Why Do We Compartmentalize Work?

Every once in a while I still hear the word "compartmentalize." Not as much as I used to, maybe because it's cool to be "integrated" these days. "Whole systems" are in. But I still work with clients who put their Lifey-Life stuff over there, and their Worky-work stuff over here.

Of course they KNOW one affects the other, but there still seems to be a big barbed compartmentalizing-wired fence between the two.

I have always sucked at compartmentalizing, and I used to feel like a weak victim of my emotional life because when something was going down in my personal life I couldn't keep the mood out of my professional life. Of course, we've all leaned on things like jobs as anchors and levelers when other sh*t is kicking our emotional arses from here to kingdom come.

The point being--back to integration and whole systems--is, when you look at your life as a whole, you may have more luck finding deep satisfaction in playing all the parts with each other, instead of against each other. And feel like you have more choice, more room to move, more possiblities.

I was in a chronic head banging situation for years because I wanted to find that one thing and drive it home for decades to come. Which wasn't me. I do a few different things for work, just as I like to swim various strokes, and do various sports and read various types of books. How about you? Have you ever wrestled with goals that just weren't YOU? (But sounded like nice, easy ones to have?)

Here's a little something mind-sparking on the topic, from David Whyte's The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship:

"In many ways, work must be a marriage; otherwise, why would we put up with so much over the years? We must have made hidden vows somewhere to follow something larger than the difficulties of the everyday."

I love the hidden vows part. It's like busting the mystery of the stuggle -- it's there, god knows why but let's make it glorious and give in to the current of ... OUR PERSONAL wonderful struggle.

So here's the thought, question, adventure of the mind for you:

What if work and life aren't separate things that need to be compartmentalized but INSTEAD are part of an ongoing conversation that shapes our identity through time? What if work is another higher marriage, a commitment to ourselves in how we express ourselves in whatever falls under the umbrella of "life's work"? How do we express our true selves in the daily life tasks of our work and jobs?

PS: I do use the words "career" and "job" and "profession" -- usually when I'm talking to others because I do value connection and communication.

But in my personal world, it's called my Life's Work, -- and that word Work is broad and encompassing and ever-changing. It's what I do day-in, day-out. Some for money, some of it not. It's important to have the right percentage of paying work though, we're not martyrs here!