not the panama canal
but a similar feat of engineering and hard work
“hard work works.”
while at the airport waiting for a flight to arrive
the voice of a cheerful tsa agent came on the intercom:
” attention, attention, all in the terminal!
if you are walking around
with your pants falling down around your knees
come back and see us at the tsa checkpoint,
we have your belt right where you left it!
i figured this guy
working a double shift this weekend
dealing with a lot of unhappy, delayed, and cancelled customers
has a boss who’s putting out fires
or off for the log off the long holiday
just wants to have fun and make the best of things
“my belt holds my pants up, but the belt loops hold my belt up.
i don’t really know what’s happening down there.
who is the real hero?”
“hello customers, welcome to the garage. i am your 4th floor guardian m-f after 4pm.”
we happened upon this happy workspace in a most unlikely place
with a comfy swivel chair occupied after 4pm
a christmas card that says ‘joy’
a boom box
a tiny desk
a plastic plant that dances
an air freshener
a snow globe
a piece of hanging art
and a welcoming sign
what a wonderful workspace
everything someone would need
what a special person
who welcomes you
watches over you
keeps you happy and safe
on the 4th floor
a safe haven in the world.
“i’ve got a theory; if you love your workspace, you’ll love your work a little more.”
If waiting for an important telephone call, or stuck in writer’s block with a looming deadline, we’ll inevitably rearrange our record collection or clear up the papers dotted around your office – and it’s sometimes the most relaxed you’ll feel all day.
We’re not alone in this. As we faced pandemic stresses, many people reported finding renewed interest in looking after their homes as a way of coping with the uncertainty. On YouTube, there’s a huge audience for videos of people going about their chores, with millions of views for some of them. Psychologists suggest there are many mechanisms that might explain the perfect pleasure of puttering – and they may well encourage you to engage in it more often.
At the most superficial level, puttering may be useful because it occupies the mind, so that we devote fewer resources to the things that are worrying us. Even if we struggle with structured forms of meditation, for instance, we may find household tasks can anchor us in the here and now. But that will depend on where we place our focus.
In one of the few studies to examine the mental health benefits of washing the dishes, researchers divided 51 participants into two groups. Half read a text that encouraged them to focus their thoughts to the sensations evoked by the activity. “While washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes,” they were told. The rest read factual instructions on how to do washing up without explicitly encouraging them to focus their awareness on the sensations it produces.
Afterwards, the participants were asked to take a questionnaire about their feelings. Those who had fully engaged with the sensory experience reported a significantly better mood. This included reduced nervousness and even a sense of “inspiration”, as if the immersion in the simple activity had refreshed their minds.
Unlike other distracting activities – such as playing computer games or watching trashy TV – puttering also has the advantage of being proactive and useful, increasing our “perceived control”.
When we feel anxious, a sense of helplessness can heighten the physiological stress response, increasing levels of cortisol. Over the long term, the sense of helplessness can even harm the function of the immune system. Ideally, we would deal directly with the upsetting situation itself. But research suggests we can gain a perception of control from activities that may have little effect on the situation that’s bothering us.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to align with actual control, as long as we believe, or feel, we have control,” says Stacey Bedwell, a psychologist at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London. Simply being able to change our environment can create a feeling of agency that is beneficial, she says – which may explain why cleaning and organizing our homes can feel so therapeutic.The benefits do not end there. If your puttering takes the form of organizing and decluttering, you may find that the tidier environment is itself a form of solace.
As the University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross writes in his book Chatter: The Voice in Our Heads and How to Harness It: “We’re embedded in our physical spaces, and different features of these spaces activate psychological forces inside us, which affect how we think and feel.” If we see order outside, it helps us to feel a bit less chaotic inside, he writes. “[It] is comforting because it makes life easier to navigate and more predictable.”
Brain imaging studies support this view. In general, you see much greater brain activity as you increase the number of distracting objects within a scene – with each object vying for our attention. This may lead your brain to tire so that it struggles to maintain its focus over long periods of concentration.
Importantly, you don’t necessarily have to remove the clutter to prevent this from occurring – simply rearranging it will do. Organizing objects into groups – by color, for example – may provide the brain with more obvious cues for navigating the chaos. This reduces some of that neural confusion – and may improve our focus as a result. By reducing anxiety, soothing stress responses, increasing focus and triggering the release of endorphins, it’s little wonder so many of us take to household chores as soon as we are faced with uncertainty.
Like all activities, the extent of these benefits will be influenced by your personal tastes and the associations that you link with the tasks. If you are housework-averse, and will only pick up a duster under duress, the pleasures of puttering may be forever elusive. But for the homebodies among us, we can now understand why fruitful fidgeting can be such a salve for the restless mind.
“the imagination needs moodling– long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling, and puttering.”
what’s your go-to puttering activity?
BBC, David Robson, science writer, Ethan Cross, author
brilliant pitch on our local townie site:
FREE SNOW SHOVELING CLASS: This Thursday Feb 3rd, I will be holding a FREE snow shoveling class at my place. Come and join the class and learn about the proper ways to shovel!
Reviewed techniques will include the scoop and throw method, the down and push method (AKA the plow technique) as well as the upside down scraping technique.
Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to enhance your snow lifting techniques without throwing your back out! I will provide the driveway to ensure your training is conducted in the most life-like situation. I only ask that you bring your own shovel.
PM me for additional details and times. Spots are limited and handled on a first come first served basis. Hurry, don’t delay!
as always, i loved the responses and they did not disappoint:
Is this for credit or just a certificate program???
Is this one of those Huckleberry Finn/ Tom Sawyer type classes where you have us shovel for you??
Now That’s What I Call marketing baby! Makes me want to get a shovel and throw on the parka and Boots!
Best AAT snow post EVER!
“i like work, it fascinates me; i can sit and look at it for hours.”
-jerome k. jerome
credits: ann arbor townies
back in the day
when i was a waitress
going to school
training to be in the travel industry
i was on call for my restaurant in michigan
but i also had to be at an airline travel class in dallas
my restaurant had very recently said
absolutely no more days off for anyone
too many people were calling in sick or with excuses
according to my optimistic rationalization style math and logic
knowing the staff
having no other plan
odds were 50/50 at best
i said nothing to my restaurant
crossed my fingers
flew to dallas
made the fateful call-in from the lone star state
the staff had all shown up that day
for the win!
p.s. don’t try this if you are a doctor
(actually was here)
“never tell me the odds.”
very clever move
to close the roads and do construction
when people have nowhere to go
what a dramatic opening it will be one day
a fine gallery unveiling
i hope there is champagne.
“the whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this:
that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed;
but a thing created is loved before it exists.”
that moment when you’ve worked very hard on something
and suddenly someone
jumps up front and center just as the last piece is put in
and it’s photo op time.
we each have our own thoughts on this.
“it is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
-harry s. truman (my approach)
“hard work is rewarding. taking credit for other’s hard work is rewarding and faster.”
-scott adams (olive’s approach)