“Julie and Julia” — Great Role Models for Joyous Work

Probably the most under-rated spiritual value is joy. Maybe that’s what Jesus implied when he said that to enter the kingdom of heaven, we need to become again like little kids — especially if we’ve become too accustomed to dry, boring “worship” services, deadly dull diets, and tedious workdays.

True joy is an amazingly unselfish spiritual gift. Joy begets a light heart, plenty of energy, resourcefulness, and the longing to help others find joy. Thanks to the spirit and work movement, I’ve thoroughly learned how to distill joy out of any task, even when reality also includes sorrow, grief or other honest emotions.

Now, thanks to the new movie “Julie and Julia”, my full joy is back in cooking, eating, and sharing food with others. That may not be my paid work, but it sure affects all my paid work and dealings with money. Plus, I’ve got a whole new pair of role models for persisting in any vision around work and money.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Role Model for Any Challenge

In case you missed it, “Julie and Julia” refers to a hot new movie starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. Julie is Julie Powell, who recuperated from the daily drudge of an often thankless job by cooking her heart out after work.

Julia Child is the legendary author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which for 50 years has brought a lot more joy into many American kitchens through her book and her PBS tv shows.

Both women sought purpose; both found it around food. Julie’s decision to cook her way through all 524 recipes in Julia’s cookbook and blog about it became a lively journey that intertwines her story and Julia’s. Like any great story, its essence is about all the things the characters learn and the new gifts they wrestle out of themselves in the process of living zestfully. Then there is the essence we can create for ourselves as we allow the story to become an ingredient in our lives.

“Julie and Julia” are loaded with lessons for the kitchen of any soul:

1.    Start with what you love. Whether looking for a new career or an answer to a puzzling problem, start with what you care about most, and give it love all the way. Do it with gusto, not drudgery, even when the task itself is difficult.

2.    Know and stay true to  your own standards. Somewhere inside, you know what really matters to you. Consider the wisdom and perspective of others and let them guide you, not rule you.

3.     Work with allies, not alone. Be an ally to others and find all the family, friends, and other companions you need to cheer you on, provide feedback, keep you honest, call out the best in you, and celebrate or cry with you. And when you’re being unkind in any way to those allies, fess up!

4.   Don’t limit your allies to people you encounter in the flesh. Julie met Julia only through her writings, her cookbooks and her TV shows. Yet, “without you here,” wrote Julie, “I would be a different persons — a smaller, a sadder, a more frightened person.”

5.   Don’t look for perfection in yourself, your allies and friends, your role models. Julie described Julia as a flawed woman of enormous energy and a great teacher who was funny, generous, and confident. … That’s what I love about her – she inspired because she was a woman, not a saint.”

6. Follow “the thirst to keep finding out, the openness to experience that makes life worth living. … [be willing to dive] into the next possible disaster…”

Dealing with food is a huge part of our lives and work — paid or unpaid. If God hadn’t meant us to enjoy it, why are there so many good things to eat?

The movie took me back to the joy of being in the kitchen with my mother, who used recipes primarily as a springboard for her own creativity. During our 13 years together she taught me to be fearless in the kitchen. I can only imagine what she could have done if had she lived past 1956, when the ethnic food explosion and cooking shows like Julia Child’s came into being.

I came out of “Julie and Julia” convinced that the only way I’ll deal with my own food-related issues is not just to cut the carbs and the wrong fats, but also to savor every morsel. After all, food that is savored digests better. Food that is digested sends out signals of enough and fills the body with more energy for a workout.

There are so many more food issues to explore around money and work, like the whole issues of organic and free-range versus factory-grown and depleted soil, and why the concept of fair trade is growing. Because these matter so much to me, I welcome your insights around them them.

But right now, whatever’s on your plate literally or figuratively, Bon Appetit!

As always, many blessings and come again real soon,

Pat McHenry Sullivan