Surf-Head

Psychiatry in waves.

Organization = Happiness

... but wait, there's more!

I bought a whole mess of hooks this weekend. Not a mess—to be fair, I perused and purchased a well-curated cache of finely crafted hooks, brackets, screws, and wall anchors, some for studs and some for deceptively stable sheet rock. This had been a long time coming. Not so much because life is busy on the corner of Information Superhighway and Urban Jungle, but because I’m sure I had been unconsciously avoiding the quick-fix: spring (ok… fall) cleaning. Again, not avoiding it as onerous or hard, just as banal and trite.

The idea that tidying up, or even a place for everything and everything in it’s place would be the—or at least a—key to happiness reads as pedestrian cheesy. But as I finished drilling and screwing in the last of three six-hook brackets, for coats, kids’ school bags, and my swim duffle that I constantly misplace, I felt yeah-sure accomplished, handy-mannish, but, then, weirdly warm and loved.

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Organization = happiness, though true, has always felt hierarchically, psychologically low-brow. The first-level satisfaction we derive from a suit on its hanger—or, better, a hammer hung on its peg-board hammer-outline in a garage—is simplistic and binary, like a toddler sticking a T-rex puzzle piece in the T-rex hole. Out frustrating. In good. That level of satisfaction is certainly rewarding, but only in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of way.

Take it up a notch, to something like, Organization= the bedrock and sine qua non of a life rife with meaning, and it seems to better justify eschewing the care and company of my children and wife, in favor of a four-hardware-store, Sunday-afternoon, hook-quest junket. At this level, organization, good hooks, scalable filing systems, a proud hamper, are not just home-improvement or boxes-checked. They are a well-crafted patch on a leaky boat. My creepily emo admission of feeling warm and loved by shelves, thus stems from a deeper feeling of safety, trust in a progressively evolving world, and feeling taken care of. 

I often derive the same feeling from a well-planned surf session. When I pick the right board for the waves, the right wetsuit for the water and wind temps, and the write snack for pre and post surf, I get so much more satisfaction that than a smug self-back-pat. Though I initiate and lay they plans, I revel in the capacity to find meaning and feel rewarded by some just, parental, big-N-Nature being. GD

Greg Dillon, M.D., is a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Public Health at the Weill Cornell Medical College. more...

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