Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Home Improvement vs. Self Improvement

This last week or so, I've been angry at a lot of things--Jenny McCarthy, the entire profession of orthopedic medicine, people who appoint themselves the doyenne of an entire home decor trend, picky eaters, blouses without sleeves in stores in January, shoppers who fill out checkbook ledgers in express lanes.

The fact that this much LPC and LMC (little plastic crap and little metal crap) came off
just ONE window is pretty irritating. 
You could say the little stuff is getting me down and though there is a lot of that, sometimes to the point I feel like I'm being pecked to death by chickens, it's also a lot of larger, more abstract things I'm wrestling with that are quite frankly pissing me off. And unfortunately they are all about my own annoying self.

It seems like home bloggers don't write about anger much, which has always surprised me. It seems like we have plenty to be mad about sometimes.

Like this plumbing leak that destroyed my entire bedroom wall:

Or the time I cussed an entire clump of maiden grass out of my border. My tools were an axe and fury:

Next time I'm using a flame thrower. 
But I'm beginning to realize (I'm a bit hard-headed, I know) that this is the stuff that actually happens while we're writing to-do lists and thinking it's gonna be a breeze. That "progress is progress" mantra from my New Year's goals is part of dealing with that. Realizing that no matter what happens, it's only going to get done one thing at a time anyway, even if that includes leaky pipes and stubborn weeds.

So you'd think with that attitude adjustment I'd be good to go, right?

Yes. And no.

I'm chugging along on my bedroom renovation just like I talked about, and I'll have some posts about it soon. But I'm discovering the "progress is progress" concept is a hell of a lot easier to apply to painting woodwork and wiring lighting than my other work in progress, which is me. For that, sometimes angry is all I've got.

1. I don't want help. Yes, I do. No, I don't.

I want to be self-reliant. While I am not irrational enough to think that I'm going to be able to do every single thing this house needs all by myself, I think I've got enough smarts, ability to work hard and willingness to attempt new challenges to do a lot of it. Sometimes it's not even that, but the fact that most of the time it's only me, and it's the only way it's going to get done.

But I only have so much time. I am only one person. I only have so much physical strength. And sometimes, things just go to hell well beyond my control to stay ahead of the problem. All of these facts tick me completely off.

In the almost three years I've lived here I have had help from my mom, my dad, my sister, my sons, an electrician, a plumber, and a handy man.

No one should ever feel bad about Dad help. It's one of the best kinds. 
Don't get me wrong. I am grateful for all the work from others which has made my house my home. And yet I get angry at myself for needing it. I know it doesn't make any sense; I think I'd feel less conflicted about it if I were in a relationship, as in, "we-the-couple" welcomed help from family and friends or hired it done, rather than "me" being a woman on her own who needed help, who couldn't do it on her own. It's that hair-splitting gender difference that makes me feel inadequate. Even when it's help from people who love me and would do it anyway. What's the difference between having assistance and being rescued? I don't know, and I worry about that part.

One of my favorite bloggers, Kit over at DIY Diva, recently wrote a post about this issue, only she did it much better and it included tequila and a raccoon in a cage; you can read it here. She said, "...sometimes I am only strong by default, not by choice. And it's not in my nature to accept that. Some day I might invite someone along on this adventure of mine, but not until I'm sure that I can walk the path on my own." This. So much this. Which leads me to:

2. I am single again, which is a good thing. Unless I'm mad about it, which I frequently am.

Because my personal life isn't really the focus of this blog, it didn't get mentioned that Mr. Man and I stopped seeing each other in August. It was no one's fault; he's a great person, and we're still friends. But after having that two and a half year relationship come to an end, followed by what can only be described as some.....communication weirdness I guess... with a guy I've liked for a really long time, I decided it was time to take a big long vacation from dating. I'm giving myself a year off.

Love me, love my chickens.
Partly because of number one, part two is necessary. I need to be not only competent but comfortable on my own, and honestly, I might be that way a lot longer than a year. Most of the time, I think I am. Comfortable, that is. But I'm also ambivalent. I run all the way from a slightly (and only slightly) more mature version of Boys Are Stupid, to having angst-y episodes about whether I can ever meet anyone when the only places I go are the grocery store and the hardware store. Then I realize I'm worrying about this during my supposed year off, and I get mad at Boys and myself all over again. So, the short version of all this is: boys stupid, me stupid, me angry that I'm stupid.

