Productivity Pinhead: Not Precisely Happy

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You know what’s worse than being an ambitious sexagenarian? Not being an ambitious sexagenarian!! Sure, it’s annoying, not only to those around you–if you are really ambitious you can be extremely annoying to yourself, too. I’m not even 60 yet and I’m running with the label. It’s just how ahead of myself I am.

Ambition, I believe, is in the eye of the ambitious. Maybe your goals are lofty or laughable, but nobody else gets to determine that for you. If you want to read a book each week, that’s cool, but only you know how cool it is that the books have to be in a second language.

Feeling as if you are improving at whatever can really keep you going. You can cheerlead yourself into a corner and enjoy the heck out of that corner.

The tricky part seems to be the growing older deal. Your energy might not keep up with your plans. Having my own little house seemed like such a grand idea, until the endless stream of tiny projects showed up with it. I now have a planer (thanks, Dad!) with which I can shave doors. The problem with planing doors is it requires more than one step at the end of a day full of steps. To do it correctly, I have to put down paper and get a ladder and remember where I put the planer. This is definitely more than one step, because even when tired, I can still count.

So what if you don’t fix the sticky doors and their fifty coats of paint? If you don’t fix them and you are ambitious like me, the thing that happens is tiny bubbles of hell. Each time the door sticks and you have to jank or jive you may think, “Dammit. I have failed at doors again.” The little projects leer and squeak like a tiny bastard chorus.

I spend a hundred times more time thinking about home improvement than actually doing any of it. It’s a terrible idea to have so many terrible ideas. When I become tired of my own ideas, I watch terrible ideas on teevee. Sometimes I fall asleep to gardening shows instead of gardening, which feels like a very sexagenarian complaint. Next I may hurt myself napping.

Despite all this, I should be happy, I’m sure. I have what I need and I don’t worry too much about the things that are beyond my grasp. Like yersis says, when your job is annoying, you can enjoy getting to leave even more. Now, when the house annoys me, I can leave, at least for a little while.

I went to the old reservoir one Sunday all by myself. The dam amuses me, because it was another one of the ambitious projects from the 19th century that did not work out. Nobody, it seems, had any appreciation of how much water Baltimore was really going to need. We probably get water from the Great Lakes or something ridiculously remote. So thirsty.

It’s nice at the lake. Lots of dogs and children, but rarely together. I wondered, if I waded into the water, how long before someone called the police? Why should getting in the water be a crazy move? It would be, though. They would only think it was normal if I fell out of kayak. Now I am considering a kayak just so I can fall out of it and swim.

I saw a duck sleeping and had a powerful urge to throw something at him to make sure he was real. Relax. I did not maim a duck or even come close to duck maiming. It was one of those random impulses that are supposed to remind us we are creative and capable of ambitious calamity.

There’s no need to feel guilty about such thoughts, but I do. I feel guilty that and I feel guilty about not feeling happier. The pressure to be positive and cheerful is oppressive.

If being happy is on your to do list, it’s just another chore.

We can decide to try for happiness, but that’s not the same as making ourselves happy. Maybe by the time one is old enough to feel smug and wise, one should know better. We can plant a happiness garden but the harvest isn’t guaranteed. What if it only blooms at night when we forget to visit? What if it needed more sun, but the neighbor’s garden is shading it. What if it sprouts with nothing but twisty weeds and twistier metaphors?

For someone who times their routine chores and draws little boxes just to put check marks inside them, happiness seems as if it could be jammed into the schedule. Why can’t it fit in between #18 (Stop fussing with the little stuff) and #19 (Wine o’clock)? Simple. Because of the aforementioned gardening model, happiness isn’t precisely timed and measured. It’s an experiment. It’s right over there until it’s not.

I think it’s entirely possible to be happy without even knowing it’s happy time. I have caught myself in some happy moments, but the more inclined I am to examine it, the more elusive it is. Critiquing happiness is not a job–it is probably someone’s job, but critiquing our own happiness isn’t going to encourage good things. It’s most likely to extinguish the little happy tree buds.

So, yeah. Happiness isn’t productive and productivity isn’t happiness.

I’m too much of a fan of pushing everything uphill to suggest quitting, but maybe take some productive breaks to peek at the garden. Maybe try to like what ever stupid thing is growing there.


It’s wedding season here and yerbro and yersis are both married now. I can’t write about that–oh, I totally can, but I won’t. It was joyous and utterly delightful, both times. The other wedding has to mine some novel turf. It’s not a competition, except it always is a competition. Mind the comparisons!! Full steam ahead!!

If reading about old-timey cheats who can ruin a one-cart funeral is something you would enjoy, you might enjoy my book. If getting email that you don’t remember asking for makes you happy, consider signing up for my newsletter, my happy friend.

Why would anyone want to need this?

Who thought a plastic grill on an air conditioner was a good idea? The thing was built to break. One evening I discovered it had a very large hole in it for no reason. Did a meteor strike? Did a vandal sit on it in a moment of confusion, thinking it was a chair? Did a neighborhood stoner have a fight with it? I hope they won. We can’t know, but whatever happened, it’s going to cost me $100 that I won’t have for the inevitable new air conditioner of the future.


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