lets in.

I think I just felt my heart smile.

change, change, change…

It feels like it’s been a long time since I last wrote.  I don’t even know exactly how long it’s been; the past few weeks have been a total whirlwind.  The whole time I was thinking about my blog and wanting to write, but truly not having the time.  (This is not something that happens often; I tend to have a lot of ‘me time’).   Not even a few weeks into it, and I already broke cardinal rule of blogging: write frequently!

One of the many things I’ve been up to is moving.  A dear friend of mine has decided to leave this city for a few months and travel to Europe, doing yoga/meditation type trainings and spending time with some cherished friends across the pond.  Lucky me decided to snap up her cheap apartment in one of the best parts of the city while she’s gone…and interestingly, my sublet ends at the same time I will be wrapping up my job.  This parallel timing makes me very intrigued about what I’m going to make happen for the Fall…because I have to make something happen!

I’m glad that I have given a few months notice at my job, because it’s allowing me to really know this is the right decision for me.   Although some days at work are excruciating because I can see the irresistible, seductive light at the end of the tunnel – which makes me realize just how energetically taxing it is to be sitting at a desk all day – I’m also trying to appreciate the really good things about my job, and grateful to have the time to prepare for what’s around the corner.   Even if I don’t know what it looks like – I have given myself time to figure it out, or at least get some clarity.   And my friend’s cozy living space, steps from the city but in a quiet neighbourhood adjacent to a huge park, is the perfect place to spend the summer being divinely inspired and plotting my next moves.

ganesha, the elephant-headed 'remover of obstacles' in hindusim

ganesha, the elephant-headed ‘remover of obstacles’ in hindusim (photo credit: Michele LaBelle)

Watching my travelling friend go through the process of cleaning out her teeny apartment these past few months has been really interesting.  This journey for her is more than just a 4-month travelling gig in Europe; it is taking a risk, and being open to something totally new presenting itself to her.  The proverbial saying ‘YES’ to life.  I’ve watched her get rid of possessions she’d been carrying for twenty years (and longer).  From clutter in her stationery drawer to family possessions loaded with intense memories and emotions, with every item she tossed in the garbage or recycling bin she become freer and lighter.  Not that this was an easy process; at times it was emotionally draining and positively pummelled her.  But by the time she stepped on the plane a few days ago, she was ready.  She had cleared her inner and outer spaces as best she could, and they can now be filled with new adventures.

I have several friends embarking on, or in the midst of, such odysseys.  I used to think ‘why them and not me?’.  (Compare and contrast…)  I would block it from my own experience through over-questioning how they made it happen (because really, that’s just my mind coming up with excuses why ‘they’ can and I ‘can’t’).  Now, instead, I hope to absorb through inspiration and osmosis their trust in life, their faith in the process, their confidence in themselves, their sense of adventure and surrender, and their ability to let life in and show them just how glorious it can be.  It’s a new thing for me.

I want to open to the idea that I’m being shown these things because it’s possible for me, too.  It sounds dramatic, but I feel like I’m being offered this summer to Make It Happen.  I wouldn’t say it’s my last chance for anything – that’s far too dramatic – but there is a sense of urgency that there is no more time to waste.

Writing about it on the Internet also adds a sense of accountability to the equation.  Even if I don’t have a big audience, it does make me want to step up my game.  Live up to my own challenge.

