Every time I tell someone I’m painting my house, their reaction is pretty much the same.
“I did that once. I’ll never do it again.”
“Money well spent to pay someone else.”
“Oh wow. Good luck!”
People hate painting houses I guess. In complete honesty, I’ve enjoyed it. It’s fantastic mindless work, but it’s not just fidgeting. It’s something that I can take pride in, something I can stand back and admire when I’m done. And it’s something that’s almost completely and 100% not stressful.
It’s weird to me that I’m finding some kinda of weird satisfaction in something that everyone else holds in such detest. On one hand I totally get why people don’t like it. It’s tedious. It’s daunting. It’s climbing. It’s cleaning. It’s scraping. It’s outside. It’s time consuming. It’s daunting.
And I think that is part of what makes me embrace it. Because I can’t exist just to follow the path of least resistance. I can’t let myself be defined by whatever is easiest at the moment, or whatever will kill a few minutes until the next interesting thing happens. To just live by the whims of what happens to be the nearest shiny thing seems like a willful forfeiture of my own free will!
It’s tedious. My first ever job was to walk through a cornfield and chop down cornstalks. Hail had wiped out the corn crop early in the growing season. While there was still time, the farmer re-planted the field with new corn. But the old damaged corn needed to be removed or it would inhibit the growth of the new healthy corn. I had a rusty old machete that my dad sharpened up for me. And I walked that field row by row, chopping down the old corn, careful not to chop the new. It would take probably 15 minutes to walk an entire row from one end to the other. After 1 hour I’d look over and see the same spot I’d just stood only 5 feet away.
It felt like I’d been swinging the same blade over and over, and didn’t have much to show for it. But it sure was pretty satisfying to start that LAST row, and then to chop that FINAL stock, then look back across a field of healthy young corn and realize that it all added up to one big thing. I remember I was getting paid $5.25 per hour and got a check for $262! You do that math.
It’s daunting. How many times are you stopped from pursuing a thing because the goal is so far distant in the future? You’d love to be able to play an instrument but it will take years to become any good. You’d love to lose some weight but after weeks of exercise and dieting, it just hasn’t made much difference. Most of the things we really want in life ARE tedious. And most of thing things we can have right away wear off quickly. You’d have that “whatever it is today” if you’d started 10 years ago. Or you can start today. Or never. Your call.
It’s climing. I don’t know if my Mom knows this story. I’m pretty sure she’s heard it by now from me or somebody. When I was a kid in Ingalls, during the summer when my friends and I would spend the night at each other’s houses, we’d sneak out of the house to roam around the town. We never caused any trouble. (Even the time we drove the school bus, we were careful not to tear anything up and put it RIGHT back where we found it…) It was exhilarating just to be out with the town to ourselves, and the thrill of trying not to be discovered.
Shocker… it’s pretty easy not to get caught in Ingalls, Kansas in the middle of the night. We’d walked every street. Seen every block. Now what? Well one night we decided… let’s climb the Co-op Elevator! One pallet leaned on its side was all we needed to reach the ladder. Then the long 200 ft. climb up! Yeah.. it WAS scary. Scary thinking about how much higher we were getting with each step. Scary thinking about what would happen if one of us slipped. I’ve never held on to anything that tight! And when we got to the top and there were no railings to keep you from just toppling right over the edge… yeah it was terrifying, and exhilarating!
I remember so clearly that first night. I remember how the gas pumps down below looked like something from a model train set. How I could see the roof of everyone’s house in town. How the elevation of the land changed from one block to the next. It was a completely different perspective on a place I thought I already knew EVERYTHING about.
Even just climbing on your own roof, you see your trees differently, you see your neighborhood differently. The things you’ve looked at so many times you begin to tune them out suddenly are new and interesting again.
It’s cleaning. It blow my mind how many people will consider something “old” or “worn out”, when really it’s just dirty. Take the same old thing, clean it, polish it up. And suddenly it’s some relic from the past that somehow has defied the boundaries of time!
I love detailing things. Anything. Whether it’s a car, a mower, an old radio, furniture… just about anything. If it’s not broken, it usually isn’t very hard to make something look damn near new again! And that isn’t so much about the “thing” as it is the memories and experiences people have tied to the “thing”. When driving the Oldsmobiles, so many times while pumping gas
It’s scraping. Okay. I’ll give you this one. Scraping sucks. I bought a power washer.
It’s outside. I started a purposeful effort a few years a go to start spending more time outside. No matter the season and no matter the weather. I decided I wasn’t going to let the fact that it wasn’t a perfect day keep me from doing the things I wanted to do.
A couple days it was downright hot outside. I think people literally felt sorry for me, or thought I was a loser to be out working in the heat. Man I was just jamming out so some sweet tunes, gulping ice cold green tea, and getting a pretty legit farmer’s tan.
As every day goes by, I’m just more and more feeling that there is so much more to life besides what can happen on a cell phone screen. To be out exploring and feeling the world around me feels so much more invigorating.
It’s time consuming. I admit this is such a challenge in my life. Just like this here blog. I’ve wanted to sit down and write for ages. And now as I write this I can make it about 20 words before I’m interrupted by life. I mean, I get it. That’s just the stage I’m at right now. And someday in the future I’ll miss these times too.
The house painting project has been kind of nice though because once I started, I HAVE to finish. So while there’s other things that I could and probably should be doing, I have to make this a priority and I have to dedicate time to it. Being forced to commit to a thing is in some ways liberating.
It’s daunting. When we visited Colorado a few months ago, we rode the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway to the top. Along the way the tour guide talked about the hiking trail that lead up to the top. A 13 mile trail all on foot. The stories of the early adventurers to the area and the economy that sprung up to support them. I couldn’t help but think about how exciting it would be to embark on such a journey. A fun thing to think about from your diesel powered train.
But I’ve found the hardest part about doing daunting things is mostly just deciding to start doing it. It often isn’t has hard, complicated, or impossible as you think it will be. The people who are already doing these things are just normal people too. I’d never painted a car before, but I did it and it turned out not bad! I never built a computer before but I used it to make the first post on this blog. I’d never been a husband or a parent before, but I think I’m doing OK!
I think this is why old people are so grumpy. I remember when I was a kid, I was always so disappointed that my peers were so immature. People would argue over the dumbest childish things. People would get themselves in trouble for the stupidest childish reasons. You can only imagine how crushed I was that when I became an adult, my adult peers were just as immature and reckless as the children were. I can already feel my self getting tired of being expected to care. Tired of being expected to think like them. Tired of being expected to value the same things.
Sure, fine. I’m the weird guy that paints his own house on hot days, drives old broken cars, mows his yard with a three wheeled lawn mower and plays more Nintendo 64 than you think a grown adult should. You’re right. Tell your friends how right you are about me. They’ll agree with you and we can all be very satisfied with our lives.