I Wonder; Can I Live With This?
It’s been seven days since I’ve I had a real shower and I’m feeling pretty gross…I know, TMI, right? But it’s true. Last week I sent my cat to stay with my son and girlfriend while my shower surround and all the tile and drywall underneath it were torn out, down to the bare studs. The antique tub below would be stripped and refinished. Concrete dust filled my home as the walls were reconstructed and prepped for new tile.
Fast forward… the tile is finally sealed and ready. I know I should be over-the-moon ecstatic to have the work completed given that washing up in the sink is getting a bit old, and uncomfortable. Plus, I’ve waited so long (8+ years) to complete this project. Initially, I was so excited, but now that it’s done, I can’t help but feel disappointed.
Why? You ask.
Well, things have not gone as I expected.
Let me explain…
The first company I hired to reglaze the bathtub backs out at the last minute (day of) and I have to find another on very short notice. After several calls, I find a company willing to come in two days. Things are starting to look brighter.
Leaving the young technician on his hands and knees, immersed in a cloud of stripper fumes, sanding the old paint off my metal tub, I went to work. All day I imagine coming home to a “new” tub. When I arrive back on the scene, the young man is already gone so I head straight to the bathroom to admire the new finish.
Why does it look like an orange peel?
I run my hand across the uneven surface and I’m bummed. Isn’t it supposed to be smooth, almost like ceramic? I take a few pictures trying to capture the actual surface. Once I have one that I think shows clearly the issue, I text it to the owner of the refinishing company. I don’t think I’m being super tactful when I add the note, Is it supposed to be like this? She apologizes and agrees to send her guy back on Monday to wet sand and repaint it.
Another two-day delay.
Second time around, I’m home for the whole job. But an awkward conversation ensues when I have to tell the technician after another four hours worth of work that, IMO, it doesn’t look much better than the first time he did it. I don’t think he’s doing a bad job, per se, but something with the equipment or paint must not be right. Leaving a little dejected, he says he’ll have the owner call me to discuss what can (or can’t) be done.
Although thoroughly unsatisfied, I decide to live with it for now and move forward. I’m just tired of delays. Two days later the tile guys come and do their thing. I’m present as they get started and we go over how I want things to look in the end. I leave for work, again, excited to see the outcome. I get off work an hour early and head home.
I stare…It’s not perfect. There are at least five things I can point to, issues that will probably bug me forever.
It’s not only not perfect, but I’m obsessed with the flaws. I can’t stop thinking about them. I’m angry, disappointed, and frustrated. I’ve been living with a crappy bath and shower for ten years! Anything would be an improvement. But trouble is, in my mind, I didn’t pay for just “anything.” I thought I was paying for excellence, a professional job.
Fact: You can’t buy perfection or even excellence. Just because you pay someone else who knows how to do it, doesn’t mean you’ll end up with the quality of work you envisioned.
So now what?
I wonder; can I learn to live with it? The truth is, I’ve no choice in the matter. With tile work, you can’t just come back in and fix things. Once the mortar dries, things are pretty much set in stone.
And it’s the same with nearly every aspect of our lives, and with ourselves. We often have to live with things that are not what we’d consider ideal. In reality, there is no “perfect.” Even though we secretly try.
Knowing full well the issue is way bigger than the imperfections of this one job, I examine my thinking. I wonder why I’m so upset over this? Why am I struggling to get past it? What is it I’m supposed to see here? All good questions when we’re feeling angry, upset, frustrated disappointed, when we’re resisting the way things are.
And here’s what I think:
There is a certain part of this project that I’ve attached to my self-image. I want my home to be perfect…to represent my standards…who and what I think I am. But it’s not perfect (far from it) and I’m not perfect. These are hard words to get honest about because growing up, aiming for perfection is how I earned love and acceptance/approval. And those ideas still haunt me at times.
But these are things I already know, so why this, and why now?
I think it’s about seeing how my beliefs about perfection flow over into how I work with others. I know I have pretty high standards, in work and in life. I know I learned those growing up and I’ve always had a certain amount of privilege that allows me to think I can have them. But there are people all over the world living with far less than what I would consider ideal and they can’t do much about it either.
Our ideas about perfection and our unspoken standards (whether we’re conscious of them or not) create barriers to connecting with others. They prevent us from being at peace with ourselves. Trying to hide the things we secretly abhor about our lives and ourselves prevents us from accepting our human-ness and the human-ness of others too. Perfection is a trap, but it only ensnares one person.
I don’t want to continue to have a thing called a standard that creates a wall between myself and others. And at the same time, I’ll always try to do my best. I realize now that this construction experience is part of the lesson. I’m learning to allow others to have their expression and to find ways to demonstrate my excitement for excellence without it being a barrier to connection and community.
I’m in the early stages of collaborating with some other women on a few projects. They’re creative endeavors I feel called to lead and in that role, I want to include and inspire others, not turn them off or turn them away. I want to be conscious of allowing, embracing and then shaping…and then more allowing.
I don’t want to ditch my desire for excellence, but I want to learn to have fun with it. I want to make space for others to enter into it without fear of rejection or disapproval. I want to remain flexible, curious and spontaneous. Ultimately, I want life to surprise me in big ways, but if I create too narrow a window, I’ll never see beyond my own small world.
What important lesson are you struggling with these days? Want to share your insights?
Thanks as always for reading and sharing…