Tangible Work

The joy of seeing what you’ve done

Shannon Page

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I love tangible work.

The first time in my life I truly understood the value of concrete, measurable work was when my second husband and I cleaned out the two huge apartments (plus one hotel room in Montreal) of a very wealthy, VERY eccentric woman. She had been a hoarder, lonely and paranoid and complicated; above and beyond all the random and crazy things we sorted through in those apartments (carefully annotated TV Guides, thousands of cashmere sweaters, a city block’s worth of antique furniture and a major orchestra’s worth of musical instruments, chests full of newspaper clippings about her divorce forty years earlier, unopened bottles of Haig & Haig scotch from the 1950s, dozens and dozens and dozens of keys, stacks of junk mail separated by sheets of paper towels and plastic wrap interspersed with the occasional ten- or twenty-dollar bill and once even a stock certificate worth a lot of money), there was the sheer delight of sorting a room, separating out the treasures from the trash, and finishing it. We moved methodically through both apartments and the hotel room. It took about a month; every day, we were visibly farther along than we had been the day before.

It was extremely satisfying.

And then there was the time when I left a job where I was variously shouted at, praised, overworked, criticized, left alone with nothing to do, told how smart I was, insulted, and treated to expensive lunches at fancy restaurants. I never knew what it would be from day to day: dream job or nightmare? I fled to a temp agency after its manager found me crying in the bathroom on her floor (one floor down from Gaslight Job). My first temp assignment was entering data from paper forms into a computer. All day long: undone stack on the left; done stack on the right. Turn in time sheet. Collect paycheck. Lather rinse repeat.

Oh let me tell you. This work was such a balm to my wounded soul. Making that one pile smaller and the other pile larger was life-saving. I was fast, and did accurate work; my supervisors were pleased. I was unambiguously good at something. Okay, I didn’t want to make a career of that work; I only did that job for six weeks or so, but still. So, so healing.

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Shannon Page

Writer, editor, thinker of things, living on Orcas Island, Washington state. https://www.shannonpage.net