I'm sure you've seen this slogan on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and probably even big girl panties. Essentially, it's a pretty good philosophy for most of life's trials and tribulations. As a friend of mine said in an e-mail today, "I suppose you get to eat worms for a brief period, and then it's time to channel your frustrations and anger into something constructive." We've been trying to do that, and our experience last week fixing up our rental property was certainly the most literally constructive we've ever had as a couple. Neither one of us is particularly handy, nor do we enjoy DIY projects of any kind. I'm sure our family was shaking their heads in amused disbelief at the thought of the two of us doing all the painting and cleaning necessary to get that house back in order.
But we screwed our courage up and dove in. Jim, like any good engineer, had done his research about painting and patching. He had a list of supplies already made, and knew exactly how to proceed. As for myself, in my usual bury my head in the sand fashion, I grabbed up some cleaning supplies and hoped they'd do the trick.
So every morning we'd get up, drink some coffee, pack a lunch and a couple of bottles of beer, and drive over to the townhouse we purchased in 2005 as an investment (HA!) property. Jim spent one entire 8 hour day filling and spackling holes and cracks, while I worked my way around all the baseboards, mini-blinds, entry doors and cupboards with Murphy's Oil Soap™ and Magic Erasers™. The next day, we moved on to painting, me continuing along the baseboard with paintbrush this time, while Jim tackled the upper walls and ceiling trim. By the third day, we were meeting in the middle with our rollers. On the fourth day, Jim replaced some electrical switches while I tackled the grout with bleach and a toothbrush. In between, we arranged for the installation of carpet, and spent the evenings with our son who was busy re-configuring and installing software on Jim's new business computer.
At the end of each day, hot, sticky, and aching in places we didn't know existed, we'd sit on the stairway of the townhouse and share a bottle of icy cold beer and even a few laughs. I think we were both a bit surprised at how well we managed to work together. Typically, we don't make a very good team in these sorts of situations. We don't have the same work styles - Jim is a total perfectionist, and I'm more about the fastest and easiest way get it done. But I've been attempting to be more thoughtful about my actions these past weeks - by that I mean, to think things through more carefully, move more slowly, and work more efficiently. It helped that the entire week was dedicated to this one event, and there were no other demands on our time, either in Florida or here at home waiting for us. So we worked well, and had the place looking almost brand new by the time we left on Friday night.
In light of that experience, I'm finding that our current situation reflects the truth of another old adage as well, one of which my mother is particularly fond. "What doesn't kill you just makes you stonger," she'll say.
Well, we're not dead yet, and we do feel stronger (especially our arms after all that scrubbing and painting!)
But so is our relationship, I think -stronger, I mean. After being together for 35 years and weathering a certain amount of storms, it's nice to learn that we can still pull together and work as a team, can count on our genuine care, concern and affection for one another, can appreciate each others strengths and weaknesses and work within the parameters of both to get a job done.
Last week I learned a lot about painting and I learned that Magic Erasers are truly magic. More importantly, I discovered some new facets in an old relationship, and I learned love is kind of a Magic ingredient of its own.