OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I was awoken at 1am a few "nights" ago by my 3 year old wanting a Sippy cup of milk. “Oh darn!” I thought, “I forgot to have one ready so I wouldn’t need to get out of bed.” As is customary, I was unable to fall back asleep even as she fell quite deeply into dreamland after just a few sips.

 

Instead of allowing my self hatred or anxiety to build as I laid there, I decided instead to do some embodiment work instead. I focused my attention on a nagging pain in my hip that had gotten louder over the past couple weeks. I meditated on it, moved my body as I was prompted, listened to the stories it shared with me and felt the sensations that erupted through my body.  From this 4 hour embodiment session comes this blog.

 

I first heard the phrase, “the invisible work of women” nearly 20 years ago. I heard it from a friend of mine who was very active in communities working to end hunger. She was telling me about the creation of something called The Africa Prize. The pursuit to end world hunger had taken them to the feet of an unexpected source: the “invisible work of women”. As such, they hoped to make the invisible visible by publicaly celebrating women in Africa who had done something incredible for their communities. At the time, I thought this was amazing insight on the part of these global leaders. I had no idea then how profusely this statement would come to permeate my understanding of the world in the decades to follow. Today, it is a go to statement of mine when trying to reconcile the sensation of feeling the fatigue of work and the pain of being unseen all at the same time.

 

Here are some examples of the types of things I have come to identify as invisible work:

  • The work of lying in bed for hours on end nursing and learning the cues of a newborn baby.
  • The work of transforming a child’s emotional upset into a moment of curiosity and wonder.
  • The work of tending to a mama in labor and her leaving with the feeling that she could have done it all on her own.
  • The work of providing a meal, a space, a gift that adds that extra sense of coziness to whoever is the benefactor.
  • The beaming smile or full bodied hug that leaves your heart shining and gives you the energy to continue on despite your fatigue.
  • The work of getting up in the middle of the night to get your child a sippy cup of milk.

 

There is so much work no one sees!  For some reason this work is laden with a mysterious shroud that leaves the skills and their artisans somehow unrecognized. I did not come to recognize any of it as work even after years of doing it myself.  I would feel exhausted, unseen and ultimately confused. I did not know how I had gotten into the state I found myself in. But, as I did my internal work to get back to myself, I started to notice all the work I did that was invisible even to myself. And as I started to see this, I started to see when others were doing the same work. Quite thrillingly I started to identify techniques that would help me get better at this invisible work. I started to celebrate others as they did this work. I started to also do the work of making the invisible more visible.

 

We ALL do things that feed our communities in ways that no one recognizes. My hope is that more of us will begin to identify the people and systems that provide these very important resources to our communities. My hope is that more of us will stop settling for fatigue, invisibility and confusion. Instead, let's agree to find ourselves and our power. Let's agree to support others in finding themselves and their power. If we each do this, we will give this necessary work the recognition it most certainly deserves.

Keep in mind that while historically, it is women who have done the greatest amount of this invisible work, but at its essence it is most certainly not genedered. I was handed a polka dot box with a lovely tag on it the other day by a stay at home father. Inside were the most delicious brandied cherries. I still think of these cherries and that box. I am deeply grateful to the work this papa put into creating something that made my world just a little bit brighter.

 

Let us celebrate ourselves. Let us celebrate each other. When we do this, we will come to live in a society where the invisible becomes visible and we can more properly respect the power of these all too important skills.

About the author

Community.Relationship.Intimacy.Sex.Birth and so much more. Do you know how to find yourself and the space between you and another? Nekole can help you find your way. One small warning....Nekole has been known to change lives!

Close