105. Sundays at the Cottage

There’s been much chaos in my life lately….

Dashing between two houses, fixing up one to live in, fixing up one to sell, both of us working jobs, and trying to balance everything? I am failing BIG TIME!

We went into this with our eyes wide open; we knew it would be hard and busy and no downtime.

After two years? I’m tired. Mr. H. C. is tired. We have iron-poor blood. Burnout with a capital B; Exhaustion with a capital E. I just want to sleep for three weeks straight.

In about three weeks the job that I have loved for nine years will be ended, our city house will be on the market (or soon will be) and we will be gently moving all summer (or until the house sells) to this unfinished cottage.

(Please understand: I am not whining or complaining. I still love the cottage. I can’t wait to get here–I just want to wimp out about the rest of the work we have to do!)

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To Do List

Just looking at this ToDoList makes me tired. (You might notice that Write Blog Post is not on the ToDoList.) And this is only my list; it doesn’t begin to cover Mr. H.C.’s list.

Lately we’ve only been at the cottage on Sundays. There’s no time to do projects, so it has been a day of rest for me. (Not for Mr. H.C. — he has to get the tractor out and mow because the grass is growing like it’s spring or something…)

At first I fought it and called it forced rest. But today I am sitting on the porch with my glass of cider, heeding these rules:

We need this weekly rest. God knew it and named it — Sabbath rest. It is restful to sit here and look at the sky and the trees and listen to the bird song and the trill of a woodpecker. Today it’s a little chilly, so I have a blanket and a kitty for warmth. Yes, there is a breeze. View from the back porch

There’s a ton of stuff I have to do. I see my ToDoList when I close my eyes. I hear the world’s voice in my worries: If you don’t get that house on the market by June, it will never sell. And then what will you do? You need to be more efficient with your time. Etc. Etc.

And then sometimes, when I’m listening, I hear the still, small voice: Peace my child. I am in control. Give me your worries and submit to my time.

That’s what a Sabbath rest is for, and it is why God ordained it. He knew we would never stop working, shopping, tending, doing, (add your verb here) long enough to listen for His voice.

And so for today, I am efficiently using my time — resting and listening and banishing any visions of a ToDoList that might flutter across my eyes.

Kitty looking over back porch

Yes, I wish I had my cat’s ToDoList…

51. Perfectionism, Part 2: the blessings

Last night I was reclining in bed, surrounded by pillows, books, notebooks, and reading glasses, writing a blog post on my IPhone. These phones are very handy when one has a thought and doesn’t want to lose it in the quagmire of daily living (or nightly dreaming). I was about to save the post when my finger accidentally hit the publish button.

...and where the update button usually is was the PUBLISH button!

…and where the update button usually is was the PUBLISH button!

There’s something very ironic (and humbling) about accidentally posting a post on perfectionism… It wasn’t ready. I hadn’t said it all yet. Hmmm…well, maybe I had, but I certainly hadn’t gone over it twenty three times to make sure it was as perfect as I could write it.

Hence, this Part 2 — more thoughts about perfectionism. But this time I’m thinking about the blessings of it — because God does require our best and our best can be a blessing, not only to those around us, but also to ourselves.

Artists and writers and musicians and craftsmen particularly know the struggle here. How does one know if the piece is finished and finished well? Madeline L’Engle says that inspiration usually comes as you are working, not before. So if one keeps working, one will continually be inspired. Perhaps when the inspiration stops, the piece is finished well?

That works for pieces of music or writing or art, but it doesn’t hold up so well for paint or wood or refinishing windows. The wood of those windows we refinished isn’t perfect. It’s old. It’s got dents and nail holes.
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We all have our imperfection tolerance limits, and the more talent one has, the higher the limit. That’s as it should be. Mr. H.C., the contractor has higher expectations for his carpentry skills than I do for mine. (Ahem…maybe part of my frustration?)

Except…

God, the perfect one, should have absolutely no tolerance for our human imperfections; yet he does. Rather, he loves us for them. And no amount of our own striving can make us achieve that perfectionism that is God. He has given us that striving, made it part of us, so we would desire to be like him. In that way it is a blessing, his gift to us.

It only becomes bad when — dare I say it? — the devil (or the world, if you prefer) keeps whispering in our ears that we aren’t good enough or didn’t do it well enough. That’s when it becomes a curse.

And so I say, EMBRACE your perfectionism! It is a God-given gift. Just draw the line when you no longer see the blessing or feel the inspiration. And say the words that Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)

Window in need of repair

50. Perfectionism, Part 1: the curse

All our lives we’re told, “Do your best.” “If you do your best, that’s all anyone can ask.”
And what, exactly, is our best?
How many times can we have a do over?
When and how do we draw the line between “our best” and OCD?
And who ultimately gives us the final grade? Friends? Lovers? Bosses? Ourselves? Society? God?
Oh my. These are such hard questions I’d better stop now and have a cup of tea. I hope you’re having one with me…

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Several events have precipitated these musings on perfectionism.

  • The Color of my Kitchen

I spent (or wasted) hours poring over paint samples. After purchasing a sample jar of Benjamin Moore Blooming Grove, I fell in love. There were even signs to let me know I’d chosen well:

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I bought a gallon at a store that shall remain nameless. I do have to say that when the mixologist opened the can to show me the paint, I said, “That’s too yellow.”
“No,” he assured me. “It’s Blooming Grove. It will dry darker.”

Blooming grove samples on kitchen wall
On the wall is the paint from the sample can. The cabinet door is divided in half–the bottom is the sample can; the top is from the gallon that would dry darker.
I have struggled with this. I don’t want to be the whiny perfectionist lady customer demanding a new gallon be mixed because it isn’t exactly right.
Nevertheless, one can plainly see that it isn’t  exactly right.
Does God want me obsessing over a paint color, because, in the scheme of the universe, paint color just isn’t that important. I know this. Where does the line fall here?

  • The Last Glitch in the Kitchen Window Process

Two weeks ago we were ready to put up the windows in the kitchen. The left side just had to be finish coated and we were ready to go. As I sat down to paint them (paint poured and brush dipped) I could see that the primer on the glazing wasn’t sticking. So instead of finish coating, I spent the next three hours peeling little strips of paint/primer off the glazed window panes.
There are no photos of this event.
And then instead of putting up windows, we were back to priming/drying/painting/drying.
It was discouraging.
And I wondered as I was sitting on the floor in the late afternoon sun peeling off little strips, “Is this normal?”
Would other people just say, “Oh for goodness sake, just paint the stupid windows and put them up!”

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I wanted to do that. But I knew it was peeling. Done poorly. Failed event. Where does the line fall here?

  • Life in General; Rehabbing a Cottage in Particular

I don’t mind little imperfections in wood or paint or people — I myself have little imperfections.
I am not a complete dorky perfectionist all the time. (The jury is still out on Mr. H.C.)
I have buried uncleaned paintbrushes in the bottom of a garbage can because A. I didn’t want to clean them, or B. I did clean them but not good enough and they dried out stiff and I didn’t want any other perfectionist who lives in the house to find them.
I mean, really, one could spend hours cleaning a paintbrush. Or peeling paint from an imperfectly primed window…Or redoing a board because it is a quarter inch off…Or choosing the right color of paint… I don’t have any answers here folks. The age old question — blessing or curse — is still a question. But I can tell you that just last week I read a quote from Thomas Merton (much wiser than I…) who said this:

We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners, all our life.

That gives me hope. So does the wise quote from Mr. H. C. who says to me all the time — there’s nothing perfect in this world.

And now I have to go demand a new gallon of paint. (Nicely, of course.)

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