The Joy of Work

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on

I read all kinds of crazy articles. One that I recently chose to parse discussed a study that addressed the general psychology of workaholics. It seems that many who work extreme numbers of hours most of the time are actually sublimating feelings of depression. The theory is that they work to keep from becoming overly sad or anxious. I really identified with that  concept because it is exactly what I have done my entire life. Anytime that I begin to get a bit too blue I keep myself so active that I barely have time to fall exhausted into bed in the evening. 

I may do heavy cleaning of my house or create a new garden. I’ll tackle new skills or work math problems. I write, I cook for a week or read strange pieces from magazines or newspapers of every kind. I plot out my days with precision making sure that I have something to do from the time I arise until I retire for the night. My method generally works like a charm. Having a purpose and accomplishing my goals brings back my smile.

I have to admit that I read that article about workaholics on a very dreary winter day that was threatening to send my mind down a rabbit hole of negative thinking. It helped me to redirect my energy from worry and feeling blue to enjoying the reality that I had time to get things done inside my house. Before long I found myself doing heavy duty dusting of every surface in the house like I once did when my mother made that chore one of my duties. 

Mama had two collections that I was in charge of keeping tidy. One held all the the salt and pepper shakers she had purchased on vacation trips. I loved those miniature reminders of her travels. There were replicas of the Statue of Liberty, cacti from Arizona, bears from Montana, and all kinds of cute figures that made me smile. Mama would usually turn on music to entertain me while I removed the week’s accumulation of dust from each crevice. 

Then I would turn to the lovely porcelain birds that festooned a shelf in our living room. They were delicate and colorful and I thought they were wonderful. There was no way to be anything but happy around those lovely replicas of nature. I marveled at how well made they were and handled them with great care lest I drop one or create a chip. 

My more recent dusting extravaganza required me to climb on stools and get down on my knees to reach everything with my cloth. I had my AirPods blasting music for me just like my mother had once done. I laughed at the idea that such a seemingly boring and onerous task would bring me so much joy. It really is funny how our minds work. I had soon forgotten about the cold and rain outside. It felt sunny as my memories took me back to that earlier time. I could almost see myself happily performing my cleaning job as though it was playtime. 

My mother often commented that ignorance is bliss. It is one idea on which I would have to disagree. I find that keeping my mind active by challenging myself to keep learning new things is where I find true joy. Reading is akin to traveling the world. Even doing those math problems is like unravelling a puzzle or a mystery. I suppose that being a lifetime student has kept me eager and young.

My grandson came to visit on one of the coldest and bleakest day we have experienced all winter. We made dinner together and had such an amazing conversation about artificial intelligence and the future of electric cars. We talked about the transformation of cities and the way we will one day change the way we do things. We talked about the possibilities that older people may be able to stay in their homes with robots assisting them even if they are disabled. It was quite gratifying to hear his optimism. 

I suspect that I can stay busy for years to come just keeping up with all of the changes that are sure to come to pass. It will mean more to read, more to talk about, more to learn. It’s hard to be sad when there are so many possibilities. Who knows there may also be advances in treating those who have chronic depression. We may not be too far away from making life better for all kinds of illnesses. I know that much has changed since I was that little girl cleaning the salt shakers and porcelain birds. What is not different is the joy that I feel in having a purpose. Big or small, having something to keep me from being idle has always been a panacea. 

The sun is back out again. I’ll be heading off soon to help my daughter clean the debris left behind by a recent winter storm. I’ve got my garden gloves and boots and saws to trim the hanging branches that fell from the trees after being encased in ice for three days. It’s my kind of joyful task. I get to stay busy and help someone at the same time. Nothing feels better than that. This workaholic is ready to go.


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