Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What is work?

For some time I have been working through Maria Campbell's book "Half Breed".  Her descriptions of her childhood echo through me at times.  These last moments of metis life a time where things could have still been better if government and the church had cared. 

Campbell describes wash days, of going to the river with the clothes and the picknicks.  She paints the Kookums sitting in the shade teaching, overseeing the gathering of moss for diapers, berries and medicines while the children played in the water and the women worked talking to each other, stopping to sit in the shade and to share food.  She describes how the white settlers would pass and see only lazy Indians who did not know how to work. 

This highlights the white perspective on work as something that was very separate from rest of life, as something that was not enjoyable, that was continuous and "stopped" very definitively.  The patriarchal picture of the home as a retreat from the world.  All very Calvinist.  This has made me think about my relationship to work and the "work-life" balance that is very popular at this moment.  This often seems to be used as meaning you don't take work home and you take your vacations each year, but for me it is the opposite.  Nothing makes me quite so happy as working on my project in the sunshine at the park while my children play.  Analysis is not a linear thing and the metis/native way makes way more sense.

I am smarter and more productive when I work with others and share ideas, take breaks, fill in empty moments with other tasks, when I take time to listen to the elders, when I am challenged by children playing around me.  I am a better mother when my mothering is not squished into a few hours after work and when I can show my children what I do and we can talk about the challenges I face and how I deal with them.  I think about my children at work and my work at home.  They are a continuum in my life.  I don't want to go away from the children and elders, I want them there in the everyday.  They are life.

The separateness does not serve any of us.  I know that some people don't have jobs where work is flexible in the same way, but I have also been recently impressed by Uber, where people are picking up work where they want and taking the time they need to do other things and where work is not 100% or nothing.  The drivers are happier.  I met the older gentleman who just likes to drive and can do that and make some extra money.  The student who is working hours that fit around his classes.  I meet people who are happier and less rushed and it is really nice.  It is nice to be around people who like what they are doing and who are not angry and stressed.  I want to be that kind of person. 

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