Work, Play, Semantics; Oy Vey!

Sometimes when I meet people and they find out we are planning to live aboard a boat for awhile, especially a sailboat, I am faced with a little bit of eye rolling and generally a comment such as, ‘Sailboats? They are too much work.’.  Then I have to do a little eye rolling of my own because usually these are people who own their own homes, some even bigger than the 3000 or so square feet we have! Boats are a lot of work? Really? I think this is a matter of perspective. Unless you allow your home to literally fall down around you, (or you can afford a staff to do your bidding) homes are much more work than a boat ever will be. I know this to be true because as I sit here gazing at my beautiful home, I realize that it is falling down around me because, HELLO!, it’s too much work!

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house,… And you may ask yourself-Well…How did I get here? (Talking Heads)

I am so convinced that the ‘boats are too much work’ group is dead wrong that I set out to prove this point for you loyal blog readers so that you will be armed with scientific facts. That’s right. Due to the completely valid, evidence-based research I selflessly did just for you, when the day comes that you are faced with the complete blindness of others regarding this subject, you will be prepared to wow them with facts.  Please go easy on the persuading,  however, because sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone. There are already a lot of boats on the water.

Let’s take a look at the data and define terms. The verb ‘ to clean’ here means deep cleaning, including scrubbing stains, ridding the surface of algae or moss, bird poop and the like. “All available time” means these tasks are unending and you could spend your entire life doing them if you have poor boundaries. Also this research is about on-going day to day maintaining of a decent living space, not about major repairs. Everyone knows boats need repairing regularly. So do homes, but no one wants to talk about that.

                    Scientific Data Measuring Amount of Work in Hours

 Task                                                   Big Boat                                 Big Home

Clean kitchen floor                               .0333                                         1
Clean roof (boat deck)                           2                                              5
Clean up after cleaning roof                   0                                              2
because it’s all on the ground now
Scrub bathroom                                   .25                                           1.25
Declutter-put things away                      1                                 all available time
Mow yard                                               0                                              1
Weeding/grooming garden                    0                                 all available time
Paint hull bottom/exterior                       2 days                         at least a week
Paint bathroom, special finish                2                                               8
Deep Clean galley/kitchen                     1                                               4
Organize garage                          what garage?                   all day long, many times
Totals                                      2 days plus a few hours                   22.25 + infinity

I could go on but by the time I had collected all this data the results were clear: If you are a home owner,  you are working too hard.

So much work to keep it looking like this.

So much work to keep it looking like this.

Seriously, though, the word ‘work’ has an interesting meaning in our American culture. It seems to have a negative connotation.  So many people have said to us ‘you have worked so hard on this boat!’. They wonder where we find the energy. I guess that’s true in some way, but the statement creates a bit of cognitive dissonance for me. It feels both true and not true. Actually, most of the time I don’t really feel that the statement is accurate. Then when I look back over the blog, I can see why they make the comment. We certainly have spent a lot of time and completed many tasks. But much of it didn’t feel like “work”. Interesting. What gives?

It seems like in this country one is either ‘working’ or ‘not working’; either ‘working’ or ‘playing’. Why do we tend to be all or nothing about this thing? Is it a problem with the English language or something?  And why is the word ‘work’ such a negative word in general? In popular vernacular, it is equated with ‘labor’ or ‘toil’, two words which certainly don’t bring up much to get excited about. In this country we tend to associate it with making money, which we certainly aren’t with S/V Galapagos.

A scary looking equation if there ever was one.

I prefer the definition of ‘work’ found in the world of Physics: an expenditure of energy toward movement; the transfer of energy from one thing to another. This is a much more neutral term that describes the fact that effort has been put forth and a result has been accomplished. (Yes, I’m being liberal with the definition. Don’t get your science knickers in a twist.)  That is a more appropriate way of describing what has been happening around here. We have expended a crap ton of energy on this boat and that transfer of energy has seen results. That feels true in a way that ‘you’ve really worked hard’ doesn’t always. One might wonder where we find all that energy.

The answer to this question is intangible. While the definition of ‘work’ is to be found in the world of Physics, the energy for that work is to be found in the world of Meta-physics. It has something to do with happiness, joy even. When something is a labor of love or passion, it rarely feels like ‘work’ in the popular sense of the word. The love of the task supplies the energy to put forth into effort on behalf of the goal. When you are putting forth energy into something that gives your life richness and meaning, the energy is put forth in joy, even if some parts of it become frustrating. When your entire being is engaged in a creative process, that’s where happiness lies. The bumps in the road are only part of the grander picture. Life is all shadows and light. How can you have light without shadow? At least in this dimension.

This project started to feel a little like work after awhile.

This project started to feel a little like work after awhile.

The focus of this energy changes over the course of a lifetime. What gives joy in one part of your life changes as life develops through time. For example, the amount of energy we currently put toward this boat is roughly equivalent to the amount of energy we put into our house and garden for many years. People would look at the garden or the interior of the house and say ‘my you certainly work hard on this’ and shake their heads. It never felt like ‘work’ to me. Now, because my energy is focused elsewhere, I try to make my garden simpler to maintain so that I don’t have to ‘work’ so hard on it, and I can’t seem to find the energy to do the minor remodeling projects our home needs.  Literally my ‘heart’ isn’t in it.  I’ll bet you can think of examples like this in your own life.

Moon rising over Useless Bay.

This blog is another example. Most people have no idea the amount of time we put into this blog. It is a significant amount, usually every day.  Some posts take days to finish, some longer, some seem to write themselves. There is the tweaking of the WordPress interface, the up and downloading of photos, the attention to internet security.  All of it could be considered ‘work’, and yet it is so rewarding that most of the time it feels like something akin to play, although that’s not really the most accurate word.  Perhaps in the future we will be finished with blogging and it will begin to feel like ‘work’ to us. That’s when we will stop and turn our attention to whatever else is calling to us through the portal of our hearts. For now, it is a source of great satisfaction and the hours spent writing and publishing posts are hours spent with the joy of purpose.

When you follow your happiness, the work is almost effortless. Frustrating sometimes, yes. Tiring? Many times. Challenging? You bet.  It is only when the heart goes out of the process and the force of will must stand alone that projects begin to feel laborious. So when people say ‘where do you find the energy for all that’, I will just reply: I hold it in my heart. While my house shows the sure signs of neglect all around me.

Time to summon up the force of will and do something about it.

For better or for worse, in work and in play, on the water or on land.