Not Quite Barn Raising

After a mere seven years, my house is now officially painted. OK, with the exception of the downstairs closet and one bathroom door that needs to be replaced anyway, but I’m calling it done.

The final two stages were completed in large part thanks to my mom and three cheerful and generous friends, two of whom, miraculously, actually like painting. Discovering this fact was a little like discovering that some people enjoy being accountants. Who knew such marvels existed?

It’s important to note that this wasn’t only rolling and brushing. In my usual impressively foresightful manner, I had prepped exactly one of three rooms, which means some people washed walls and others taped, definitely the least fun parts of the painting process, yet they did it, as previously noted, cheerfully.

Perhaps the reason communities used to have barn raisings is not only that it made it a lot easier to get your barn built but also that it made the process a lot more fun. I have a pretty clear vision of what painting by myself would have looked like, and it involves a good deal of self-pity, like in the comics when a character walks around with a rain cloud over her head all the time.

But this was enjoyable—maybe not as enjoyable as if we’d all gone out to dinner or the movies but maybe more so. We had a chance to catch up, chat about life possibilities, eat really good watermelon, listen to the Beatles, admire each others’ handiwork, and laugh over our mistakes.

It might not matter so much what we do as who we do it with. Thank you, painting crew, for your help, your good humor, and the reminder that so many things in life are better shared.

Painting Lessons

If you thought that painting your house was not the activity most likely to produce profound philosophical insights, you were right. Here are some mostly not-so-deep but potentially useful lessons learned from my recent painting adventure:

  • Before you pick up the cat that’s been locked in the garage for five hours, make doubly sure the paint on your hands is actually dry.
  • Abba is good painting music. Wait to start dancing until your roller has made contact with the wall.
  • If you know it’s going to take two days to paint your bedroom and you’ve put your bed in the middle of a pile of furniture covered by plastic, don’t put the air mattress you’ll need to sleep on under the plastic with everything else.
  • If you forget the advice above, have the good sense to look in the garage to see if by any chance you put the air mattress there instead of under the plastic as you thought you did.
  • Invite lots of friends. Some of them will come, and they will make your life so much more fun. Plus, a lot more paint will get on the walls in a shorter amount of time.
  • Tall people have amazing super powers that allow them to reach high ceilings in a single bound. Ok, there was no bounding, but there was also no ladder.
  • The back swing of someone using the long handle for the paint roller is dangerous. Use the skills you learned playing Mario Brothers to time your crossings on the upswing.
  • Plan some time to put things away. Otherwise it will be Thursday and all your stuff will still be shoved together in the middle of the room. Or at least so I imagine. Clearly I wouldn’t do anything like that.

Rolling On

Though both Steven Tyler and Ralph Waldo Emerson buy into the life is a journey concept, I have always preferred to reach the destination. Never mind that the writing of a novel lasts ten years and the finishing of it but a moment. Who wants to be quietly happy for ten years when she can have her existence justified in one grand flourish? This weekend, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself occasionally enjoying a process, namely painting.

I am neither a skilled nor a speedy painter, a reality that once would have caused me great emotional and mental turmoil. Now, though my lack of speed in many areas still astonishes me, I don’t always find it necessary to bludgeon myself because of it. Loosening the death grip on perfectionistic tendencies appears to make life less painful.

The breakthrough came when my mom and I had stopped for a pie break. I was mentally cataloging everything that remained to be painted when Mom began telling stories of when I was a baby. Apparently I used to make a little three-fingered Buddha sign sometimes when I fell asleep.

When she told me that, I thought, “Sitting on the patio eating pie and listening to your mom tell stories is more valuable than a professional paint job.”

I usually reply to myself, “The trim I painted looks like crap.” Instead I said, “You are probably right.”

Several times throughout the course of the weekend I believed that doing whatever I was doing, regardless of how poorly, mattered more than some as yet unrealized result. I don’t know where this ability to value the here and now came from, but I do know it resulted in a general lowering of the frenzy level.

So let’s look at the stats:

  • Electrical plates remaining to be reattached: all of them
  • Door knobs that escaped unscathed: 0
  • Spots I completely missed (current count): 2
  • Days I will feel guilty for locking my cat in the garage for three days straight: varies inversely to the number of times he draws blood
  • Walls that probably need another coat of paint: 1
  • Degrees lighter and cheerier the downstairs feels with fresh paint: immeasurable
  • Changes in the “my life may be OK as is” meter: a few priceless notches up