No matter how fulfilling your work may be there are times when you must make peace with it. No line of work is so smooth and perfect that it is completely gratifying all the time.
We are lucky if we realize at an early age Ralph Waldo Emerson’s truth that a person’s calling is in his or her talents. Those people who walk around wringing their hands crying, “I wish I knew what my life calling is” need look no farther than their talents. We all have built-in callings and they manifest in our passionate interests and talents.
We often have more than one calling. I am certain politics was one of my life works. I felt impelled to do it and had a natural affinity that manifested with very little stress at an early age but I always knew other interests and talents were just as important to me. I was happy when I completed my political work and could begin a more complete expression of those other interests.
My father taught me an important lesson. I have often told the story of the Englishman who had these words put on his tombstone: “Here lies John Smyth who cobbled shoes in this town 40 years to the glory of God.” Dad might well have put on his tombstone, “Here lies Roy Roberts who preached and repaired Volkswagens in this town 40 years to the glory of God.” He saw no greater glory in preaching than in crawling under a Volkswagen. This made a profound impression on me.
Once I spoke to a big minister’s conference. In preparation for a column I hoped to write, I made it a point to eat with a different minister at each meal and to ask each one, “Do you enjoy your work?” Not one minister answered with a hearty, “Yes!” It was always, “Well, I enjoy some parts of it but …”
That “yes but” attitude shocked me at the time but I have made peace with it. I am not sure I fully understand it but in following my own bliss – as Joseph Campbell described finding your calling – I have discovered there are blisters among the bliss.
One of my blisses is writing songs. I made a lot of money off one hit song but it was one among several hundred that have not made money. To just cut a demonstration copy of a song costs $200-400. Sometimes I find myself resisting spending money on these expressions of my bliss. It makes a big blister in my budget.
Those ministers may have felt bliss in creating and delivering sermons but then developed blisters in moderating church squabbles, being transferred to churches in areas they would never think of visiting, or conducting funerals or any aspect of a minister’s demanding work. I saw my own father deeply pained by some of his ministerial duties but I am certain he never doubted his calling. I am equally certain he never doubted his calling to work on VWs no matter how many times he skinned his knuckles or got grease from his nose to his toes.
He showed me that one way we can keep making peace with our callings is simply to fully accept them without wasting a lot of time in whirlpools of doubt brought on my the blisters.
The best way of all is to simply see that the doing of our work is the primary reward. It matters little how many hit songs we write but it matters deeply and completely how much joy we get in the writing itself.
My songs are like my children. If one of my children has Down’s Syndrome, it is still my child. I am going to love it and be proud of it. I m going to love every song life sends my way.
Yes, it is strange but bliss and blisters can live in amazing peace and harmony.
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