Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Fine Pestilence

It’s been a putterbutt kind of day.

Putterbutt is a word I learned from my friend Elaine, who learned it from her mother, and as a serious lover of useful made-up words, I installed it into my vocabulary immediately. It means to just fool around and sort of flirt insincerely with your To Do list, that primary source of proof that you are an adult and can be trusted with serious responsibilities. Putterbutting is my defense mechanism to avoid tackling a huge task I don’t really want to do. I know the task has to be done eventually, and so I put my trust in eventuality, and allow my attention to wander shamelessly, aimlessly, toward anything, everything else.

Putterbutting is a proud occupation for one or two, but it’s too personal to be a group activity. It is conducted by the rules of Whatever, guided only by whim and whimsy, curiosity and quizzical wonder. A dedicated putterbutt can spend hours reading greeting cards in the Hallmark Store and never buy one, search through bottomless bins of Kmart clearance items she doesn’t need and won’t buy anyway, wander the aisles of thrift stores motivated only by Because It’s There. A committed putterbutt knows the unbridled, guilt-free joy of saying No. An experienced putterbutt doesn’t wear a watch or make appointments that will inevitably be broken.

Putterbutting opens life to the wonders of serendipity, the unexpected discovery of delightful surprises, sweet moments that make you smile or possibly even giggle, moments that will contribute to sparkling conversation later in the telling. Things discovered serendipitously are like lovely, intriguing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that may fit together sometime in the distant future, but until they do, can be appreciated now for their individuality.

But I digress, and that’s what makes me a champion putterbutt. Wandering from place to place around the house, or the town, noticing details, nuances, subtleties, shades of differences, I ponder, dissect and reconfigure. I take the leash off my imagination. I ramble over unnumbered unscheduled detours to What If and Hmm. I enjoy the vistas on the hill above Maybe Some Day, and make mental reservations to go there again when I can stay longer.

At the end of a long delicious putterbutt day, not much has been checked off the To Do list, but I’ve been everywhere and thought everything and put all the problems in perspective. Sometimes I stumble accidentally into some item from a long-neglected To Do list, but on a putterbutt day it somehow doesn’t seem like the ponderous task it was before. A glorious day spent in fearless, lofty putterbutting has a cleansing effect, decontaminating the soul from all the rush and hurry that keeps it earthbound on other days.

Is a day of putterbutting wasted? Only if you allow guilt to intrude with its shameful Should Haves and imperative Oughts who come shaking their scolding fingers dangerously near your sense of responsibility. In fact, an occasional day spent in putterbutt limbo can be the most satisfying kind of day. There will always be other days ripe for taking charge like an adult and rampaging headlong through the To Do list, masterfully checking off jobs as if they won’t have to be done over again in another week or two.

If there were some magic elixir that would take away my inclination for putterbutting, I would tear up the prescription. It’s a disease that doesn’t strike very often, but when it does, I plan to enjoy it to the fullest. I refuse to be cured of this fine pestilence.

1 comment:

jwise said...

I do putterbutt a lot, but I feel guilty about it so it doesn't do me any good. I was updated my Facebook profile yesterday and I did fine listing interests and favorite movies, but when it asked about the activities that I like to do, I was stuck. I finally started listing, "reading, riding my bike," but I realized that I don't actually take time to DO those things. I do like them, but I don't do them very much. There's something wrong with that.