The surprise of garage glory

On Friday, if I would have known that all of Saturday and Sunday would be spent in the garage, I would have anticipated a weekend I might rather quietly skip, landing on guaranteed basically garageless Monday.

It all started last Tuesday night, when the dryer suddenly stopped working.  I should have seen it coming because now that I think of it, it was taking about two hours for normal loads to dry.  So involved I was in plugging forward with what I had to do that I didn’t care about the dryer’s inefficiency.  Not having to go get a new one was good enough for me.

When my husband was out there messing with the dryer, it became even more clear that our garage needed serious help.  What could have been a simple reach for a tool was a precarious dance over followed by an annoyed shifting of miscellaneous items.  Then there was also the fact that the top of our dryer was a prime storage spot, so when it was time to actually take the top off the dryer, well, you understand.  My attempts to deal with the dust bunnies, hoping that would somehow make us feel better, now make me laugh.

What we needed was the opposite of what we felt like doing.  We needed to go get cabinets, take much of the garage apart, clean it, and put it back together.  Apparently we were both feeling Pollyana-ish because we were both picturing going to the home store, picking up cabinets, and placing them.  A lot of work, but rather wham-bam.  Ahem, and assembly…?

It was a long two days.  Neighbors drove by and waved without bothering to hide their expressions that said, “Better you than me!”  The low point came on Saturday night when we discovered that we had assembled one of the pieces in our biggest cabinet incorrectly, which meant that the holes for the shelf-holders were not lined up.  I felt like crying, but suddenly my heroic husband got an unreasonably-timed second wind and motivated both of us to fix it promptly (the thing weighs 200 pounds, so don’t picture nimble movements here).

This was one of my favorite weekends I have spent with my husband.  He impressed me by getting cabinets on the wall, installing shelves, and having the strength to move the 200 pound monster.  We ate pizza out of the box together in the middle of the mess.  We operated as a team even through the grouchy moments and took care of something that has been driving us both crazy.  I am so glad I didn’t skip it.

I tend to see projects like this as interfering with “my life”.  And what, “my life” is daily coddling and relaxation?  Constantly doing only what “I want” to do?  If it were, I would not be proud of my life.  Putting forth effort enhances my life, and becoming increasingly comfortable with putting forth effort will help me realize that my life is continuous until its end.  Aha!  I have not wanted to include some projects in “my life” because of my history as a perfectionist.  “I don’t know exactly how to do this project.  There will be things I won’t know, things I won’t think of.  That means I don’t know everything, which makes me feel more imperfect than I do when I’m ‘in my box’ [of doing things that are familiar and comfortable].  I need to be perfect to be lovable, so doing this project feels dangerous.  I’d rather avoid it.”  And there you have it- the reality behind my opening comment about skipping the weekend rather than living through it.

Three cheers for the dryer konking out, which wound up giving me yet another opportunity to take another bold step away from perfectionism.  Now I understand why the deeper part of myself chose this title before writing this piece; I thought I was simply surprised by how good it felt to have an organized garage, even though it meant “sacrificing” the whole weekend.  No.  I, in the mess, at times unsure of next steps, not knowing things about tools, getting filthy, being rather afraid of the power drill, felt loved and safe right through it all.  Now that’s what I call garage glory.

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The elusive scapegoat

My body, thus far, has not been able to sustain a pregnancy.  Compared to some women, I’ve been through a lot and compared to others desiring to reproduce, I am quite fortunate.  Bottom line this time though, is that I’ve just been left disappointed once again.  Sometimes I can be breezy about it all.  “It will happen when the time is right.”  Other times I have had psychotic thoughts like, “God hates me.”  Since I am getting older and aging does not help a woman get pregnant, one might think I would be getting more panicky.  I’ve tried to get worked up, feeling like I should.  I should go on message boards as babydreams574, describe every detail of my experiences, and sprinkle “baby dust” and wish “sticky vibes” (yes, I’m mentally running to the toilet now) on a bunch of reproduction-obsessed women.

As much as I want to have a child with my amazing husband, I can’t bring myself to freak out and completely lose it.  Part of what is stopping me is faith that it will happen, and that it will indeed happen with excellent timing and circumstances.  The other thing that stands in the way of my having a cow (I am a child of the 80s, okay?) is my body.

Yes, I would like there to be something to blame for the failures thus far, and my body seemed like it might be the most appropriate one.  I tried it on.  “Darned body.  You can’t do this?  You’re a woman.  What is wrong with you?”  It didn’t fit, because I couldn’t deny the fact that I woke up, breathing, after sleeping so hard that I didn’t know I was alive.  I opened my eyes and saw clearly.  Getting out of bed was a cinch and completely pain-free.  Boy did I have to pee, and that was easy and pain-free as well.  It was a sunny morning, which is not so common where I live, and I could hear the birds celebrating.  Talking to and laughing with my husband before he left for work was something to enjoy.  I could go on, about how I love to taste food, which my body has no problem digesting.  How thankful I am that my skin can feel and heal without my having to put forth effort.  So, as you can see, my body comes out the hero because it’s alive, does wonderful things for me pretty much constantly, and it’s not apparently about to die.

