Rafe had to leave town for a few days for work. I repainted the bathroom to keep myself from going crazy. As I started working, one “If you give a mouse a cookie…” moment led to another and I ended up completing a slight remodel rather than just a repaint.
This wasn’t supposed to be a Thing, but this project made me cry three times, so I’m counting it. Here’s what happened.
After I finished the paint, I took a step back to examine my work. Something wasn’t right around the mirror. Any mistake I made with the blue became two mistakes next to the mirror. I decided to build a frame for the mirror. Wood and saws and nails and measuring! I had never done that. Off to Lowe’s!
With astonishing grace, I carted the eight foot boards I needed to the wood cutting station. I danced around nervously, tried to find a button to call for help, and did my best to look like my fussy baby and I belonged in a Lowe’s lumberyard amid hoards of contractors. I practiced saying the measurements I had quadruple checked.
A man finally hollered down the aisle asking if I needed help. He came within fifteen feet and then simply said, “We don’t cut those.” He looked at me blankly and refused to give me any more information.
“Not even just a straight cut?” I asked, making a slicing motion with my hand and ffffffth with my lips, demonstrating how easy this would be for him with his a big man saw and his cool goggles.
Cool. Thanks, guy. You’re helpful.
This, for the record, is why doing stuff is hard. I was already out of my comfort zone in order to complete a task that was out of my comfort zone and Mr. Monosyllable made me feel like an idiot. Let’s all do our bests to not make others feel like idiots.
So I loaded up my eight foot lengths of board and psyched myself up for the jig saw. This turned out to be a ton of fun, so I decided I wasn’t mad at Monosyllable anymore.
…until I started measuring again and realized my eight foot boards were actually seven foot, four inch boards. I looked closer and saw they had been previously cut and apparently returned to Lowe’s as damaged goods. Let’s all do our bests to follow return policies.
Another trip to Lowe’s, one warped board, numerous coats of blue paint, white paint, caulk, caulk jokes, and Liquid Nails later, my mirror was framed. It looks fine. If you’re ever at my house, please don’t look at it too closely. But I learned a lot and I had fun and I didn’t even need rude Lowe’s guy or his big man saw.
Everything was going fine. I had a few bumps but I got them figured out. I could have stopped there. But the mouse needed his napkin and I needed to build shelves.
The concept was simple enough: I would stain boards I found in my garage and rest them on pipe pieces I would spray paint and drill into the wall. My boards looked beautiful. I took my time spray painting and did it right for the first time ever. I marked my holes in the drywall where I would drill as soon as baby woke up. My little level bubble told me I had done a great job. I was ready to drill.
I can’t find the words to explain what happened next, perhaps some residual baby brain or the world’s biggest brain fart or maybe the baby had roofied my coffee that morning. I couldn’t figure out how to attached the drill bit to the actual drill. The same drill I had used several times before. The same drill I knew how to operate and was comfortable with. I was completely paralyzed and frustrated.
I swallowed my pride and called my dad. I had a simple question that would make me look dumb, but I have looked dumb before and moved past it. I called him on FaceTime so I could show him the drill and what I was trying to do. Instead of just answering my question, he got all fatherly on me and asked what anchors I was using, how much weight I expected my shelves to hold, and how the drill was obviously broken because the chuck shouldn’t come off so easily. This was Day 3 of working in the bathroom. Day 3 of Rafe being out of town. Day 3 of my only human interaction being with my sweet son and the Lowe’s guy. So my frustration just all sort of boiled over, and I cried. I cried because I was embarrassed and tired and lonely and overwhelmed. Then for the first time in my life, I hung up on my parents.
I FaceTimed my sister because I knew she would understand what I was trying to do and how crying to your parents as an adult is the worst. As soon as she answered, I jumped right in explaining what I was doing and why I was frustrated and how I didn’t need anyone’s sympathy and assured her that I was a grown, capable woman all without taking a breath. When I did, she rotated the camera to show me she was sitting next to our parents at a baseball game and they, along with the rest of the stands, had just bathed in the emotional geyser that had spewed out of my mouth.
The baby and I ate and I took deep breaths and did more Internet search and tried to create my own version of Sherlock’s Mind Palace. Rafe had called to tell me good news, and I was so happy I cried again (#allthefeelings). He could tell something was wrong, but I didn’t want to explain what was going on because, fun fact, I hadn’t told him I was doing anything in the bathroom. I’m a sucker for good surprises. I did anyway and he assured me he would help when he got home.
I felt like a failure. I was reminded of sitting helplessly in my driveway surrounded by car parts. I was the damsel in distress again, and I hated it. My best friend reminded me that if I could rotate my tires, I could do this.
The doors of my Mind Palace swung open. The paralysis wore off. That whole time I was attaching and reattaching the chuck, I was also loosening the grip for the drill bit. I plugged it in and gave the trigger a few test squeezes. pew! pew!
The shelves went up gloriously. While you are busy NOT looking at my mirror frame, look at my shelves. They look more than fine. They are beautiful.
So I guess that’s it. I started with a simple paint job and ended up, again, learning how easily I tend to give up, how easily I become frustrated, and how easy the solution usually is.
That night, after I put the baby down, I soaked three days of paint, glue, and dust off of my legs in the tub. I wondered again why I am doing this, if it matters. I wondered if I was just another bored housewife looking for validation and meaning from the world. I am going to ask myself that a lot in this life. I hope I can always come to the conclusion that the work I do matters, because as I drilled the last screw in on my completely unnecessary shelves, I looked down at my son, making sure the loud noise didn’t scare him. He sat on the floor smiling, watching me overcome my struggle and reap the benefits of my persistence.
I know he won’t remember this particular day. But all this work I’m doing is practice for a day he will remember. Someday he will see me struggle. He will see me get frustrated, and he will remember it. But with any luck, he will also remember me never giving up, trying harder, persisting, taking chances, and succeeding.