I think well when I putter.

I’m good at avoidance. I should be – I’ve had a lifetime of practice. What’s an eating disorder if not an attempt to escape from an unpalatable reality?

Are there palatable realities? I’m starting to doubt it.

My reality has been unpleasant of late. Unpleasant and challenging. It’s been a year. A year of surgeries, cancers, near-death experiences, hospital stays, and mental and emotional angst.

It’s been drama and trauma and some days it seems like it’s never going to stop.

I’ve been on high adrenaline and high alert for some time now and it’s proving hard to calm down. It’s hard to stop the hurry and hustle of a trauma response. We want to be elsewhere.

I used to worry that my puttering was avoidant because if there’s a way to apply a negative slant, my brain will do it, but I’ve come to realize that my puttering is a help, not a hindrance.

Puttering helps me think. It helps me clarify my thoughts and come to decisions about plans of action.

I don’t usually approach problems head-on, especially when it comes to personal stuff. I think about these things in a sideways and indirect manner.  [i]

If I let my mind run while I do this, that, and the other, I can make connections and come up with ideas I might miss if I was running with a narrower, obsessed focus. That state often involves ugly thoughts and a child’s need for revenge.  That nastiness of that mental state is something I prefer to avoid.

Of course, puttering has value beyond the metaphysical. Down here in the real world, it’s nice to get things taken care of. In a perfect world, I’d be rich and my puttering would involve shopping expeditions for goods I don’t need, but my reality differs somewhat.

Thus, my puttering is of the budget variety – I make do with what I have. Mostly. There are some new dollar-store containers kicking around. Containers and bins are required for organizing and culling. It’s nice, taking care of the little things that always seem to get put off. I enjoy streamlining my flow.

I do this quite regularly. Sometimes I think it’s less about anxiety and more about pursuing a Platonic ideal. Or, maybe it’s both.

I’ve had a number of things to think my way through. My relationships with my brothers. My parents – their aging and their illnesses. My relationships with my friends and my children. What I want from my life.

Existential pursuits seem easier when one is organizing and labeling the spices. I also subcategorized them into baking and cooking. There isn’t much overlap, surprisingly.

I cleaned most of the cupboards inside and out. I went through my Christmas ornaments and decorations for donations to the thrift store – you can’t donate Christmas in January – and added some seasonal clutter.

I was tempted to give up things from friends and family I’m in conflict with but decided that vengeful and small isn’t the look I’m going for. It’s hard, it’s incredibly tempting to stick it to other people, even if they don’t know.

Much of social media is predicated on that aspect of human nature.

Mostly though I puttered and tried to stay with my feelings about this, that, and the other. Feelings are like river rapids – the only way out is through. You can pull off to the side to catch your breath, but eventually, you have to carry on.

And as I reorganized and redecorated, as I culled and categorized, I calmed enough to start thinking about the world and my place in it.

It’s not the centre, a preferred belief we don’t seem to outgrow. I regularly remind myself that the universe doesn’t revolve around me. I wish it did. If I was in charge, things would be awesome.

How hard could it be?

And as I calmed, I started to remember that the people in my circle are people. They have histories, life experiences, and beliefs that inform what they do, what they believe, and how they act. We’re not always going to agree. We’re not always going to be in charity.

It’s grace that lets us see that and let the sense of righteous anger go.

I seem to be lacking some.

I woke up again with angry thoughts. Revenge seems like a lovely option when you wake to sadness hiding under nastiness.

But breaking things when you’re sad is a bad decision most of the time.

I suppose that’s why I reorganized my books yesterday.

I still need things running and ruminating in the background.

At least the house is free of dust.


[i] Unless it’s a situation involving harm or abuse. I tend to wade in without thinking in those cases. That’s also a bad trait – it can lead to negative consequences. But I like to pretend I’m an angel, rushing in where fools fear to tread.


14 thoughts on “I think well when I putter.

  1. The puttering so that you can stay with emotions and come at things from a side angle really resonated with me. It is amazing the connections the brain can make when not focused like a laser on something.

    I’m sorry your year has been so hard. It’s so hard to know what to do with that all – but your writing suggests you are digesting it one day and one chore at a time which I imagine isn’t fun but at least doable.

    This post also reminded me of a quote from C.S. Lewis, “I sat with my anger long enough until she told me her real name was grief.”

    Sending you my best, Michelle.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Your puttering sounds like you’re just controlling the things you can, which I’m a fan of. Making better decisions and taking better paths starts with understanding where you tend to trip yourself up, and it seems like you have a great handle on that. Doing the work to grow sucks hard, but your commitment to see it through will pay off big. Keep on hanging on and screaming into your pillow—you’re making progress!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We have a Shona proverb “Kukwira gomo hupoterera” which translates to “to go up a mountain, you have to go around it” in a way its about how sometimes things get down in a roundabout sort of way… Or the way I like to see as, if life is a journey –take the scenic route 🥂
    Happy travels
    ~B

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I, too, divide my spices by baking and cooking. Who DOESN’T do it? (They must be a monster, obviously.)

    Ha, I’m in the process of continued purging and felt like tossing out all things from a certain someone. But I actually used/liked some of them. The hateful and rational parts of my brain refused to surrender to one another, so I ended up getting rid of some, but not all. Maybe I’ll get rid of the rest next time…

    It really is amazing how sometimes focusing on an issue is not the answer, instead, we should push it to the side and work on something else. And then – like magic – we solve the original problem.

    Liked by 1 person

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