I like being alive.  My body makes that possible.  I love and appreciate it, imperfections and all.  It is not a pregnancy that I am not able to to sustain, it is disappointment.  That transforms the scapegoat from an elusive creature into an irrelevant one.

Don’t make yourself look at dead plants.

There is a plant container outside my kitchen window.  It had a plant with red flowers and one time I actually saw a hummingbird come for a sip.  This may not sound like a big deal, but I love hummingbirds.  And flowers.

The plant had run its course and slowly died.  Instead of immediately removing it from my sight, I spent a couple weeks looking at it in its withered state.  Every time I looked at it, it 1)  did not make me happy.  2)  reminded me how I “don’t have time” to take care of it (familiar, isn’t it?)  3)  brought death to mind (just what you want when doing dishes!).

It surprised me how when I took the whopping two minutes it took to take the container to the yard waste bin, dump it out, and put the empty container back, I felt so much better.  I thought that an empty container would make me unhappier than the dead plant, but it was not so.  Once the container was empty, there was no dead plant, and there was also the thought of and readiness for something alive and new.

Now, the container is there, again full of life.  It’s a simple thing, but it creates good feelings inside of me.

The wisdom of turquoise toenails

I just wrote a nice entry, and then the whole thing disappeard in to nothingness, in spite of being “automatically saved” every few minutes or so.  That felt like a slap.

But I am determined, so here I go again.

I don’t understand how many women can keep up with having their finger and/or toenails done.  Most of the time, I am slightly aggravated by a hangnail, too-long fingernails, or my toenails being what they typically are, which is not pretty.  Sparing you the details, I’ll just say that it’s a good thing I live in a foggy and chilly area so my feet can reasonably be covered most of the year.  People’s baby toes are usually funny-looking, but mine have a particularly odd shape and placement.  The longer one looks at them, the stranger they appear.

When life feels less than fabulous, catching glimpses of my neglected toenails makes the lack of fabulosity seem highlighted.  But when I look down and see my favorite color, which is turquoise, I can’t help feeling a prick of delight.  I ‘don’t have time’ to give myself pedicures, but I DO have time to work on email, do laundry, do paperwork, wash dishes…  Delight deserves to be highly prioritized in life, particularly for people like me who are overly wrapped up in being responsible.

Nail spas are consistently crowded, and I confess to internally criticizing their customers as I responsibly run errands.  Yes, this is horrible and unreasonable- I’ll bet many of those women enjoying a window of time work harder than I.  I have secretly wanted to allow myself that indulgence, but I ‘have to’ do other things.  In order to feel okay about saying “no” to myself, I have had to see myself as doing the right thing.  The right thing is balancing responsibility and delight, not being a responsibility robot.

Now, when I see all of those people getting manicures and pedicures, I will cheer on the wisdom of their priorities.  When I take time to give myself pedicures, I will know that I am deliberately doing something to create a bit of joy in my own life, which makes me more likely to have some to share with others.

This wasn’t as good as my original, but at least I have turquoise toenails.

A party in my head for someone else

With my long, garbagey history of comparing myself with other people, I surprise and delight myself nowadays with my ability to celebrate the victories of others.  I am far from perfect along these lines because I can still make the mistake of feeling unloved if I don’t get what I want, and then feeling worse about it when someone else gets that thing.  Very silly and embarassing to take it personally, as pre-school aged kids do.  Fortunately, I don’t actually frown, cross my arms, flail, or scream when I’m disappointed, but I do sometimes feel emotions that make me want to.

Now that I am more grown up (note that it is a relative statement), I am sometimes able to put myself out of my mind and completely focus on someone else.  It’s refreshing to have a break from myself.

Today, one of my dear friends shared with me that a book proposal that she has bled, sweat (sweat?  sweated?  not swote.  hmm.  okay, just looked it up, and if what I found is correct, one can choose between sweat or sweated.), and cried over has been submitted and given a nod.  When I think about how she has worked for hours at her sometimes unreliable laptop to tell human stories that are thoughtful and soulful and now her work is being accepted, it feels like justice!

Twenty years ago, my thoughts might have been more along these lines:  “She is so smart and talented.  I am a dumb loser.  She writes, dances, plays soccer.  I don’t do anything.  She’s even pretty and she has a trim stomach.  I feel like a beluga.”  Then, I would have likely sought out some of my favorite fatty food in which to take a swim until all I could do was float in a comatose state.

This new way, this non-horribly-mean-whale approach, is much better.  I see confetti and streamers in my head.  There is a sign with her name on it.  I’m happy to see her name there not only because she deserves it, but also because I love her.  And if I love her, perhaps that means that I am finally gaining some regard for myself.  And deserving it.