I met someone recently and attempted to do that small talk thing. And right when we got to that point when I was getting fidgety because I knew that “So, what to you do?” question was coming – she shocked me by asking me how I “spent my time.”

My old career was lucrative but dissatisfying. Since deciding to bail on it, move across the country and start over, I’ve been doing a lot of things that are not easily labeled, or that…you know… pay me cash money. I’ve been a volunteer, a voracious reader, a homemaker, a student, a cook, a writer, a wife, a friend, a blogger, a quilter, a dog mom, a downsizing coordinator and a bills manager.

But none of those really fits in with the definition of what people are looking for when they meet you at a party and ask what you “do” – they want to know what you get paid for so they can quickly categorize and move on.

But, “Nurturer of My Own Spirit” looks odd on a business card.

Even for those who have traditional jobs, their titles hardly tell the whole story. Husband’s job in marketing doesn’t communicate his soft spot for iambic pentameter or his devoted yoga practice. So why do we always start there?

All my life I’ve wanted to contort myself, Cirque du Soleil-style, into a neat box that is easily labeled. I’m now beginning to wonder why such a restrictive confinement and sharp corners look so attractive to me. Because in truth, all my recent random “jobs” make me feel like I am making a more significant contribution to the world than my old gig that came with the paycheck.

It made me think about the word income…meaning what comes in to my life and my home because of my labor. When did contribution to the world become only measured in dollars? When did contribution to the family only include the stuff that comes from a store? While Husband’s income might be monetarily more than mine, it does not mean that my contribution is insignificant. What comes in to my home because of my labor is not measurable in our societally dictated way. Part of my in-come is the fact that I feel like a whole and complete human being because of what I am able to contribute through the odd, unpaid and soul satisfying “jobs” that I do. Part of my income is the fact that I feel I am my authentic self; I make my home a peaceful place, I am a good friend, a good partner and a conscious citizen of the planet.

How do you measure that?

Of course there have been sacrifices that come along with not having the paycheck I had before – but it’s been totally worth it. Because what was my in-come, really, when I was making a good wage, but my heart was full of discontent and frustration? What was I bringing into my home then?  

So, this is just a sincere thank you to those who do not define another’s worth by what they fill out on their tax form. And a gentle reminder to myself that asking someone what they "do" might not be reflective of their entire being.