Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. These are the five stages of grief that psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described in 1969. These are ALSO the stages of any home project, I postulate. MY home project. A couple of weeks before we decided to self-isolate in March because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I decided NOW would be a good time to re-finish an L-shaped desk that we had in our computer room. It is the perfect size for the corner in the room and is solid wood. It is so old that is is actually made in America. I had looked around for a replacement desk to update the look of the room, but the words of my father, who was king of the colloquial expressions, came to mind each and every time I entered a furniture store before self-isolation. “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” WHAT was I thinking?
I decided I just LOVED the new gray color- washed look at Pottery Barn, but they did not have a desk with the storage and configuration of my desk, which wasn’t “broke.” I decided also that I was up for the task of refinishing the L-shaped desk with two hutches myself. I had done a few pieces of furniture in the past already with Annie Sloane Chalk paint, so I was up for the project. With Annie Sloane chalk paint, one doesn’t need to strip the finish off before re-finishing the piece. I loved that idea and somehow thought it was an easy task. Because my furniture was knotty pine from the nineties, it involved a few extra steps, but I like to stretch myself beyond my comfort level from time to time. I had plenty of time in which to complete my project, and what did Annie Sloane have that I didn’t have? What does Martha Stewart have that I don’t have? Patience. Evidently they DO have a great deal that I don’t have, and ONE of those things is patience. WHAT was I thinking?
Denial. Taking over the garage with “Graph Guy’s” (my beloved husband) and my car in the driveway, I had enough space to do the project. I started the first piece and realized that the effect I was expecting to achieve ended up a bit spotty or streaky in some spots. Evidently I was distressed about the “distressed look.” Ha! I thought my results made no sense and wondered if maybe “I bit off more than I could chew” in the words of “King Colloquial.” There was some sort of mistake. Maybe I just used the wrong rag. I probably should have used the tee shirt rags. Maybe I just used the wrong paint brush. Denial everywhere. Maybe there wasn’t enough light where I was working. The desk, as I once knew it, had changed in an instant. There was no going back. I was “in it to win it” now. There must have been a mix-up; maybe I read the directions wrong as everyone else on the net that used this technique achieved stellar results! Life as I had known it had changed that first day in the garage, so I walked away. I walked away for a LONG time, maybe a couple of weeks.
Anger. Once I had settled into the actual reality instead of the reality that I WANTED, I laughed as I asked myself and “Graph Guy” what had I done? Why me? Tongue-in-cheek, I chuckled to myself thinking Elisabeth Kubler-Ross would have a field day with me now.
Bargaining. “Hey Graph Guy, want to do a little painting I asked?” I could use a buddy in the garage, “maybe you could help me, and I can help you with YOUR project (building a wooden hood for his new aquarium) later?” Then finally, “Okay, okay……I will bake you ANY dessert you want or your FAVORITE meal if you help me paint….” while hearing the words of King Colloquial in my mind each and every time. “You hired the band,” King Colloquial would always tell me, “so now you have to hear them play.” King Colloquial would often also tell me with his wry little smile that “I made my bed, so it is time to lie in it”, too. Such wisdom. Words that reminded me that this was MY project, and I needed to see it through. Graph Guy WOULD help me, but I shouldn’t have his help.
Depression. I didn’t feel anything near REAL depression, which is a serious condition, but was sad that this project was far too big for me to attempt at the moment. It was taking far longer than I thought, far longer than I wanted. I didn’t want to talk about my project, I didn’t want to even think about my project.
Acceptance. King Colloquial’s words came back to me again and again. I smiled when I heard him in my mind saying, “Quit your bellyachin’ and just do it,” with that same wry smile. He knew what had to be done. He had told me ad-nauseum when I was a child that if I spend HALF the time complaining about what had to be done and DOING what had to be done instead, the task would have already been completed by then.
I went out into the garage quietly. I picked up the paint brush quietly. I smiled to myself quietly, glad for King Colloquial’s lessons about the need for patience and perseverance. What a gift that man was. I told myself I WOULD complete the project, one side at a time. It didn’t need to be perfect; it just needed to be DONE. Funny this is a lesson I try to teach my daughter, “Teen Traveler,” ALL THE TIME. Evidently I need to learn the lesson myself first today.
THREE out of FOUR pieces completed, I am glad I took the time. They look great. I tell myself that they look great because the metric I am using is they they needed to look BETTER than they did originally in some way. I might even do my kitchen table, too…..the sky is the limit!
Life is full of trade-offs. Life is full of challenges. Life is full of less than ideal from time to time. I’m thinking that is true with our Covid-19 situation right now. Self-isolating means not sharing a meal with friends and precious extended family. Plans with precious extended family in other towns or cities have been cancelled. Bread won’t be broken together right now, jokes won’t be shared together right now. BUT at some point, life will be BETTER than it is right now. I’ll use that metric. Six feet apart is better than “six feet under” as they say.
So remind yourself to “quit bellyachin” and try to do something you need to do but don’t quite WANT to do today. Stretch yourself. Move out of your comfort zone to stretch yourself in some way. Practice patience and perseverance today. We’ll all “get there” (wherever there is) , some day, even if it is a long, long road…..
“The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where,
Who knows where.
But I’m strong,
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother...“
So on we go….we’ll get there…”
-“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by Bob Russell and Bobby Scott
Life is good; carpe diem, friends…….
(Annie Sloane chalk paint purchased by The Purple Painted Lady at https://shop.thepurplepaintedlady.com/. She is one of the THE best sources of supplies and education/information about using Annie Sloane chalk paints on the internet. She even draws designs and pictures on her boxes before shipping to put a smile on your face when the package arrives. She often sticks in a little surprise like a can opener or a paint chart as well. Customer service here is FANTASTIC! She also operates a retail store in NY. I strongly suggest buying your paint and supplies here.)