Fixing Things

Here I am. Trying to fix things. Trying to move, keep busy, and not let myself think too much.

watercolor a blue vase with lots of cracks and chips
Image Created via Midjourney

My entire company took a collective summer vacation last week. Our (virtual) office was closed so everyone could take some time to recharge. But I’m not one to sit still and instead decided to seize the opportunity to work on improvements around the house — things that always fall by the wasyside because I never have time.

I planned my week with a specific task each day, starting with repainting my bathroom counters. My bathroom vanities are fine but had hideous, pink-ish, plastic-looking countertops. Somewhere online I’d learned that countertops could be repainted so that they’d have a marble look. I bought the kit, watched an 18-minute YouTube video (twice), gathered up all of my supplies, and set out to turn my countertops into something beautiful.

It was a disaster. The epoxy resin finish was incredibly unforgiving. Most of my work looked fine, but in a few places (especially around the fixtures), there were horrible imprfections. There was no way to fix the mistakes. I tried applying a second coat in those few small areas, but it just made the problem worse.

Instead of spending one day on the project, I spent three days. It ruined my week. Not only did the project take far longer than I’d planned (thereby decresing the time I could spend on other things), but I felt like a failure. I really should have known that the project was outside of my skillset. I had to tell Ger that I’d ruined our bathroom countertops.

But I wasn’t going to be defeated. I bought new countertops from Home Depot (which is the route I should have taken in the first place) and hired a handyman to install them.

After the new countertops were in place, my 12-year-old said, “Are we trying to fix the entire house?”

He is perceptive. We’ve been plowing through home improvement projects for months. Part of it, I’m sure, is the result of being home so much over the past few years. We notice the imperfections of the home overall and want to make the space better.

But I think there’s another reason, particularly with the timing of my week off and that I chose to work on projects instead of relax.

So much of the world feels outside of my control right now. I’m mourning the victims of gun violence and the loss of women’s rights in this country. I can’t singlehandedly fix either of those things. If I’d spent the week trying to “relax,” my brain would have swirled in the state of anxiety and depression that I’ve been feeling for the past few weeks. The projects were a distraction.

I did something similar after Nelle died. Barely recovered from giving birth, I repainted a room in the house. It was an office, but it was supposed to be her nursery. We already had a dresser in the corner of the room, filled with baby girl clothes that we’d received as gifts. Even though I knew we were going to try for another pregnancy, I couldn’t handle walking by that room every day. Painting seemed like an easy “fix” — a way to block out the memory of what that room was supposed to be. And it gave me something to focus on instead of my grief.

I did a horrible job painting. I was far too distracted and just wanted the work to be over. Much like my bathroom countertops, the imperfections were a constant reminder of the reason that I had taken on the project in the first place. From a distance, everything looked fine, but up close it told a different story.

And now, here I am again. Trying to fix things. Trying to move, keep busy, and not let myself think too much.

Don’t breathe too deep
Don’t think all day
Dive into work
Drive the other way

That drip of hurt
That pint of shame
Goes away
Just play the game

-from RENT