We bought a fixer-upper condo. “No big deal!” we exclaimed with abandon. “After we do this condo let’s flip more condos!” Yeah, okay, that’s not happening. It’s been five months of fixing up and I’m to the point where my mind needs fixing up. Right off the bat, I know these are what I call Princess Problems aka First World Problems. Stay with me until the moral of the story.
I was raised by a mother who retrieved furniture off the curb and painted it into something beautiful. New stuff was not our family experience except when my grandmother gave my parents lovely wrought iron patio furniture which is on my patio 45 years and 12 coats of black spray paint later. Consequently, transformed resale store furniture has filled my homes as well.
So we have some money left over after downsizing from our home to a smaller, needs-work — a lot – 1987 vintage condo. We got some new stuff and I am a freak show in the process. Why? Because old, recycled stuff has imperfections and who cares if you ding it? — I paid eight bucks for it. But new stuff cost ten zillion dollars so that should be exactly as you imagine and stay flawless. If you could measure buyers’ remorse I’ve filled three semis.
Can I tell you what happens this new stuff? After installation, I discovered the new fireplace tile has two chips in it. The sunroom moulding has a wood gnarl in it that got nailed on and painted. I dropped the tape measure on the new wood floor and dinged it — the floor, not the tape measure. The front-and-center kitchen cabinet door got hinged on with a scratch, which made me unhinged. Inside these cabinets I found some SCRAPES! My plumber asked why I got such a small kitchen sink (I DID?) and said that the dryer is loud. (It IS?)
We wanted a comfortable pull-out couch for when our kids come to stay. Turns out comfortable hide-a-bed mattresses cost a lot more than blow-up ones that are like sleeping on a ribbed exercise ball. This is a big decision. I take home two fabric samples a week for like four months. I visit the couch at the store more than I visited my grandparents in the retirement home and I turn the saleswoman into my therapist. Finally I decide and it gets ordered for a total of two point seven zillion dollars. Not till I slide the card do I discover I’ve apparently picked fabric composed of 14 carat gold thread and endangered species animal hair. I want to barf but hey, it’s the perfect couch…
It gets delivered. It looks small. I panic and measure, wondering how big a queensize is. I Google my question, call my
therapist salesperson, and we conclude it’s the right size, but the next issue is it’s two-cushions and the picture showed three. It’s also a lot furrier than the fabric swatch seemed. It’s furry. I have a furry couch. Two nights later I can’t sleep because the wildly expensive couch is so furry, so I get up and face my fears. I sit on it, stare at it, all two cushions of it not three, and try to self-soothe. Princess Problems.
I hate obsessing about this even more than you hate hearing about it. Then at my 12-step meeting last Monday someone said something that jarred me into sanity. In the context of sharing she said, not just, “It’s not perfect,” but “I’m not perfect. I don’t do things perfectly.” She continued about how we are human and it’s pretty much impossible to be perfect and she’s learning to accept that in herself.
I don’t notice everything. I don’t think to inspect each tile before the installer glues it around the fireplace. It never occurred to me to check all the moulding pieces for imperfections. I may not have chosen the top contractor (or maybe I did and he’s not perfect) but I did the best with what I knew. I drop tape measures. I don’t plan to, it just happens. I did massive due diligence on that monumental couch investment and never thought to ask, “Does the picture actually depict the COUCH I’LL BE GETTING?” How could I know the furry factor from the tiny fabric sample? Is this sink the standard bigness? Hey appliance sales person, let’s plug in the dryer for decibel levels.
This is my fifth home and with all my experience I clearly don’t know it all. I used what I know but it wasn’t enough. Only God knows everything and only God is perfect. I’m not perfect. Watershed moment.
Last night I went into a store and asked for help. I made a decision on a desk and thought I did the best I could after spending as much time as this deserves. After I buy it, it is what it is and it will not have something I want but didn’t think to ask about. It will have a mark on it somewhere. On to things that really matter. I can be grateful it isn’t furry.
I didn’t raise my children perfectly. I wish I had made them go to bed earlier, monitored their phones, served more vegetables, water, and mind-blowing wisdom. In another blog I mentioned that children learn empathy through their own pain. In order to soften them, God uses what hurts and challenges them. So I don the mental sandwich sign that says, “I’m not perfect – deal with it (Sarah),” because no one expects me to be perfect except myself. My husband says my condo angst is only my pure desire to be a good steward of our money. Bless him.
There’s beauty in imperfection. I see gallery photos of story-filled chipped and weathered doors and the lovely well-earned wrinkles of older women I love. Asymmetrical people run races with one leg and a swimmer in recovery tearfully accepts his 19th gold medal after so much pain since the 18th. A little world champion gymnast reaps gold whose mother was too high to raise her. God not only works with imperfection, He shines in it, because everything is imperfect but Him.
While painting this week I listened to a podcast from my friend Alexa’s college pastor. As I tapped the app the latest sermon came up, “And You’re Worried about Your Refrigerator?”, a message of his personal experience with stuff-obsessing. Apps, imperfection and the Olympics are three ways the good and beautiful God speaks to me. How does He speak to you?
Well said Sarah. Always enjoy reading your blog. Just what I needed just for today.
Thanks for sharing this, Sarah! It was such a good reminder to me that I will never be perfect, and that I need to just be OK with that truism.
I just read this article in the ‘just between us’ magazine and felt like I could have written it myself (even my hubby agreed). Thanks for putting these words to print bc they made me laugh (at myself) and reminded me that I’m not alone.