Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Nice Dirty Hands 

8:03 a.m.
The carpet installers are here! The carpet installers are here! And now I do the dance of joy! Out with the old dirty beige crap that I never would have picked in the first place (spec house=no choices) and in with the new pretty sagey-olivey green loopy Berber!

9:17 a.m.
Wow, is it a mess up there. I hope they clean up after themselves.

11:30 a.m.
Whoosh! The new carpet has already been installed in all of the extra bedrooms upstairs, AND in the piano room downstairs. I never imagined that it would be done this fast! It looks so nice! These guys work fast…and it’s already evident that they do clean up after themselves. (Thank God.)

3:00 p.m.
I looked down at my hands a few moments ago and they are really dirty and I don’t know why. I have no idea what I touched, but I have black machine-oil-type stuff all over my hands and now I see it on my shorts as well. I was just upstairs with the carpet installers answering a few questions about the master bedroom (almost done!) and admiring the NEW CARPET!

3:07 p.m.
I just played out this little 2-minute job fantasy in my head, where one of the carpet guys asks me why my hands are so dirty and I tell them that it’s because I have been down in my basement workshop building things. (I know that’s pretty vague, but I don’t fantasize much.) I actually got so much pleasure in this innocuous little fantasy that I had to laugh out loud.

How cool would it be to actually make something…a piece of art, a beautiful cabinet, a graceful sculpture, a carpeted room? How wonderful would it be to sit back and see what you made…to finish it, admire it a bit, and then give it to a happy client and be done with it…to then move on--look forward to, even--another project?

The carpet installers working upstairs right now will leave at the end of the day knowing that they completed their job. In my line of work, it feels like I never complete anything. I have owned a home-based computer training and technical writing company since 1989 (ComputerEase), but mostly what I do (personally) these days is technology and business writing. But since so many of my projects are technical in nature, and technology changes every freakin’ second, I feel as though nothing I ever start actually gets finished! I swear that I am still working on some projects that were born in the early 90’s!

So when I looked at my hands, I got to thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great to have nice, dirty hands after a day’s work? To be able to wash off the grime and leave the work behind? To not be compelled to answer the business line while I am cooking dinner?”

I somehow imagine it would be a very satisfying feeling. In writing, nothing ever seems quite “done” enough. I haven’t met a sentence yet that I couldn’t rewrite if given enough time. (I revised that last one at least four times.) And if you’ve ever worked with programmers or technology project managers, you know that they’ve never seen a line of code that they couldn’t modify, which means that my job is never done.

This is not a complaint about my work – I love what I do, and I am grateful for my ability to earn a living without working for somebody else. And I guess that, technically, I do create something (an article, a user guide, a training program)…but I just now had this intense longing for manual labor when looking at my dirty hands.

This is also not a complaint about working at home – I enjoy being able to take the dog to the park in the middle of the day; I take pleasure in attending a teleconference in my pajamas; I like being able to work at strange hours to accommodate my husband’s shift work. It’s just that, for a fleeting moment, I imagined what it would be like to get your hands dirty at work, and I liked what I saw – the simplicity, the wholeness.

Maybe I need a new hobby?

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