"We seem to try to avoid salvation, sometimes failing. Thank heavens."

The call came just as we were sitting down to a late supper. In our absence, gone from the remodeling project for the last half of the afternoon for the first time since we started the job, the kitchen ends up painted the wrong color. In a reported flurry of frenzied effort, the contractors had purchased the paint and finished the ceiling and all the walls, the walls in a fine yellow, Ivory, rather than the Whole Wheat we'd expected. We thought we'd been clear, but half a dozen rejected samples still populated the workspace and, truth told, the Ivory and the Whole Wheat looked very similar when wet. The Muse rejected the idea that anyone could do anything about the error that night, but the next morning, I called the paint shop to learn that the wrong color could be easily tinted into the right color thanks to Stephanie The Wizard Paint Merchant.

No real harm.
A minor foul, but nonetheless a foul. No real calamity, though. More of a Calm-amity, instead. The wrong color turned out to work as a dandy second prime coat and by the end of that day, two coats of the right color had been applied. Someone asked what happened, and I explained that an assumption had mated with a presumption to produce a good intention. Stuff like this happens, though in my experience, no project really becomes a real, live project until some calamity encroaches, providing an opportunity to watch how the principles react. We reacted with good humor and renewed vigor, which, again, in my experience, tends to be how people on the projects that I've been associated with have reacted. Some exploded. A couple imploded. Both foregoing the opportunity to become real, live projects by self-destructing in response. Not us. Not this time.

Fact is, no effort becomes much of a project until it has successfully swallowed some formerly unthinkable something. Curious how project managers and pretty much everyone associated with projects expend much of their energy trying to avoid such disruptions, when they're really unavoidable and generally much worse in anticipation than in actual experience. There's something energizing about narrowly averting complete catastrophe by means of some dreaded calamity. Each one seems to represent a choice point, a dedication test: Do you still want to do this? If so, swallow this before proceeding.

I think it helped that nobody on the job had been taking themselves too awfully seriously. Nobody had been strutting around pretending to be the master of this particular universe and we'd all repeatedly admitted that we were poking sticks into the dark, recognizing that none of the experience of even those with experience was directly applicable to this particular context, to this unique job. I believe that such overt vulnerability, admitted and accepted, serves as perhaps the best insurance against any calamity turning catastrophic. When the plumber returned with the part he'd gone shopping for, I announced that I'd tried that drain in his absence and it worked really, really well, dumping directly onto the recently replaced floorboards in the hallway. My cohorts yucked their asses off. They'd yelled through the walls when I foolishly decided to test a new drain filter before confirming that the plumber had finished his work. "Sorry," I screamed down while they moved the garbage can beneath the open drain. This wasn't my first foolish act and it will most certainly not be my last.

I suppose we have equipped ourselves with light hearts. Light hearts and sore backs. The balance of the day seemed to flow like a fine dance. Whatever task started seemed to finish with a minimum of fuss. I think we'd worked a knot of dread out of our effort, re-energizing the whole affair. By the end of the day, it seemed as if completion had finally, for the very first time, come into sight. We still have much to complete and the weather report predicts rain tomorrow and the following day, nixing any possibility of painting trim in the driveway. Lord knows we still have plenty to do besides painting, but I've been working hard to stay off any critical path. I want the parts painted and ready for installation when that time comes and so avoid the fuss and feathers of last minute adaptations, though I know in my freshly reinvigorated heart of hearts that such a calamity might easily turn into the highpoint of the whole affair. We seem to try to avoid salvation, sometimes failing. Thank heavens.

PostScript: As I vacuumed drywall dust from the newly laid kitchen floor, I noticed that one of the boards still retained a nailhead showing through, sanded a shining silver. I thought at the time to report this discovery, but failed to find the opportunity. Yesterday, following our little calm-amity, I reflected while painting my umpteenth bead board, on the Japanese design concept Wabi Sabi, a principle that encourages the deliberate inclusion of a flaw in what might otherwise appear to be a perfect work, thereby representing flawed humanity in the work. I asked the contractor to retain the nailhead in the finished floor as a Wabi Sabi reminder of the Calm-amity that produced the fine new kitchen. He agreed.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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