Labor Day, brought to you by the folks who gave you the weekend. Or so the saying goes. Now, I don't know about you, but for years my weekends have involved cramming in trips to the store, cleaning house, visiting family, working on the yard, and doing community service du jour. (This could be anything from Girl Scout cookie sales to River Ranger BEMP site data collection.)
Long weekends were a different breed, bestowing the gift of an extra day reserved for those larger home improvement projects that one couldn't make headway on over a regular weekend. Given the packed parking lot at Lowe's on 12th and I-40 yesterday (on which I performed bloggerly due diligence on yesterday, checking this out not once or twice, but four different times), I'm guessing I'm not alone.
Just as Kubler-Ross proposed stages of grief, there are stages of home improvement projects -- at this point in the process, I think there are six. But I think death is the wrong metaphor for this endeavor, so I'm going with childbirth. Your mileage may vary.
The first stage is anticipation. What could be done if money and time and skill were no object? This is where you look at the HGTV images, or This Old House, and you think to yourself, "I could do that!" You look up traditional techniques and materials befitting your century-plus adobe abode, and wax poetic to your friends about the history of women's work in maintaining adobe walls. The metaphor of birthing has never seemed more apt.
The second is pragmatism. Once you figure out the work and mess involved in replacing the drywall that's been laid on lime plaster that's atop mud -- that's real mud with dirt, not the gloppy stuff in a plastic tub that contractors call mud -- you give up your desire to be a purist using milk paint over lime plaster, obtaining fresco skills along the way. After all, you only have a weekend.
In childbirth, this is where the rubber hits the road. You may have thought that you wanted to recite Joy Harjo's poetry as a way of staying focused through contractions, but instead, you let loose with a string of profanity and grunts.
Keeping it real, mamacita, you head over to the paint department at Home Depot and snag a stash of color sample chips, hoping they won't bust brown-toned you at the door for taking 4 of each color instead of one. Even though they're free for the taking, there might be rules about taking just one, at least for the likes of you. (Güeras never have to worry about this...)
Once you get home, you engage in paint chip crazy quilting, cutting and tape strips together to make bigger patches, mounting them on walls to see how the color changes through the day. You decide that a study that draws inspiration from the colors of the Sandia Mountains at sunset is still what you want, even if you've never seen a pink and brown hued home office in your life.
The third stage is second doubts. What woman hasn't thought at some point during her pregnancy -- yikes, this thing growing inside me has to come out! And that might not be all puppies and rainbow unicorns. In fact, it might even hurt! But you're in this now -- no turning back.
Home improvement is like that. You've slapped down money on paint and other materials that cannot be returned, arrived home, and wondered, what if I mess up? What if my judgment about color and appointments is *all* wrong? What if I have terrible taste, or worst, am at the crest of plebian wall color preference, like that moment of reckoning when you've chosen your child's name for its equal measures of uniqueness and coolness, only to discover on the first day of preschool there are three other kids in the class with the same name, and you've saddled your child with a mantle of mediocrity, not majesty.
Fourth is enthusiasm. Materials? Check. Prep work completed? Check? Cool tunes downloaded? Check. Belly full? Check. All systems go. You see the picture in your mind matching up with the reality, and it is mostly good. (Think of this as when expectant mothers pack and repack their birthing kit.) You smile, thinking of the time later in the week, when you will be working in this space, efficiently, productively, and masterfully -- soothed by the tranquil colors of nature reproduced on your walls, and fired up by the creativity that only Mother Nature can induce. Just like childbirth, you're a woman on fire.
Fifth is drudgery. After the first hour of labor (see what I did there?) you realize that this is going to be a long haul. And that you can do it with help, but at the end of the day, it's on you to produce. So you grit your teeth, call on tricks like rhythmic breathing and pomodoro applelets of time, and you work through the pain. Bite by bite, inch by inch, until the last of it is done.
Sixth is acceptance. Unlike some tasks, childbirth and home improvement projects have an end. Now, I'm not just talking teleological end -- though we can discuss purpose if you like -- but completion. Just as you know when the placenta slithers out that your work for the day is done, so goes it with home improvement. (Hopefully it is a little less bloody.)
At some point you clean up the mess you have made, move the furniture in, put the plants and books back in their places (a home without life and ideas isn't much of a home, now is it?), and take a moment to breathe as you look at what you've done. Sure, it doesn't look exactly like you thought it would, but it is yours.
And you go on to love it, just because.