My dad used to come home from a day of landscaping and say, "Ugh, another hard day at the office. The florescent lights were really bad." And we would go off on a facetious rant about his imaginary office, with his jerkface boss and all the paperwork he had to do all day.
Sometimes he'd also talk about what he actually did all day, which was hang out outside on some of the most beautiful land with some of the most beautiful views on Orcas Island, designing and installing native plant landscapes and "playing" on his excavator. His career went through many iterations, because he owned the small landscape company and he could change what he did based on what he was most passionate about, which is how he came to specialize in native plants. Sometimes he restores salmon habitat now, or is hired by nonprofits to pull toxic, creosote-soaked old telephone poles out of tangles of driftwood on the beach. (This is all despite having broken his back in 1985 and having to live with chronic pain from obliterated spinal discs. He's a casual bad-ass.)
When I visited for a couple weeks last September, the first thing he suggested was that I get on his excavator and move some rocks around the yard, because, you know, we all have our ways of expressing love, and a big part of his is teaching his kids to operate heavy machinery.
I didn't realize how unique some of this was until my mid-twenties, when my friend Megann visited us and became totally enthralled by my dad's uncompromised life. For years afterwards, she would do a performance of something he told her as he arrived home from work, and she did it so many times that I still remember it word for word. She'd simultaneously get very goofy and very intense, and say in an accent my Dad doesn't actually have, "The first thing we have to ask ourselves every day is," and then she would pause, crook her finger in the air, and lean in for emphasis - "Are we having fun?" (Dramatic pause.) "And if you hesitate! If you hesitate for even one moment - you have got to ask yourself some serious questions." It was hilarious, but also, I was just shrugging. Like, that's basic follow-your-bliss parent stuff. Why is that so memorable? But she admitted her parents had given her the exact opposite advice, like, "Get with the program. You're not going to like your job - nobody likes their job." Which sounded totally bizarre. (I'm so grateful that it sounded totally bizarre.) But it turns out a lot of people's parents told them that. I guess when you have parents who hitchhiked to Alaska for their honeymoon back when it was a dirt road, you get different life advice, and I genuinely didn't realize that.
The reasons that Megann died are complicated and probably something I'll never fully understand, but I do wonder if she might have lived longer if more people she loved had told her that she had a right to prioritize being happy, that we actually really deeply wanted her to.
Just now I was standing on the deck at the rainforest preserve retreat center where I'm living in Costa Rica, drinking cinnamon hot chocolate, wearing a lacy sport bra as a shirt, and looking at the Caribbean, and the thought popped into my head, "Another hard day at the office."
I started laughing. Thank you, Dad.
This has nothing to do with working hard or not. I want to make the world better. A lot of that involves focus and dedication, and sometimes doing hard things that aren't my favorite things to do. But mostly it doesn't involve hardship or sacrifice at all. What is wholesome and purposeful tends to be satisfying in a way that nothing less authentic can be. I really like working when work feels like that. And usually, the healthier I get, the more I refuse to compromise into a state of feeling chronically compromised, the more a solution that actually works well for everyone appears. I'm watching the Great Resignation with the pride of an auntie on the sidelines watching a kid's winning soccer game. Like, hell yeah - I may not know what you need, but I know y'all deserve to spend your lives without hesitating for even one moment to know you're having fun and you're appreciated. And if you need a pep talk, I know someone you can talk to.
Anika M. Zabohne is an intuitive counselor, writer, and cranio-sacral and massage therapist who lives in Washington State and the rainforest of southeastern Costa Rica, and loves animals and plants. You can schedule online sessions with her via All Manner of Magic.