I worked on a little do-it-yourself project, here in the house yesterday, and I had a lot of fun. As I have repeatedly trumpeted, I refuse to engage in any activity, from which enjoyment cannot be derived. I have spent too much time doing unfun things to return to that mode. I would rather sit around creating new words in English, like “unfun,” than have to participate in an activity in which there was no room for jocularity. To laugh is to be happy, and to be happy is to be alive.
Last winter I added on to our home, a twenty by ten feet, two-story addition, much of which was accomplished in the rain and snow of November. This year, of course, we have had weather more akin to SoCal, than to Northern Mendocino County, but that is OK too. Working together, Annie and I completed almost all of the interior work last February, except for the wall upstairs, between the new sewing studio, and the quilt layout room. I have held off, because of Annie’s desire to use the room for a little while, to determine the best possible scenario.
I thought she might want me to create a larger than four-foot doorway, so that she could roll the layout table into either room, but she decided it was good the way it was. So yesterday, I finished up the last bit of electrical work, finished framing the second doorway, completed the sheet rock, and applied tape and the first coat of mud, working over an eight-hour period of time, to complete the undertaking. I also took a 45 minute siesta in the late morning, and another mid-afternoon. I nap any time I feel the need, and this helps me achieve a more moderate pace. This is quite a different approach than I used to take.
Frequently, “upon a time,” I would attack a project like the one yesterday, by going straight to step A, and scrounging up two lengths of two-by-four for framing in the doorway. Then I would grab the hammer, some sixteen penny sinkers, a handsaw, and I was ready. Of course, I would have to stop a short time later to go back out to the shop and get the level (who needs a level, right?), the framing square, the cat’s paw, a pencil, the tape measure, and the kitchen sink.
After completing step A, I would proceed to step B, with multiple trips to the workshop, time spent meandering in all directions except forward. Of course, prior to making the trek back out to the workshop each time, there was a futile effort to get the job done with the tools on hand. It’s hard to take time to save time.
However, yesterday, by investing an hour to get my act together, I set the stage for a more productive, and less harried experience, thereby avoiding the unfun approach to labor. Annie was painting from the outset, and was working around me, something she was thrilled to do, because she was seeing forward progress. I began by taking the time to gather the things already mentioned, along with the battery-powered drill, with battery, sheetrock screws, a four-feet, by four-feet chunk of sheet rock, chalk line, wire-snips, electrical connections, friction tape, mud tray, four trowels, including the angled one for the corners, the joint compound itself, a utility knife and my water “bucket,” so as to stay hydrated.
The fact that the chunk of sheetrock was only four feet square, will tell you that the project was not huge, but I had to make a total of eight cuts, which meant measuring each time, and having to go outside to make the cuts. We couldn’t have the carpenter spewing sheet rock dust into the rest of the house, because that would mean that later, the carpenter would have to clean up, after donning the maid’s hat.
I did not look at the clock, and simply worked methodically to get everything rounded up, so as to prevent yo-yoing back and forth to the workshop. The next thing I did was take a siesta, to keep my mind well-rested. Having been up for seven hours already, by the time I began gathering materials at eight-thirty, I was ready for a snooze.
When I returned 45 minutes later, I waltzed through each step, pausing at lunchtime to heat up left-over frijoles y tortillas, mixed with some Spanish rice, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese, for one of the staples in my life, and a meal that I enjoy several times per week. There was minimal work stoppage, and my attitude remained upbeat. Before beginning the process of taping, I paused for another siesta. When I hear the music in my head, it’s time for a snooze.
I wrapped it up by four-thirty, and came downstairs to clean up the mud tray and trowels, happy as a clam, though I have to tell you, it’s hard to understand just what clams have to be happy about. I, on the other hand, had just wracked up a wheelbarrow full of good-will, from a person who knows how to balance the scale very efficiently.
The primary difference between then and now, is a clear recognition that keeping both eyes focussed on the big picture, helps facilitate each step of the way. By initially gathering all of the tools of the trade, I had to review each step of the project, and this allowed me to be better organized to handle each phase of the job more effectively.
Robert always said, “Let us be happy in our work.” I would tack on that being happy opens the door to having fun, and having fun remains a central part of my agenda. Because if I’m not having fun, then I am missing the point to life. “Laugh and be happy, like a merry melody.”
Works for me.