Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

One down, five to go

on June 11, 2014

There are many things that it is inadvisable to attempt on your own.  Moving a heavy table, for example.  You probably *can* do it, but you’re likely to damage your back, or the floor, or the table.  Possibly all three.  Or hosting a children’s birthday party.  It’s just not easy to make cups of tea for the parents, and manage party games and stop your child crying because they didn’t win pass-the-parcel, all at the same time and with any semblance of grace.  Equally, decorating can be done by one person, but it’s incredibly boring and involves a lot of running up and down ladders.

So why, this weekend, did I find myself putting on Small Girl’s third birthday party *and* repainting my lounge, both single-handedly?  The five or six adults who came to the party are all good friends and I could have asked any of them to help out, but didn’t. (Though they ended up helping out anyway.  Because they’re my friends and they’re nice people).  And when I mentioned decorating, another friend suggested having a painting party, in a manner which suggested she would definitely turn up as long as there was alcohol available.  Yet I didn’t take her up on it.  But let’s be clear.  This isn’t a complaint about how hard it is doing things on my own own because I’m a single parent.  This is a complaint about how hard it is to do things on my own because I’m too stupid to ask for help.

And here’s why:

  1. I’m too proud. Or something like it.  In the couple of years since Ex-Husband left, I have had huge amounts of help from many wonderful people.  But now this single-parent-life is starting to feel a bit more normal, I want to stop feeling dependent.  I want to believe I can manage my life on my own.  Clearly I *can*, because I do.  But possibly I don’t always *have* to.
  2. It takes effort to arrange people helping.  I’d have to ask people, to start with.  And then there would be organising times and dates to do.  I would need to actually plan how best to do the painting, and where to put all the different things from my lounge.  It *feels* easier just to do it myself.  For about ten minutes.  And then I wish there was someone to pass me the paint tray while I’m standing at the top of the stepladder.  And possibly make a cup of tea.
  3. What if they don’t do it how I like?  I mean, I’m not good at decorating, but what if they are worse? What if they get paint on the light switch because they can’t be bothered to cover it up properly? I would have to live with mild irritation at the badly-done job for possibly years. (I have been living for years with the irritation at the wonky painting-round the-ceiling done by Ex-Husband due to his incompetency and/or laziness at not masking-taping round the ceiling.  Now I’ve done the job myself and discovered quite how hard it is, and I have my own wonky paint to look at).
  4. On the other hand, if people came to help, I would have to do things properly.  For example, I *know* it’s dangerous to stand on the top step of stepladders.  But mine are too short for me to reach to top of my 3-metre-high walls without standing on the top.  In addition, they are old and quite rickety.  But still, I’d rather balance on the top and get the job done than wait until I get hold of some taller ones.  (After explaining this to a friend at work and seeing the horror on his face, ‘buy new stepladders’ has moved up my ‘to-do’ list).  It would actually be safer to do this sort of thing with other people around, as there would be someone there to phone an ambulance if I fell off, which felt like quite a possibility at times, particularly when I was still painting at 11pm (which I wouldn’t have been doing if I had help as we would probably have finished and started drinking beer by then).  But still, if I had to explain myself to other people, there would probably be a lot less bodging going on.
  5. I’m not actually sure that people even do this sort of thing any more. We’re all busy people.  We all have jobs and lives and families.  I feel slightly awkward about asking my friends, who spend all week at work and, for quite a few of them, their weekends decorating their own houses, to come and help me decorate mine.  Particularly as my free time is so limited that I would struggle to repay the favour.  I’m just not sure whether people who are not students want to go and paint their friends’ lounges.

So I painted my lounge.  I started painting over the blue that was there when we moved in, and I really did feel like I was claiming the house for myself.  It also felt a little bit like I was moving – furniture pushed to the middle of the floor, and that weird echoey sound reminiscent of an empty house – but without all the estate agent fees or having to actually change my address anywhere.  I did feel a sense of satisfaction that I was doing it myself, and doing physical work, and actually doing it properly, with Polyfilla and everything, rather than bodging it.  And then, about ten minutes after I’d passed the point of no return, painting over the white paint as well as the feature wall, it started feeling like really quite a lot of work.  And then I realised that although I’d liked the sound of the ‘fashionably flat effect’ of the matt paint I’d bought, I actually preferred the look of silk paint.  This required me to carry two tins of paint back to the shop on the bus, exchange them and carry the new paint home again.  And then, when I’d finished the first coat, I didn’t really want to do any more painting, but I knew that if I stopped I wouldn’t want to start again, and I didn’t have much painting time left before Big Girl and Small Girl were due home, and I’m proud enough that I didn’t want Ex-Husband to see me fail at making my home my own, even though he almost certainly doesn’t care at all.  So I carried on balancing precariously on my dangerous stepladders, wishing I had some company and some help, and someone to share the joy of seeing something change and knowing you’ve done it.

I remember helping friends paint their home, quite a few years ago.  There were other, more fun things I could have been doing with my time.  But every time I visited them I saw the door I had painted and felt part of their home.  I think helping is a good thing.  It builds relationships and community.  And for ‘helping’ to occur, there needs to be people willing to be ‘helpees’ as well as helpers.

Let it be known that I am willing to make this sacrifice in order to build community.  And I have five more rooms to paint.  Bring your own stepladders.

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3 responses to “One down, five to go

  1. nights7 says:

    I can relate to this on so many levels. One, because I also am a single parent who hates asking for help. I have to really need it to ask. Two, because I just painted (well just finished painting) my living room. I thought it would take me a weekend, maybe a week tops. It took me a month. Ugh!
    But now it’s done and it really is great. I am proud of myself for finally finishing it up and doing it on my own but it sure would’ve been more fun ,not to mention faster, with some friends. Maybe next time I’ll think about building community ask for some help.

  2. clare richardson says:

    Well done for managing it!  Not sure I can bring any better stepladders, but whilst I totally identify with your reasons for not asking someone to help – I went through the same process with my living room and made the same decision! – I am also happy to come and have some fun helping you paint… Let me know when you want a hand and I’ll see what I can do.  I’m trying to decide what to do about mine – I have an upstairs hall door I started painting a year ago and haven’t even managed to finish painting that.  I painted my living room last summer, and now I need to decide whether to paint the hall myself, which feels a bit overwhelming, or whether I should get painters/decorators in to do it for me.  But I really don’t think I could paint the wall above the stairs, so it’s probably going to have to be a painter job… 

    Perhaps I should find a man in my life!  😉  Or perhaps not….  

    love Clare.x 

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