Sat­is­fac­tion, one chore at a time

The Queens County Advance - - COVER STORY - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 39 Saltwire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@thetele­ — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

It’s close enough to spring to have a “to do” list now: ex­pand the veg­etable gar­den, paint, re­pair and re-roof the shed, put in fire­wood for next win­ter. Re­build the shed chim­ney, where, years ago, pre­vi­ous own­ers had it lopped off at roof level and cov­ered the hole with a sim­ple — but now fail­ing — re­pair of hot tar over heavy can­vas.

It all sounds like a chore, but it isn’t.

Sure, work­ing the mat­tock through the clumped yel­low grass of old pas­ture will be hard phys­i­cal work, a blis­ters-on-hands af­ter­noon that’s not likely to be im­proved by the in­evitable ar­rival of black­flies. And yes, I’ll have to find my way through the buried slabs of shale and the oc­ca­sional boul­ders, each one found by that par­tic­u­lar ring of the pick-point, both the sound and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing vi­bra­tion along the hard­wood han­dle and into the bones of my arms.

But it’s what some used to call hon­est work: you’re tired at the end of the day, and you don’t feel guilty for tak­ing the evening off.

Our four-year project of strip­ping sid­ing, re­plac­ing clap­board, re­plac­ing trim boards and paint­ing the house is done now, fin­ished last au­tumn, though there will al­ways be touchups. The beauty of this year’s work is that all of it is short jobs, four or five full days at the most, with some that can be done in an af­ter­noon or less. Even some that can be done in the rain.

Plant an­other ap­ple tree. Find a new home for the rasp­berry canes, now that the old patch has taken ev­ery­thing it can from the last patch’s soil. Rent a trailer to fi­nally haul away the old sid­ing and the ran­dom left­over roof­ing and the mys­te­ri­ous bag of ce­ment in­side the shed that, over years, has made a stone fos­sil of it­self in­side the pa­per that once held it in shape. (The ce­ment has hard­ened off and doesn’t need the pa­per’s help any more.)

I know that, at the end of each job, I’ll be sweaty and tired and prob­a­bly frus­trated. Weeds will try and con­quer the onions and the potato plants, and there will al­ways be too much rain or too lit­tle.

But I like it so much bet­ter than bear­ing wit­ness to the petty and the bit­ter, and so much more than watch­ing those around me — skilled writ­ers, bright minds, in­ven­tive and cu­ri­ous peo­ple — trapped in a cy­cle of ever-in­creas­ing work­load and ever-de­creas­ing job sat­is­fac­tion. I like it so much bet­ter than deal­ing with the in­ten­tion­ally poi­sonous, those who take to the so­cial me­dia world un­der the ban­ner of free thought and the claim of mak­ing things bet­ter for all, but do so by choos­ing to se­lec­tively at­tack and per­son­ally in­jure oth­ers — judge, jury and ex­e­cu­tioner in 140 char­ac­ters, with­out ever ask­ing how they would feel if they found them­selves in sim­i­lar crosshairs.

I’ve spent a ca­reer be­ing threat­ened — it’s just part of my job — but it’s never been as ef­fec­tive and un­nerv­ing as it is now, es­pe­cially when done by anony­mous ac­counts that van­ish in the night, or when it is de­liv­ered by elec­tronic despots who don’t re­ally want to dis­cuss and de­bate, but merely is­sue edicts pub­licly an­nounc­ing your fail­ings or sheer stu­pid­ity.

So I’m mak­ing a list, check­ing it twice, know­ing that the best thing it holds is be­tween its blue-inked lines, in true job sat­is­fac­tion.

It’s a list that’s lucky to be in­com­plete at the end of the sum­mer, and even as fall turns back to win­ter.

But that’s all right, too.

The best things in life are re­ward­ing work to look for­ward to, and re­sults to look back at.

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