Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Eventually, I Would Like To...
An old friend from college finally came to visit me, and after some 15+ years of not seeing each other, there were lots of hugs, compliments and laughter. Shannon (not her real name) had brought her four year-old little boy, who made the perfect playmate for my two children, freeing us for some good catching up.
Shannon and her husband Erik (not his real name) live and work in northern New Jersey, where they bought an old Tudor-style mansion some three years ago. Owning a big old house had been Shannon's dream since she was very young. The only fly in the ointment: it was very much a fixer-upper. When they first saw the house, Erik had been less than enthused. Shannon was relentless in convincing him that this was a great opportunity for their little family (Shannon is in real estate), not to mention the investment potential when it was fixed up. Erik is an accountant, so that argument appealed to him and the deal was done.
I wanted to hear all about this because we live in an old Victorian home, which is in a perpetual state of “being fixed up.” As she talked about her house, Shannon became visibly tense. "You know,” she said, "this whole thing was pretty much all my idea. When I saw the house and I knew we could afford it, I was simply on fire. All the work ahead was going to be an adventure. I could clearly see the lawn parties I would give, and my children would grow up in a house like those in the old English romances."
She paused for a while, looking at her hands. "Heidi (my real name), it's become a nightmare." She looked very unhappy. "Erik is an accountant for God's sake. He just doesn't have the skills to move us along, and he is less and less willing to do anything at all. We have terrible fights on the weekends when he wants to catch a ballgame. I don't play enough with Billy, because I'm always painting or scraping something. I don't want to get out of bed in the morning, because all I can see is work. I have never been so depressed." Looking around my newly-decorated living room (rarely used for living in) she asked, "How did you do all this without losing your mind? Or did you have the money to have it done?"
"No, no," I said. "We did it ourselves. But come with me,” and I broke my forever-rule of no one but family allowed upstairs and showed Shannon all of the second and third floors. Only my children's bedroom and neighboring bathroom are finished and decorated. The other rooms - there are four more including the master bedroom - hold a jumble of furniture. Some of it from my old New York apartment, and also quite a few parental hand-me-downs. There isn't a hint of a decorating scheme to be discovered anywhere.
I could see that Shannon was shocked - her gaze had locked onto the peculiar shade of green with which the previous owners had painted all the walls in the hall. Some was peeling off on the broom closet door. "Eventually, I would like to paint those a creamy eggshell color,” I said, leading the way back down.
Not only did I want Shannon to see that a large part of my house was also still “not done,” and that I hadn't become undone with it, but I also wanted her to hear the philosophy expressed in my last statement. It’s the reason why I am happy now.
I will eventually have a beautifully decorated bedroom. But making the time for that now would rob me of all the fun I have with my family. My husband likes to plan adventures for us on weekends and I would rather be able to be a part of that than live in a show-worthy home. But I will get to it, eventually.
When working on a personal goal causes you frustration or becomes an obsession that pushed everything else aside, not only will you suffer, but everyone around you will, too. You will start hating the tasks it takes to get done, and chances are the results will reflect your state of mind as well. When you feel well, you do well.
Above all others by far, my first goal in life is happiness and contentment - the kind that comes from inside, and being with the people I love. I selfishly want to feel good while doing work of any kind. If time or financial pressures interfere with doing something, it goes on the "Eventually, I would like to..." list. (Emergencies, such as a leaking ceiling, toilets that don't flush, or a swarm of wasps in the attic, go on the FIX IT NOW! list.)
Eventually, I would like to... is a wonderful tool for those of you who are too keenly aware of “things that need doing” - like peeling paint, fading shutters, or a couple of cracked tiles - and are made very unhappy by it day after day. Time or money may not allow for a quick fix. Eventually, I would like to paint the shutters takes the pressure off for now. You are not saying "To hell with it!" and putting yourself in danger of becoming one of those people. You know it will get done.
Oh, and if it's about what the neighbors will think, come on - you know better than that by now!