upstairs is not my only project
I’ve been working on a project for five years. It’s not my life’s work, but it might take a lifetime to finish. It’s not a project that I’m emotionally attached to, but I’d like to see it through to the end.
When I say I’ve been working for five years, understand that I don’t mean five years straight. Rather, I approach it in starts and stops, working when the inspiration strikes and not working when it doesn’t which is most of the time. This one project has spanned half a decade. So far.
In the way-back corner of our yard is a storage shed. It’s a pretty big one and looks like it was well-built by a previous owner of the property. It’s big enough that when I’m in it, I look around and think to myself, “I could live in here.” There’s room at one end for a single bed, and over here a little table, and I could lean my bikes against this wall, and really, what else does a guy need?
The shed holds all of the off-season yard and garden stuff: plant pots, rakes, patio chairs, etc. Actually there’s lots of etc. in the shed - all of the miscellaneous stuff that one collects and can’t quite part with: flags and ribbons for marking a mountain bike race course, backpacking equipment that doesn’t get used anymore, a lawn fertilizer thing that I only used once and killed the grass with, a snowblower that won’t run if it is colder than 60 degrees outside.
About five years ago the handle on one of the shed’s doors fell off. The wood into which it was screwed had become soft and the screws had nothing to hold onto anymore and so the handle just fell off. I picked it up and put it in the shed with the rest of the etc. Then I noticed that the doors were rotting on the bottoms. Something would have to be done. Someday. Eventually.
An online search for new shed doors revealed all kinds of expensive, custom-made things on the market, or I could hire a local handyman for the job - Handy Randy did some work in our bathroom a few years ago. Or was this, perhaps, something I could do myself? Could I make a new set of doors for the shed?
I’m not really a carpenter so it took the first year of the project just to decide that I could do it.
I spent some time studying the doors - there are two of them, hinged on the outside and they meet in the middle with about an inch of overlap. It isn’t the greatest engineering challenge that a man has ever faced, but I haven’t done anything like this before.
The second year I made some measurements and sketches.
The third year I bought a saw.
The fourth year things really got moving. I measured and sketched again because I lost the ones from two years ago. I bought some lumber and some screws and actually cut the wood to size. Then I went back to the store and bought some other screws that were long enough this time. I got the doors mostly put together and then winter came and it was too cold to paint them, so I stacked the doors against the back wall of the garage.
This year - the fifth year - I was going to work on the project next weekend. All that’s left is to paint the doors and hang them on the shed and next weekend I’ll do that. And now it is December and the lawnmower and snow shovels have traded places and it is too cold to paint again and the doors are still stacked where I left them a year ago.
This project isn’t of acute importance. The old doors are still hanging - doing an adequate job of securing our treasures and they still look OK from a distance.
The shed doors aren’t the only project I have planned around the house. There’s that loose piece of wood on the sash just outside the dormer window. I’ll fix that. Every room could use a new coat of paint - I’ve been talking about colors off and on for a decade.
MSL is kind enough to not point out that anyone else would have finished the shed door project in one weekend, but the way she raises her eyebrows when I start talking about my big idea for new pavers on the path the mailman takes through the yard tells me she’s not fully confident that the idea will ever move beyond the concept stage.
It’s embarrassing that this project has taken so long and I don’t really have a good explanation. Every time I see those doors stacked against the garage wall I feel a wave of frustration and guilt and I don’t know why I can’t get them done. I don’t think of myself as especially lazy. I’m always doing something. My days are full of shooting and editing and writing and updating websites or having meetings with someone else who wants me to do those things for them. Lots of weeks pass and my to-do list looks the same at the end of the week as it did at the beginning and yet I don’t know how I could possibly have done one more thing. But at some point, I will (I WILL!) finish the shed doors and that will free up some time for the next big project: installing a utility sink in the basement, or putting my clean laundry away.
The bright side, I suppose, is that it is better to have too much to do than to have nothing. A jam-packed schedule and endless list of projects makes me feel important and relevant and necessary to the rising of the sun and the turning of the earth. It’s a delusion that feeds my self esteem, so I’m comfortable with it.
The fact is, I’m a better starter than finisher. I actually started writing this piece last year, about the same time I stacked the shed doors against the back wall of the garage. I got stuck after that last paragraph and I just haven’t found a way to finish it.