23 February 2014

There is a Lesson in This . . .

I need to replace my iPod.

There are a variety of reasons that this burden I have taken upon myself--this onerous, tedious, messy, stinky, inconvenient burden of painting our kitchen cabinets--is not going well.

So I am going to take the easy way out and blame Apple. My current iPod, with its broken button, is my third iPod. In the first, the battery stopped charging so the device was only usable in a dock that charges it while playing. The second I left on a plane coming home from China, deathly ill (in fact, the illness that led to my ultimate, permanent hair loss). It was not returned. The third is the P.o.S. I have right now.

This tedious task is less boring if I listen to a story while I labor, so I've been listening to one of the current teen romance-post apocalypse--dystopian-thriller series. I finished Divergent yesterday, and today I began Insurgent. It is a pain in the ass to have to unplug my iPod from my headphones to stop the story so that I can assess my job and decide my next course of action, instead of just hitting a button so that I can pause. It is a pain in the ass to then go to an outlet somewhere to plug in my iPod and wake up its screen, and then unplug it so that I can then plug in my headphone cord. It takes much longer to do this than it takes to write it, and I resent every moment of it. And so, I try to do it as rarely as possible.

I have been moving slowly along on this project, carefully priming and cutting in and coating surfaces assiduously, and it was frustrating this morning to see how drippy everything is. I have done vast swaths of wall painting in our house, and fancied myself an excellent amateur painter. Unfortunately (I have discovered over the past week), I need to refine my definition of my skills. I am an excellent amateur WALL painter, over a semi-porous, semi-breathable surface; and painting a semi-gloss trim paint onto finished wood and laminate (!) is not, actually, much like that at all.  

I did a little sanding this morning, in an attempt to remove the worst of the blemishes. I am long past trying to keep my work site neat and tidy and healthful, and so I did nothing to cover the dish cabinets (which are still full of dishes). I will remember to rinse them off before I eat off of them . . . no I won't. I already haven't. At least the food cabinets were still covered with plastic. I had stopped plasticizing after doing those first cabinets, because it was another pain in the ass to tape plastic sheets inside them, out of the way of where I wanted to paint. Of course, all of the food will be emptied out of closed containers before being ingested . . . and so it would've been healthier to cover the dishes. This and myriad other regrets have peppered my story listening.

All along, there have been signs that this particular task was not supposed to be mine, but I ignored my irritation and soldiered on. I've been working the swing shift, because I can't seem to get myself to work before mid-afternoon. Once I'm finally going, though, the momentum has been carrying me along.

This evening, this momentum carried me to the head of the festering boil. I turned on my story and started by finishing the first (and only, I've decided) coat of surface paint on the insides of the cabinet doors, down in the garage (I am going to paint the surface coat on the outside of the doors upstairs, once everything on the rest of the cabinets  is done and the doors are reinstalled). I then took my supplies up to the kitchen, story droning on, where I continued painting, this time a second finish coat, of everything there. I covered the bits that I'd sanded this morning, and carefully continued my process of cutting in. I took special care to guard against drips, and when I used up my paint, about 2/3 of the way through the kitchen, I returned to the garage, still listening to my story (of course), grabbed the paint can, and came back up.

About 40 minutes later I finished a second coat of surface paint, right hand cramping, and stood back to survey my work. The drips didn't look any worse, and in some places looked better. Okay! It's going to be okay! I thought, through my story. I took a satisfied breath. I felt lighter.

I noticed, absently at first, as I gazed around admiring my work, that a section I'd recently painted looked matte instead of shiny. I touched it lightly. It felt cool and smooth, but not slick. It felt matte. The story droned on. I looked again at the surface, more intently, and realized that it was matte, and the color was very slightly whiter than what I'd expected. I whipped my head around to where I'd set the paint can on the floor and, sure enough, since going back to the garage to refill, I had been painting with primer. The story droned.

POP! went the festering boil. I yanked my offending iPod out of the pocket of my coveralls, ripped out the headphone cord, and burst into slightly hysterical laughter. I gathered my gear and took it downstairs to clean up. Clearly I was done for the day.

I tossed the paint pan liner with the remains of the offending paint into the trash and rinsed out my brush, trying to chuckle at the ridiculous absurdity of inadvertently extending this task that I was so desperate to be done with, but mostly feeling like a baffled, injured, heartbroken child. I found Ian and explained what had happened, and then burst into slightly hysterical tears.

While it is true that the iPod contributed to this disaster (and it's really not a disaster, I know that), it was not really at fault all by itself. Ian is a thoughtful, intuitive man, and we agreed that there was a lesson to learn here, and while Apple can't be blamed for all of it, our first action was to sit down at my computer and order me a new Google cell phone--NOT an iPod--which will replace my aging Android and act as my book player from here on out.

As far as other lessons, they are manifold. I thought I had learned this first lesson with editing school, but clearly I had learned only a version of it: earning money is not enough of a motivator for me, to make up for the tedium of a job I don't like. The subtlety I'm learning here is that saving money is, likewise, not enough of a motivator to make up for the tedium of a job I don't like. If I were doing this job only because I wanted to enjoy white cabinets, that would've been one thing--I would've willingly engaged in all the billion little bits, and tedium wouldn't have figured. But at this comfortable stage of my comfortable upper-middle class life, the idea of saving money, or even earning more on a future home sale, is not a motivator.

Another lesson is that I am not a detail-above-all-else-oriented person, neither in editing* nor in this particular painting job. I just can't be bothered--at least, not for very long. I take care of my things, I appreciate beauty and fine craftsmanship, and I can focus quite well on the details of creations that I am avidly interested in doing simply because I want to do them. But I have my limits on exactness no matter what I'm doing, and when I row my ducks, they look like grade schoolers lining up for recess, not graduates of Annapolis.

Perhaps the most important lesson though, as we move inexorably toward building our dream, our forever home, on Orcas Island, is that I do not, in fact, have any interest--any interest at all--in doing work on it myself so that we can save money. It's good to find this out before we start writing the checks.

*Ian just pointed out that, in fact, I am very much enjoying the detail work of editing this post, so it would've been more correct to say "editing other people's work." 

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