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Bertha Mary Garnett: A Corner of The Turner Room in the National Gallery (1883)
"I'm learning to consider in what order of work I am engaging."

Change comes in several guises or 'orders,' typically referred to as first through fourth order change. First Order Change involves little more than planning and execution. Second Order does First Order one better by considering, for instance, how one might improve the means of planning or executing. Third Order Change might consider the problem as the solution to the difficulty, like when after failing to counsel a teenager, the parent concedes and 'lets them have their way,' figuring they might better learn through headstrong doing than by even emphatic supervision. Fourth Order Change might revise the rules under which change gets attempted. Running around with scissors might come to be recognized as a perfectly normal activity for some, rather than a certain pathology needing definite fixing. It matters how one perceives their problem space. First Order Change strategies have little effect in situations where fundamental assumptions underly an undesirable situation. Installing new linoleum cannot resolve most marriage difficulties, regardless of what the Sunday Supplement advertisement might claim.

I mention this Ordersing here because a similar framework probably influences HomeMaking, too.
Some HomeWork clearly seems solo. I might refer to this as First Order HomeWork. Others require assistance, so I could call that Second Order Homework. Still others might not demand intervention but might be accepted as features instead of problems or shortcomings. When we lived in the Rockies' Foothills, I, after a couple of summers, realized that I would never manage to successfully create a typical Arboreal Belt country garden in that yard's shallow soil and arid arid climate, not without bankrupting myself with water bills and ruining my views with deer fences, so I chose to improve the backyard by accepting that it was the deer meadow it had been insisting that it was since we moved in. That Third Order Fix took about three years to sink in and I never really appreciated the result, but my point was that no First Order strategy could have possibly satisfied me. I suppose that one day, my current insistence on retaining The Villa's original windows might shift to allow ones of more modern construction and better insulation, and this Fourth Order consideration would eliminate the need for painstakingly pulling out windows to replace window weights and, in fact, eliminate the need for window weights at all. I'm not ready to surrender this hobby for now, but I can imagine surrendering one day.

Back when I attempted to manage projects, I came to understand that many of the difficulties projects always encountered were, at root, Ordersing errors. Someone, with the best of intentions, might have excluded someone who's opinion and acceptance mattered and thereby produced unacceptable results. Someone might sacrifice to attempt to do something solo that could only really be accomplished by collective effort. A sponsor might carry a firm belief in some manner of working or supervising poorly suited to some specific sort of work—they might attempt to manage thought workers as if they were stevedores, and thereby induce chaos. Though my notion seemed overly philosophical to many, I found some solace and occasional wisdom through parsing alternate dimensions of possibilities beyond the familiar First Order 'plan and execute' strategy. Often, I'd encourage a kind of conspiracy whereby we'd attempt to appear to be performing First Order Change while actually engaging at some higher level, this so that we would not upset the overseers, whose world views tended to be as delicate as they were insistent. Properly done, no one unprepared to understand such subtleties ever caught on to our ploys.

I feel wise right now to have hired a painter, even though I know myself to be a fairly capable painter. I am learning lots by watching my expert engage. I'm even helping and sometimes even doing some heavy lifting. Yesterday, Curt The Painter noted that he felt like a dental assistant when we were removing an old window. I was the more expert at removing ancient windows so it made more sense for the client to become the contractor for a spell, a higher order tactic than sticking to strict role definition. It might have been that my insistence upon personally fulfilling my role as plant waterer contributed to losing some plants during our recent heat wave. I became overwhelmed but did not fluidly renege and ask for help, stuck as I was in fulfilling my First Order role's responsibility. Over-responsibility's often the result of overly strict adherence to First Order appearances. Delinquencies, freely reported, sometimes better fulfill responsibilities, though these subtleties can be difficult to perceive when immersed in some swarm of responsibilities.

I think of Ordersing as adding a vertical dimension. Rather than going through or around, I might sometimes consider hopping over or going underground. I often fail to consider higher order alternatives until I've slammed my head against some first order barrier until both my head and the barrier become bloodied. Some of my
Sidling behavior doubtless springs from suspicion that I'm probably overlooking something, so I check the checklist twice or more before sometimes coming to understand that I'm considering a non-checklist sort of situation, so I can engage at a higher order. Psychologists and mathematicians have finely described various orders of engagement. Us HomeMakers run more on a kind of intuition, but one fueled by considerable experience. Not every challenge needs resolving. Initial conceptions often lack some certain uncertain something. Understanding that various orders might exist within any situation, and that a touch of Ordersing might assist more than a ton of even hopeful effort, can produce real differences not only in outcomes but in the quality of experience. When we put the Foothills place on the market, I promoted the fact that the backyard was an authentic deer meadow, and this didn't seem to discount the value of that property at all. It had also saved me from a ton of fruitless effort. I'm learning to consider in what order of work I am engaging.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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