Dr Marry and I have been living many children’s dream come true of camping inside for more than a week. Why? Because this week, we completed a substantial home improvement project we’ve talked about doing for years: we sanded and stained all the hardwood floors in our 1950s cottage. That’s the living room, the hallway and all three bedrooms.
That means we’re sleeping on our air mattress in the basement, amidst art, books and furniture from various rooms. We each packed a bag to get us through the week (I have no idea where the rest of my regular clothes are at this point, but right next to Dr Marry’s side is my wedding dress and a number of cocktail dresses, so I guess I could have worn one of them if things got really dire 😄).
In addition to the floors, we also decided to paint the hallway because, really, could there a better time to paint anything, much less a hallway with seven doors/doorways, four of which lead to rooms you are power sanding, than when your home is so filled with sanding dust that everything has the hazy, golden glow of a harvest moon? I guess for us, the answer is a definitive no.
Our floors have been in rough shape since we bought the house nearly 16 years ago. I’m sure they haven’t been sanded and resealed in decades if ever. We always said we’d get them done when we no longer had our Lilly pup. Well, she’s been gone for 11 months now. We had talked about it, but it’s the kind of project that you don’t start on a whim, and once you get going, you don’t just let fizzle out. Also, it felt daunting to find a good company, commit the money and then be on call for when they might actually show up to do the work. In other words, we hadn’t moved from talking to doing at all.
Sometime in the early May, a neighbor was walking by our house while we were out, probably bemoaning that our yard is also in need of a total overhaul. We exchanged pleasantries and asked her what was new. She said, “We’ve been busy redoing our hardwood floors!”
Don’t you love it when the Universe provides the prompt you need to get going?
We talked about it a bit more. She told us that it hadn’t been too bad, that YouTube had been a lifesaver and that they were happy with how they were turning out. She said to come by and check them out for ourselves.
Dr Marry is in a bit of a lull before he starts being chair of his department on July 1, and while I clearly have a full time job, it’s flexible enough that we both felt like the long Memorial Day weekend was our best shot to get this project going.
So we went over there 11 days ago to get some tips and tricks, to pick up some items they were happy to lend us and to marvel at what they pulled off with three young kids and a pretty good sized dog. If they could do it with all that, then surely we could, too, right?
We moved furniture and all the stuff (my gosh, the stuff!). We made three trips to Menards (a new “fewest times to the hardware store” record for us!) and rented a drum sander (think the vacuum from Mr Mom on steroids).
The floors were in even worse shape than we had thought. Amazing what happens when you take everything away and assess the actual state of things.
Dr Marry was a rock star. He took on the lion’s share of the work—all the sanding, both with the drum sander and the smaller one you use on your hands and knees—and sealing.
I was in charge of clean up. Thank goodness for the borrowed shop vac!
We’ve lived in crazy chaos for more than a week, and you know what? It’s been delightful. The floors, all done now, look fabulous. We had virtually no fights about any of it. I mean, I was right about how to move the bed frame out of our bedroom without taking it apart, but who’s keeping track? And camping out in the basement was fun!
This project was like so much of life: hard to move from talking to doing. I should… I need to… After the holidays, I’m going to… I have to…
Talking is both easy and can be unbelievably damaging.
It’s easy to say, “I have to lose weight, and after the holidays, I’m going to eat only healthy food.” “I need to stop spending so much money, and after I pay off this credit card, I’ll stop using it.” “I need to leave this job; I’m going to start looking for other work.” “If you don’t stop drinking, I’m leaving you.”
It can be overwhelming to realize that talking rarely changes things. And it adds to the shame you already feel for uttering something out loud that doesn’t get better. That kind of “failure” can lead to making worse and more poor decisions. In our case, the more Dr Marry drank, the more out of control I felt, so the more I would go and spend hundreds of dollars (money we didn’t have, by the way) on some dresses that I “just had to have.” Then we’d be in money trouble, and I would feel even worse about everything, which caused me to want to “talk” about it even further. And the more we fought (talked) about money, the more he drank.
Can anyone say between a rock and a hard place?
My fuse was frayed; his was severed. We couldn’t get anywhere. We were stuck in an endless cycle of saying what we were going to do—”I’ll really leave you this time!” “You’re right. I’m going to drink less.” “I’m just going to look. I won’t buy anything.”—not following through with it and feeling like individual and collective failures.
I threatened to leave Dr Marry so many times, I lost count. I actually packed up three different times. But I never followed through with it. How could I? Where was I going to go? I couldn’t (wouldn’t?) admit to anyone what was really going on, and I couldn’t afford to rent a hotel room for any substantial amount of time. Plus, I knew I would go back home, so what was the point?
This went on for years.
Talking that led to nothing except exacerbating the already damaging feelings we both had about ourselves and each other.
And then we did something: Dr Marry got sober (I don’t mean to make that sound like it was quick or easy because, if you know our story or you have any personal experience with a major life shift, you know it wasn’t), and I worked through my anger (also not quick or easy). And things got better because we were finally taking action and moving forward. Even if we sometimes took a step or two backwards, we were moving, and that felt amazing.
Today, we’re moving the furniture back into the rooms that have been bare for more than a week now. The floors are beautiful, and we’re beaming with pride at our work like the parents of a newborn baby.
I’m thrilled that this project went so well, but I’m way more proud that we finally stopped saying we were going to find a re-finisher or look into figuring out if we could do it ourselves, and we just did it.
Look around your home today and find a project you could take on—one you’ve been saying you’re going to tackle for some time. And just do it. Even if it’s something small, just do one thing to get going on it.
And then look around your mental or emotional rooms and take the first step on something that resides there, too.
You might make some mistakes, take a few missteps; maybe it won’t be absolutely perfect when it’s done. That’s just fine. It’s so much better to make a mistake than to never try at all. The action of taking action will be such a game changer for you that it will be worth overcoming your fear, the sweat equity and the potential for failure. And if you “fail” along the way, take a moment to recognize how it makes you feel and keep moving forward. An act of failure does not make you a failure.
It’s time to stop talking about whatever is holding you back. Instead, start walking toward what you want. Remove the stuff that’s holding you back and get to work. I don’t believe you’ll ever regret taking action, and you have everything to gain by taking the first step.
And if you need more inspiration figuring out what it is you even want to be taking that first step toward, download my free (re)Discover Your Spark guide to get started.