Carol A. Hand
I volunteered to help a dear friend, Skywalker Payne, with her newest project, described in one of her recent posts (link here).
“O.K. No beating around the bush and trying to be subtle. I need your help. I need at least 100 of you, who follow and read this blog, to join me in the practice of Gratitude 100 – A Simple Practice for Fulfillment, Balance, and Happiness. As I began working on writing this book, I realized I need more than just my experience to show Gratitude 100 works.” (Skywalker)
I am sharing my first reflection with her blessing to help spread the word about her project and her efforts to recruit volunteers. I hope you will check out her post and consider participating.
Good morning, Skywalker! I decided to write before the question for the day arrives. Today I awoke grateful that I have my house to myself again. This may sound like a strange thing to celebrate, but for two weeks I have lived in messy chaos as a contractor came to repair the damage from last year’s winter. The five feet of snow on my roof remained until spring. An ice dam formed along the edge when the snow began to melt, sending the water into the house wherever it could find a spot in the roof to leak through. It took until mid-December for the insurance company to send a check, and for me to find a contractor who would do a “small job” for a reasonable price. It’s not an easy service to find here.
Photo Credit: March 9, 2014
The first day, the contractor called me to let me know what time he would arrive so I could make sure my little dog, Pinto, was safely out of the way in my other downstairs office. (Pinto doesn’t like many people and as a little 12-pound dog who’s been abused and abandoned by an unknown number of people, he’s fiercely protective of his new home and territory.) The contractor was pleasant and agreed to do the necessary jobs in the upstairs bathroom and downstairs bedroom, and began his work by tearing off the “wainscoting” in the upstairs bath – bright pink faux tile printed on tarpaper-backed contact paper. I do wish I would remember to take “before” pictures. Words can’t quite convey the mess that years of cob-job repairs left in the upstairs bath – an obviously patched wall and floor under and behind the toilet. Dark water-damaged sub-flooring was visible between the patches of linoleum
The next day the contractor once again called before he came at the pre-scheduled time and we went together to choose materials for the floor and walls. When we returned, the contractor announced he was just going to put the new flooring on top of the old (rippling, cracked, and patched) linoleum. “That’s what the leveling compound you bought is for.” “Do you think that makes sense?,” I asked, as I gazed at the water-stained subfloor clearly visible for all to see. It seems our relationship shifted at that point and became a power struggle. He spent the rest of the day removing trim and tearing off the “tile.” I didn’t say anything at the time, but resolved to pull up the old floor myself when he left for the day.
I don’t have the carpentry skills to do these jobs well, but I do have a sense of what it means to do things in the right way. (And I was paying for this!) It’s quite obvious to me that one shouldn’t just cover up old problems – be they floors or disagreements. It requires going to the source to see how deep the repairs need to be. I’m often reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s words “Work is love made visible.” I can only surmise that my silence and gently-framed questions were interpreted as an insult and resulted in a battle of wills.
Photo Credit: Pinto at Peace Guarding His Territory
So the next morning, the contractor arrived unannounced. Little Pinto was in a frenzy, barking furiously. He would not go willingly into the room where he spent “contractor days,” and because he’s a biter when he’s upset, I had to grab my special soft leather gloves, chase him around the house, and carry him into his sanctuary. The contractor seemed to enjoy the chaos his unannounced appearance had caused, and he seemed to be sneering happily when he walked in the door. (Maybe it was just my imagination. But the scene repeated itself the next morning, so I can only think it was deliberate. Pinto is not friendly to many people – he’s learned to protect himself. Some people just can’t understand that “being good with dogs” just doesn’t work with him. It seems to bother people who can’t accept that’s just how Pinto is – his barking isn’t an assessment of their trustworthiness – not always, anyway. It’s why I put him in his own protected space when others visit.)
I didn’t need to be overtly confrontational about Pinto or the jobs. When the contractor left the second day after announcing his plans for the floor, I decided to see what was underneath the old linoleum, so I pulled up the flooring and swept and bleached what I discovered. Clearly the toilet had overflowed more than once in seventy years, leaving behind a well-dried smelly, disgusting mess. The next night, I finished the job. I could go on whining about the other slights that were small, but nonetheless felt mean-spirited. Was it something about me that made the contractor feel he needed to assert his power to feel superior? I don’t understand how someone could find it amusing to upset a little dog with a long history of abuse and abandonment. The plumber who helped with the job has never behaved disrespectfully. I’ve known him since I moved here – old houses have lots of plumbing issues! He always calls before he comes, takes off his boots just inside the door, and walks around in his socks. He doesn’t mind Pinto’s barking, and he does his job with care – with finishing touches that tell me he takes pride in his work. And he’s always professional and kind.
Photo Credit: Upstairs Bath – February 6, 2015
So today, I awoke grateful that my house is mine again and peaceful. I am grateful the contractor finished most of the heavy and skilled work I can’t do myself. He did an amazing job on the woodwork in the bath. But I’m also grateful he’s done with the jobs that he was willing to do. Most of the jobs left unfinished are things I can do – polyurethaning, nailing, caulking, and painting. I am grateful that I have the ability to do the small jobs that are left, grateful for the simple tools I have, grateful for the knowledge and ability to use them, and grateful for enough sight, physical strength, and physical well-being to be able to climb ladders, kneel, and do “deep-knee bends” for hours as I work.
Photo Credit: Downstairs Office – February 6, 2015
Photo Credit Downstairs Office – February 6, 2015 – Finished Work?
But mostly, I am grateful for shelter and for a space where my friends and family feel safe and welcome – a place where I can breathe love into the work that I do. I wish this for others in the world. And as I work, I think of the families in Palestine whose homes were demolished, whose olive trees were bulldozed and uprooted. I think of the refugees of war and climate change who have little in the way of shelter, food, or comfort. I think of the many people without shelter in the world. I wish I could do more to help them. My gratitude for the privileges I have is always tinged with deep sadness for those who are suffering…
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