Friday, February 5, 2016

Just a Little Dust in My Lungs

If you know me well, then you know Will and I have spent a lot of time fixing up our house over the past year and a half. We’ve had many adventures, many messes, and even a few holes in the wall along the way. It’s been so much work and at times I thought it would never come together, but it has ultimately been so rewarding to take a house that seemed kind of lifeless at first and turn it into a home for a family. I feel like the process has taught me a lot about hope, but that is a sentimental tale for another time.

Let me be very clear about this- when I say “fixing up our house” we are not talking about major DIY construction here. I think the true DIY life might be the end of me. We have to pay cash money to have walls knocked out and floors installed and such. But it seems that the more we experience we gain the braver we get. There is a certain freedom that comes with purchasing a house built in 1983. You start asking yourself things like, “Can I really make these baby food colored, textured walls look any worse?” You might really think about it and answer yourself, “No. No, I cannot make this situation one bit worse.” Which might bring you to a place and time such as this:

Our bathrooms are BY FAR the part of the house that still need the most work. We are planning to pay a professional type person to help us with fixing up the hall bathroom sometime this spring, but we decided to do a little mini-makeover ourselves on our master bathroom to tide us over until we can get some real work done (I’m being very generous with the word “master”, as prior to the makeover there wasn’t anything particularly masterful about that room).

The walls in that bathroom are CRAZY. I think someone started trying to sand the texture off, but gave up and just left it on the big wall. The other three walls don’t look great, but the first step was getting the texture off that last wall. So this happened:

Only one human could physically fit in the bathroom to do this, and that person had to do a lot of standing on rickety surfaces, so the smaller of the two people in our house got nominated for the job. Will helped me get it all set up and the sanding didn’t take very long at all, though I did have to run out of the room for air for my livelihood on multiple occasions. I also may have coughed and sneezed baby food colored dust for a couple of days, but I consider that a small price to pay for beauty.

Next we painted, then Will hung a million things on the wall using a drill device and level device. The result was this:

Since I proceed with the caution of an elderly person or a person living in 2004 when using social media (A practice that more people might want to consider? Hmm…), I was hesitant to post this picture on Facebook and Instagram. But I got the nicest compliments when I did and even more compliments in real life.

And the more compliments I got, the funnier the whole thing seemed to me. Because apparently people think that picture looks really great, but here is the thing—I tricked you by only taking a picture of the part that looks really good. Not that I’m not happy with how it turned out, because I love it, but you can’t see that the walls still don’t look great, that the cabinet door won’t shut, the strange empty space underneath one side of the vanity, the floor, the TAN bathtub, and a number of other problems that will one day need professional attention. Not that this picture is a lie, because that part really does look great and the whole thing looks a million times better. But you just can’t see the whole story.

And as often as I talk with my clients and students about how “comparison is a game we will always lose” and such, something about this situation made it really hit home with me. Because how often do I look at a picture of a beautiful house, a lovely early morning devotion scene, or a healthy meal and think, even just a little, about how I don’t measure up? Or maybe I don’t look at a literal picture, but notice a tiny piece of someone else’s life and I starting wondering, “Just what the heck am I doing with myself?” It’s easy to forget that we aren’t seeing the whole picture. We might trick ourselves into thinking that the tiny piece of the picture is the whole thing.

I don’t share this to cause you to wonder whether a person is misrepresenting his or herself on social media. I can’t possibly know a person’s motives, and that really isn’t the point here at all. Besides, it’s fun to share things that we like or that make us happy. Instead, I wonder what if we didn’t think so much about what we see from others at all? What if we didn’t stop to compare our houses, our spiritual lives, our fitness, or ourselves in general? What if we just thought “Oh, that’s pretty” or “Oh, how fun” or “That’s really great for them” and went on about our own business after that without thinking about all the ways we don’t measure up? After all, there are probably some pretty pictures in each of our own lives too.

And it only took me getting a little dust in my lungs to figure all this out.