3. Getting older is also stupid.

I took up running last year as a way to bond with my sister, lose weight, and to, ironically enough, manage my anger. Running is meditative, cathartic, an excellent way to blow off steam. But I injured my hip, and I've been laid up recovering for a couple of months. After multiple appointments with an orthopedic surgeon and an MRI, what they can tell me is this: they don't know what happened, and they can't find anything wrong.

It was anti-climatic. And infuriating. The good news is they don't see anything wrong and I've got the go ahead to start running again. But the bad news is it's all uphill from here, as they say, to regain the level of fitness I lost, and to re-lose the weight I re-gained.

It's at this point I try to inject a little perspective. It's easy to give the sleeveless blouses and children who turn up their noses at chicken side-eye and move on. At the other end, none of my anger problems are real problems in the grand scheme of what the universe can dish out, just.....dissatisfaction aimed in an uncomfortable direction--at myself.

So while I think I've found the right philosophy for my home-improvement projects, I'm still finding what works for my self-improvement projects. "Progress is progress" isn't cutting it just yet, though maybe I'll come around to it.

In the meantime, I'll just shake my fist in its general direction.


  1. Oh, I so wish I could take you out for a nice long glass of wine. Or whine. Whatever. Both. I understand every single word of this post.

    Cane and I lived 45 minutes apart when we first kept company. I lived on a mountain. Now, he helped with with all kinds of things (and I felt all those conflicted feelings you nail here about that kind of help), but there were lots of times he couldn't because he was just too far away and our lives were too busy with our individual things.

    It wasn't until I was stuck home with my kids on another blasted snow day, and the power went out, which meant I had to haul out the generator in order to keep the sump pump under the house going--necessary to keep the water from destroying the furnace which the inexperienced builder of the house put under there--while having a freakin' migraine that I realized I actually could survive on my own. Not easily, and not prettily--but I could do it. Only then could I think about giving up that place and joining in with him. And I still get mad sometimes about the ways in which I've become dependent, which I said I would never, ever do again.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am in awe of all the balls you're juggling so well. And I'm not surprised one bit that you're angry. It's really damn hard to start all over again in the middle of your life, while you're still in the middle of raising kids. I used to think it was like I was in my 20s again, only with two other beings who needed me to be in my 40s. It's just hard.

    Oh, I could go on and on. Just know: You're doing it. You can keep doing it. It will get better, and it will be worth it.

    1. Thanks so much for this Rita. It came at a moment I need something to buck up with. This was it. And you know, boxed wine on the side. :)

  2. You know that feeling you get when you know that you have arrived in a place where you are supposed to be? I got that feeling after reading only a couple of paragraphs here ... then I continued reading until I got to Christmas. It all started with a visit to The Kelly House, where there was a link to your blog, and the rest (as they say) is history. I just pushed your Followers button, and I have added you to my sidebar so I know when you post something new.

    I have been where you are, sort of. The old house we live in was my full-time job for five years, as I worked to restore and renovate almost the entire house before we moved in. Projects languish now, and 80% is only a dream most of the time. Thank goodness for the fact that my kids (girls) are grown and we don't have child rearing to add to the mix.

    Anyway, I am very happy to have found you and I look forward to keeping up with you in the future.

    1. What a lovely comment, and thank you! It's nice to meet you, and so glad you've enjoyed things so far. It's a little crazy around here, but if you're an old house owner you understand. :)

  3. 1. Getting old is WAY stupid

    2. Do NOT ever think that you are inadequate

    3. You are a total bad-ass and I respect the hell out of what you are doing!

    I bow down to you my friend for ALL that you have accomplished...on your own!

    1. Sara, thank you so much for this. You and Rita with your comments on this post really helped me out of a bit of a funk. You rock! :)

    2. You deserve TONS of kudos for ALL that you do hon......really you are doing a great, great job so don't ever feel down on yourself - you are an amazing woman!

      I'm so glad I could bring a smile to your face! :)