The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

–Wendell Berry

This little poem speaks volumes about what it takes to stay committed to our relationships and our dreams. More often than we would like to admit, and often accompanying a significant loss, we confront the brutal truth that we really don’t know where we are going or what to do. It is a disquieting realization. This moment of not knowing will show us more about ourselves than all of the days we spend certain of the next step.

Living with ourselves during the groundless moments of pure bafflement is not easy. All of our critical inner voices seem to shout louder and small inconveniences have the weight of real problems. Stepping out of our stories to gain a truer perspective feels like a steep climb up. This is a time when I cut myself while chopping vegetables or stub my toe on a couch that hasn’t moved in years. I seem to attract the impediments like a magnet. Keeping the mind focused on routine chores requires effort. It is especially hard to maintain the caretaking of others when we feel lost to ourselves.

So it is not surprising, but it hits like a double whammy when our relationship falters under the strain of holding ourselves on the edge of the unknown. This is by definition a lonely time, and often requires a language of emotions that is as unfamiliar as the experience itself. Distancing ourselves from our loved ones does not help, but it is easy to do. All the more so when our bafflement comes from the relationship itself. Relationships go through these same places of groundlessness and, precisely when we need to lean in and learn how to love more, we pull away.

Goodness suffices and endures forever; on this throughout its years true love depends. –Ovid

Here is the solution to the moments of groundless, up against the wall, no place to turn kind of time – be kind to yourself and practice goodness with everyone you love, or better still everyone you know. Watch for goodness around you and feel happy that you were there to bear witness. It sounds simple, but it isn’t. It requires vigilance and practice and a willingness to let go of the habitual thoughts that trap us.

Love is the antidote to fear. Fear is often the emotion that holds us tightly in our moments of loss. So try to love more when you are lost, beginning with yourself. I recently read that altruistic behavior actually heals. We feel better when we help other people because in the act of offering love, we are given a true perspective. A perspective that provides a wide enough view to lead you back to a path with heart.


Ana Marija R.
ANA MARIJA R.6 years ago

Enjoyed the article:)

Beverly R.
Beverly R.6 years ago


Tammy Jones
Tammy Jones6 years ago

it was good to read that I am not alone in these thoughts...really enjoyed the article:)

April Theberge
April Theberge6 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Elaine Dixon
Elaine Dixon6 years ago

Very intesting ... thanks

Iron Steel
Iron Steel6 years ago

Making people happy & paying good intention to the other make oneself clear where to go & what to do next, eventually how to live meaningfully.........

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.6 years ago

Interesting- also in the sense of 'weird'. Love doesn't exist and you recommend something that doesn't exist. :-(

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.6 years ago

Very interesting! Thank you.

Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

So much truth. We need to have compassion for ourselves through those difficult moments.

Sue A.
Susan A.6 years ago

How nice - thank you!