Painting project consumes available time

Published 7:40 am Friday, March 6, 2009

By Staff
Earlier this week, I decided I’d paint our bedroom door, which was scratched by our dog and the previous owner’s cat and had flaking paint. As with most home repair projects, this one took longer than I’d anticipated. Sanding down the peeling paint and smoothing out the claw marks turned into sandpapering the entire door, and the paint flakes and dust made a terrible mess, which had to be cleaned up.
Then I had to find the can of white interior enamel in my stash of half-empty paint cans. I finally found it, stirred it and began applying new paint to the door. Then I realized it would need a second coat.
As long as I had the paint can open, I thought, I might as well paint the bathroom door, which was nearly as much in need of fresh paint as the bedroom door had been. The adjacent window also looked bad and needed painting. And the closet door and vanity beside the window would look better with a consistent color of paint.
Before I was through, I had spent most of two mornings putting two coats of paint on woodwork that, 24 hours earlier, I had no intention of bothering with.
I relate this story to point out that laid-off workers need to feel needed; they need to find worthwhile projects to occupy their excess of time. There are few things worse than a wasted day. After scouring job listings, filling out applications and brainstorming income-producing ideas, you still have time on your hands. And you need to feel productive, even in activities that are neither job-finding nor essential. I’ve volunteered on some charitable projects that would fill my days, or at least a few hours, on something that is productive and worthwhile.
In my five idle months, I quickly completed the dozen or so household maintenance projects that I had postponed for want of time. The exterior painting, the minor repairs and improvements were all completed before cold weather set in. I then turned to the quotidian tasks of house cleaning, grocery shopping and meal preparation, with my wife offering a gentle “told you so” about how time-consuming and unrewarding such daily household chores can be. These tasks, far more than walking the dog or reading the books I had set aside for future leisure time, have consumed my days.
But the need to feel productive lingers unquenched. I had the good fortune of a career that provided a daily fulfillment. Each day’s newspaper was an affirmation that I had accomplished something — perhaps not always the best that I had hoped for but nevertheless a tangible accomplishment, something more than a spreadsheet that balances or a design for something that might be completed at some future date. The need for completed accomplishments finds me painting doors, if only to stand back and declare to myself, “good job” and “now what?”