on “work” and the power of language

let’s talk about the term work.

we use it in lots of different contexts:
– a job
– something that feels challenging or hard
– to indicate whether or not something is functioning as expected or needed
– to describe something that is produced or accomplished

we have a range of perceptions about its various meanings and reactions to its role in our lives, both positive associations (like fulfilling, motivating, or safe) & negative ones (like stressful, overwhelming, or boring).

we also tend toward dichotomies to describe it: incomplete vs complete, broken vs fixed, well vs badly done.

it’s common in a therapeutic setting to refer to healing as “the work”–whether you’re addressing injury, illness or psychic pain, healing can take a lot of effort & dedication–and it’s something i hadn’t questioned until my therapist recently invited me to explore my use of the term.

while for many folks the term “work” is unencumbered, my therapist wanted to make sure that my use wasn’t unintentionally activating old neural pathways of stress & compulsion rather than newer ones of compassion. (you may similarly find that exploring the meaning certain terms hold & using more precise language can allow for more authenticity & self-compassion.)

i clarified that in this context i was referring to:
– the CHALLENGE of doing the work
– the GIFT of the opportunity to heal
– the ALIGNMENT WITH MY PURPOSE that i feel in learning about myself & the world
–and this clarification actually brought me to the term that more accurately encompasses my intent: the PRACTICE of healing.

just like work, a practice can be challenging & requires dedication–but is done from a place of opportunity rather than obligation. It is an invitation that we extend to ourselves rather than an expectation we impose, a gift we give ourselves each time we engage with it. there is no right or wrong way to do it & it’s not about fixing anything, only about showing up for ourselves with care.

a practice creates space for me as i am and for what i need–diffusing the instinct i sometimes still have to make myself smaller to fit a situation. and as @alpinenutrition recently posted, “the world needs more of you, not less.”

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