Displacement activity is defined as: “an animal or human activity that seems inappropriate, such as head-scratching when confused, considered to arise unconsciously when a conflict between antagonistic urges cannot be resolved.”
Too right and, oh boy (or girl, we’re gender neutral here) are there some very big antagonistic urges going on all over the place right now.
I refer, of course, to the fact that that we’re all cooped-up with an abundance of time at our fingertips, while simultaneously imbued with a mysterious lack of energy and drive.
However, four weeks into my unproductive incarceration and, ‘Ta dah’, a new mindset has arrived – DIY focus. And we are not alone.
Not normally a curtain-twitcher, I’ve become fascinated with the daily activity of those around us; individual fiefdom’s rapidly morphing into ideal-home showcases.
Preferred weapon of choice? The power hose pressure washer.
All around us, Monoblock driveways are being mercilessly blasted in the pursuit of the perfect pink hue. Driveway walls gleam in the manner of the newly installed. Patios and pathways too sparkle in the spring sunshine. One chap I notice has even washed down the front gates.
And all in pursuit of those ‘antagonistic urges that cannot be resolved!’
We’re all at it though, aren’t we? It’s the new rock ‘n’ roll.
My drug of choice is the garden. Never a perfectionist, our lawn edges now stand to attention like something from Chelsea.
Enjoying a cup of tea on the outdoor steps this week, I noticed a thistle poking its way through the paving stones.
A thistle?! What audacity. Where, just a few weeks ago, I would have shrugged and thought, ‘Aw, another time’, now tea was abandoned and off with its head!
Another pressing urge has been to revitalise the summerhouse. Moderately filled with an assortment of comfortable chairs and some fading bunting, this is a refuge from family life and definitely not something from the pages of Country Living.
But not now. Oh no. Now, it’s a gleaming example of escape cave on a budget!
The same madness that removed thistle heads entered my soul like some demonic alien, driving me forward to achieve the goal.
Spiders were herded and rehomed (very environmentally friendly here); cutting pots lined-up in size order; cushions fluffed (I ask you) and despatched to the washing machine; windows doused with vinegar and elbow grease; childhood artworks, hitherto strategically placed to give maximum psychological encouragement, brutally reassessed, many not making the cut.
And relax. Far too perfect to use now of course, but what a sense of achievement!
Where to turn our focus? Logs are standing to attention. The car has been washed and hand-polished (we actually had to consult dad about this one). Windows gleam inside and out (window cleaners are exempt from the lockdown apparently so, of course, once he appeared last week, we couldn’t have interior surfaces letting the side down – game on!).
Tricky to know where to turn. But I seek solace from knowing – and watching – that we are not alone. Everyone is looking for their own personal displacement activity.
Domestic duties are no replacement I know for being out on the front line. But being in control of your own little patch is perhaps all some of us can ask for at this difficult time. With it, perhaps, when we do emerge, blinking and confused, back into the big, bad world, maybe we’ll all be just a little bit more content with the smaller achievements in life.
I hope so, but I’m not ordering a power-hose just yet.
Mairi Fraser 18.4.20