Work Vortex

At age ten I thought Mom ‘relaxed’ by working in her flowerbeds when the air was cool on summer evenings. It seemed she was having fun! The enthusiasm and enjoyment in her accomplishments were clearly evident. Looking back, I realize her fun was a labor of love.

Mom’s meticulously-kept flowerbeds and shrine were a source of pride. Visitors to our farm were always given a tour of the yard. As Mom aged, the number of flowerbeds she kept decreased, but she still enjoyed working in them when she could.

One summer day shortly after Mom had turned eighty-four and I was approaching my fortieth birthday, Niki, Tammie and I visited her. She said, “My joints ached yesterday, so I didn’t think I would get much work done in the rose bed, but once I started to dig and weed-all my aches went away. I worked all afternoon, felt good and enjoyed myself.”

It surprised me that Mom had not felt in the mood to work at first, but after getting started, felt better. The reluctance to get to work sounded familiar to me, as did the building enthusiasm once started. But the feeling better part sounded strange to me.

I have known for years that if I needed to get work done, but did not feel in the mood to do it, all I had to do was pry myself out of bed, off the sofa, out of a book, or away from the computer and pick one job…the smallest and easiest one…and then do it. Without my being fully aware of how or why it happens I suddenly find myself enthusiastically looking forward to doing more work as I’m doing that job. I’m having fun. My lazy feelings magically disappear.

As a young woman, I often felt tired and sleepy following supper after I’d worked all day at the hospital. At seven P.M. I’d get up to wash the supper dishes. By ten P.M. when I should have been getting ready for bed, I’d be thinking about scrubbing the floors. Although I had started out feeling as if I barely had the energy to walk from one room to another, I ended up feeling as if I wanted to work and work and work. What had happened? I called the unexpected burst of energy my second wind.

I recently had a job to do in the garden and I didn’t look forward to doing it. My joints are starting to get stiff and sore. Dutifully, I went out and reluctantly started to work. As the first hour passed, I noticed that I felt good. My joints felt fine. I wanted to work all day. I suddenly remembered what my Mom had said when she was in her mid-eighties, “All my aches went away. I felt good and enjoyed myself.” Finally, the last part of what she had said sounded familiar.

I recently asked my daughter, Tammie, “What happens to make an aching, tired person suddenly feel like cheerfully taking on herculean tasks? I’m beginning to think the second wind theory is too benign. The reality is something much more violent. The image that comes to my mind is a fast, strong, swirling, work vortex.”

My daughter chuckled, “So that’s what happens when we shift into work mode? We’re sucked up into a work vortex?”

“That’s right.” I confirmed, “I’m afraid to go out into the garden until the time is right. A simple mid-day job like taking down cucumber supports, could trigger a work vortex to suck me up. Hours later, you’d see the end result. The garden would be ready for the winter and I’d be happy, but wondering if I’ll be able to get out of bed in the morning.”

Tammie commented sagely, “Gardening is a labor of love, and sometimes love hurts.”

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