What does this cost?

What does this cost?
Photo by Michael Fenton / Unsplash

How much will this cost? What prices do I charge for the work I offer? If you're willing to spend a little time reading, I'll try to explain why I don't have set prices, and hopefully I don't make it more difficult for you to engage in this work when you are ready to do it.

First: I don't think it's wise or compassionate to assume that people will always have the money to pay for accessing the care they need or want. I think that most people don't have enough to live on. I think that our need for care shouldn't be tied to any money or resources that we may or may not have.

A long-winded answer:

If you're reading this, you are most likely part of a capitalist society, which means you're used to needing money for everything: food, shelter, health care, education, entertainment, travel, government, law enforcement, social services. What you don't pay money for, you probably pay in attention, time, energy, and personal data. I'm sure that most of us have eerie anecdotes about mentioning something while your phone was nearby, only to be served ads for that exact thing when you're on Facebook later.

For a tangent related to what I'm trying to do here in this anthropocene hell-hole: read capitalism makes no sense to me

Long ago, and perhaps not that long ago, there were societies built on a more fair distribution of resources. Pay for your health care with a hank of spun wool or a basket of summer squash. Exchange livestock with a carpenter for help building a home. Trade what you are able to offer, for the things that you need. That kind of society is still stratified, because there are always people who can pay with a dozen eggs as well as people who can pay with a piece of jewelry. The trick, I believe, is to be able to trust everyone who participates in that society to be honest about what they have, what they don't have, and what they need.

Of course, we are not by nature as kind and trustworthy as we might wish we were, and there were and are always people who take advantage of others in probably every kind of situation or context that exists. But that doesn't mean we can't still try to live in good reciprocity with each other.

I've always been interested in participating meaningfully in a gift economy rather than a capitalist economy, where what I'm paid is the sum of what a person believes that my work is worth. However, because capitalism has created so much poverty, we can't necessarily pay someone what we think their service to us is worth, because we don't have the money to do that.

We have begun to see the use of phrases and ideas like 'sliding scale' and 'pay what you can' to describe ways for our work to be more accessible, and in a lot of situations these work really well. We've encouraged people with more resources to fund scholarships for people in marginalized communities that are generally more prone to experience poverty. A lot of us have tried this model, and some of us are fortunate to be able to continue to do this. What we can't necessarily address is how much shame a person might feel if they want to access our work but feel that they don't deserve to pay the cheapest price, the bottom end of the sliding scale.

Our culture has wounded us and taught us to carry so much shame with us into every place we go.

I can't take away your feelings of shame. But I still want to treat this work: the writing, resource-collecting, and time spent as a deathworker and a griefworker, as a shared reciprocal experience. I am willingly taking the cost onto myself up front, to create a space for us to be with one another, and to offer my work to those who are taking steps to plan for their death, wherever they are on their journey.

If someone asks me how much it costs, the answer to that question is going to be: what are you able to give in exchange? What do you want to do, and what can you realistically and without harm, do in reality? Some people may have set money aside (the most fortunate of us, I think) and can direct some of those resources to compensating me for my work. Some people have next to nothing, and what they can offer me is their trust and maybe something that seems very small. Some people cannot offer me anything but their need, and that is still okay.

I will repeat that: it is okay if you cannot afford to pay me anything. You don't even owe me your trust, although I hope that I can be a trustworthy person for you.

So, part of the Work is not just what I am doing; it is what you are also going to need to do. To assess yourself and where your feelings of shame or guilt are coming from. To honestly try to find where in your heart the wounds are, so that you can see your way to a place of honesty and acceptance where it's possible to have it.

To be blunt, it's not my job to ease your guilt. Guilt comes from within yourself, from something that you experienced, something you believe is true. Guilt is harm to oneself and it keeps us from seeing clearly. It keeps us from accepting what is true about ourselves and where and who we are.

What is my job is to work my own way through my feelings of guilt and responsibility and shame. It means I need to address my messiah complex and learn to only do what I am able to do without harming myself. This is my part of the Work.

Let's try this reciprocity thing and see how it goes.

Come and tell me what you need, and let's start out by assuming that we both want the best outcome, and that your needs are valid and important.

Email: nix@everonandon.com
Message on Telegram: @nixkelley
Text or call: +1 734 386 0537

Please get in touch to ask questions when you have them. And definitely let me know if you are thinking about engaging my doula services. I work with the dying, their chosen family, those who are grieving, and those who are doing the hard work of end-of-life preparation. I promise it's not too scary to ask me questions.