August 12, 2012 § 2 Comments
I admit that working as a waitress this year has had its challenges. I enjoy the work itself though working with others has offered me many opportunities to delve into some dark emotions, which I struggle to overcome. One of the things that has been turning around in my head is that I am working a job that is somehow “beneath” me, as I spent years educating myself, paying down large student loan debts and had until this point devoted most of my adult life to my career and worldly ambitions. Ha!
Life can be so humbling. I welcome the opportunity to be humbled and to learn the lessons that are presented to me.
I struggle with thoughts like these:
It’s a dead end job, I should be more respected, I should be promoted, other people shouldn’t tell me what to do (and especially not when they are younger than me!)
Interestingly, when I am serving some people, sometimes I can feel this same attitude directed towards me — who me?! I am serving in a very high-end restaurant and the average meal is $150 per person. Sometimes I sense the thoughts of the customers swirling about me in much the same way, they believe they are better than me, because of their education, their wealth, their class, their opportunities… the list goes on.
“Could you get me some more butter please Miss, and make it quick.”
Sometimes I start to burn up inside. And then other times I am overcome with a kind of nausea at my thinking, as I know how deeply flawed it is, I just don’t know how to find the truth of the situation and to move through it with grace. I can’t find my way to peace and yet I know it is there, waiting for me to crack the code. Inside I want to believe that life should have rewarded me more for all my hard work in the past. I feel bitter and frustrated by this.
Last week I had an epiphany that sent shivers up my spine. Finally I got what I already knew all along, that all of us are actually equal, regardless of our age or background or wealth or education. This is a hard one for me, as somewhere along the line I internalised a belief that if I worked harder I would be entitled to more. I believed that the more educated I got the more jobs would be available to me, and that therefore the more fulfilled in life I could become. I am ashamed to admit also that on some very deep level unconscious to me I also adopted a class consciousnsness. I believe that most of us have this class consciousness whether we are aware of it or not, it dictates how we move through the world.
The reason we feel ashamed of this is because on an even deeper level we know that it is false. In absolute truth, not one of us is better that another. I am not better than you because I am older or more educated, and you are not better than me because you are richer, more dignified, more travelled, more fit, or more beautiful, etc.
We exist as equals actually because equality is our birthright, it is inherent, our equality exists as inseparable from our life itself.
Once we know this, the rest becomes a lot easier.
Suddenly, I am serving you because in this theatre piece called “waitressing”, there is an impulse to create beauty, to be of service to your experience, to be a participant in something special in your day, not because you are better than me, but because this is the job we both signed up for. You get to be served, I get to serve — should and when we both so choose. Together, magic can and often does take place.
Behind the kitchen doors, the backstage of the play, awaits an even greater opportunity to practice the skills that make us human: listening, respect, honesty, laughter, compromise, humility, acceptance, letting go.
It’s always strange for me to serve someone in this fancy restaurant and then run into them downtown the next day, both of us in our street clothes, the theatre long since passed. Here on the streets we meet again, but this time as equals, the costumes removed, how awkward….
I realise that most jobs present us with the lessons we need to learn in life, even if they don’t always make sense to us at the time. One could even go as far as to say that there is only one job, and that is to learn how to love.
Let’s take this out of the restaurant and apply it on a global scale. Let’s admit that most of the suffering in the world happens because in some unconscious place inside ourselves our thinking is flawed. We believe that some should have more while others have less because we are better than them — better by virtue of our gender, or race, or education, or income, or culture, or… fill in the blanks! We allow other people to suffer, or worse yet, we consciously inflict suffering onto others, because on some level we believe that it is OK. Along the way we hurt others and at the same time we hurt ourselves, but often we aren’t aware of it at all.
And even when the awareness is there, we might still struggle with finding a way to act in accordance with what we believe. I know I do.
Many of these ideas coalesced in conjunction with a book I was reading this morning by Marianne Williamson entitled “Everyday Grace”.
In it she writes:
Compassion in the workplace does not mean we should lower our standards, acquiesce to the violation of boundaries, or indulge a sloppy performance. It does mean, however, recognizing that in God’s world no one is above and no one is below. That does not mean that no one gets to be the boss or that leadership should not be respected. It simply means that the salute of one soul to another should be at the core of every relationship.”
I wish for you beauty, pleasure, and love in the theatre pieces you encounter over the next days.