For over a year I’ve been staring at the walls on the outside of my house. They were peeling, with way too many wires floating around without purpose and every time I sat outside I felt a strong urge to sedate the view and create a clear cozy space. As a coach, I can’t help but think about all the metaphors attached to my life… I mean, these walls.
Any project or process of change goes through the same cycle – in big ways or in small ones. In this case, the need for peeling away the old, making space for something better continues. The desire to cut away ties so that my vision is clear, creating a new view for a new reality. And the gratitude it’ll bring me while staying attentive to the accomplishment of relaxed space.
I asked my contractor to move the back door which was facing south, to the back of the house facing west. When you stepped out this door you basically walked into the side of the deck. So moving it allowed the setting sun to stream into the kitchen just in time for cooking dinner.
Since the “old-door spot” on that wall was now clear of a door, I extended the deck across the back of my home. Most days we sit outside and take in the fresh air. But the timing of my angst around the shingles and wires came while we were right where we wanted to be, lighting candles and enjoying dinner.
We spent the last few weekends painting these walls, adjusting lighting and shoring up in preparation for a long haul. A new foundation. It was overdue, to finally take the step to clear these walls, but it occurred to me I wasn’t finished making my life what I wanted it to be – maybe never would be.
If you’ve done this before (scraped away the old), you’ve learned that once you start scraping it might never end. You could go all the way down to the wood clearing away scraps until everything was spotless, ready to be built up again. You could extricate everything, but most likely a reasonable approach would be to find a happy medium between getting rid of every speck that has any chance of popping up, and simply sanding smooth the rough edges so they don’t cut or bare as much.
I asked for help. Something I’m not great at, but after all, he sat there too, and is a very willing participant. I assured him he’d love it. So off we go to find the right paint, tools and supplies to begin together. We chose a deeper shade of grey with ivory trim to match the new Pella windows. By late afternoon, that was enough. That was our work for the day. One small step at a time – Basta!
Prep is always the hardest part, but we started off with lots of coffee and excitement. If I feared all the problems that might show up, it would help me avoid the chore, avoid the work to come, and avoid the ending gratitude! But our approach was easy-does-it and I more than welcomed that way of beginning.
It’s late in the game to think about changing plans once we leap into something new. This is an easy project, but usually the leap itself is the hardest part. This was more like a jump into a puddle.
At one point, I grabbed the can of paint and made my way slowly down the ladder to recover from a slip, and contemplated stopping. The paintbrush was getting gunky and the sun was coming around and beating down. My legs were screaming at me to “get off this damn ladder!” But I could see the finish line.
I sat and drank some water and reconvened my desire for the accomplishment by putting one foot slowly in front of the other, back up the ladder. It’s that time in the middle of a project when things get harder than you thought they’d be and you think it must be a sign for you stop and turn around – don’t do that!
Each step of the way, each break, I bribed myself with something good – an iced coffee, potato chips, a run through the sprinkler – knowing this task was becoming simply unpleasant. But I trusted myself enough to know that each tiny step got me closer to completion and the feeling I wanted when all was said and done.
When all the supplies were packed back in the box, the wires were cut and no peeling paint could be found, I tell myself it was all worth it, and it was. I step back to admire the work. Critical to the process of change is to take some time to step back and feel the gratitude that was waiting patiently. (As well as finding a newfound respect for house painters!)
Think about what’s next, then begin again.