Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Work makes you happy

Work makes you happy; I read it in a magazine so it must be true!
My appointment was for one o’clock. As I walked over to Marcia’s for a haircut I knew I would be a few minutes early. But I also knew if I stayed home I would dig into another phase of my current project, forget the time, and be late. It suited me to while away a few moments in somebody else’s space. I let myself in Marcia’s shop door and wandered to the window to admire the new patio her husband had recently built. I sat down and picked up the top magazine from the stack on her table. I had idly flicked through several pages when this title, “Work Makes You Happy”, or something to that effect, caught my eye.

Though I snorted with derision, a quick scan of key phrases plunged me into agreement with the article’s main premise. Marcia walked through the door so I put the magazine down. But the idea of work equating with happiness had become glued to my brain.

My Dad would have loved this. Dad was a worker. If you grew up in my family, you worked. My Dad once told me that work was the only thing that gave him satisfaction. He did not know how to relax, how to find enjoyment in idle pleasures. He worked and he gardened, which is work in disguise, and I think he found equal enjoyment in both. He taught me to do whatever I did with all my heart; to do my best. I thank him for that.

I certainly never knew a moment of boredom. Nor, once they were older, were my children ever bored. One look at the gleam in my eye and they quickly found multitudes of fascinating things to do.

I grew up with too much work. Today many of us don’t have enough work. With such a plethora of labor saving devices, with whatever one desires (for a price) at one’s fingertips, with jobs structured into meaningless fragments, one might find oneself longing for the days one left the cabin in the quiet rays of dawn and returned at dusk dragging a moose, walked through the door to the pot of stew bubbling on the hearth and sour dough biscuits steaming in the dutch oven and the candle flickering on the table. I have lived too close to that and it is romantic hogwash.

My premise is that if one is going to open the door to happiness, balance is the key. I learned work from a master. Other pleasures I had to learn on my own. It took many a year for me to realize rest and relaxation are just as important as work. But they don’t negate it nor should they replace it.

The past several weeks have been filled with more work than usual. While I long for a short trip to Lincoln or Kalispell or north to Saskatchewan to visit friends, right now I must content myself with mini-vacations during each work day. So I take time out to make a batch of dill pickles. Or bake bread. Or read another few pages in my much-neglected book. These things give me great satisfaction. A knock on my door is not an unwanted interruption but an opportunity to visit with a neighbor. A trip to the post office, four blocks from home, often consumes an hour. Filling my short list at the grocery store can take even longer, with folks to chat up in every aisle.

As I work I am entertaining the thought of a real vacation at one of my favorite get-away spots, Quinn’s Hot Springs north of St. Regis. It will be a multi-purpose vacation, melding work with play. The work agenda will include planning a job with my son and his wife; play will be splashing with my granddaughter Lexi, plus hours of soaking in hot water. I envision Lexi squealing with joy as I point out the lofty mountain goats clinging to precarious perches. When she splashes water on me, I’ll pretend to be properly annoyed. Then we will giggle together.

Meanwhile, I am content with a vacation on my back steps, sitting in the sun, with cats curling their tails around my legs, blissfully aware of leaves jiggling in the slight breeze, admiring my apples hanging on the trees, redder and juicier and sweeter each day, wondering if I should harvest the potatoes today, watching the bees gathering the last sweetness from my patch of mint and the gold finches cavorting among the remnants of sunflowers. Just a few minutes more, and then back to work.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door
September 22, 2011

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