By Jackie Morfesis
Meditating on women’s work brings to mind the path we take beginning with our education and then all the employment we have held that hopefully and eventually leads us to settle into our true calling. I think of being a visual artist and then pursuing the liberal arts and humanities and then after my undergraduate and graduate degrees returning to school to obtain my teacher certification. I think of my outreach work, volunteerism and teaching, both here and overseas. Or perhaps, my current employment is the definition of my work. And then as I was thinking of how to structure this rooted yet ever changing path, a soft, small, still voice whispered in my ear: “No, Jackie, speak to the deep work.”
“The deep work?” I asked. Of course, the deep work. This is the work that most likely began before I even knew the concept or definition of work. This is the work that began before I even finished elementary school. The work before any of my formal degrees. The work that perhaps no one saw nor congratulated nor acknowledged nor awarded. The deep work, the inner work, the soul work.
And yet, for me, the work that also matters. This is the work that leads us down the meandering path, the one overgrown, perhaps rocky, untamed and wild. The one that is not only a path but a lifelong journey. The work that crosses our paths with kindred spirits, who resonate to our deepest core callings. The work that infuses us, fires us, remolds us, and transforms us. And this is the work where we resonate with others who are doing the work.
It’s hard work, sometimes painful, even grueling. It’s self-excavating and healing. It’s turbulent, passionate, calming and soothing – a cauldron of contradictions. But one that like the alchemical bath cannot leave us unchanged. And first and foremost it is the work that gives us our authentic voice. And not only to us, but creates advocates who support others to speak their truth. It’s the type of work that responds with compassion to others who suffer and struggle. And the type of work that honors everyone’s story. It is not the work that tells anyone when they speak their truth about those who harmed them in the past with, “Well, everyone has a past.” It is the voice that calls for accountability and justice.
This is also the path that has affinity to all, both past and present, who stood in their power. It is said that Michelangelo chipped away everything that wasn’t David. In the same way, when we bravely engage and commit to creating a soulful life we courageously allow what is not our most authentic self to fall away. This is a process, not a goal. A journey, not a destination. And a glorious, exciting venture into the unknown.
In many ways, the work we do in the world that others see is fortified, fed and nourished by the deep work that may not be visible. And yet, it is absolutely felt. And it reverberates like the ripples upon the ocean. The deep work is connecting to the masculine, the feminine, and all the archetypal energies that fortify us. Mother energy that nurtures, daughter energy that is free- spirited. It allows us to follow our heart. It took me to Greece to study the goddess Persephone and her message of descent and rebirth. It allowed me to serve at an overseas orphanage. It gave me the strength to care for my mother and to hold my dear friend in my arms at his passing. And it is birthing “Mermaid Crossing,” in many ways a book I have been writing since I was a child.
And it is the work that seeks to celebrate and connect. I was fortunate to attend the wonderful event Women Rising! by the Sophia Institute in Charleston. Among the many speakers was Marianne Williamson. She shared how her father encouraged her in his divine masculine energy when she needed it most. I personally shared with her a similar story of needing support from my own father when I was waiting in Philadelphia International airport to depart to Cyprus to do prison education work. I phoned him and he could hear the anxiousness in my voice. Instead of responding with comforting encouragement he exclaimed forcefully: “Where is your backbone, get on the plane!” Yes, the work involves courage, love, compassion, mercy and a backbone. The deep work. Really, the only kind.
Jackie Morfesis is a writer, artist and advocate. She holds a bachelor’s in fine arts from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, teacher certification and master’s in liberal studies from Rutgers University and was a Rotary Scholar to Greece. Her first poetry book, “Persephone Rising” was published by Gorgias Press and her second poetry book, “Mermaid Crossing” is forthcoming. She serves in prison ministry and re-entry in the Charleston area.