So we shall see what transpires in the coming months.  For now I’m enjoying getting settled into my new digs and using capitals in my blog posts.

liminal spaces

i thought that once i gave my notice at work, it would be easier to be there. that i would sail through the next few months, my days brightened by the light at the end of the tunnel. clearing out my inbox/sub-folders and de-cluttering might be kind of fun, and maybe i would even feel sad about leaving (or, at the very least, bittersweet).

but it hasn’t really been that way.

i have worked in administration for years. i’m good at it, and have been fortunate enough to always find employment. but two years have quickly turned to five, and then ten. and in the past few months, i have felt a strong, unavoidable calling to stop doing this kind of work for good. (you can read my post ‘the email from 2005‘ for more details on that stark realization.) not surprisingly, clerical work has never fulfilled me creatively, spiritually, or physically. but i was able to ignore all that for years and, for the most part, was pretty ho-hum about it. the pitfall, of course, is that i was never motivated to pursue anything else.


i recently told my boss over lunch that it would be my last few months at the job. i needed to have that conversation – to speak those words aloud, solidify them, make myself accountable. i had to show myself that i was listening and honoring what i was feeling. i had thoughts of quitting for years, but never did anything about it. i consequently got to the place where i didn’t take myself seriously and trust myself to do what was best for me to do. i also had to have this conversation without having a plan in place, because there was (is) no plan. only a strong intuition that i could no longer put off the inevitable – and i wanted to be the one in control of how that played out.

on the way back from lunch, i found a five dollar bill on the ground. i immediately viewed it as a sign; an affirmation that i had made the right decision and that i would be supported. i emailed a friend about the found money, and she brilliantly suggested i go to safeway and buy some food for the food bank, to keep the flow going. which i did, and it felt so right.

within days of lunch with my boss, i started my blog. i was feeling pretty euphoric by then. the creativity was flowing and i was receiving many ideas and inspirations. i felt excited and hopeful for the first time in years. it was as though that one conversation over lunch opened up a crack in my psyche, and whatever had been lying dormant for years surged through the crevice. it had been waiting so patiently, watching so vigilantly, and when it finally saw its chance, the floodgates opened.


at first i was enjoying feeling more balanced at work. it actually felt ok to have a job that had become routine, as i was now also engaging in that creative part of myself and feeding my soul in a new and profound (yet totally familiar) way.

but lately something interesting is happening. the pendulum keeps moving in one direction instead of coming back to balance. the more i engage my creative side, the more that part of me that’s not living this is struggling. i am living in two different worlds, and my body/psyche knows which one it wants to inhabit all the time. previously, it didn’t know what it was missing. now it has discovered a fine, delicious wine, and wants to be drunk all the time. it doesn’t want the boring routine anymore, and in fact can’t do the routine anymore. this puts the ‘bigger picture’ me in a very uncomfortable and somewhat surreal place. i could disconnect before, but now i feel fragmented. and my battery feels fast running out of juice.

i realize just how much i have been compromising for years, and this is painful.


i’m in the liminal space, the edgy place of transition. inevitable, exciting change is happening, but the road ahead is unclear. and that’s uncomfortable. the map is fuzzy. contradictions abound. i’m told i need to have a plan. but that i must trust and surrender. “don’t quit your day job.” but don’t waste another second in misery. i need to pay the rent. but i can’t sit at a desk in a windowless office all day for much longer. (just the thought of that leeches the life force out of me.)

the thing with the liminal space is that there’s no going back. i took a class years ago that discussed the liminal space in a ritualistic, spiritual context – that it is marks the transition from ‘old’ to ‘new’, a rite of passage of sorts. yes, i feel like i’ve wasted years in an office job, but for whatever reason(s), transition was not previously possible. now it’s here. and though there is discomfort, there is also perspective and a knowing that it couldn’t have happened a second sooner than it did. and a place of unknowing, surrender, and mystery is (for me) infinitely better than stagnation.

seth godin puts it this way: “the reason that art (writing, engaging, leading, all of it) is valuable is precisely why i can’t tell you how to do it. if there were a map, there’d be no art, because art is the act of navigating without a map” (‘linchpin’, p. 150).

i like looking at my life as my art, and that my process of clearing my canvas allows me to discover new colours.  i know i’m not alone in the liminal space; most conscious beings are feeling some sort of unrest at this time. though i am uncertain of what will transpire in my life and on the planet in the coming months and years, i am grateful to have the choice and freedom to paint my piece of the picture.